Even though the divorce rate has declined in recent years, nearly half of first marriages, and even more second marriages, end in divorce. Premarital education can reduce those numbers, research says. Couples who go through premarital counseling are 31% less likely to divorce than couples who did not receive counseling. With these changing realities, premarital education and the conversations that it catalyzes have never been more important, proponents say.

That is especially true for those in the early throes of love, a time marked by a heightened cognitive and emotional experience called limerence, which tends to wear off after 12-18 months of a relationship, making it challenging for the couple to work through each partner’s differences, according to Carl Caton, president of the San Antonio Marriage Initiative, a faith-based organization in Texas that works with community leaders to support marriage and train marriage preparation facilitators.

“The way the brain lights up when you feel those butterfly feelings is very similar to someone who’s on cocaine,” Caton said. “So when couples are entering this, their biology plays a trick on them — they don’t think [this course] is necessary.”

The belief in “soulmate-ism” is also alive and well, Hawkins told me, which can impede hard conversations about the partners’ differences. “[Young couples] really believe that love is strong enough and will conquer all, and we know that it’s not really the case,” he said. “For those who are deeply in love and are emotionally connected, one of the more important things that you can do is make sure you re-engage the brain,” Hawkins said.

And there is a lot to consider before you get married. In addition to practical aspects of joint life like child-rearing and communication, it’s often in a premarital education where previously ignored or unnoticed red flags may show up. “Your brain makes you pay attention to them, while your heart will tend to try to hide them,” Hawkins said.

(read rest of The case for premarital education, even if your partner is your soulmate)