In the fairy tale, the Prince and Cinderella fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after. Our culture abounds with similar stories. In each case, the story seems to end at the moment of commitment and we are seldom privy to the adjustments that the couples must make in beginning a life together.
And yet, the adjustment must be great or more couples would succeed in celebrating their Golden Wedding Anniversary (Kreider & Fields, 2002, based on U.S. Census data, cite only 5% of married couples reach at least their 50th anniversary). The same authors report 10% of married couples divorcing within 5 years of marriage and 20% of married couples divorcing within 10 years of marriage. There are no parallel figures for same-gender couples or cohabiting couples. But clearly the track record is not good.
Premarital couples seek assurance that they can create a lifelong intimate partnership. Each partner needs accurate concepts, conducive attitudes, technical knowledge and skills, and practiced competencies to sustain a loving relationship. As in ballroom dancing, the couple relationship gains best through co-learning, by acquiring and practicing these intimate relationship skills together. The couple needs to acquire high levels of skill to continue dancing lovingly in the face of changing family life with its unrelenting and often discouraging economic, domestic, and parental responsibilities. The counselor, who wishes to effectively offer such knowledge and skills to couples, needs to undertake relevant professional training. Such training is not yet established in most graduate clinical programs.