Nobody enters marriage expecting it to end in divorce. Yet, if statistics hold true, this is what happens to about half of all couples in their first marriage.
However, there are a few steps you can take that will help you divorce-proof your marriage, even prior to getting engaged.
- Get your finances in order
Money is one of the single biggest reasons marriages fail. According to the Institute for College Access and Success, the average Millennial carries an average of $29,400 in student loans. Make that times two and we can assume the average couple is carrying approximately $60,000 of debt into the marriage. And that’s without any credit card debt or car loans.
The sooner you begin setting a budget and focusing on setting healthy saving and spending patterns, the better off you’ll be entering into marriage. I recommend beginning with Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and my friends, The Money Couple®, Scott and Bethany Palmer. They help couples discover how they think about, and spend money, with their 5 Money Personalities Assessment.
- Begin pre-engagement counseling
Yes, you read that right, “pre-engagement” counseling. Christi and I did this once we realized we were heading for the altar.
Let me explain it from a counselor’s perspective. When I counsel a premarital couple, if I can break them up by the questions I ask, then I saved a divorce. That’s my goal—to ask the difficult questions that will put the couple under enough emotional stress to peel back the giddiness and get to the real issues.
My parents divorced when I was ten. I knew, in order to have a marriage that went the distance—and a marriage that I loved being in—I needed to talk through some of the relational patterns I witnessed growing up.
Christi and I worked through some very difficult issues prior to our walk down the aisle. But when those issues came up in our marriage, we were ready for them.
Besides, every giddy and twitterpated young couple look normal when things are going well. Not until we hit stress or duress do our true relationship styles emerge.
- Get your thought life under control
Speaking of asking the hard questions, one of the very first questions I ask a couple when I’m meeting with them for the first time is:
“How often have you, or do you, view pornography?”
Casual sex and pornography use rewire the brain and lead to decreased marital happiness and an increase in extramarital affairs and divorce.
Just because men are more likely to view pornography, doesn’t mean women are off the hook. Women are more likely to allow their minds to wander into the fantasy world by preferring erotic stories and romance sites to graphic images.
- Surround yourself with pro-marriage friends and community
We’re all products of arguably the most individualistic culture in the history of the world. We live in a society today termed by Dale Kuehne as the iWorld, a society that believes “an expansion of individual rights will lead to increased happiness and fulfillment.”[i] Such a society prides itself on one value: feeling better.
In other words, if you’re no longer feeling “in love,” you have the right to follow those feelings to the next person you will have fickle feelings for.
Since we live in a society that values feeling better over loving better, make sure to surround yourself with a church community and friends who value the marriage relationship as one that should be prioritized (Genesis 2:24), honored (Hebrews 13:4), and enjoyed (Ecclesiastes 9:9).
[i] Dale Kuehne, Sex and iWorld: Rethinking Relationship Beyond an Age of Individualism (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009).