Our Course is LGBTQ Friendly
Cost of Florida Marriage License$93.50
Cost of Our Online Florida Premarital Course$14.99
Florida Marriage License Savings by Completing Our Course$25.00
Introduction: Welcome to the Official Florida Premarital Preparation Online Course. This course is now available with both text and video content, and in each of the six main sections of the course you can choose to watch the video or read the materials provided. For each of these sections, once you have viewed the videos or read the materials, you must complete the corresponding exercise.
As your course leader, I would like to take a few moments to share a bit about myself. My name is Dr. Justin D'Arienzo, and I am a Licensed Clinical Psychologist. In addition, I am a Certified Florida Supreme Court Family Mediator, Parenting Coordinator, Custody Evaluator, and Relationship Expert. Many people in the Jacksonville, Florida area may also know me as the Relationship Doctor of Jacksonville. There are two aspects of my work: clinical and forensic. Premarital therapy, marital therapy and family therapy are the primary focus of my clinical work. In the forensic arena, my work is focused on the darker aspects of marriage and family life. This includes divorce therapy, high conflict co-parenting therapy, and custody evaluations for the children. My work encompasses the great joys of relationships, and the struggles that may arise over time, and the factors that may destroy those relationships including addiction, infidelity, abuse and neglect. Through this work I have gained an astute understanding of the elements that are foundational to healthy, long-lasting relationships.
Based on my experience, I have developed a series of online premarital courses that are offered by many states, including Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, and Oklahoma. Through these courses and online workbook I teach much of the material that I also use in fact-to-face premarital and marital therapy. My experience has shown that when these materials are applied couples grow closer through improved communication and they discover new things about themselves and each other.
The simple truth is that marriage is a challenging commitment and long term success requires couples to the skills necessary to make the relationship work. Marriage requires two people who are willing to give each other, and their children, 100% during challenging times as well as joyful ones. Ultimately, this comes down to commitment, trust and hard work.
This online workbook is designed to be done alone or jointly as a couple. When used by one person, it is a great resource to learn more about yourself. Through the process you can learn about your relationship needs and reflect on past relationships, with the goal of ensuring that you have a healthy vision for your future ones. When this online workbook is actively completed jointly, couples can work the exercises together. This joint effort to complete the workbook and the time commitment required makes this process an act of love.
The course is broken into six sections and you can click on each one below to learn more about the topic presented.
The goal of a marriage is to have a “sound relationship house.” While this may appear to be a lofty goal, it’s about maintaining a functional relationship not a perfect one. As with other aspects of life, your relationship will have good days and bad days, but as long as the “house” is a place where a family can thrive, then it is functional. The foundation of a sound relationship house is built on four corners:
The basis of friendship is how well we know the other person. The better we know them, the deeper our friendship grows. John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman use the concept of a love map to define how well we know our partner. Knowing our partner’s love map is key to knowing them. This process begins by understanding the partner’s likes and dislikes. It also includes knowing their history, including past traumas, and appreciating their life goals. A love map should also inform us about how our partner will react in given situations, which can us to help navigate life’s challenges. Knowing someone includes recognizing their interests, such hobbies, sports or activities, as well as the things they enjoy, such as their favorite foods or types of movies. In addition to the love map, there are several other tools we can use to help us gain insights about our partner. Personality tests, including Myers-Briggs, can inform us as to how our partners understand and perceive the world.
Building a strong love map with your partner is about how well you know and understand your partner. Using the information discussed above is big step in building that map. As part of this process, ask yourself:
Answering yes to each of these questions is a great way to build a strong love map.
A positive attitude can help us navigate the world around us. In a similar way, research has shown that having a positive perspective toward our partners creates a significant, positive difference in our relationships. Continually viewing the relationship through a positive lens provides a significant, ongoing benefit. In this situation, partners are more likely to give their significant other the benefit of the doubt when mistakes are made. When one person does something that pleases the other, the receiving person will experience this situation as confirmation that the partner is a great person.
The opposite is also true. Those who view their relationship through a negative lens are likely to experience hurt, anger, misunderstanding, frustration and disappointment. The relationship is also fraught with unjust accusations and personal attacks. The negative lens results in a downhill side in a relationship and partners consider getting even, leaving or protecting themselves. Just as positive actions lead to confirmation that the partner is a good person, when viewed through a negative lens, when a partner acts inappropriately or unjustly, it is viewed that the partner is not right for them or untrustworthy.
