The fact that you both love God does not automatically qualify you to love each other.—Grown Zone Relationship Education Co-Creator Alfred A. Edmond Jr.
In the Grown Zone, we often challenge conventional wisdom, including overvalued and ineffective beliefs about how to create and sustain healthy relationships. One of these beliefs is the idea that church-based premarital counseling alone can provide engaged couples with enough preparation to establish a healthy, sustainable marriage.
Unfortunately, there is ample evidence that this is not the case, beginning with the reality that marital outcomes among self-declared people of faith (including pastors and other religious leaders) are not much different than that of those outside the church. (Alfred notes that the pastors of both churches of which he’s been a member in adulthood eventually divorced, including one [now remarried] whose former wife was the church’s associate pastor.)
Our previous failed marriages (two each) happened in the context of our respective church memberships (and/or that of our former spouses), and we both had premarital counseling through our churches in the months prior to our weddings. While that counseling was provided in good faith (as were our respective intentions of commitment to our marriages), they simply were inadequate as a means of establishing the healthy relationship foundation (and the skill to nurture and maintain it) necessary for a strong, loving and fruitful marital partnership.
It’s not that premarital counseling (whether within or outside the context of religious doctrine) is of no value. It’s that such short-term, deadline-driven counseling too often fails to provide the information, training and coaching necessary to prepare people to create and sustain the heathy relationships that make strong marriages work. This pressing need for ongoing relationship education, rooted in self-love and personal growth (and not tied to a wedding date), is the primary reason why we created Grown Zone Relationship Education and wrote our book Loving In The Grown Zone: A No-Nonsense Guide to Making Healthy Decisions in the Quest for Loving, Romantic Relationships of Honor, Esteem and Respect (Balboa Press).
There are at least three reasons why church-based premarital counseling, in the absence of ongoing relationship education (whether within or outside the church), does not prevent divorce:
It does not reach those most in need of relationship education, when they need it most. Church-based premarital counseling is no substitute for the education and training that must take place long before the marriage proposal. Unfortunately pre-marital counseling is often the only such education most people are likely to experience—until marital troubles lead to couples therapy in a last-ditch (and often futile) effort to avoid a divorce.