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Importance of Premarital Education

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Tuesday, July 30, 2019 - 7:00am

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Myers: Today we're talking about the importance of premarital education. Hello, I'm Amy Myers and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Dr. Joe Wilmeth, Mississippi State University Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Sciences. And also Dr. Elisha Hardman, Mississippi State University Family Life Specialist with MSU extension. Dr. Hardman, we usually think of June as the most popular month for weddings. Why are we talking about weddings right now?

Dr. Hardman: Actually, October is often a most popular time, and fall is becoming increasingly popular for weddings. But we figure that while weddings are on people's minds, this would be a good time to talk about how to prepare for not only a great wedding, but also a great marriage.

Amy Myers: It's almost cliche now to hear that half of marriages will end in divorce. Is that accurate, and is there anything that we can do to decrease the percentage of marriages that are ending in divorce?

Dr. Hardman: Yeah, so actually that's a really common myth, that about 50% or half of all marriages end in divorce. There was a really rapid rise in the divorce rate in about the 1970s and 1980s, when the rate was upwards of 40 to 50%. But ever since that peak, divorce has actually been decreasing, which is really good news. And if the current trends continue, it's actually more likely that a majority of marriages will not end in a divorce. However, divorce is still an issue that we are concerned about. And so, research has shown that one way to reduce the likelihood of divorce is to participate in premarital education. Which has been associated with a lot of really positive outcomes, such as higher levels of marital satisfaction, higher levels of commitment, lower levels of conflict, and reduced odds for divorce. And what's really encouraging about this research is that these results have been found across a wide range or variety of couples. And so, really we're seeing that premarital education is very beneficial for all types of couples. Different income ranges, different races, and different education levels.

Amy Myers: Well, that's good to know. Now, Dr. Wilmeth, how do you know if you're getting good premarital education?

Dr. Wilmeth: Well Amy, that's a topic I've really been interested in, and I've done a good bit of research in that area. In fact, a couple of years ago I was asked to write a book chapter about what was important in premarital education, or what I like to call marriage preparation. And that was designed especially for clergy and others who work in churches doing marriage preparation. That's who does most of marriage education. And I found seven things that I found were just really important, that I suggested that really go into a good premarital education program. The first thing is it really ought to begin at least six months ahead of time. And several reasons for that, it's difficult to cram everything into just a small amount of time, but also it's easy to get distracted if you wait till the last minute. The second thing was to include at least six sessions, and that's again because there are just so many things that really should be dealt with. The third thing is to utilize an appropriate premarital assessment questionnaire as like a survey kind of thing.

And there are three that are really especially designed especially for that. The fourth thing is to really talk about important topics such as expectations, family of origin issues, finances, and sexual relationships. The fifth thing is to use a skills based approach to communication, conflict resolution and problem solving. This is where you don't just talk about how you do it, but you actually get some practice solving problems and communicating. The sixth thing is to pair up a mentor couple with a couple that's getting married, someone who works with them before the marriage, and then after. And then finally, it's really good to follow up with the couple several months after the wedding to see how things are going there as well.

Amy Myers: So Elisha, where can couples find more information or resources to prepare for strengthening their marriage?

Dr. Hardman: Mississippi State University Extension has a newlywed packet that they created, and we're currently in the process of moving those resources online. So I would really encourage couples to go to Mississippi State University Extensions website at extension.msstate.edu. Click on family, and under family dynamics they can find information on strategies for building a strong marriage, habits of happy couples, skills for handling conflict, as well as information about managing finances, and shopping and meal planning.

Amy Myers: Today we've been speaking with Dr. Joe Wilmeth Associate Professor. Also with Dr. Elisha Hardman, Family Life Specialist. I'm Amy Myers and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

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