We seem to prepare for everything in our life – jobs, exams, etc. Why then don’t we prepare for a successful marriage? According to divorce statistics, it is estimated that between 40 and 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce in the United States. Without realizing it, most couples have unrealistic ideas about marriage perpetuated by fairy tales, movies, and fantasy novels. These misconceptions about love can render a couple helpless to resolve conflict, creating trouble and havoc when it suddenly appears in the marriage.

What are the benefits of couples counseling even before marriage?

Most unmarried couples naively think they don’t need counseling. Maybe they haven’t experienced relationship hardships and don’t believe there will ever be problems. And if problems do pop up, they believe they will magically turn out okay. Remember the fantasy? Marriages don’t work that way. They take a lot of hard work, thought, and skill. Love alone will not guarantee a successful marriage. According to research, pre-marital counseling can reduce the risk of divorce by up to 30% and lead to a happier and healthier marriage. And the healthiest marriages are those where the couple can negotiate their differences. Before the wedding, couples should discuss and resolve important issues to have a better chance for a healthy marriage, such as:

• What are your expectations for a good marriage?
• How compatible are you on day-to-day issues?
• What personality-type are each of you and what are your families of origin like?
• What are your communication skills? Are you an introvert or extrovert?
• Do you have tools for conflict management? Can you negotiate? What do you do when conflict arises?
• Do you have similar sex drives? What type of sex do you prefer?
• Do you share long-term goals and similar values?

Then, with pre-marital counseling, couples can learn the following five tools to form a solid foundation for a successful marriage:

1. Fair fighting. How to take time outs, call a truce, stop the shaming and blaming, and developing ground rules for fighting.

2. Core issues. Know what your story-below-the-story is, i.e., your trauma from the past that makes you react in fights. Then use this information to help you permanently resolve your issues.

3. Keep your partner from becoming your enemy. When arguments build up, you cease giving your partner the benefit of the doubt. Therefore, resolve conflicts immediately so you can continue to love your partner and see them in a positive light.

4. Stay current. Address arguments as soon as they come up. Don’t sweep issues under the rug. They won’t go away. Resentment and anger build momentum whenever an issue isn’t dealt with and resolved.

5. Verbalize appreciation. Couples need to verbalize their appreciation for each other regularly.

By discussing important issues and learning valuable skills, a solid foundation can be built for a successful marriage.

Author's Bio: 

Also known as the "last ditch effort therapist," Sharon M. Rivkin, therapist and conflict resolution/affairs expert, is the author of Breaking the Argument Cycle: How to Stop Fighting Without Therapy and developer of the First Argument Technique, a 3-step system that helps couples fix their relationships and understand why they fight. Her work has been featured in O Magazine, O Newsletter, Reader's Digest, Time.com, Prevention.com, and WebMD.com. She's an expert at HitchedMag.com, where she contributes monthly articles on hot relationship topics. She's appeared on TV, Martha Stewart Whole Living Radio, and makes regular radio appearances nationwide. For more information, please visit www.sharonrivkin.com.