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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,903
February 8, 2018
A Valentine's Day To Remember
By Mike McManus

What's the worst possible Valentine's Day? Ask someone of the opposite sex to move in with you. That may sound romantic. However, cohabitation is the worst possible preparation for marriage.

In 2016 9 million couples were cohabiting. But only 2.2 million Americans got married. Though 60% of those who married were living together - what happened to the 7.7 million cohabiting couples who did not marry? While some continued living together, most broke up, or would soon do so.

What's the best possible way to celebrate Valentine's Day? Ask her or him to marry you! But do not move in till the wedding date. And do not plan to spend a lot of money on the wedding.

Instead, put your energy into preparing for a lifelong marriage. How? I have several recommendations.

First, pick a church with rigorous premarital marriage preparation. Ask the pastor of your church if he has trained couples in long-term marriages to be Mentor Couples to help you prepare for a healthy marriage.

Second, does the church require couples to take a premarital inventory to be reviewed with Mentors? Many Catholics take one called FOCCUS (877-883-5422). Protestants, Jews and some Catholics take PREPARE-ENRICH (800 331-1661).

Third, ask if the congregation has trained Mentor Couples to teach premarital couples skills of communication - particularly on how to resolve conflict amicably? Most divorces stem from an inability of married couples to talk through their disagreements with respect to reach a mutually satisfying resolution. These skills can be taught.

What if you are not an active Protestant, Catholic or Jewish couple?

Do NOT plan on a secular clerk of the court wedding. He can do nothing to help you build a lasting marriage. You must be married in a religious congregation to get a Mentor Couple married 20-40 years to help you build a lifelong marriage.

Unfortunately, however, I must report some bad news. Only a small percentage of churches are taking marriage preparation seriously. Only about 165,000 couples of the 2.25 million who married in 2016 took a premarital inventory, required by their churches. That's less than 10%! Even fewer of them have trained Mentor Couples to help couples talk through the relational issues you are facing.

Above I have given a toll-free number for the two major premarital inventories. If you call, you can ask for a church near you with trained Mentor Couples who can help you get the best marriage preparation. (Ask for two churches, to give you a choice, after talking to the pastor of each.)

Let me illustrate how taking a premarital inventory could be helpful. You and your fiance will be asked to go online and indicate whether you agree or disagree with 150 issues like these from PREPARE-ENRICH:
I wish my partner were more willing to share his/her feelings with me.

  • Sometimes we have disputes over unimportant issues.
  • Sometimes I wish my partner were more careful about spending money.
  • I am concerned that my partner is interested in viewing sexually explicit behavior.
  • My partner is too involved with or influenced by his/her family.
  • A marriage functions best if one person assumes the role of head of household.

My wife and I trained a group of couples in healthy long-term marriages in our church to prepare couples for marriage in the 1990s. In a fairly large congregation we prepared 288 couples for marriage in that decade.

Of that number 58 decided NOT to marry. That is a large 20% who experienced a broken engagement. But better the broken engagement than a broken marriage!

However, of the 230 couples who did marry, we only know of about 20 divorces. That's better than a 90% success rate!

My wife and I prepared 61 couples for marriage over a couple decades. One important ingredient was our request that the couple sign an Optional Premarital Sexual Covenant to become - or remain chaste until the wedding day.

Scripture certainly is clear: "Flee fornication. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body" (I Cor. 6:18).

Of the 61 couples we prepared for marriage only 10 were chaste. We asked the 51 to sign the Covenant, but noted it was optional. A surprising 43 couples did so.

As far as we know, all but one of those marriages have been successful. And that couple did not sign the Covenant.

This could be the best Valentine's Day - a gift you can give each other!

Copyright (c) 2018 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. For previous columns go to Hit Search for any topic.

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