Charlotte Lankard: Plan the marriage before you plan the wedding

Before they plan your weddings, couples should plan their marriages. If they do this, they will know ahead of time where the challenges are and work together to meet them.
BY CHARLOTTE LANKARD clankard@opubco.com Published: May 7, 2012
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Summer is a popular time for weddings. Couples set the date and spend months in preparation with the intent of “living happily ever after.” Yet the divorce rate is around 50 percent, and most occur within the first seven years of marriage.

While clergy often require couples to visit with them for premarital counseling, those not being married in the church sometimes make an appointment with a counselor — perhaps to please a parent or get a discount on the marriage licensing fee.

What they do not understand is that love is more fragile than they would think. It is made up of dialogue and transparency, vulnerability and reciprocity, but when potential problems arise in the counseling sessions, it is common to hear, “We really love each other and we'll work it out.”

On the basis of that “feeling” couples get married without considering their social, spiritual and intellectual interests may be miles apart and their value systems and goals contradictory. Unless they are mature enough to work through it, the possibility of a miserable relationship or a divorce is high.

Gary Chapman, author of the “Five Love Languages” series, says maybe we have it backward.

“Part of the problem may be couples spend months preparing for a wedding which lasts only a few hours and little time on the marriage that is to follow.” He suggests: Before you plan your wedding, plan your marriage.