The syllabus for Marriage 201 includes an independent study portion during which the enrollee identifies a specific challenge and develops a plan to address it. Many of us wish to skip the fundamental lessons of Marriage 101, mistakenly thinking that we do not need it. It is basic knowledge, after all. Although the syllabus for Marriage 101 may appear to include sparse enlightenment, these lessons are so difficult that half of the enrollees either drop or fail the course. There are several variations of Marriage 101, but courses typically contain the following lessons:
- Another person cannot complete you or fill an empty hole inside that only you feel.
- Your spouse is not responsible for your happiness.
- No matter how long you dated or lived together, marriage will change your relationship.
- Changing your spouse is a futile and destructive endeavor.
- Physical intimacy strengthens your bond.
- Monogamy equals trust, and is required.
- You have the power to hurt your spouse more than any other person on earth. Do not be mean to him or her.
- Learn to apologize for bad behavior without excuses.
- Do not hold grudges; they add up quickly in marriage. Either forgive, or drop the course.
- Neither husband nor wife can unerringly read their spouse’s mind all the time; do not assume that you know what your spouse is thinking.
- Communicate your needs even when you think your spouse should know. (See previous lesson)
- Take a team approach to finances even though there is typically a Captain. Be transparent and share.
- Have fun together. It will sustain you during serious reality.
- Do not consider divorce an option and never threaten to leave. You will work harder on your marriage if you believe that there is no way out.
Successful completion of Marriage 101 assumes that both parties possess basic knowledge such as the importance of similar core values, how to drop off excess baggage from past relationships, and primary communication skills. If these lessons have not been previously learned, Marriage 097 should be taken prior to Marriage 101, preferably before entering into a marriage contract.
Subsequent marriages require a repeat of Marriage 101 because each marriage is different, even if it is to the same person. Many spouses skip the familiar territory of Marriage 101, preferring to address specific needs prior to building a foundation. 60% of second and third marriages fail, many because participants are not entirely healed from the first go-round (see Baggage lesson).
Marriage 201 builds on the 101 lessons, introducing complex problem-solving skills for a lack of communication, too much time spent on social media, runaway spending, alcohol over indulgence, chronic illness, and managing in-laws. Participants are encouraged to assign themselves topics that are relative to their specific needs, and can propose topics as long as the subject matter does not involve changing your spouse. Both Marriage 101 and 201 are given a passing grade when participants are still married at the time of death, as the vows state.