Does Premarital Counseling Reduce the Risk of Divorce?


Chances are that either you or someone you know is divorced. You might even know several people who have ended their marriage. It seems like divorce is the state of so many previously thriving relationships. The question is whether or not couples can do anything to reduce the risk of divorce. Some say premarital counseling is a good start.

Does premarital counseling really reduce the risk? According to BYU psychology professor Scott Braithwaite, it can. In a July, 2017 piece Braithwaite stated that “some premarital counseling studies show the practice decreases the likelihood of divorce by 50%.”

For the record, Braithwaite is a clinical psychologist trained in couples’ therapy. He has been studying marital problems and divorce prevention for more than a decade. He believes wholeheartedly in premarital counseling as a way to prepare couples for what marriage eventually brings.

Training to Get a License

Couples who wind up in divorce court do not get there overnight. By the time bickering spouses run to their respective divorce attorneys, it is often too late to fix their broken relationship. Problems have been festering for far too long. How does premarital counseling avoid such a scenario? By providing proper training before marriage.

Braithwaite likes to use the analogy of getting a driver’s license. Before a person can even apply for a license, a certain amount of training must take place. Following the training, a person must demonstrate their driving skills by taking a test. No license is issued if the driver cannot pass the test.

In his piece, Braithwaite likens premarital counseling to training. It prepares couples for what they are going to have to deal with down the road. The idea is to equip them with the strategies to overcome potential hazards. It is no different than preparing young drivers to deal with heavy traffic, poor weather, etc.

Too Many Unrealistic Expectations

Could it be that couples head into marriage with too many unrealistic expectations? It sounds reasonable. The Institute for Family Studies’ Scott Stanley wrote a piece in 2015 in which he offered advice for reducing the chances of divorce. In his piece, he discussed unrealistic expectations.

It has been Stanley’s experience that some couples go into marriage thinking that all will be blissful because the two love each other so intensely. Anyone who has been married for more than a couple of years knows how foolish such thinking is. And yet, that doesn’t stop many of us from continuing to hold onto unreasonable expectations decade after decade.

The truth is that marriage takes work. But according to Chicago’s ABM Family Law, so does divorce. Divorce may be a way for couples who can’t seem to stop fighting to legally get away from one another so they can restart their lives, but it doesn’t solve relationship issues. It only exacerbates them. Indeed, a lot of couples find it harder to be divorced.

Counseling Introduces Reality

When done right, premarital counseling introduces reality to the equation. Counselors make it clear that spouses may not always like each other. It prepares the fact that they will not always feel the emotions love produces. They prepare couples by helping them understand that falling in and out of love isn’t real; that genuine love is an actionable choice rather than an emotion.

Does premarital counseling reduce the risks of divorce? Some experts say yes. At the very least, it can’t hurt. The more information couples have about marriage before going into it, the better prepared they are to deal with its inherent difficulties. For that reason alone, premarital counseling is valuable.

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