By Dr. Stephen Fife
Benjamin Franklin is famous for many things, including his sense of humor and witty aphorisms. Among his most famous sayings is an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This phrase was actually meant to help the people of Philadelphia prevent destructive house fires that were prevalent in Franklin’s time, but it is a truism that can be wisely applied to many aspects of our lives. One area in which it has particular relevance is marriage.
As a marriage and family therapist, I’ve seen many couples who have neglected their marriage to the point that it is barely hanging together by a thread. In most cases, both partners are good people who are busing doing many good things, but they have failed to do those things that would keep their marriage healthy and strong. As I hear stories of pain, frustration, and heartbreak, I have occasionally found myself thinking, “I sure wish they would have come in sooner to work on their marriage.” Unfortunately, most couples don’t .
An analogy can help illustrate the benefits of prevention. Most car owners get the oil changed every three thousand miles. Why do we do this? One reason is to keep the car in running well and prevent damage to the engine. If there is something that is starting to wear out, we might need to get it fixed now before it turns into a more costly repair later. The oil changes and maintenance cost us time and money, but the preventative benefits likely result in significant savings compared to the cost of repairing or replacing a blown out engine that never had the oil changed. Marriage counselors will likely tell you that most couples come to therapy to work on their marriage after their engine has blown out, rather than coming for preventative maintenance. How sad! How painful! How costly!
Why wait until things have gotten so bad that a major overhaul is necessary? Couples can keep their marriage running smoothly and prevent big problems by regular maintenance and preventative efforts. Regular date nights, weekly planning sessions, alone time together, flowers, love notes, acts of kindness, compliments, and expression of gratitude are some things that can keep a relationship strong. Another is to find a self-help book on marriage to read together. A third option is to participate in a marriage enrichment class. Many churches and community centers offer classes or workshops on strengthening relationships. Couples might also consider working with a counselor. Many people don’t want to “go to counseling,” thinking this would be a sign that they have big problems. However, the benefits of keeping one’s marriage strong and catching small problems early far outweigh the emotional and financial costs of waiting until problems get bigger.
One of the most critical areas of our lives that deserve our attention is our marriages. The costs of ignoring our relationships can be great. Franklin was right when it comes to marriage: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Dr. Stephen Fife is an Associate Professor in the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at UNLV. His research has been published widely and presented at national and international conferences. He is happily married and the father of two sons. Contact Dr. Fife at email@example.com .