We never had premarital counseling, but we spent this first year of our married life in therapy. Once a week, we met with a counselor who helped us iron out the wrinkles we never even saw before getting married. Not that we were in serious trouble. But we had this naive idea that after our wedding our life would fall naturally into place, and a marriage preparation course or counseling never entered our minds.
We had dated for six years before our nine-month engagement, and we had a lot in common (even our first names). We simply thought we would tie the proverbial knot, set up house, and as the fairy tales say, “live happily ever after.”
But we didn’t. The first years of marriage were difficult right from the start. Literally, In the limousine ride away from the church, as both of us waved good-bye to our family and friends through the back window, I (Leslie) began to cry.
“What’s wrong?” Les asked. I kept crying and didn’t answer. “Are you happy or sad?” Les put his arm around my shoulders and waited for a reply. When I didn’t answer, he asked again, “What’s going on inside you?”
“I don’t know,” I whimpered. “I don’t know.”
Les gave me a squeeze with his arm. I knew I was hurting him, but I didn’t know what to say or why I was feeling so sad.
Except for the clanging of the in cans behind us, the ride to the airport that afternoon, June30, 1984, was quiet. As we waited for our flight in a smoke-filled terminal at O’Hare Airport, both of us felt hazy about what we had just been through. Were we really married? I didn’t feel like it. We were newlyweds, but we felt more like refugees.
Let’s be honest. The ’till death do us part” of the marriage vow rings increasingly ironic. In the 1930s, one out of seven marriages ended in divorce. In the 1960s, it was one out of four. Of the 2.4 million couples who will get married this year in the United States, it is predicted that at least fifty percent will not survive. For too many couples, marriage has become “till divorce do us part.”
…The truth is, most engaged couples prepare more for their wedding than they do for their marriage. The 20 billion dollar a year wedding industry can testify to that fact. According to experts, the average two-hundred guest wedding today costs $15,000 to $30,000. More than one million copies of bridal magazines are sold each month, focusing mainly on wedding ceremonies, honeymoons, and home furnishings— but not on marriage itself.
Looking back, it seems silly that Les and I did so much to prepare for our wedding and so little to prepare for our marriage. But the truth is that less than a fifth of all marriages in America are preceded by some kind of formal marriage preparation.
One wonders what would be the effect if the same amount of time, energy, and money spent on the ceremony was invested in the marriage. Planning the perfect wedding too often takes precedence over planning a successful marriage. And lack of planning is the ultimate saboteur of marriage.
The wedding-bell blues are common after the excitement of an elaborate wedding celebration. “The emotional high of ordering engraved invitations, selecting music for the ceremony, and choosing a china pattern took my attention off the big picture,” a young bride told us. “The ceremony was more tangible and less of a gamble than the marriage. I put my energy into the wedding and hoped for the best.” For too long the trend has been to fall in love, marry, and hope for the best.
“Unless you learn to play a duet in the same key, to the same rhythm, a slow process of disengagement will wedge you apart, first secretly, psychologically, and then openly and miserably.” (Walter Wangerin, Jr.)
The above testimony was written by Dr Les Parrott and Dr Leslie Parrott, and appears in their book, “Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts”, which is published by Zondervan Publishers. The book poses seven questions to ask before (and after) you marry. As they say about this book, “Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts” is based on the fact that marriage doesn’t have to be a gamble. …We have learned that living happily ever after is less a mystery than the mastery of certain skills. Although married life will always have its difficulties, you will steadily and dramatically improve your relationship by mastering certain skills.” That’s what this book aims to help you with.