One of the things we want to get you thinking about at the very start of this year is what you are going to do, with deliberate purpose, to enrich your marriage this year.

Marriage is an easy thing to take for granted.

Think for a moment about the things you value most. What do you do with those things? You get insurance for them! There is every kind of insurance out there which most of us have on our valuable possessions, like life insurance, medical insurance, disability insurance, house insurance, car insurance, business liability insurance, even extended warranties are a form of insurance.

We spend thousands of dollars per year on insurance. Yet we balk at a $30 expense or even a $300 weekend of marriage enrichment. Does that really make sense?

Think practically for a moment. The cost of divorce drops your net worth by at least 50%, plus it’s like $30,000-90,000 to deal with all of the actual fallout with lawyer fees, etc. Never mind the emotional cost or cost to our children, family, and friends.

Our marriages are super valuable, but isn’t it ironic, and really kind of foolish, that we spend money on insuring other valuable things in our lives, but not our marriages.

We want to encourage you in 2015 to insure your marriage by engaging in some sort of marriage enrichment. Here’s why:

Bray & Jouriles (1995) found that should difficulties arise, couples responded better to marriage counselling when they had increased problem solving and communication skills, were less distressed at the onset of counselling, and were more emotionally engaged with each other.

McAllister, Duncan & Hawkins (2012) found that marriage enrichment worked on those very skills listed above: communication and relationship quality (emotional engagement and less distress). The point being that marriage enrichment programs address key areas that lead to better outcomes should the need for counselling arise.

As we spoke about in our series on fighting, repair after the fight is much more successful if positive mojo had been inputted into the marriage long before the fight occurred!

Every couple hits rough spots. At the very least, marriage enrichment programs help you get through those tough times, but should you both decide you need extra help, they also create an incredible advantage for going the extra mile with counselling.

Our CHALLENGE for you this year is to do something deliberate to enrich your marriage. Even if you can just save up $30 a month and aim for a weekend away at the end of the year, you’re taking that first step. If you can’t do that – you can get a good book from the library for free. Read it, then discuss it together.

We’ve all heard the objection, “Well, you only need that if you’ve messed up.” Not so, says the research! Research by Doss, Rhoades, Stanley, Markman & Johnson (2009) showed that more distressed couples and those at risk for divorce were less likely to attend marriage enrichment programs than couples that were in more healthy relationships.

Interesting that the couples that made it a priority to enrich their marriages were less distressed and at less risk for divorce.

So, what kinds of resources are out there? There are really three approaches:

  1. Self-directed: You can do this at home, at your own pace with no professional involvement. Books and online programs are a good example of self-directed enrichment.
  2. Traditional: This is done in a classroom or group setting. It usually requires more time commitment and more money.
  3. Blended: A combination of self-directed and traditional. This could entail a workbook plus a group setting, or online eCourse plus coaching or counselling.

The research mentioned above (McAllister, Duncan & Hawkins) shows that self-directed is better than nothing and has many benefits. Traditional is the most popular and is better than self-directed, and the Blended method is the most effective.

The Internet really shines here because you can do a blended approach online with a video course and then do some coaching (even remotely/Skype) with that. You really get the best results!

In addition, with the internet, you have the benefit of being able to find resources, not in your area. It is often hard to find a Christian marriage counsellor or coach who is a good fit. With video calls, you are no longer restricted to finding someone who lives within a short drive of your home.

We hope this year, that you’ll take the opportunity to do something specific, preferably together, to take your marriage to the next level. Don’t be one of those couples that doesn’t realize how good they had it until after it all went up in smoke. Going from married to single is incredible hard: we’ve walked with some friends through it and it’s just brutal.

Decide today to find a weekend, or course, or even just a book to read together.

**If you’re looking for a particular resource, get in touch and if we don’t have something that can help you directly, we’ll help you find a resource that meets your specific needs.

We have Talk To Me 101 launching again in the next month, which is an eCourse on communications. We’ll also be offering a coaching option with that eCourse to created a blended approach – enter your email at the top of the screen to make sure you’re the first to hear about it when it launches!

We like to use a tool called PREPARE/ENRICH, for both pre-marital and marital counselling, via a coaching package. It gives you a helpful report of strength and growth areas with 4-8 feedback sessions where you’re taught how to discuss and understand those areas within the context of your marriage.

Image courtesy of North Dakota National Guard under the Creative Commons license.