Dating, Pt. 4

Engagement is more than just planning the wedding. It is also about building a rock solid foundation for a lifetime together.


When Mike and I became engaged we had been dating for four years. It was 1993. He was working at a social service agency and I was at a psychiatric hospital doing admissions so we were both surrounded by psychiatrists and therapists. Everyone had advice for us on how to make our pending marriage last a lifetime. The best piece of advice I got was from a therapist named Ginger who told us to not only attend the premarital education and counseling at our church, but to also go for three to six sessions of couples counseling. We followed through with her suggestion. I strongly believe the work we accomplished before we walked down the aisle built the foundation for our marriage.

Committing to premarital education and counseling during the engagement process and up to the first six months of being married can reduce the risk of divorce by 30% and increase your happiness in marriage. Most couples choose to wing their marriage, instead of becoming educated, which translates into making it up as you go along. That is comparable to putting a newbie on the street fully armed with no FTO program or going through the academy. That is an equation for disaster!!! Yet couples go into marriage without any training and then wonder why am I not happy and then file for divorce or just decide to live a miserable existence. Other couples decide to cohabitate to see if it will work out, but research does not support the idea that living together increases your chance of marriage survival. However, research is very supportive of marriage education through an organization such as a church and couples counseling with a licensed therapist.

Imagine being hired by your agency, being issued your equipment, uniform, and squad, and then going out on the street the same day alone with another rookie. In the process of trying to understand the multiple radios blasting in the car, somehow you come to the conclusion there is a stolen vehicle in front of you. You are a veteran of action adventure movies, cop dramas, and constantly watch Cops on YouTube. In your mind you are now an expert on how to perform a felony stop. Of course, as you read this scenario you can visualize everything that will go wrong including the possibility of an officer being memorialized. With a divorce rate of 50% for civilians and 65% for first responders, it is imperative to train yourselves in marriage survival skills that build a foundation for a lifetime during your engagement while you are still trainable and have not developed bad habits that will kill the relationship. Below are some areas to focus on.

Finances

Combining finances along with your values about money is a difficult challenge. Discuss your attitudes regarding debt, credit cards, saving for the future, spending, disposable income, and who will be in charge of the money. Be honest and give full disclosure about your financial status. Have many conversations and come to resolution about how your money will be managed once you are married. Financial stressors are one of the leading causes of divorce.

Conflict resolution

Many couples enter marriage believing success is in how you compromise on the areas of disagreement. However, compromise leads to marital dissatisfaction because one person ends up winning while the other partner feels like they are giving in. Eventually compromise leads to anger, resentment, and dissatisfaction in the marriage because one or both spouses feel like they are losing too many battles. Instead, an advanced marriage skill is conflict resolution. It is learning negotiation skills that lead to resolution where both spouses can say the solution is a win/win. You have achieved this when both of you walk away feeling and believing this is a solution that will work for you. Again it is an advanced marriage skill that takes a lot of practice and diligence, but it is also one that will set up your marriage to survive.

Children, parenting, and blending families

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