Conflict management is key to the success of a relationship. This means that each partner is able to understand and manage their own behaviors and emotions, as well as know the other partner’s response to conflict. Research conducted by the Gottman's found that couples who are able to successfully manage conflict do well, whereas couples who don't manage conflict well often have marriages that end in divorce. The Gottman's identified four behaviors, known as the Four Horseman, that either sustain or worsen a conflict. Below I discuss each of these behaviors and provide antidotes for them.
The first of the four horseman is criticism. Nearly every relationship has an element of criticism, but when a relationship is highly conflicted most feedback, even constructive criticism, is perceived as negative. According to research, each time a criticism is given, five positive statements are required to counteract the negative effect it created. When a relationship is already negative it is very difficult to have positive interactions so the goal to prevent a downward spiral by limiting criticism. For this reason, it is critical that couples make an intentional effort to reduce the level of criticism that is given to their partner.
Defensiveness is the second of the four horsemen and it is one of the most recurrent behaviors that I observe in couples therapy when conflict is present. Defensiveness is often a knee-jerk reaction to criticism or simply perceived criticism. Sometimes feedback is misconstrued as criticism and triggers a defensive response. The person who becomes defensive often blames the other person for doing the same thing, refuses to accept responsibility in the matter or moans and justifies their behavior. This defensiveness may cause the original speaker to feel alone or invalidated, and the couple may become more distant.
There are several antidotes to defensiveness: (1) Remember that a relationship is about being part of a team. (2) Appreciate that your partner’s words are a strong expression of feelings about a topic not an attack. (3) Admit that you are not perfect. (4) Intentionally review the positive qualities of your partner. (5) Take at least some responsibility for the feedback you receive from your partner. This is actually the most important action you can take. There is no need to apologize for something you did not do, but if you appropriately accept even a small percentage of responsibility for the situation, you can reduce tension, enhance communication, and build trust.
Stonewalling is the third of the four horsemen. Just as it sounds, stonewalling is about avoiding or refusing to address or discuss a conflict or issue. The phrase “talking to a brick wall” is often how the other partner feels in these situations. Dr. Gottman’s research found that 85% of men used stonewalling to deal with conflict but did not recognize it as a damaging tactic. Stonewalling is a common distancing technique that men use to cope with strong emotions, but this choice does not solve the problem.
Stonewalling can result in parallel living, which causes couples to pull away from the relationship and leaving it susceptible to outside influences. On the other side of the coin, stonewalling can increase conflict and cause significant melt downs. When the non-stonewaller pushes the stonewaller about an issue this person reacts with rage, often resulting in a regrettable incident.
Antidotes to Stonewalling include:
1) Resist the temptation to withdraw but instead stay emotionally connected with your partner. 2) Don't ignore your partner. It is important to give some type of response even if it is only a brief reply or nod. 3) Look for the good in your partner. 4) Enjoy positive experiences together. 5) Practice good self-care, such as exercising, getting good sleep, and eating a healthy diet. Anxiety can exacerbate stonewalling tendencies and self-care is a positive way to reduce anxiety. 6) Remember that avoidance is okay in a relationship as long as you avoid stonewalling.
The final behavior labeled as the four horsemen is contempt. According to Gottman, contempt is the most dangerous behavior that can exist in a relationship because his research found that its presence predicted divorce in 86% of cases. Contempt is a behavior that causes your partner to feel inadequate or put down. There are many examples of how contempt is expressed including name calling, belittling, sneering, insults, mocking, disdain, eye rolling and cynicism. There are warning signs that you are feeling contempt toward your partner that can include: 1) You no longer feel respect or esteem for your partner. 2) You have difficulty remembering positive aspects of your partner. 3) You believe that your partner has severe deficiencies in their personality.
There are antidotes for contempt that include: 1) focusing on the positive qualities your partner exhibits. 2) When a situation is becoming heated, use "time-out" to give you both some breathing room. 4) Be aware of your tone and facial expressions and consider the message that they send to your partner. 5) Focus discussions on the behavior and not the person. 6) Work to gain an appreciation of your partner’s point of view. This is the most important antidote to contempt. When we are able to place our partner’s behavior into the appropriate context we gain a greater appreciation for the cause of their behavior and, as a result, a deeper understanding that their behavior is about them rather than us.
