A grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (90FE), supported this study. This familiar dynamic can be bad news for relationships. A growing body of research finds that couples who regularly express appreciation to. Natural language use and couples' adjustment to head and neck cancer. Health Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 32, 1–
When asked who filed for the divorce, Feedback on PREP Next, we provide the findings on the most commonly cited qualitative feedback reported by participants regarding how to improve premarital education. The following results and percentages refer to counts of qualitative codes created by the research team based on common themes in the interviews.
Example constraints included having become engaged, set a wedding date, sent out invitations, or purchased a dress, which made it difficult for participants to objectively reconsider if they were marrying the right person through the educational experience. Thus, a large portion of participants expressed that receiving PREP just before marriage made it difficult for them to seriously considered delaying their wedding plans in order to make more objective decisions about the relationship.
We already have all the people. Everything is already set up and we bought the house.
The churches have been booked. The invitations have gone out. Other participants simply expressed that it was hard to remember and perfect their skills after the program ended because they did not practice them regularly. I just think it mattered if you were going to apply the principles or not. These comments included surprise that their partners changed over the course of the marriage, as well as trouble facing new problems when they emerged e. That after the wedding day, and the build up to the wedding day, real life is going to kick in and you have to really have some tools to deal with it.
Thus, among individuals who received PREP premaritally and later divorced, this study addressed reasons for divorce as well as ideas for what else would have been helpful in relationship education. Given the small sample and qualitative nature of the reports, the implications discussed below ought to be considered preliminary.
We asked about reasons for divorce to know whether PREP addressed the kinds of problems that couples who went on to divorce tended to experience.
The most commonly cited reason for divorce was lack of commitment, followed by infidelity and too much conflict and arguing.
These top rated major reasons for divorce noted here are similar to those found in large random surveys of divorced participants cf. Overall, these findings support the importance of covering communication and commitment in premarital education programs to help foster successful marriages; however, in light of participant feedback on PREP, the program may have been able to cover these and other topics more effectively.
Research indicates that commitment and conflict management are related in that commitment helps partners inhibit negative behaviors and engage in more positive behaviors at critical moments Slotter et al.
Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy (JournalSeek)
One solution could be to increase the time couples spend in premarital education in order for them to master essential skills and to help them become more likely to constructively derail negative processes as they emerge. Longer curricula do not seem to lead to stronger effects Hawkins, Stanley et al.
With most premarital education services, including PREP, couples are not provided opportunities to practice new skills or receive coaching while they are upset or experiencing a difficult disagreement. A group or workshop format likely inhibits such real-world discussions. It could be that couples would benefit from new program content that helps them practice their skills better when they are having trouble. Couples may also benefit from additional opportunities to perfect the use of program strategies after the intervention has ended, such as through booster classes or individual meetings with coaches.
New technologies now offer innovative ways to deliver such boosters, such as through online training or smart phone applications. Content Considerations for Premarital Education Introducing new content on the issues that participants identified as final straws in their marriages may also be beneficial. These issues were infidelity, aggression or emotional abuse, and substance use. Addressing these behaviors directly in relationship education raises some questions regarding which couples relationship education providers might seek to help stay together as opposed to help break-up.
We believe premarital education should serve as a prevention effort to help healthy and happy couples stay that way and that keeping distressed, abusive, or otherwise unhealthy couples together would not be a positive outcome. A limitation of the current study is that the pre-intervention assessment did not include the kinds of measures necessary to determine the extent to which couples in this study presented with these problems before marriage.
If providers or programs choose to address infidelity explicitly, Markman provides useful guidelines for covering the topic. These recommendations include informing participants that there are specific situations and developmental time periods within relationships with increased risks for engaging in extramarital relationships e. Furthermore, participants could be informed that the risk for extramarital relationships may increase during stressful times—such as when partners are separated for long periods by work demands or experiencing low marital satisfaction—and this information could be shared with participants.
Partners could also be given structure to talk with each other about expectations for fidelity, management of relationships with friends or co-workers who could be attractive alternatives, and boundaries for their relationship.
Substance abuse Substance abuse also appeared to be a prevalent problem at least for half of divorced couples in this sample. Overall, reports indicate that although substance abuse problems may have developed gradually throughout these relationships, this issue constituted the final straw to end the relationship for a number of individuals once the situation was perceived as insurmountable.
Substance abuse is not currently addressed in PREP except that all couples attending PREP are provided with information on how to get more help for a range of problems, including substance abuse. Premarital programs may benefit from educating participants on how substance abuse is not uncommon as a reason for divorce in an effort to encourage participants to address substance abuse problems as early as possible.
Such program additions could also include how to recognize and get help for substance abuse and could encourage partners to discuss their expectations for substance use in the relationship. Partners may also benefit from discussing how to support each other in seeking help, should the need ever arise. Domestic violence Domestic violence was cited by over a quarter of couples as a reason for divorce. When asked to elaborate, some described verbal abuse, while others described physical aggression.
