Top 7 Marriage Preparation Lessons Flavia and I Learned

First off, this was hosted through our church, The Meeting House in Oakville, Ontario and the content was created by Herman Chow, if you wish to pursue info for yourself.  Honestly, this guy was SPECTACULAR!

The interesting thing on this 2-day workshop was that almost all the information was statistically backed up and research based.  This was not the teachers opinion or personal experiences with himself or his patients.

Top 10 Marriage Preparation Lessons Flavia and I Learned

By Vince Del Monte and Flavia Dragos

1. Couple who took a pre-marital education class reduced their risk of divorce by 31%!

Taking a skill based pre-marital education class is associated with higher levels of marital satisfaction, lower levels of destructive conflicts and higher levels of interpersonal commitment to spouses.  This is truly amazing!  Here are the 3 things the course did for Flavia and I:

a) Preparation: I think we’re both more realistic in what to expect, less idealistic and more realistic.  An example for us is that we’re not idealistic to believe that we have a perfect relationship and we won’t have issues.  I think I always wanted to portray this “perfect” relationship and I’m prepared to let that go.

b) Education: We learned really cool tools and techniques to have a “good fight” and really fun and safe ways to discuss our sexual expectations.  For example, during a fight, Flavia feels disconnected from me if we argue so when we fight, I put my hand on her shoulder and that seems to resolve 50% of the tension.  Not a bad start.

c) Communication: We got to talk about topics we had not brought up in our dating.  One was, “family of origin” and talking about our families shaped us and what we liked about our upbringing and what we did not like.  We got to talk about sex and fiances quite a bit too.

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2. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave until his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” – Genesis 2:24

Whether you believe in the Bible or not does not matter.  This verse really hit home for us.  Let me elaborate on this verse:

…leave his mother and father.

  • I was afraid the word “leave” meant that we have to cut off from our parents. It means creating appropriate boundaries, which means our parents can’t just pop into our house on a random Sunday without letting us know.  Did you read that Mom and Dad? :)
  • We still listen and respect our parents advice but from here on out, Flavia and I make our OWN decisions based on what’s important to us.

cleave until his wife.

  • “Cleave” means stick to or glue to. When you try to separate 2 pieces of paper that are glued together, you will rip them apart and leave a scar behind.  Sadly, most people in society get married with paper clips instead of glue. We want our marriage to be represented under God’s intentions which is for a couple to “cleave”. Next time you see me, feel free to ask me, “So how’s the cleaving going?”

shall be one flesh…

  • This represents the closeness and oneness between a couple.  Some of the guys in the room were shocked to find out this oneness was more than just sexual. LOL  It includes be one emotional, intellectual, spiritual, recreational and any other area you can bond.
  • Intimacy does not exclude uniqueness.  This was very refreshing because Flavia and I are two different individuals with different interests and hobbies. Being one flesh does not mean we are in separable and don’t have our own lives.  This means it’s still okay to have my “boys night” and for her to have her “girls night.”

3. Communication 101

  • Create a safe environment. Ever have a fight from across the room? I found out that Flavia needs a physical connection while we are fighting or else she feels disconnected and makes the fight worse.  This one it taking a little while for Vinny to get good at!
  • Focus on the conversation. Ever been in a fight and then check your BlackBerry?  Yeah, I did that once and it didn’t help!  In fact, it started another fight!  Eliminate all distractions when communicating.

  • Stay on one topic at a time. Ladies are mostly guilty of this one.  Has your lady ever been addressing an issue with you and then all of a sudden a new issue arises from the original issue?  Stay on one topic at a time.  Here’s my new line when this happens: “Babe, I can see we many things to discuss, can we focus on the first thing before we talk about the second and third thing.  I want to understand what the first thing means to you?”   (You can thank me below fellas).
  • Pay attention to your tone and non-verbal language. You cannot not communicate.  Even when you are not talking, you are saying something with your body language or tone. I’m guilty of rolling the eyes, raising my voice and sometimes even yawning.  Don’t laugh, it’s not funny!
  • Use “I” messages instead of “You” messages.  ”You” messages are dangerous.  Stuff like You are always late. You are so irresponsible. When you do this, you provoke a defensive reaction and now they must put up a wall for protection and things only get worse… Use “I” messages instead: I felt lonely and worried when you didn’t call when you said you were going to call and I was worried something happened to you. When Flavia speaks like this to me then I feel less defensive and more open.

Check out this crazy study:  Marriage expert, Dr. John Gottman followed 130 newlyweds for 6 years in his “love lab.” He discovered that he could predict whether a divorce will occur between couples. he predicted a divorce will likely occur when the couple don’t have at least a ratio of 5 to 1 (5 positive feeling and interactions to 1 negative one in their daily conversation).

Crazy eh?  This means, if I watched you and your spouse interact for 5-minutes and the guy said 5 negative things to the girl and only 1 positive thing, there is good chance for divorce.

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4. Discuss “Family Of Origin”

We acknowledged that our families have passed down good influences and bad influences.  We also realized that every family passes down “curses” (dysfunctions) and each person has the power to break the family curse at his/her generation.  Did you need some fun topics for your next “date night”?  (BTW – that movie Date Night is really funny – we just saw it last night).

  • What was it like growing up based on your birth order?
  • What is your family culture and how did it influence you?
  • On a scale of 1-to-1o, describe your relationship with your Mom, Dad, brother, sister etc
  • What were some “rules” you grew up with?
  • What did you learn from your father?
  • What did you learn from your mother?
  • What were some major events for your family growing up?
  • What were the most helpful things you learned from your family?
  • What were some not so helpful things you learned from your family?
  • What did leadership look like in your family?