When having discussions or making decisions, most relationships separate into a top and a bottom. The person who is the “top” has ultimate veto power. However, most relationships are most effective when there is joint influence, meaning that each person has equal veto power in most situations. Through his research, Dr. Gottman found that the happiest marriages are based on joint influence, specifically when men accept the influence of their partners. Influence does not mean control and examples of positive joint influence include 1) A belief that you can learn from your partner. 2) An acceptance of their opinions. 3) A belief that your partner can also find good solutions to challenges.
Arguments happen between partners, but it is key to resolve the problem or arguments during the disagreement. This process makes effective repairs and demonstrates that the relationship is functional and successful. The reason why this process is important is that the problem is resolved at the time of the disagreement and therefore does resurface during a future argument. This process avoids one argument becoming encumbered by past, unresolved issues so the field is clear to address only the current situation. Furthermore, as the issue is resolved, it is important for one or both parties to say that they are sorry. Being able to admit that you are wrong takes courage and demonstrates trust in your partner. It is critical to reducing conflict and maintaining a loving relationship.
When the atmosphere is negative it can be helpful to use appropriate humor or affection to bring the relationship back to balance. Examples of ways to shift the situation from negative to positive include offering the partner a cup of coffee or tea, asking or offering a hug, or making light of the disagreement without invalidating the other person. Partners can also make peace and reconnect with make-up intimacy. Ultimately, knowing that your partner accepts your efforts to improve the situation, and vice versa, is paramount.
The ability of both partners to compromise is very important because it is key to building trust, demonstrating commitment and ensuring safety. Thinking in terms of black and white is dangerous because it leads to an assumption that if I’m right than you must be wrong. Therefore, trusting your partner to compromise is there is a disagreement ensures safety. Couples must be able to share power during an argument through a joint process of give and take.
When couples fight, they should do so with an end in mind. The “end in mind” consists of a focus on resolving the issue while simultaneously ensuring that your partner feels good during and after the conflict. To achieve this goal, both partners must control their stubbornness and it is helpful to practice calming techniques, which includes paying attention to their heart rates. When our heart rate rises above 90 to 95 beats per minute, we are flooded with emotions, which makes it difficult to be rational in an argument. When this occurs, couples should take a 20 to 30 minute time out from an argument, then return to resolve the conflict.
We should avoid arguing or discussing important matters with our partner when we are angry because we will inevitably say or do something that we will later regret. Most important, take a break from an argument if needed but, resolve the issue immediately following the break.
When our heart rates rise and we are flooded with emotions, we can shift to a state of fight, flight or freeze. Do not have serious discussions or arguments when in this state. Watch for signs of flooding, like feeling overwhelmed, being unable to remain calm during arguments, wanting distance from your partner. If you are feeling flooded, take a break to keep small issues from becoming big ones.
Communication is key to a loving relationship but many of us do not have the best tools to do this effectively, especially when addressing difficult issues. A process that I often recommend in couples counseling is “Safe Talking Techniques” that have been adapted from the Markman and Stanley book “Fighting for your Marriage.” The use of these techniques assures that each partner can speak without interruption and have confidence that the other partner is listening.
Some couples easily “agree to disagree” and as a result there is less conflict in the relationship. Couples who have high conflict are often threatened by disagreement, which escalates the situations. The goal of a discussion should be that each person gains a greater understanding of where their partner is coming from, not to “win.” When I work with couples, my goal is that both partners feel heard and understood as well as accepted for their position. If the couple can achieve this goal, the situation often deescalates and the partners find resolution.
One method that I have found to be successful in helping couples navigate challenging discussion or major problems is Dr. Gottman’s five-step tool. Each of these steps is important and couples should work through them together to come to agreement or resolution on the issue that is being addressed. These five steps are:
If we are able to achieve friendship, see our partner through a positive lens, and resolve conflict, then we are ready for this last component of the Sound Relationship House, which is supporting each other's hopes and dreams and having a shared understanding of the meaning. This element involves having shared rituals, goals, roles and symbols.
Rituals: Finding shared rituals is important because they bring us together, give us security, and provide us with an activity that we look forward to. The process begins by considering what type of rituals you might wish to establish with your partner. You might also want to look at the rituals you have within your family that you might want to recreate with your partner. In addition, you should consider the rituals within your partner’s family and identify those that should be adopted or adapted to your relationship. Rituals do not have to be complex. They can include eating dinner together and shared values regarding education, recreational activities, television, and other time spent together. They can also be more complex and include special celebrations that you both value and the foods and activities that are part of those festivities.
