Premarital Guidance Policy  |  Nat'l Marriage Project at Rutgers

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Premarital Guidance

Marriage as an institution is weakening, however, as a society, especially communities of faith, we always have hope. A marriage education movement is emerging in North America. Family Ministries has the opportunity to join this movement by ensuring that churches establish premarital counseling standards and practices for engaged couples. Following is the Premarital Guidance Policy that was voted by the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in November, 1999.

Premarital Guidance Policy

  1. For Couples Requesting to be Married - Premarital guidance should be provided to couples requesting to be married by Seventh-day Adventist ministers. Where possible, this pre-marriage preparation of the couples should consist of several counseling sessions conducted by the minister or by another qualified individual.
  2. Objectives of Premarital Guidance - This process should be undertaken at a minimum of four to six months before the wedding with the following objectives:
    1. To strengthen the couple's commitment to each other based on biblical principles undergirding Christian marriage, among which are agape love, lifelong covenant faithfulness, and mutual submission.
    2. To prepare the couple for transition to married life, providing opportunity for them to anticipate predictable changes and to reach agreement on their expectations of each other in marriage.
    3. To enhance the couple's relational skills of communication, processing anger, problem solving, resolving conflicts in mutually acceptable ways, and giving and receiving affection.
    4. To assist the couple to evaluate their decision to marry by looking realistically at their reasons and readiness for marriage.
  3. Use of Most Effective Methods - Approaches found to be most effective in generating higher levels of marital satisfaction should be used. Effective approaches provide objective assessment through use of testing instruments, help the couple to understand themselves and each other through dialog on a wide spectrum of marital issues, and to build relational skills.
  4. Materials and Training - For a suggested method of approach to premarital guidance, as well as material to share with couples for self-study in instances where personal pastoral guidance is not possible, resources are available from the Department of Family Ministries and the Ministerial Association. Conferences and local churches, in counsel with the Department of Family Ministries and the Ministerial Association at the next higher level of church organization, should provide leadership development programs in premarital guidance for qualified lay leaders and for pastors not otherwise prepared in their ministerial training.
  5. Education of Youth - Ideally, preparation for marriage begins at home with parental modeling of healthy marital relationships during child rearing. Parental education programs can enhance the effectiveness of this responsibility. Efforts should be put forth to supplement home training by age-appropriate instruction in the church school and Sabbath School programs.


Good Morning America Report on Rutgers University Study

SYNOPSIS: Rutgers study finds "20-something" dating culture focused more on seeking "low-commitment" relationships than finding marriage partners; loss of child centeredness may be weakening marriages.

NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Today's "20-something" young adults aren't looking for marriage partners when they date. Instead, they are focusing on fun, casual sex and low-commitment relationships, according  to "Sex Without Strings, Relationships Without Rings," a new study by the National Marriage Project at Rutgers.

The study, which looks at the attitudes of young adults toward dating, mate selection, cohabitation and future marriage, is featured in the National Marriage Project's annual report on the social health of marriage in America,
The State of Our Unions: 2000. Findings of the  study are based on the responses of noncollege-educated, never married men and women ages 21 through 29 who participated in focus groups held in five major metropolitan areas: northern New Jersey, Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles. 

"Today's singles scene is not oriented toward marriage, nor is it dedicated to romantic love as it has been in the past," said David Popenoe, co-director of the National Marriage Project and professor of Sociology at Rutgers. 

"Although the study participants expect their future marriages to last a lifetime and to fulfill their deepest emotional and spiritual needs, they are involved in a mating culture that may make it more difficult to achieve this lofty goal," said Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, co-director of the National Marriage Project.

According to the authors, this pilot study, although not statistically representative, offers a rare glimpse into attitudes of the often overlooked majority of 20-something young adults.

The study found that young men and women enter their 20s with nearly identical goals and attitudes: to achieve individual financial and residential independence before marriage and to delay marriage to an indefinite future.

However, timetables for marriage begin to diverge during the second half of their 20s. Men report a reluctance to give up single life and independence, but remain optimistic about finding the right woman when they are ready to settle down. Women become more serious about the search for a marriage partner, but the older they get the more disenchanted they become with the pool of prospective mates and the likelihood of finding a husband. 

"This attitude shift may be fueling the growing willingness of women to form families without husbands," said Whitehead. Nearly half of the women in the study said they consider unwed motherhood a socially acceptable option if they are unable to find and marry the right man by their late 30s.

The study also reports that young men and women are likely to:

a.  Favor living together before marriage or as an alternative to marriage;

b.  Identify the fear of divorce as a key reason for living together and for postponing marriage;

c.  Idealize marriage but also see the experience of being married as hard and often difficult work;

d.  See marriage as a potential economic liability, due to the high rate of divorce, rather than as a way to get ahead economically;

e.  Support marriage preparation and relationship education as an effective way to prevent divorce and unhappy  marriages.

Study respondents also see marriage as a couples  relationship designed for intimacy and love rather than as an institution designed for parenthood and childrearing. "For example, they almost unanimously agree that parents who don't get along should divorce rather than stay married merely for the sake of the children," said Popenoe. "This belief echoes the finding of a significant loss of child centeredness in marriage in our society, which is reported in a special essay that is part of 'The  State of Our Unions: 2000.' "

"The State of Our Unions: 2000" provides annually updated information on the national social indicators of marriage, divorce, unmarried cohabitation, loss of child centeredness, fragile families with children, and teen attitudes about marriage and family. The report is produced by the National Marriage Project, a nonpartisan, nonsectarian and interdisciplinary initiative dedicated to informing the public on social trends affecting marriage.

** NOTE: The State of Our Unions 2001 deals with social indicators of marital health and well-being in America. We have a few copies available in our office. To receive on, email us or contact the National Marriage Project.