Three Types of Premarital Assessments: Which one should you take?
So, your priest or marriage mentor said you need to do a premarital assessment. You’re here reading this article, so you’re likely a high achiever who wants to get this right. There are three popular premarital assessments that help couples get their marriages off to a great start. Let’s take a look at the FOCCUS, RELATE, and PREPARE/ENRICH premarital assessments to help determine which is right for you.
FOCCUS Pre-Marriage Inventory
Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding and Study
The FOCCUS Pre-Marriage Inventory is administered through a certified FOCCUS facilitator who has the couple take the assessment on paper or online and then scores the results. Originally developed by the Archdiocese of Omaha, this pre-marriage inventory has been around since 1985, and it has been taken by over 1 million couples.
A certified FOCCUS Facilitator could be a priest or another religious leader, but they must be a licensed professional who belongs to an approved organization to provide facilitator services. Facilitators are trained to help couples use the information provided in their inventory report to strengthen their relationship and talk about their differences.
For a cost of $20 per couple, the FOCCUS Pre-marriage Inventory evaluates nineteen areas of a couple’s life. It’s great for helping couples determine challenges they may face and providing trained facilitators to help couples understand their results and discuss their potential challenges.
RELATE Relationship Assessment
The RELATE Relationship Assessment is available online without the help of a facilitator. Couples can easily register, take the assessment, and have their results in about 30 minutes. The assessment was developed by the Relate Institute at Brigham Young University, and the cost is currently $40 per couple.
The report produced by the RELATE Relationship Assessment details ten areas and how couples view themselves and their partner in each area. They can see areas of personal strength and challenge along with identifying areas that need improvement. The report includes brief descriptions of behaviors that may be demonstrated in each area, and it also has discussion questions for personal and couple growth.
The strength of the RELATE Relationship Assessment is its user-friendly online format and easy to understand report. The RELATE website offers additional tools for couples after taking the assessment including online classes, an app, and the ability to connect with a registered therapist.
The PREPARE/ENRICH Assessment was developed in the 1980s by Dr. David Olson, a University of Minnesota researcher in the field of family science, and his wife, Karen Olson. There are two versions of the PREPARE/ENRICH Assessment available to engaged couples: the regular version, taken under the direction of a PREPARE/ENRICH facilitator), and the Catholic Couple Checkup which is a lighter version of the original assessment that couples can take on their own.
PREPARE/ENRICH explores twenty relationship areas and provides a report that can be talked through with a facilitator or discussed as a couple using the free, downloadable discussion guide. The cost for either version of PREPARE/ENRICH is $35 per couple.
The couple report from the PREPARE/ENRICH Assessment focuses on twenty areas of a couple’s life and each partner’s personality. It takes around 20 – 30 minutes to complete the online assessment, and the report is available as soon as each partner completes their part. Results are first summarized and then detailed in the report by category, and it includes a personality scale for each partner along with discussion questions throughout.
On a personal note:
While researching for this article, I took the RELATE assessment, and my husband and I took the Couple Checkup from PREPARE/ENRICH.
The main difference we noted was that RELATE structures the report by showing graphs that measure how you view yourself and how your partner views you. They also use percentages to note the level of strength in each category. The graphs and percentages correlate to three categories: strength, needs improvement, and challenge.
PREPARE/ENRICH Couple Checkup measures satisfaction in each area along with couple agreement. These graphs show satisfaction as either high, average, or low and couple agreement as strength, possible strength, and growth area. The report also includes a couple map that shows where the couple falls on a grid that measures flexibility and closeness. At the end of the report, a SCOPE personality scale shows where each of you fall from low to high in the five dimensions of personality: social, change, organized, pleasing, and emotionally steady.
When we compared our results, my husband said the report from RELATE made him feel like he was being graded in each category and that the percentages reminded him of school. Any “score” of less than 80% made him feel like he didn’t measure up in that particular category. The RELATE assessment’s use of the terms “needs improvement” and “challenge” reinforced those feelings.
We both agreed that we like the PREPARE/ENRICH Couple Checkup report much better and felt more open while working through it. In the area where we had the lowest “Couple Agreement”, the report noted the areas where we both felt positive and listed several discussion items that helped us talk about the results. The SCOPE personality scale demonstrated how strong our traits were in each category without making us feel like we failed or were in competition with one another.
The entire Couple Checkup report felt more encouraging, and the discussion guide and included talking points facilitated deeper conversations about our results.
Which premarital assessment should you take?
All three of the premarital assessments discussed are research-based, have been used successfully by many couples, and provide feedback in a detailed report. When deciding which one is best for you, use of a facilitator seems to be the most important factor as FOCCUS is only available through a facilitator, and the full version of PREPARE/ENRICH is similar. If you are already working with a marriage mentor or clergy member for marriage prep, whatever assessment tool they recommend will be valuable if you are open, honest, and thoughtful with your answers.
If you are looking for a tool that you and your partner can use without a facilitator, RELATE and the Couple Checkup from PREPARE/ENRICH are similar in price and both offer a printable report. However, the reports approach the way you view your relationship and your personality styles very differently, and the Couple Checkup offers a few additional reports (the couple map and the SCOPE personality scale) that couples may find helpful.
Couples who take a premarital assessment can reduce the chance that their marriage will end in divorce (link to last article What is a Relationship Inventory/Premarital Assessment) because assessments help couples understand their strengths and identify growth areas. If you took a facilitator-led assessment other than PREPARE/ENRICH, taking advantage of the RELATE Assessment or the PREPARE/ENRICH Couple Checkup can offer a fresh perspective on your relationship and give your marriage a great start.