Marriage is undoubtedly a major step for couples. One minute you're dating, and the next, you're legally bound to one another, sharing benefits and bank accounts. But there are a lot of things for couples to consider before reciting their vows — and many could definitely use the help of a counselor to sort through everything ahead of the nuptials. Recently, one country decided to help couples in this very situation: According to The Jerusalem Post, Israel will subsidize marriage counseling for couples, prior to their weddings.
This option for cheap premarital counseling allows couples to really consider their relationship and the commitment they're about to make, before signing the dotted line and saying their "I do's." According to The Jerusalem Post, this new piece of legislation would offer a voluntary program and give "not inconsiderable financial inducements to couples who register to marry if they participate in a marriage preparation course before they tie the knot."
According to the outlet, this legislation was designed in response to the increasing divorce rate in Israel. While some could see this optional pre-marital counseling as an invasion of privacy from the government, the program could definitely be beneficial — especially if couples are receiving the counseling for a cheaper cost. According to The Jerusalem Post, in addition to a subsidy, the legislation suggests that couples who undergo pre-marital counseling could receive a reduction on their income taxes for the year they registered for the course and get a full rebate of their marriage registration fee.
This is not the first time that a government has tried to suggest counseling for couples. A story published in The Atlantic from 20 years ago cites a number of different U.S. states that, at the time, wanted to require pre-marital and pre-divorce couples counseling for different incentives — yet, none of those laws passed. And according to Women's Day, in 2011, the Montana state legislature introduced a House Bill which would have made couples with minor children undergo 10 hours of marriage counseling before getting a divorce. This bill was never passed — but it brought up a wave of new discussions on the matter.
Of course, while Israel's legislation focuses more on pre-marital counseling, rather than marriage counseling, the question still stands — can marriages, even those not yet made official, be saved or protected by counseling? According to USA Today, a 2006 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that couples who received pre-marital education had a 31 percent lower chance for divorce. And a 2014 study, conducted by Rochester University, found that active discussion between couples (about movies, but still notable) cut the divorce rate in half. So as it turns out, offering incentives to take marriage counseling may not be a bad idea.
This past November, the divorce rate in the United States reached its lowest point in the past 40 years, according to TIME, and marriage rates have increased — proving that couples are sticking around and making things work. There is no certified guarantee that pre-marital counseling will prevent couples from divorcing, obviously, and all couples are different — what works for one couple might not work for another. But Israel's subsidized marriage counseling is certainly a promising step in the right direction.