Can a marriage boot camp really help your marriage?

Next year WE tv is launching a celebrity Marriage Boot Camp featuring five couples who are desperate to repair their relationships. These celebrities include spouses from other reality TV shows such as Real Housewives of Orange County‘s Gretchen Rossi and her partner Slade Smiley. Will attending a marriage boot camp (recorded and televised, on top of that), really help these marriages? Could marriage boot camp help save your marriage?

Marriage retreats where couples get a chance to focus on their relationships have been popular for years. These retreats are good options if lack of time or avoidance is getting in the way of addressing marriage issues. Some retreats are offered in groups while others are several days of one-on-0ne time with your spouse and a counselor. A marriage boot camp is slightly different, more focusing on teaching spouses the skills needed for marriage while also addressing problems that have come up.

WE tv’s Marriage Boot Camp premiered earlier this year as a spin-off from another reality series, Bridezillas. In the boot camp, Bridezilla couples were invited back on air to try to resolve marital problems that had come up since their weddings. At the end of the series the spouses had to decide to stick with the marriage or leave it. This second season in 2014 does not limit the cast to previous participants in Bridezilla and gets one big improvement: the couples include non-married partners.

Why is marriage boot camp for non-married couples an improvement (or even make sense)? Because relationship skill-learning is best done as early as possible. In addition, the end of season decision to stick with the relationship or separate is an important decision to consider…before you get married.

Too many couples rush into weddings without knowing the skills for dealing with the realities of marriage. These skills include how to make cooperative win-win decisions, how to communicate with your spouse, how to nurture positivity, and how to control anger. Other important conversations to have are about your life goals, lifestyles, money, and family arrangements. It isn’t a death sentence for the marriage if you don’t know these things yet; partnerships can still flourish if spouses eventually learn these skills and reconcile differences.

marriage boot camp

At the same time, after deeply exploring the important elements of marriage together you may realize that your partner is fundamentally lacking in a crucial area. Or you may discover that you have vastly different attitudes towards money, raising children, division of labor, or other critical issues. You may discover he or she is actually selfish, manipulative, or resistant to change and responsibility. In some cases you may uncover disturbing signs of your partner’s potential for abuse, addiction, or infidelity.

When these areas are investigated before saying “I do” you have the option of calling off the engagement. You may love this person very much. Yet moving on to find a better marriage partner may be one of the wisest decisions you could ever make. Discovering these flaws post-ring is devastating.  For these reason, a marriage boot camp done as early as possible is the best gift you can give your relationship.

Hopefully the couples in Marriage Boot Camp will learn much from their experiences. And hopefully they will all end up making the decisions that are best for them.