On Family Day, it starts with the couple

Dear Chatan (Groom) and Kallah (Bride),

Mazel tov! Mazel tov! Mazel tov!

You are Engaged! The day you were dreaming about has finally arrived! Already you are jumping into high gear discussions on the minutia of the wedding details.

And once you get started, the finish line to the D Day of the wedding is often a race with the young couple hardly able to catch their breath.

But hold on – are we not forgetting about a critical piece of the planning that too often gets placed on the burner – and that is discussions about the day AFTER the wedding when your life as a couple really begins. We want to discuss with you the importance of taking the time now to Invest in Your Relationship.

According to the extensive research of international relationship experts Dr. Howard Markman and Dr. Scott Stanley, in their book 12 Hours to a Great Marriage, the happiest, most deeply contented couples have four “hallmarks of a great marriage”, though they may demonstrate them in different ways:

  1. They share friendship and love in many ways
  2. They treat each other with kindness and respect.
  3. Both partners do their own part
  4. They are committed to staying together, even when it is no “bed of roses”

The challenge that couples face is how to actually achieve the four hallmarks. Many couples just assume you will know what to do once you get married. However, Dr. Howard Markman states, “the truth is that most of what goes wrong in our significant relationships has to do with never having learned the skills and principles associated with successful relationships. Ultimately when our relationships are healthy, we are more productive, more satisfied in all areas of life.”

So you may ask “how do WE as a couple or as individuals obtain these skills and principles that Dr. Markman is referring to?”  The simple answer – is to include taking a pre marriage education course among the checklist items you need to perform before you get married.

Why should We take a premarital education course?

Because it is based on the concept that couples can learn skills associated with marital success. Couples can be taught the type of communication and conflict management skills identified by research as predicting healthy, happy relationships and ways in which to thwart those negative behaviors that predict later marital distress.

Marriage education is not therapy, with the participants being told that they will not be asked to talk about any personal issues except within the couple framework.

For example, a scientifically research based pre marriage education curriculum allows you to enter marriage equipped with the following skills:

Talk to each other more effectively in a structured way

Listen and be heard (by learning active listening skills)

Discover and discuss issues (or potential issues)

Show respect for one another

Protect your friendship

Maintain your commitment

One such curriculum is I- PREP which is based on PREP (Prevention Relationship Education Program) curriculum developed by Professor Howard Markman and his associates at the University of Denver’s Center for Marital and Family Studies (in Denver Colorado USA). PREP teaches couples communication and problem solving skills found to be linked to effective marital functioning.

Long term studies on the effectiveness of PREP find that couples that have participated in PREP are less likely to get divorced and have significantly higher levels of marital satisfaction. Details of the program may be found on www.together-in-happiness.com and is under the auspices of the non profit Together in Happiness/ B’Yachad B’Osher.

In addition to the benefits of pre marital education described above, the greatest societal benefit in Israel is the impact the education has had on the reduction of marital distress and divorce.  In the United States and Europe, longitudinal studies have proven that those who took marriage education courses had as much as a 67% lower divorce rate than control groups.

Remember the wedding is only a few hours and a marriage is hopefully a lifelong commitment. Once the final sheva brachot are recited at the wedding and all the parties go home, the couple that has invested in their marriage by completing a pre marriage education course has given themselves the best wedding gift of a lifetime.

In recent years the institution of marriage has been the subject of considerable debate; however, on This Family Day, WE owe it to ourselves to create a generation of citizens who experience healthy and happy marriages and children who grow up in two parent households with all the economical advantages and impacts such households have on Israeli society.

Remember, Family Day Does Start With the Couple – and you dear couple should have a lifetime of happiness and celebrate many Family Days in good health!

About the Author
Susan Barth is founder and director of Together in Happines and its Center for Marriage Education, promoting stronger, healthier marriages impacting Israeli society. A Project Management Professional (PMP) and businesswoman from the US, Susan sponsored and chaired the First International Conference on Marriage Education in Israel (attended by over 360 professionals) in Jerusalem in memory of her parents and launched I-PREP, an innovative marriage education curriculum.
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