Marriage guidance, Latvian style, is enough to keep you single

Social media went into a brief frenzy Friday when users unearthed a government document giving some interesting advice to young lovebirds considering marriage - the sort of advice that might lead them to conclude: "Let's call the whole thing off".

The report produced by the Justice Ministry and Welfare Ministry is intended to form the basis of a pre-nuptial education course for people wanting to wed.

The report is rendered in the sort of fonts usually reserved for the covers of Barbara Cartland novels in its first pages and is lavishly illustrated throughout with roses, babies and assorted other chocolate box images.

In contrast to the soft-focus pictures, the text begins in decidedly downbeat style with the tale of long-wed couple Ieva and Vilmars who warn:

"It should be understood that marriage is not about shared enjoyment and spending time pleasantly. The goal of marriage is to establish a family, including children. There must be a mutual desire to raise a family. It is not easy."

Couples who have not already decided to sever relations are then treated to the news that the first years of marriage are the hardest but also most interesting with Ieva and Vilmars passing on their tips on how to avoid long, brooding silences after quarrels.

The dangers posed by violence and alcoholism also get a brief mention before the fun-loving pair advise against large-scale entertainment at home as one of the secrets of a happy marriage:

"We never had big parties at home. We just celebrate with our closest family members even today."

Next up are Asja and Janis, who build on the less than romantic foundations laid for them with:

"We can safely say - our marriage was not one of two lovebirds cooing. It was hard work, care for children, care for parents. There were also experiences together of sorrow, staying on the alert for a family member having hard times."

Letting hubby go to boxing and volleyball matches while the wife reads at home is also quite a good idea, they suggest. And that's still just page 4 of the 109-page extravaganza.

Later "scientific" insights are also likely to raise eyebrows and blood pressure in equal measure, for example:

"Women's psyche is also related to their anatomy - as the girl really has nothing between her legs that she can see and touch... the girl must trust her mother that there IS something there... Sometimes young children think girls are boys who somehow LACK something.

"Therefore, women often look and see a deeper meaning, analyze motives, look for patterns. They express their wishes and feelings in vague, indirect ways, they don't go for the obvious.

"In moments of the strong emotion, it can be difficult for women to concentrate their minds."

The reaction to such conclusions by some highly educated women on Twitter may add credence to the insight - or maybe not.

Other penetrating observations include one that is a staple of observational comedy: that women drive slowly and carefully while men race around at top speed, hopped up on their own rampant testosterone. 

Financial advice is also provided by the experts who warn against the dangers of going into bicycle shops for a dull but practical city bike only to emerge with a sporty mountain bike after falling victim to persuasive techniques such as helpful salespeople and price reductions. 

One hundred pages later, the perhaps not-unexpected conclusion of the assembled experts is given:

"Partners who have decided to marry, should stop to think about it rationally at least for a moment, and consider their legal obligations before announcing whether they are ready for it." 

Justice Minister Dzintars Rasnacs played down the controversy, saying "Why make a big deal out of something from 2014?" and went so far as to suggest that pointing out the contents of the ministry's report amounted to "agitation".

"Currently, the pre-nuptial training has not yet begun, only the pilot project has been developed. The Working Group will continue work on the development of the program," a statement from the Justice Ministry said.

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