Goals: Successful couples have shared visions and goals for their relationship and their life. In addition, an effective relationship supports each partner in achieving their personal goals. Now is the time to ask yourself and your partner:
Roles: A functional and effective relationship is built in each partner having agreed upon roles that are supported by the other person. Roles may evolve over time but it is important to identify and recognize them now and review them over time. As a couple, consider the questions: does one of you have a belief that you hold a specific role that is not shared by the other and do you support each other in your selected role in the family? Next, consider how the answers to these questions impact your relationship.
Symbols: A symbol is something that has an additional meaning to a person in a specific context. In a functional partnership, each person understands their partner’s meaning behind the factors and symbols related to daily living. Couples do not need to attach the same meaning to the symbols but it is critical that we appreciate and honor the meaning and reality they have to our partner. There are many things that may be symbols of status, security, love, success, and positive relationships and some of the key ones include:
As a couple, spend 30 minutes to complete the following exercises:
This course was developed by Dr. D'Arienzo, a clinical and forensic psychologist, couples therapist and relationship expert. We use the same scientifically based practices in the course that we use everyday in our offices to help people develop better marriages.
"Thanks Dr. D'Arienzo. I did not know that I have both passive and aggressive tendencies. I'm fixing both because of this course. My wife said she can see a difference of taking this course."
"Great course!. I learned that anger was learned through my childhood and watching others, and not being able to separate the emotions that triggers anger. Now I have the answers to change my life"
"Easy to understand, got my certificate quickly for my court case. Judge approved of it."
"Thank goodness a premarital course like this is offered. The exercises were practical. I used the friendship ones with my best friend too."
The Florida Marriage License Cost is $93.50. By taking the DPG Premarital Online Course you save $25.00 on your marriage license cost, reducing your Marriage License fee to $61.00 and you avoid the three day Florida state wait requirement. The cost of our online premarital course is $14.99 (per couple) giving you an actual savings of $12.51 off your Florida Marriage License. It is better than free, and we know that you will love it! Click on "How Our Course Works" below to begin:
After the wedding is over, the marriage begins and keeping it going can be hard work. Florida recognizes the challenges that married couples face and want to support the success of these relationships. For this reason, the Florida Premarital Preparation Course Statute was created and couples who complete this special course not only have a better foundation for their marriage but also receive a reduction in the marriage fee by $25.00.
The goal of the course is to provide couples with the tools needed for a successful partnership and marriage and primary topics include:
You must take a course with a minimum of four hours of instruction to qualify for the benefits under this statute.
Recognizing that adults have demanding schedules and so there are many options available to take and complete this course. These options include:
Couples can also choose to take these courses together or individually, as best meets their needs. Each person must complete the course and receive a certificate of completion from the instructor.
There are several qualified instructors who can provide this course, but they must be registered with a judicial circuit (county courthouse) for their program to qualify under this statute. Instructors can included:
Every judicial circuit maintains a roster of qualified instructors. This information includes:
When a couple has completed the course, each one will receive a certificate of completion that states:
When both parties have completed the course, they qualify for the $25.00 reduction in the state marriage fee.
Dr. D'Arienzo is proud to be a registered instructor for all 67 Florida counties, providing an online course that is both LGBT and straight friendly. As a specialist in relationship, marriage and divorce counseling services, Dr. D'Arienzo created this online course based on his 20+ years of experience to help prepare couples for the life-long journey of marriage.
To register and pay for the course you may:
Please note that this payment is non-refundable but only one registration is required for per couple.
After receipt of your payment, we will send you an email that includes the password you need to access the course. Once you have the password, simply go to Dr. D'Arienzo's Premarital Course Login, enter the password and begin. If you have any difficulty finding your password or accessing the course, please call our office during normal business hours.
Once you have logged in you:
The course should take at least four hours if completed as instructed, which meets the requirements under Florida law that you must spend a minimum of four hours on a Florida premarital course to receive your certificate of completion.
Once you have submitted the questionnaire, a PDF copy of your certificate of completion will be immediately sent to you by email. The majority of counties will accept this PDF certificate as proof of your completion of the course and only a few require an original certificate of completion. If your county requires an original certificate, we must mail the certificate to you, which you should receive within two to three business days of completion of the course. Counties which require an original certificate of completion are: Alachua, Bradford, Desoto, Dixie, Flagler, Gulf, Hernando, Highlands, Leon, Levy, Monroe, Nassau, Okaloosa, Okeechobee, Pasco, Polk, Putnam, Seminole, and Taylor Counties.
If you have any questions about this course, please check our FAQ page which has additional information.
Dr D. is an expert psychologist in local and national print & broadcast media