Often participants explained that they initially believed they could work through the problem, but later found it unbearable, as some participants considered an act of physical aggression as the final straw in their relationship.
Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy
In current models of PREP, all participants learn that aggression is unacceptable and they all receive basic information on ways to get help e. Still, more could be done. The field continues to debate how to best address this issue, as different types of violence and couples of varying risk may warrant different approaches. Johnson distinguishes between situational couple violence and intimate terrorism. Specifically, situational couple violence tends to be much more common and represents aggression that comes out of conflict.
It is typically initiated by either partner while intimate terrorism encompasses more controlling, threatening behavior, typically by the male partner.
Journal for Ethics in Social Studies
As is done routinely in PREP, it seems necessary in relationship education that providers and program content emphasize to all participants that any aggression is unacceptable and also suggest specific, local ways to seek help for problems with aggression. For further recommendations regarding domestic violence and relationship education, see suggestions by Derrington, Johnson, Menard, Ooms, and Stanley Financial hardship Financial hardship was cited as a major reason for divorce that provided stress on their relationship by over half the sample.
Although PREP helps couples learn communication skills to discuss stressful topics in general, it is worth considering whether specific content on money and economic stress is warranted. Participants could be asked to more directly share expectations about finances and learn coping skills for times of significant financial strain. They could also be provided with appropriate community resources to improve or stabilize their financial situations or these resources could be incorporated into relationship education efforts.
Marriage expectations Almost half of interviewees commented that they did not know enough about the typical course of events in marriage. PREP typically addresses expectations by encouraging participants to recognize and discuss their own expectations for marriage Markman et al. More content on normal marital development could be helpful.
For example, information could be provided about how satisfaction typically drops and conflict tends to increase during the transition to parenthood e. Thus, relationship education programs may benefit from providing guidelines regarding when to seek professional help and even have couples practice these difficult conversations to encourage them to seek help early and at times when changes are easiest to make. Most participants also believed that they, personally, should not have worked harder to save their marriages.
Therefore, premarital education may need to focus on encouraging help seeking behaviors in couples with the understanding that most individuals may see their partners as primarily responsible for their difficulties, and therefore, may not feel personally responsible. In addition, the majority of couples displayed a pattern in which the women blamed their ex-husbands while their ex-husbands did not see themselves as responsible. Thus, it may be especially important that husbands and wives develop realistic expectations about seeking help together, so that they later do not disagree about what circumstances might constitute a need for help.
The Timing of Premarital Education Our findings show that a considerable number of participants wished that they had known more about their partner before marriage, saying they would have either learned how to handle differences better or left the relationship. Many others believed they had married too young. Also, a portion of participants mentioned that they participated in PREP during a time when the constraints of wedding plans made it more likely for them to ignore factors that may have otherwise ended their relationship.
These participant comments highlight the difference between when couples might ideally benefit from premarital education compared to when couples typically seek it. One of the potential benefits of relationship education is that is can help some couples on an ill-advised or premature path toward marriage to reconsider their plans see Stanley, ; however, couples typically participate in these programs close to their wedding dates, a time when ending the relationship may be especially difficult.
Conclusions and Limitations This study provides new information regarding the reasons for divorce and possible improvements to relationship education programs based on feedback from divorced individuals who participated in PREP premaritally. Although the study focuses on improving the PREP model specifically, relationship education programs working with premarital populations may also find value in our findings, particularly regarding how to cover specific topics deemed important by our participants.
Other programs may also benefit from suggestions to provide relationship education earlier and to provide services to help couples master their skill development over time. This study also has several limitations that warrant discussion. First, respondent reports of their progression toward divorce and premarital education experiences were retrospective and may therefore be biased by the passing of time.
Second, the sample was mostly White and only included participants in heterosexual relationships who married within mostly Christian-based religious organizations. Therefore, future studies are needed to examine whether these findings would be replicated with other groups or cultures. A third limitation is the lack of a comparison group of couples who participated in PREP but did not divorce.
As a result, it is not clear whether or not the problems and recommendations these participants identified are specific to this divorced sample, or would translate to couples who remain married. Finally, all participants in this study received PREP when they were engaged to be married so research is needed to evaluate reasons for relationship dissolution and how to improve programs that target individuals and couples in different relationship stages e.
Nevertheless, this study provides new insight in potential improvements to the content and timing of relationship education. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Eunice Kennedy Shrivner National Institute of Child Health and Human Development or National Institutes of Health. Contributor Information Shelby B.
Scott, Department of Psychology, University of Denver. Rhoades, Department of Psychology, University of Denver. Stanley, Department of Psychology, University of Denver. Markman, Department of Psychology, University of Denver. An analysis of divorce cases in the United Arab Emirates: Intrapersonal, interpersonal, and contextual factors in engaging in and responding to extramarital involvement.
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