Imagine that you have to learn how to drive a car by watching people drive on TV.
You also get to watch your parents drive, and you sit in the car while friends drive. Then imagine that after a few months of this, you take your car onto a four-lane highway for the longest trip of your life. Pretty crazy, right?
Well, that's how most people approach marriage, says Dr. Guy Grenier, a clinical psychologist and marital therapist in London, Ont. And the results are about as bad as you might expect. In Canada, 38 per cent of marriages end in divorce. (It's almost 50 per cent in the United States.) But it doesn't have to be that way. Dr. Grenier, who has worked with couples for more than 20 years, says that with a bit more preparation and education, we could save thousands of marriages -- and a lot of money.
The truth about divorce
Divorce costs Canadians billions of dollars in lawyer's fees and real estate swaps, not to mention the psychological fallout for both parents and children. "We could drop the divorce rate from 40 per cent to 20 per cent by insisting that for two years every high school student learn 'relationships,'" says Dr. Grenier.
Unfortunately, he says, no such course exists. So here's the Coles Notes version that any married couple, or anyone considering getting married, can use. (Don't cram! You have the rest of your life to work on this.)
1. There's no such thing as Mr. or Ms. Right for you...
...at least, not in the sense that if you "just find the right person, it will all work out," says Paul Beckow, a marriage counsellor and newspaper columnist in Victoria. Good relationships don't just happen. They're the result of work. "Couples are really surprised when they find that there are conflicts and differences, disappointments and hurts. But they're all part of the journey, part of the work of being in a relationship."
The advice? After the romance, be prepared to do the work. "We have to sort out real things in real life," says Beckow, who has counselled couples for more than two decades. He sees a relationship as a journey -- a dynamic, challenging opportunity for people. "A relationship is an ongoing laboratory for learning and development," says Beckow. He knows: he has been with his wife, Frani, for 34 years. Beckow says the key is that you have to be ready to work at exploring and investigating your differences.