While millions of Americans report that they regularly use the internet for dating, the rate of first marriages that end in divorce is still right at 50%. Dating and getting married is much more important than flipping a coin, so why don’t American couples spend more time asking each other those tough premarital questions? Part of the reason is that many of us do not realize how much compromise and communication marriage takes until we take our vows and move in together. Dating can be intense, but at the end of the day we still have our own separate space. Couples who get pre-marriage counseling are statistically more likely to stay together, but there is a still a long way to go if we want our rates of divorce to decline.
About half of all first marriages may end in divorce, and the rates get worse for second and third marriages: about two-thirds of all second marriages end in divorce, and about three-quarters of all third marriages end the same way. Wondering when to see a couples counselor? The answer is: before you get married. Articles and books about marriage all say the same thing: men and women communicate very differently and it can be extremely challenging to create a good outcome if you have a history of fighting without resolution.
In general, people who give out marriage advice say that it’s important to get a few things out on the table before your big day: who is going to handle the finances? Are we spenders or savers? Who will handle the bulk of the childcare? What are our long-term goals? There are marriages that have lasted for decades where the two people involved have different attitudes toward money, but many say that it took them years to find common ground. Nobody wants to be at war with their husband or wife, and it is extremely important to ask premarital questions before they become distractions. Money is one of those hot-button topics that can drive even close couples apart: it’s best to talk about before you get married.
The problem that a lot of couples counselors point out is that many people focus too much on their actual wedding day. Experts consistently warn people that too much emphasis on a big wedding may obscure the fact that the couple is not ready to get married. A wedding ceremony and big reception may cost more than $20,000: the pressure to put on a big show can make couples start their lives together in debt. The happiness of the wedding day is severely diminished when you want to buy a house and have children, but you’ve spent all of your money on the wedding. Take the time to address these important premarital questions: are we really ready to get married? If we work to budget for our wedding, do we have to throw a huge affair or can we keep it to a few people?
Other important premarital questions can relate to religion, parenting style, or long-term goals. You may want to spend your golden years on the beach, while your partner is looking to get active in a larger city. You should talk about your long-term goals with a couples counselor or with a psychiatrist to see whether your long-term goals are compatible. If you want very different things in life from your partner, you may want to re-think getting married. Are you just delaying the inevitable, or do you really see yourself with this person when you are in your 60s?
It can be hard for younger couples to understand the amount of self-sacrifice and commitment that it takes to make a marriage work, and more Millennials are skipping childbearing and marriage entirely. You don’t need to give up on marriage entirely, but seeing a family counselor could make communication much easier for you both, and save you a lot of late nights spent discussing money or parenting styles.