My name is Logan Cohen. I am a North Carolina Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), as well as an Approved Supervisor for the American Association of Marriage & Family Therapy (AAMFT). I am a full-time private practitioner, where I predominantly work with relationships, individuals struggling with relationship issues, as well as maintain several supervisees who have their own caseloads of couples and families. In short, I essentially work with relationships most of every day and have been seeing some troubling trends in the American Marriage. These are trends that can be reversed by engaging in Premarital Counseling and in this article, I will describe the three main reasons why Premarital Counseling is now essential for every couple.
The American Marriage is sick in epidemic proportions. In the 1960s, the average divorce rate was less than 10% (actually a rather delicate 8.5% to be exact). By the 1980s, the divorce rate ballooned to around 50%, where it has consistently hovered for the last 30 to 40 years. Generationally, this means there are more adults who were forced to face divorce in their family of origin today than at any other time in our nation’s history. And in turn, those adults are now faced with the predicament of finding suitable long-term partners for marriage and preparing to start their own families successfully.
1. The divorce rate has hovered around 50% for the last 30-40 years and is not going down.
Divorce rates have been hovering around the all-time high of roughly 50% for the last 30-40 years because our culture as we know it today (and since at least the 1980s) socializes us as Men and Women to be unsuccessful in our marriages and intimate relationships. This is unfortunately an issue that has reached the proportion and scale that it appears to become a self-reinforcing cycle. After reading this, it is probably not a surprise to you that children who experienced divorce in their families are 35-60% more likely to get divorced as adults.
A pivotal figure in family therapy named Murray Bowen spoke to intergenerational family patterns through a process of “differentiation”. He found that many interpersonal and relational family traits (from divorce, to addiction, to suicide) seem to be passed down from one generation to the next through the family’s process of relating to its own members. This means that if we do not have safe and structured spaces within our families to grow up and overtly learn from the previous generations’ mistakes, we are at an even higher risk of repeating them in our own lives.
Do you see where I’m going here? This is quite a pickle! Oh and it gets even better…
2. We do not have good examples of what a healthy and cohesive partnership looks like.
Roughly half of the adults in modern society who are preparing for marriage did NOT get to see their parents successfully maintain a marriage through thick and thin, then observe and learn from those healthy relationship dynamics that are developed when couples lean into hard times and work through them together. This means that the current generation is more at risk for relationship and marriage failure than any previous generation, purely due to generational patterns, observational learning, and modeling from their parents. Oftentimes clients are initially surprised when we begin digging into the issues and commonly find obvious remnants of their parents’ ways of doing things with each other. These habits of our parents don’t have to be fun, feel good, make rational sense, and might even fall into the category of things we used to tell ourselves we, “would NEVER do like our parents,” but alas, what other sacred model is there?? Whether we like it or not, we can only do the best with what we know and unfortunately, our “best” stopped getting participatory trophies in tee-ball a long time ago (well most of us anyways).
A team of researchers and therapists in the 1980s became interested in extending an old school of individual therapy called psychodynamic theory into the realm of couples therapy, which they called called Object Relations Theory. These researchers found evidence that not only do individuals subconsciously behave in many ways similar to their parents, but that there is a very dynamic subconscious infrastructure established that KEEPS partners behaving in these ways with each other. These patterns of behavior, thinking, and feeling will be repeated ad nauseum until the dynamics can be changed consciously and deliberately, which perhaps the most efficient and evidence reinforced way of going about making these changes being Premarital Counseling.
3. Psychological health is as important as physical health because it IS physical health.
For a long time, our society has had a taboo stance to the open acknowledgement and treatment of psychological health, relative to physical health. It almost appears as if our culture has literally forgotten (wouldn’t this just be “punny”) that the brain is housed INSIDE of the body! The end result tends to be a significant barrier for people treating those issues or even accessing therapeutic intervention to PREVENT said issues in the first place. Do routine tooth cleanings or annual physical check-ups sound “weird” or like something you should avoid mentioning openly to your social circle? I know we haven’t met, but I would be surprised if this was the case. These shaming attitudes that our society maintains towards the appropriate care for psychological health appears to even bleed into the concept of Premarital Counseling. Over half of the couples who enter my office for premarital work initially express something along the lines of, “Gosh…aren’t we messed up? We are doing counseling before we are even getting married! We are doomed…” As you might imagine after reading this article, this logic baffles me. And if you are considering getting married sometime soon, it is my hope that this flawed logic is beginning to baffle you as well.
I am passionate about working with relationships and as much as I enjoy working with more established partnerships in their own right, I also want to deliberately do my part to help intervene in the epidemic illness of the American Marriage.
Marriage and partnership is at the core of each family and families are at the core of each community. Benjamin Franklin once sad, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and I readily agree, especially after seeing the pain on the faces of couples in my waiting room after they have waited too long to get the required care for their failing marriages, then even more so after I learn how their troubled marriage has impacted the rest of their family.
There is a clinical program created by Dr. David Olsen called PREPARE/ENRICH, which has been specifically designed and scientifically proven to significantly increase the success rate of marriages and decrease the rate of divorce. In addition to my years of experience providing clinical care specifically for relationships, I have undergone this unique premarital training and have also come together with another seasoned Marriage & Family Therapist named Chris Matthews, LMFT, LCAS, who is actually another PREPARE/ENRICH trained Marriage & Family Therapist. Together, we offer the Strong Roots Premarital Intensive Workshop at New Leaf Counseling Group. The format of this intensive workshop alternates each couple between group and couples therapy, so each couple will have dedicated 1-on1 time with a seasoned Marriage & Family Therapist. These premarital intensive workshops are ideal for couples who are about to get married or have recently tied the knot, and want to ensure they do not become a statistic by falling into the many trappings of the modern Marriage. Again, the included PREPARE/ENRICH content has been scientifically proven to increase the success of marriages and decrease rates of divorce. Included topics will include but not be limited to healthy communication, resolving conflict and stress, how individual personality traits impact your partnership, establishing personal/couple/family goals, and creating an optimal foundation for your successful Marriage.
Feel free to review more information specifically about the Strong Roots Premarital Intensive Workshop offered by New Leaf Counseling Group here, where you can also see availability for our next offering and even secure your spot by registering for our next intensive workshop. Maximum occupancy is 5 couples to maintain an intimate setting, so availability will be limited. We hope you and your loved ones stay well out there and remember, we have room for you to grow.
Would you like to look into the future? Check out this article about the 6 Ways Your Marriage Can Make or Break Your Family