Family Works: Speaking on ... premarital counseling
by By ROB COOMBS ID. Min. Ph.D.
Feb 23, 2014 | 1242 views | 0 0 comments | 55 55 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Working with the population I do, I find myself bombarded with college couples asking for premarital counseling. I’ve even had a few who have asked me to conduct pre-engagement counseling.

Dazed and confused by a culture that has the highest divorce rate in the world and with many still hurting from the failures of their parents and grandparents, young adults want to increase the odds they will never face this hellish experience.

Premarital evaluation is an excellent trend. To look carefully at a choice that will affect the rest of your life, just makes sense. In fact, I’m guessing there is nothing that deserves any more attention and preparation.

Interestingly, I recently had a future father-in-law disagree with me. A female student had excitedly called me to share the good news. She was engaged! Although I did not know her fiance, I felt reasonably sure, knowing her, she had made a good choice. One evening while eating dinner at her future in-laws’ home, she mentioned that arrangements had been made to begin premarital counseling.

Immediately, her future father-in-law became very worried, and unable to contain himself, he shared his concern. “That’s really not a good idea. The counselor is just going to want you to look closely at yourself and your relationship. Do you really want to know if your relationship won’t work? You’re going to get married anyway.”

The next day, she called me and asked, “Is it true that you ask us to look closely at ourselves and our relationship?” I assured her that was true. To my amazement, she decided that premarital counseling wasn’t such a good idea after all. She confessed that she was scared of what she might learn.

To assist a premarital couple in looking closely at their relationship, I use a computerized inventory that measures their compatibility. David Olson, who has conducted decades of research on premarital couples, developed this inventory which has now been used for more than 500,000 engaged couples.

Based on how couples answer this extensive questionnaire, marital stability is predicted. Premarital couples fall in one of four different categories:

— Vitalized couples tend to have the highest positive couple agreement and thus tend to have the happiest marriages (17 percent of vitalized couples end up divorced).

— Harmonious couples are much like vitalized couples with high levels of couple agreement, except in the areas of financial management and children/parenting issues (25 percent of harmonious couples end up divorced).

— Traditional couples tend to have lower couple agreement especially in areas such as communication and conflict resolution yet have higher agreement in areas such as children/parenting issues, family and friends and spiritual beliefs. While fewer of these couples may divorce, many of them are unhappily married (16 percent of traditional couples end up divorced).

— Conflicted couples have the lowest couple agreement, tend to be unhappily married and have the highest risk for divorce (53 percent of conflicted couples end up divorced).

Regardless of what anyone might tell you, premarital counseling is a good idea. Thoughtful consideration of one of the most important decisions you will ever make only makes sense.

If you are interested in finding a counselor or minister who is licensed to administer the Prepare/Enrich Premarital Inventory, please go online to and click on “Find a Counselor.”