Conflicts are part of any relationship. Similar to the idea of having fire or tornado drills at school or work, Marcy questions whether we can decide how we will respond to conflicts in marriage before they happen.

Have you ever found yourself on the other end of the phone talking with a friend or family member announcing that s/he and her/his partner are getting divorced? Maybe you were expecting it based on previous interactions. Or maybe you got a pit in your stomach because you adored the couple and are sad to hear this news.

In the past year one of my dearest friends called me to share that she and her husband were separating. I thought my heart stopped as I listened to her frustrations and feelings of defeat. She was done trying. I questioned how this could be. I was her maid of honor and stood up in front of everyone at her wedding reception and validated why I truly believed they loved one another and would be happily married and making each other better people.

As her friend I tried to listen patiently. I tried to be there for her. But I, too, felt defeated. Like nothing I could do could change her mind. Over the course of the next year my husband and I prayed earnestly for this relationship and I shared with her any resource I could find. She went through a number of ups and downs, engaged in counseling and through an incredible renewed sense of commitment I am extremely humbled to share that their marriage has been restored. Every day is a work in progress she says, but they are committed again to their relationship.

As I think about the excruciating heartaches I watched one of my best friends go through, I wonder if there’s something we as couples can do before entering into marriage that can prepare us for the compiling events that lead us to pursue a divorce.

Some couples go through pre-marital counseling. Some don’t. I wonder what would happen if we sat down with the person we have fallen in love with before we enter into a marriage commitment and plan for what we will do when things get rough, if we find out about an affair, if abuse enters the relationship, if financial hardships come, etc. Even couples who have been married for 2, 5, 15 or more years, what if we paused right now and talked, agreed, wrote down, and committed to how we will respond to these situations? And what if we also wrote a letter to ourself and a separate letter to our beloved conveying our commitment to our relationship? Maybe we would list what we love about the other person, why working hard to keep the relationship is important to us, and what we will do to not give up.

Hanging on the office door of one of my college professors was a quote, “Poor prior planning produces piss poor performance.”

After living through my parents splitting up after 24 years of marriage during my last semester of college — an ironic time of hearing educators say I would be changing the world while a few hundred miles away my family was falling apart — I have become passionate about convening conversations for couples to talk about the struggles they are facing and to find support before divorce becomes the default answer.

How can you and your significant other plan and prepare for marital conflicts in a way that turns a state of chaos into following a plan that you developed during a season of mutual attraction and commitment? I’m not saying that dealing with struggles is easy, but if lamaze classes before delivering a baby can ease the often painful experience of childbirth, why can’t open dialogue about the possibilities of down the road ease disagreements and heartaches with our loved ones?

If you or someone you know is having a marriage crisis, these resources might be great conversation starter:

“Love Dare” by Alex Kendrick & Stephen Kendrick
“I Don’t Want a Divorce: A 90 Day Guide to Saving Your Marriage” by Dr. David Clarke & William G. Clarke
“Getting to 50/50: How Working Couples Can Have It All by Sharing It All” by Sharon Meers & Joanna Strober

With a hopeful outlook on marriage,
– Marcy, Taking Clipping Out of Couponing