Marriage Prep Can Lower Your Chance Of Divorce, But What Should It Cover?

How do we prepare for marriage? For most, this means securing a venue or a dress fitting, or even a weekend to elope or an afternoon for a courthouse ceremony. These kinds of preparations are exciting – the kind every girl dreams of when she thinks about marriage – but they’re not the most important.

By Gwen Farrell4 min read
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In the midst of our seating charts and color schemes, we might fail to remember actual marriage prep, or what some might call marriage counseling. Divorce is pervasive these days, both with first-time couples and more so for each subsequent marriage thereafter, but we don’t have to immediately panic when we consider these frightening statistics. Marriage prep can lower your chance of divorce, but what should it cover?

Preparing for Marriage Lowers Your Risk of Divorce

When you think “marriage counseling,” your mind might inevitably go to a stern-looking priest in a cassock sitting across the table from a young couple. But you don’t have to be a member of any church or religious faith to mine the benefits from this kind of mindful, intentional preparation. In fact, being mentored by a married couple you trust who are close friends, your in-laws, or another couple who knows you and your fiancé well (and will be honest with you, most importantly) can be beneficial. 

What are the benefits? For one, we know now that marriage counseling or marriage preparation before the big day can lower your risk of divorce. Some states like Florida, Oklahoma, Maryland, and Utah offer discounts on marriage licenses to couples who undergo preparation. The Institute for Family Studies found that states who did offer this kind of incentive to couples had divorce rates 0.5 to 1.5% lower than states that didn’t.

Additionally, it can be an insightful look into your future as a couple. You might think you know absolutely everything about your fiancé, but marriage counseling might be the place where you learn some hard truths about your soon-to-be-spouse’s vices or pet peeves. And as any married person knows, it’s much better to learn these things beforehand than to be caught off-guard later.

Marriage prep is the reality check you need to realize the requirements of what you’re undertaking.

Lastly, marriage prep demonstrates that you’re taking your relationship seriously. Marriage is the biggest commitment we can undertake in our lives, and if you or your fiancé think that marriage is something you can undo later, or that your spouse will conform to your tastes and your life, then marriage prep is the reality check you need to realize the requirements of the task you’re about to undertake. With that in mind, you might be thinking, where do we even begin when it comes to marriage prep? The 3 F’s are a great place to start.


Do you know how your soon-to-be husband feels about church, or if he even goes to church? If you go to church or observe important religious traditions and holidays, is he participatory in them? How does he feel about your future children going with you, and if he's opposed, then why?

If you don’t know the answer to even just one of these, you should definitely be discussing your religious faith with your fiancé and with a trusted advisor who can offer you assistance on this issue. It can be hard to plan your life with someone you love when you both come from different religious or cultural traditions, but it’s not impossible. But if your faith is important to you and you want it to be important to your husband as well, then you need to ensure that expectation is known.

This issue can get especially tangled when there are kids involved. If you’re not particularly religious or observant and your spouse is, or vice versa, you should be discussing how they’ll be raised. If you’re Presbyterian and your husband attends a Catholic church, will your kids be baptized or go to church with you? All of these are hypotheticals, of course, but they’re also potential scenarios you or couples you’re close with might be facing. 

All of this is crucial to any marriage prep discussion if your faith is important to you and governs how you live your life, and if you plan to have a family with your husband. Why? Parents are the most dominant religious influence in a child’s life, for better or worse, and can even determine if that child is still religious later in life. Research shows that mothers in particular are responsible for how a child identifies with religion as an adult. While this may seem like the responsibility is solely on you, you have an obligation to your husband (and he to you) to be united when it comes to how your family approaches faith.


Are you terrible with money? Or do you have specific goals you want to reach financially within five years’ time, or even a year? How much student debt do you have, and how much does your fiancé have? Is he aggressive in paying it off, or always putting down the bare minimum every month while spending money on video games or drinks at the bar?

Talking about money can be hard because you might have vastly different priorities compared to your fiancé. He might be looking to buy a house within the next year, while you want to stay where you are. He might be fine without a vacation every year, while you can’t do without one. 

You don’t have to think of it as your money versus his. It’s yours together.

Joining finances can be really hard for couples, especially if you’ve both been on your own for a while. But perhaps the most important thing to consider, regardless of vastly different approaches towards money, is that you don’t have to think of it as your money versus his. It’s yours together, and with that in mind, prepare an agreed-upon approach to paying bills, putting monthly amounts toward savings and spending, and discuss shared accounts as opposed to separate ones. Ask about timelines when it comes to kids and staying home, or if it’s in the budget to quit your job immediately. Discuss the big stuff sooner rather than later, and don’t get hung up on the little things.

Money is generally acknowledged to be the number one cause of arguments and conflict within marriages, usually because two individuals with different outlooks are now having to come together and compromise in some way. Financial issues are up there with things like infidelity when it comes to factors that contribute to divorce. Do yourself and your marriage a huge favor ahead of time, and talk about finances before you need to.

Family Planning

You don’t have to admit how many kids you want on a first date, but by the time marriage rolls around, you and your soon-to-be husband should have a good idea of how many you want, if any at all. What could be more terrible or heartbreaking than having always wanted a family, and discovering after the fact that your spouse doesn’t want one, or that he may change his mind in the future?

It doesn’t matter if you’re both 20 or approaching 40. Talk about kids with your fiancé. Specifically, talk about how many you may want, age gaps, and when to space them, and even your siblings and the positive relationships you have with them. Discuss big versus small families, and bear in mind that if your fiancé has said he doesn’t want kids, don’t think you’ll be able to change his mind later – this is a recipe for unhappiness in the making. If you both want children, discuss what you're open to if you struggle with infertility. Are you open to fertility treatments or fostering or adoption?

Until the time comes, discuss your family planning options with your man (we like fertility awareness methods, which are hormone-free and effectively prevent pregnancy when used correctly). He may have zero knowledge of the benefits of hormone-free methods, or may even think that hormonal birth control is the best option for you as well as him. Regardless of opposing views, discuss contraception (if you plan to use it) well before you get married. 

Closing Thoughts

You don’t have to go see the pastor you haven’t seen since you were 12 to reap the benefits of marriage preparation. If your minister, priest, elder or ceremony officiant isn’t available, go to trusted friends, ideally another couple with a few years under their belts, and ask for advice. Remember: honesty is the best policy when it comes to this preparation, and even if you think you’re putting the cart ahead of the horse, you’re guaranteed to see positive results in your relationship before and after the big day.

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