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Giving your marriage the best start

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Katharine Hill is the UK Director of Care for the Family, a popular speaker and the author of a number of books including ‘If You Forget Everything Else, Remember This – Building a Great Marriage’, ‘Rules of Engagement’ and ‘The Really, Really Busy Person’s Book on Marriage’.

We asked her for some advice on how to give a marriage the best possible start.

Many relationships break down because people simply don’t know what it takes to make a marriage work.

A marriage preparation course can help couples communicate effectively and discover new things about each other and themselves. It shows couples how to work through conflict instead of avoiding it or believing that they’ll never row. It’s about giving people the tools they’ll need not just to avoid difficulties, but to set out by building their relationship on good foundations. Why settle for an OK marriage when it could be really great?

What common misconceptions do you hear about marriage preparation?

Lots of people have never heard of marriage preparation, so it’s a completely novel idea to them. We hear loads of reasons from people why they don’t need to go on a course. Some think they will never ever argue or fall out, and say “our love will see us through”. Others who have already been living together for years may think they know all there is to know about each other. Some have been married before and feel they have made their mistakes and learnt from them.

But there is always more to find out about your partner. My husband and I went on a marriage course after 15 years of marriage. It made us realise how we’d been taking each other for granted, helped us learn new ways  to connect together, and gave us some great tools for working through the ups and downs of married life. If you’re engaged, it’s so easy to focus on the wedding day and get caught up in arrangements, but it’s important to be able to take a step back and think about what comes after the big day … about the rest of your life together.

What’s the most encouraging thing you’ve seen on a marriage preparation course?

It was seeing a couple understand for the first time the effect of what they were bringing into their marriage from their different family backgrounds, and the difference that made to their relationship.

The woman had been raised in a family who knew how to argue healthily about politics and other controversial topics. His parents had divorced acrimoniously when he was a teenager, and this had caused him to avoid confrontation at all costs. So whenever she raised her voice, he just ran from it. She was frustrated because he wouldn’t engage with her in discussions; he was feeling hurt and would retreat from her. When they started to understand about their different backgrounds and how it affected them, it revolutionised the way they  communicated.

What would you say is the single most important factor in a great marriage?

It’s the choice you have to make every day – deciding each morning to agree to the vows you made. Commitment is about a decision you keep on making.

To find out more about Care for the Family’s marriage preparation course please visit Marriage By Design.