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Wilburn: Before you walk down the aisle, PREPARE

POSTED: July 24, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Recently I heard some statistics concerning the divorce rates in Georgia and Hall County that were frightening.

Georgia has one of the highest divorce rates in the United States. In Georgia alone, the economic cost of divorce (not to mention the emotional costs to the adults and children) is more than $1.4 million.

In 2006, Hall County had 1,119 couples walk down the aisle and 872 couples file for divorce.

In our country, we spend a lot of time and money getting ready for a wedding. We spend much less time getting ready for marriage.

You and your future spouse will have to make a lot of decisions about your life as a married couple. Where will you live? How will you handle finances? Do you want to have children?

Marriage education can teach you better communication skills and much more. Marriage education isn't just for people who are already married. Has anyone told you yet that, "A good marriage takes lots of hard work"?

Learning solid skills early through marriage education can make it a whole lot easier. That's why there's the PREPARE program.

PREPARE, Affordable Marriage Enrichment Program for Engaged Couples, is a premarital education program for engaged or committed people living in Hall, Athens-Clarke, Gwinnett, Habersham, Jackson, Lumpkin, Oconee, Oglethorpe or White counties. It is offered through the Gainesville/Hall County Healthy Marriage Initiative and a grant from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

PREPARE readies couples for a healthy, lasting marriage by:

Providing a "road map" of things to expect in their marriage

Teaching communication, conflict management skills and financial planning

Building on the couple's strengths to develop new skills to help them deal with future challenges

Setting clear personal, couple and family goals

Generally, the first class involves introductions, an overview of what the program covers and, often, the completion of an inventory to help couples identify their relationship strengths and growth areas.

Couples can choose to participate in six individual sessions Monday through Friday with a trained and licensed marriage and family therapist. Or they take part in a full-day workshop on a Saturday.

The Saturday workshops will be held July 26 and Aug. 23 in Gainesville and July 12, Sept. 13 and 20 in Athens.

What doess this cost? Only $30 a couple! Discounts are available for couples that meet certain economic requirements.

Both partners should attend every class together. This is extremely important because the couple needs to share this fun learning experience in order for their relationship to grow.

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. This is a special edition of Family Ties column, which usually runs in Sunday Life on the first Sunday of each month. Contact: 770-535-8290.



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