All relationships go through phases and have their ups and downs, but there are many situational and relationship issues that can benefit from marriage counseling. Life’s stresses — from a sudden death to unexpected or extended unemployment, or even the joyous arrival of a new family member in the house — all can take their toll on the best of relationships. It’s often not the event itself, but how people react to it individually and as a couple. Instead of pulling together, couples can pull apart as one or both withdraw or turn the stress into anger.
Even in healthy relationships, it can be common for couples to lose their connection with one another and drift apart. This is a normal cycle that can often be corrected without outside help, but when unaddressed for a prolonged period, or fueled by underlying issues in the relationship, it can easily mushroom and become difficult to turn around.
The primary tool I use to assess marriage compatibility is PREPARE/ENRICH, which begins with an assessment completed by each individual that identifies a couple's strength and growth areas. Over 2.5 million couples have taken the PREPARE/ENRICH since it began in 1980. It explores areas such as communication, conflict resolution, roles, sexuality, finances, spiritual beliefs and other couple, family and personality factors.
There are several goals of the PREPARE/ENRICH Program. In order to achieve these goals there are exercises designed to help couples improve their relationship skills. The program helps couples:
- Explore strength and growth areas.
- Strengthen communication skills.
- Identify and manage major stressors.
- Resolve conflict using the Ten Step Model
- Develop a more balanced relationship.
- Explore family of origin issues.
- Discuss financial planning and budgeting.
- Establish personal, couple and family goals.
- Understand and appreciate personality differences.
Examination of Risk Factors
In premarital counseling is it often helpful to identity and explore risk factors. Every couple has, or will have their challenges. That is normal. An awareness of where you might be at risk for these challenges down the road can be instrumental in meeting those challenges, or seeking help early. Possible risk factors include:
- Different or unrealistic expectations of marriage.
- Poor communication and problem solving skills.
- Financial problems.
- Dual career demands.
- Peer group is either unmarried or unhappily married.
- Differences in the level of commitment.
- Sexual problems.
- Cultural or religious and spiritual differences.
- Child discipline problems or disagreements.
- New baby in the home.
- Isolation or geographic separation from friends and family.
- Young age at the time of marriage.
- Short engagement or no premarital counseling.
- Chronic unresolved life stressors.