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Wednesday
Apr292009

Grand Opening

In a society where the cash flow around "I do" rivals the down payment on a house, it can make sense to invest in the "I Still do" portion of your relationship. If a small business person made a generous financial plan for the grand opening of his or her store, complete with engraved invitations, a gala opening with entertainment, a catered dinner and formal attire, yet gave no thought to the ongoing support of that enterprise, his or her prosperity would be dubious. We pour our emotional and financial resources into the beginning of a marriage, with an abundance of attention and generosity from friends and relatives. Yet there is no system in place for maintaining that marriage, either by budgeting money and time, learning new skills or providing mentors to learn from.

The marriage education movement is gaining momentum in this country as we all struggle to understand and change the sober statistics around marital longevity. Divorce is commonplace, but not because half of the couples arrive at the altar with quasi commitment. It is at least in part because we have never built in an expectation that many of the skills that make or break a marriage can actually be learned.

This is inconsistent with the rest of our experience. Not many of us predict a child to excel in ballet, or a foreign language, or geometry without routine education. Imagine taking two five year olds, placing one in dancing class twice a week for 6 years, and leaving the other to learn on her own. At the end of the experiment you could test them to see how much they have progressed. No one would be startled to see that the child blessed with ongoing instruction and encouragement was a more proficient dancer.

Yet we think nothing of launching a newlywed couple with a small mountain of gifts and a romantic getaway to Bermuda, expecting them to thrive with less instruction than they had learning to drive. Occasionally people seem to wonder if joining a marriage class means that your relationship is in distress. That is like suggesting that to take your car in for an oil change means your transmission in on the brink. Cars need to be taken care of if they are to get you where you want to go. So does your marriage. Join a marriage class and see if your relationship starts running better. You may even find you enjoy the ride.