Marriage is perhaps the most complex and challenging of all human relationships. The joining of two people in a relationship which is intended to last a lifetime can involve great effort to develop and maintain. There are many benefits for those who make the commitment to marriage and manage to maintain a successful relationship. Happily married couples tend to have better physical and emotional health, greater financial stability and increased wealth, more sexual satisfaction, and children that do better academically, relationally and emotionally than those of single or unhappily married couples (Waite & Gallagher, 2000; Antonovics & Town, 2004; Carlson, 2006). However, getting married is still very risky since the divorce rate continues to be high. The rate of divorce increases with the number of previous marriages. The rate of divorce is 40% first marriages, 60% for second marriages, and 73% for third marriages.
The number of people getting married is declining while and the number of cohabiting couples continues to increase. The percentage of people over 18 who are married has steadily declined, down 8% between 1970 and 2000. Cohabitation rates have risen by 1200% since the 1960’s. In 2008, it was estimated that over half of all couples cohabited before marriage
The divorce rates reveal that too often, couples are not equipped to deal with the challenges they face in marriage. A significant proportion of married couples are surprised to experience serious marital conflicts early in their relationships.
Quality premarital preparation, like PREPARE/ENRICH, can reduce the risk of divorce and increase relationship skills and satisfaction. In a survey of 3,334 couples, premarital education programs were found to reduce divorce by 31% (Stanley, Amato, Johnson, & Markman, 2006).
Participants with premarital education had higher marital satisfaction, higher commitment, and lower marital conflict.
A meta-analysis of 13 studies of premarital programs by Carroll and Doherty (2003) found significant improvement in couples who received premarital education. In a systematic study of couples taking the PREPARE Program, couples who participated in the program improved their couple satisfaction and improved on 10 out of 13 areas of their relationship (Knutson & Olson, 2003). For more details, go to www.prepare-enrich.com.
Similar outcomes have also been found in marriage education programs. In addition to experiencing improvement, participants report very high levels of satisfaction with these types of programs and indicate they would recommend them to other couples (Hawley and Olson, 1995).
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