Yo!  Fellas, if you’re single, I just hooked you up with ten awesome questions for your next date!  Stir up some  of these questions and I’m sure you’ll have some good conversation.

5. Conflict Resolution

This was a really big one for us because we both tend to avoid conflict so were shocked to discover the following:

  • Number 1 predictor of divorce is: conflict avoidance! That’s right: couples who avoided conflict and swept it under the rug had a higher chance of divorce then couples who addressed issues.
  • Top 5 things couples fight about in first 5 years of marriage: time, sex, money.
  • Over 69% of conflicts/differences are NOT resolvable!  That blew me away.  The key is to learn how to manage and cope with the differences.  Here’s an example.  Flavia loves to recycle and separate all the trash – I could care less.  There’s no point fighting over this – neither of us are going to change. We’ll both learn how to mange with those differences.
  • Kiss and make up. Good fights should bring you closer together and you should feel more connected and not afraid to have a conflict next time.
  • Come up with rules for when you fight. This is POWERFUL.  Here are some of our rules: no hitting (Flavia likes to choke punch me), no speaking over each other, no fighting if alcohol is present (this never ends well), hold hands while fighting, deal with it as soon as possible, no blaming and most importantly – when it’s resolved it’s resolved.  NO BRINGING UP THE PAST.  This one bullet above has been a GAME CHANGER for us. You won’t get it right every time but it gives something to both shoot for.

6. Handling Finances

We learned the number one source of marital tension is finances.  Did you know that average house hold debt between personal loans, line of credit and mortgage debt is $69.450 (Canadian stats). That would stress me out!

Interestingly, it does not matter if you’re filthy rich, have an average income, or are poor – finances is still one of the top three issues couples fight about.  Why? It’s because what money represents: power, greed, different spending styles etc.  It’s not the the actual dollar amount that causes tension.

I found this fascinating and could really relate.  I have more “lavish” tastes and like to eat in nice restaurants and get caught up in the nice cars, designer jeans and living the “good life.”  Flavia, on the other hand, definitely likes to splurge every once and awhile but it’s low on her priority list and she finds other things more important.

7. Ture and False About SEX

a) Sex should be spontaneous. Don’t just talk, Just Do It!

FALSE. Yes, we’ll be having a lot of spontaneous sex but we learned that planned sex is even better. Why?  First, you know you’re getting some. Second, you can plan and talk about how you want it.  This leads to improvement and better, longer, faster, harder… okay I’m getting carried, away.  Opps, did I say faster?   I meant to say, this leads to better sex :)

b) Sex is natural and simple. You should just know how to do it.

FALSE. Although sex is natural, but so is eating and peeing, and you probably don’t show your kids how to eat and pee properly.  Some things are just not talked about growing up so don’t expect your partner to know everything on their wedding night.

c) If the wife doesn’t have a orgasm during sex, the man did something wrong.

FALSE. 30% of women even have a orgasm during sex. It does not mean she did not enjoy it.  I’m not going to expand too much further on this point here…

d) Size and length matter in sex.

FALSE (sometimes). This is true for some people, some of the time – but not true for everyone, all the time.  How was that answer?  I saved myself there eh?  Bottom line: certain people have certain preferences and certain moods perk those preferences.  Remember, it’s about quality, not quantity.

e) Women do not need sex as much as men.

FALSE (Hallelujah)! Women desire it just as much as the next guy.  The only difference is that men get warmed up far faster and women (for the most part) take a little longer to get warmed up. I guess I can manage that difference.

f) Married people are significantly more likely to have more satisfying sex.

TRUE. This makes sense.  Having sex with a stranger could feel like you’re on audition. (If it doesn’t then you be on track for having a reputation as a “player” and trust me – “players” don’t attract respectable and high-class girls.  Don’t let the guys from the Jersey Shore tell you otherwise).   Sure, sleeping around allows you experience 1 layer of the opposite sex but don’t you want something deeper?

I learned this back in high school.  Someone said to me:

Vince, you got to figure out what you want.  You can either experience one girl at a hundred different levels.  Or you can experience 100 girls at one level.  Which will do you think will give you more fulfillment?  Remember, you can’t have both lifestyles.”

There’s a thought for all you single guys playing the field (and trust me, I did my fair share of playing the field) and it doesn’t come even close to what I have with Flavia.

Here’s one more quote for you single guys or committed guys who are having trouble keeping their eyes on the beautiful girl they have right in front of them – The grass is not greener on the other side.  The grass is green where you water it!” Did you get that?  Focus on what you have and not what you don’t have.

So you can see that I took some pretty crazy notes eh?  A lot of these are Flavia’s notes too so I’m sure males and females got some golden gems.  You probably should print this article off and highlight some the key points.

Start by summarizing your favourite take-aways below.  i would love to hear what stood out to you from our learning.

Vince and Flavia

P.S. As you can see – I’m passionate about more than just muscle.  I appreciate you taking the time to read the lessons Flavia and learned in our 2-day marriage preparation course and if you feel like something like this would benefit you, just connected with a church in your area.  This is where we got all of this information!  No kidding eh?  The church we go to is called The Meeting House and you can download a lot of free info from their site: http://www.themeethinghouse.ca if you want to improve the relational area of your life.

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