The purpose of taking a premarital inventory before your wedding is to help the two of you receive an objective assessment of potential problems and issues in your relationship. Many professionals (therapists, clergy and family law attorneys) would agree that premarital counseling is highly recommended before marriage. This is a way to help promote a successful union and is a very wise idea considering the high divorce rate that still exists. Premarital inventories are commonly used to help with the counseling process.
These inventories are NOT designed to tell you whether or not you should get married, but to help you realize and deal with differences in your expectations, family backgrounds, and personality traits. Ignoring these issues prior to (as well as during your marriage) could result in serious marital problems.
The use of premarital inventories are also not designed dive deeply into the dynamics between you and your partner. Couples therapy, on the other hand, does go much deeper into problems, poor communication skills, feeling stuck or disconnected. Only a licensed counselor can work effectively with a highly distressed couple. If you believe you are your fiance are having deeper problems that need to be resolved, seek out a qualified couples or marriage counselor either beforehand or after you get feedback from completing the inventory.
There are three premarital tests/inventories that are most commonly used by counselors, pastors, mentors, and marriage educators when working with a soon to be married couple. They are all recommended and have been used long enough to know they are helpful.
Marriage Inventories and Tests
FOCCUS -- Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding & Study
The FOCCUS inventory is considered by many marriage experts to be very user-friendly, affordable, and couple centered. It is an adaptable, research based test with 189 questions. It is widely used in Catholic Pre-Cana programs for those for couples preparing to be married in a Catholic church.
The questions explore topics such as communication issues, finances, sexuality, interfaith relationships, and cohabitation consequences.
There are five versions of the FOCCUS inventory:
- Christian, Non-Denominational
- Alternate for learning-impaired
- REFOCCUS for remarrying couples
The PREPARE/ENRICH Premarital Inventory has a Christian perspective. Though 195 statements, the inventory targets marriage expectations, personality issues, communication issues, conflict resolution, finances, having fun together, sexual issues, parenting, dealing with family and friends, spirituality, and flexibility.
There are five versions of the PREPART/ENRICH inventory available:
- PREPARE for premarital couples
- PREPARE-MC for premarital couples with children
- PREPARE-CC for cohabiting couples with or without children
- MATE for couples who are over the age of 50
- ENRICH for married couples
RELATE -- Relationship Evaluation Questionnaire
The RELATE inventory can be used for both premarital education and also for marriage enrichment. It has 271 items addressing issues of communication, conflict management, consensus building, family-of-origin, personality traits, and more. It is considered a research based assessment the evaluates a relationship on the basis of the four predictors of marital stability.
An advantage to RELATE is that couples who are separated by distance can use the on-line premarital inventory individually. It is also one that you can take without a professional involved and discuss it on your own together. If you struggle with this part, you can always seek out a professional to go over the results with you.
Regardless of which inventory you choose, remember that gearing up for the realities of marriage will give you both the best chance of long term success. It could be that your relationship is just fine, but you want to feel you left no stone unturned. This is a wise decision and one couples should not fear.
However, if you believe that you already have problems in your relationship or you are fighting a lot, you may wish to seek out a couples counselor as well. Doing a premarital inventory along with couples therapy are perfectly compatible with each other. The inventory could provide valuable information to both you and a therapist looking to help you both.
*Article updated by Marni Feuerman