Do Personal (Premarital) Inventory Tests Really Improve Marriages?

Since 1996, I have used Prepare/Enrich personal inventory tests in an attempt to help with premarital counseling.  I gave up using them this last year.  The reason:  they do not seem to make a long-term difference.

If I look at the divorce rate from my pre-testing years, it is no better or worse. Although targeting certain areas where a relationship is weak sounds logical, I wonder if it actually saves either time or energy, especially since it takes a session to take the test. 

It makes us feel like we are somehow "in control" and "systematic," but if we are interested in outcomes, I am not convinced.

If a couple's results demonstrate a conflicted relationship, you cannot tell them not to get married.  You are supposed to work on areas of conflict without discouraging marriage.  If results show a good vibrant relationship, the couple may still end up getting divorced.

Although I see value in premarital counseling, I have personally decided to trash the inventory approach.

What are your experiences and opinions?  Are they very different from mine?  Please consider opining as well as vote.



Yes, they are generally very helpful.
0% (0 votes)
They can be somewhat helpful.
33% (5 votes)
Not sure.
20% (3 votes)
They are not significantly helpful.
33% (5 votes)
They are not helpful in premarital counseling, but can be helpful to target issues in existing marriages.
13% (2 votes)
0% (0 votes)
Total votes: 15
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There are 5 Comments

josh p's picture

My wife and I did Prepare/Enrich. We had complicated stories. I was divorced, she was a widow, she had a son from her first marriage who never got to meet his dad as he passed during the pregnancy, my children are grown, two different cultures, ethnicities, parts of the country etc. 

The results were pretty funny. Even taking all that into account, our compatibility was rated extremely high. The counselor basically said, "Nothing to talk about here so what else can we discuss?" I don't really put a whole lot of stock in it personally. To me it's like the personality tests a job might give you. It kind of seems like pseudo-science to me but I doubt it can hurt. If I was a pastor, I wouldn't give it and would spend that time doing more counseling.

TylerR's picture


I really dislike these tests, and a lot of the entire pre-marital pastor counseling thing. I just have people go through Tim Keller's The Meaning of Marriage with me. It focuses on biblical things and real life. I know a man and woman who are about to get married. Her pastor did counseling with them, and went so far as to have them consider whether the woman's sensitivity to loud noises would be a deal-breaker. It makes marriage out to be like shopping at a Swap-Meet. It's foolish, in my opinion. It also has nothing to do with the bible.

The implicit assumption with these tests and the like seem to be, "I'll marry you ... if everything's (allegedly) perfect."

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Ed Vasicek's picture

Tyler R wrote:

The implicit assumption with these tests and the like seem to be, "I'll marry you ... if everything's (allegedly) perfect."

Not prepare/enrich.  You are not supposed to recommend or discourage marriage based upon it, its purpose to red flag trouble areas so you can focus there.  But, despite it sounding good, I don't know that this really helps.  You would think it would.  I have found that a  few probing questions does the same thing.


"The Midrash Detective"

Paul J's picture

My wife and I counsel couples where one of the parties comes with a story of abuse.  We've found these helpful as you help them establish basic understanding of where each are coming from.  We've also triaged and gotten them to professional counseling too. These are not an end-all but can be very helpful.

Josh S's picture

I tend to dislike any form of "personality test". People are just too complicated and dynamic to be put into neat little boxes. 

Josh Stilwell, associate pastor,  Alathea Baptist Church, Des Moines, Iowa.