Nonprofit View: MREC helps couples prepare for marriage

Weddings cost a lot of money, with expensive dresses, impressive venues, mile-high cakes and often a few unrealistic expectations — which is why many couples today are postponing marriage, if they marry at all.

According to the Pew Research Center, barely half of all adults age 18 and over are married, compared to 72 percent in 1960. Adding to this hesitancy is the fact that many in the millennial generation are products of the divorce culture and are fearful of repeating the pain experienced as they watched their parents divorce.


When Torrie met Steve (names have been changed) on the dating app, Tinder, she wasn't looking for a long-term commitment having recently broken up with her boyfriend of several years. But something clicked between them and, eventually, Steve proposed. At that point, Torrie said she didn't want to take any chances, so the couple signed up for a pre-marriage class with the Marriage and Relationship Education Center (MREC).

"My parents divorced five years ago," she shared. "I thought I'd never marry. In fact I'd been proposed to several times [so I] wanted to make sure I covered everything before getting into the long-term commitment" of marriage.

Things come too easily for our generation, Torrie continued, like overnight shipping from Amazon Prime and on-demand TV, but she knew that a good marriage would take time and intentionality to build and she wanted a good start. After all, divorce has impact far beyond the couple who splits up.

Steve agreed.

"I personally felt that it could be helpful to hear other perspectives and insight from outside our inner circle," he said. "I wasn't really sure what to expect from the class before going, but was pleasantly surprised by the relaxed atmosphere. The instructors were easygoing and made the discussions inclusive but not intrusive, which was one of the few concerns I had going into the class."

Prior to the class, the couple said arguments could escalate quickly. The new skills they learned helped equip them with strategies to diffuse these areas of disagreement early and create a more effective way to communicate with each other.

Even though the class is over, and the two recently married, they continue to use their appreciation skills card and active listening exercises each day. There's a lot of truth to the saying that words are like toothpaste. Once they are out of the tube, you can't put them back in.

Another positive to relationship skills classes are the new insights gained about each other. Through an online assessment "we found out we both wanted to play piano," said Torrie, and so her mom bought them a keyboard as a shower gift.

Relationship skills aren't just for beginners, however. Couples and individuals at every stage of life benefit from learning and enhancing their skills, especially since the benefits cause a ripple effect that impacts family, friends and even the workplace.

When marriages and families thrive, everyone benefits.

Amy M. Gilford is the executive director of the Marriage and Relationship Education Center in Westminster. For additional information about MREC, visit

Each Monday, the Carroll County Times will publish a column from a local nonprofit, allowing them to share information about their organization and the issues facing it. To be considered, email with the subject line "Nonprofit View."