By Martin Graham
SCOTTISH couples are signing up for marriage guidance BEFORE they even tie the knot, according to a relationship charity.
Counsellors at Scottish Marriage Care say they have seen a huge increase in couples undergoing their pre-marriage course.
The course – Facilitating Open Couple Communication Understanding and Study – helps couples to identify strengths and weaknesses in their relationship, and to resolve problems before the big day.
Paul Burnside, who runs the programme, said that interest over the last 12 months was such that they have had to advertise for more staff.
He said: ““We’ve had so many requests recently that we’ve had to launch a recruitment drive for more facilitators.
“The uptake was pretty slow to begin with, but the interest over the last 12 months has been phenomenal and it’s growing all the time.”
During the course couples fill in a 200 item questionnaire which identifies their views on money, children, careers and future plans.
The results are analysed by a computer which creates a summary of the relationship, identifying good and bad aspects and recommending areas for further work.
Where problems arise, couples are offered pre-marriage counselling sessions in order to iron out contentious issues in advance of exchanging vows.
Mr Burnside said: “Marriage preparation courses have always been a big thing in Europe and the states but never before in Scotland.
“But couples are realising it’s a good idea and getting into line with the rest of the world.”
Relationship therapist Sue Maxwell from Edinburgh was enthusiastic about the programme.
She said: “Marriage is about more than just a wedding.
“In many cases it’s a complete lifestyle change – and it can be different from the expectations
People have of life as husband and wife.
“If couples have a problem it’s always better for them to do something about it sooner rather than later.
“It’s important to talk problems through early before they escalate into something more serious, and if they can do that before they get married that’s even better.”
Marion Laird, head of services at Scottish Marriage Care said that the reaction to the course had been positive: “We’ve had some excellent feedback.
“The couples taking part are really enjoying the experience.
“FOCCUS gives couples a chance to step back from all the excitement of planning a wedding and think about what’s special between them – something that can be forgotten about in the build up to the big day.
“Some couples enter into marriage then encounter difficulties and wonder if they’ve made the right decision.
“It’s hoped FOCCUS can go some way to reducing this.
“Marriage preparation allows the couple to improve communication and build their dreams for future years – and most of them are delighted to have an excuse for a break from the wedding plans.”