ANNAPOLIS – It’s Valentine’s Day, and she just popped the question. You’re deeply in love, in fact you’ve been waiting for her to ask. You say yes, in fact, you can’t wait to get married.
Not so fast, say the proponents of a bill heard in the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday. Sure, you have been waiting all your life for this moment to arrive. In fact, that’s just what you told her. So what’s another 60 days?
Making people wait a couple months before they walk down the aisle isn’t the only provision in the bill introduced by Delegates Joan Pitkin, D-Prince George’s, and Ann Marie Doory and Kenneth C. Montague Jr., both Baltimore Democrats. The measure would also require at least four hours of marriage training, a “premarriage education course,” to be exact.
Del. Michael Burns, R-Anne Arundel, 38 and single, wanted to know why, “in a free society,” anyone should be required to go to a class if he or she wants to get married.
“No one who’s engaged thinks they need it. Everyone who’s married knows they need it,” said Michael J. McManus, author of a nationally syndicated column called “Ethics & Religion” and of two books on marriage.
According to McManus, who runs a “Marriage Savers Institute” in Bethesda, about 250,000 would-be couples every year take an inventory of their relationship. Typical questions include:
– When you and your partner are having a problem, does your partner give you the silent treatment?
– Do you wish your partner were more careful with money?
– Do you keep your feelings in for fear your partner will get angry?
McManus said the surveys are good predictors of which marriages will fail, and that some couples call off their engagement after going through the program.
McManus, who leads a marriage preparation course with his wife at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, said he doesn’t mind if people change their mind.
“We don’t want our church to be a blessing machine or a wedding factory. We want it to be a marriage saver.”
McManus said it’s better to call off a marriage than to go through a divorce. In Modesto, Calif., where 95 pastors from 20 denominations agreed to put marriage preparation programs in place, the divorce rate dropped by 51 percent in a decade, McManus said.
Burns wasn’t convinced, saying that making people think twice might lead to even more single-parent families.
Then again, maybe Burns is a man who feels he has no time to lose when it comes to tying the knot. He turns 39 on Friday. -30-