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Engagement is a special time, a time of both fulfillment and anticipation. To be engaged to be married is to be enlivened, to be simultaneously alert to the present and anticipatory of the future. Of course, you’re thinking about your wedding, the reception, and your honeymoon; however, in addition to planning the ceremony and thinking about the celebrations, you and your prospective spouse could also consider  preparing for your marriage relationship by participating in a premarital education program, such as the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP) or the PREPARE/ENRICH Program. Premarital education programs are educational endeavors, not therapy sessions.

Is there any evidence that premarital education can reduce the divorce rate or improve marriages?

It is not clear whether premarital education reduces the divorce rate or improves marriages, but there is evidence suggesting that premarital education can be effective for some couples. One study found that there were no differences in marital quality between individuals who had taken premarital education and those who had not. In contrast, a nationwide survey found that adults who had participated in premarital counseling were less likely than those who had not participated to have thought about divorce. Also, several studies have found that couples who have participated in the PREP program (Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program), which is a widely used marriage education program, have more positive communication and marital satisfaction than couples who have not taken PREP. Couples who have taken PREP are also less likely to divorce than are couples who have not taken PREP, for up to 5 years after the program. However, we don’t know whether marriage education actually causes couples to have better marriages or whether it is couples with better marriages who are more likely to participate in marriage education.

Although it is not clear whether marriage education actually causes lower divorce rates or higher marital quality, it is evident that adults who participate in premarital education are very satisfied with the experience. In fact, one study found that 90% of couples who had taken premarital education classes said they would choose to do it again.

Source: Kim Leon, Ph.D., Former Human Development and Family Studies, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia

Engagement is a time of preparation, preparation for your wedding and preparation for your future married life as a couple, a couple that frequently will need to communicate and negotiate about many important matters of daily life, matters such as: money; work; time—time at home, time at work, time with families, time with friends, time together; and chores and responsibilities—not just cleaning, but also bill-paying and budgeting and saving. Marriage in the short-term may appear to be a matter of wish fulfillment, but marriage in the long-term is a matter of quotidian reality.

Inside Engaged