Attending relationship education or counselling before getting married may not actually improve marital satisfaction, new research suggests.
A Canadian psychology professor surveyed 191 couples in order to judge the effectiveness of such programs. Each couple was interviewed once before they got married and a further eight times at various points over the following two years.
Of the couples surveyed, around 40 per cent attended some form of premarital counselling or relationship education.
Professor Rebecca Cobb, of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, tracked the level of relationship satisfaction in each spouse as the marriage went on. She found that while men’s satisfaction declined regardless of counselling, women responded differently. Those who had attended relationship education programs reported lower levels of marital satisfaction than those who did not.
Based on these findings, Cobb said an argument could be made that the programs themselves were responsible for a decline in happiness among married women. Such programs create an image of what a successful relationship should be, she said, so if the reality “doesn’t live up to these expectations, the wives could become disappointed”.
However, she suggested that the fault could lie in the quality of the programs rather than relationship education in general. Some classes “generally don’t include any skills training, so they might be raising concerns, but participants are left without any new skills to manage [them]”, she said.
In 2013, a scholar in Saudi Arabia said that relationship counselling should be mandatory for any couple wanting to marry.