Saving Marriages Before (and After) They Start

Saving Marriages Before (and After) They Start

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An interview with psychologists and authors Les and Leslie Parrott. 

HT: Does this new generation still believe in marriage?

Les: Here’s what we know for sure: 87 percent of young adults plan on being married eventually and 82 percent expect to be married for life.

Did you catch that? Almost all young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 not only aspire to eventually be married, they plan on it.

Leslie: And, perhaps more striking—in the face of a staggering divorce rate that most young adults have witnessed up close and personal—is that most still believe when they marry, it will be for life.

HT: Are they motivated to prepare for marriage through education or counseling?

Leslie: More couples want pre-marriage education than ever, and with good reason. It is associated with higher levels of marital satisfaction, lower levels of destructive conflicts and higher levels of commitment.

HT: But do we know for sure if pre-marriage help really works?

Les: Absolutely. Research conclusively shows that couples who succeed gain the knowledge they need before they settle into destructive patterns that often lead to divorce. In fact, couples are 31% less likely to get divorced if they get some sort of pre-marriage training before they marry.

Leslie: Not only that, couples who participate in pre-marriage programs experience a 30 percent increase in marital success and fulfillment over those who do not participate.

HT: Your book, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts (SYMBIS) has been used by more than a million couples, correct?

Leslie: Yes. And we recently updated and revised the book, along with his or her workbooks and a DVD. to make it as easy as possible for a local church of any size to have a first class pre-marriage ministry.

Les: By the way, over the past two years we have conducted a listening tour with more than 200 churches, asking two questions: 1) What do you do for engaged couples; and 2) What can help you do it better?

HT: That survey led you to develop a new pre-marriage assessment, the SYMBIS Assessment, right?

Les: I’ve never been more excited about a project. It’s truly a game-changer. The SYMBIS assessment generates a robust, highly relevant, and personal 15-page couple’s report that a facilitator unpacks with the couple. It makes pre-marriage easier and more effective than ever.

HT: How does it work? How does a pastor or a marriage mentor couple get started?

Leslie: It’s easy. You go to to begin a three-hour online certification training, at your own pace. Once you complete the brief course you can begin using it immediately.

Les: You’ll also have your own online dashboard for managing all the couples in your care. It’s super intuitive.

Leslie: We got the nicest compliment from a pastor recently who said, “If Steve Jobs designed a pre-marriage assessment it would look and feel like this.”

HT: So is the SYMBIS assessment only for one-on-one pre-marriage counseling?

Leslie: No. You can use it in classes, small groups, or in counseling sessions—you determine the number of sessions you want to have.

Les: More and more churches have “marriage mentors” in the congregation becoming trained as certified SYMBIS facilitators. That alleviates the pastor’s load and empowers laypeople in ministry.

HT: You’re very passionate about helping the local church, especially the Church of the Nazarene do pre-marriage well, aren’t you?

Les: The first sentence in our book, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, says: “We never had pre-marriage counseling, but we spent the first year of our marriage in therapy.” And it’s the truth.

Leslie: Can you imagine what would happen in our churches if we could reduce the divorce rate by a third? It would be one of the greatest movements the modern church has ever experienced, and it would impact generations.

Les: Our passion comes from the heart. It’s a lifelong mission for us. We want to revolutionize the way the church helps couples launch lifelong love.


Les and Leslie Parrott are #1 New York Times best-selling authors of the award-winning Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts and creators of the acclaimed SYMBIS Assessment. Learn more at