Getting married is a really thrilling point in your life. Congratulations if you’re about to start out on a journey with the love of your life!
Marriage is an adventure that works best if you prepare well for it. Just as you would plan, in advance, a physical journey you are planning to take, preparing for your wedding and married life will ensure a smoother ride than if you just see how it all works out.
There are some things that you can’t prepare for, of course unexpected situations or events that can only be dealt with when they happen. However, God is always with you no matter what you face. What’s more, you can trust in His promise that He will never leave or forsake you. Even in the most challenging of situations in your marriage, you can depend on God.
There are some things in your marriage that don’t come with a universal how-to-guide to help you navigate turbulent times. These include your relationship with your in-laws. While you may be blessed with really great in-laws who accept you into their family and treat you just like they treat your partner, sadly this may not always be the case.
You may face other challenges in your marriage related to your in-laws for example, if your partner continues to rely on his or her mother or father instead of you. It may be that your partner calls her mother when she’s upset instead of discussing the issue with you first. Or, your marriage may be strained by an expectation that you’ll be able to do home improvement tasks just as well as your partner’s father or brother.
When you’re entering into a marriage, being aware of the conflicts that you may face can help you to deal with these if (or when) they occur. It’s important to acknowledge your concerns from the outset and not try to brush them aside and hope that they get better in time.
This is particularly true if you have concerns about your future spouse’s relationship with his or her family. Discussing these things with an experienced pre-marital counselor will help to reduce the potential negative impact or conflict in the future.
Premarital counseling can help you to start your marriage with a really healthy relationship. Its aim is to strengthen foundations before entering into a covenant with God. You may have to work hard to iron out some issues, but if you’re planning your wedding you should already be committed to doing whatever is needed in order to make the relationship work.
Working on building a healthy relationship can be challenging – because human nature is to become easily discontented and to complain rather than resolve problems. We’re also prone to comparison – comparing our lives to the lives of others that we know. Taking the idea of divorce as a possibility out of the equation from the start can motivate you to put more effort into your marriage.
This understanding, of course, is regarding the ‘normal’ conflicts that emerge in marriage not infidelity or abuse. When infidelity or abuse is the problem then there needs to be a different approach. Premarital counseling helps you to prepare for more everyday challenges, not more serious issues.
Premarital Counseling Topics
There are certain topics that should be discussed during premarital counseling sessions. Firstly, it’s important to establish how you and your future spouse define commitment. When you think about commitment, what immediately comes to mind? What experiences have you had in your family (throughout childhood) that may have affected your view of committment? Commitment is a vital first step in building strong foundations for your marriage in the years to come.
Another subject that you might want to discuss in premarital counseling is your goals for the future. For example, if your future spouse plans to start his own business, but that will involve moving to another region or state, you need to talk about what this means for both of you. It’s important to discuss these things before you make the covenant of marriage, to avoid difficult conflicts later.
You may want to stay close to your parents and siblings or have family-related responsibilities that require you to stay relatively close. If you and your spouse are both aware of these kinds of things, you can discuss any compromises that you might need to make so that you can both fulfill your goals for the future.
What are your thoughts about children? It’s really important to discuss this subject in premarital counseling, as well as considering what you might do if you are unable to conceive children naturally. You can’t prepare for every eventuality, but talking through these kinds of things can help to reduce conflict later in your marriage.
You should also discuss what your expectations are for your marriage. This might include things like spending time with your own group of friends, and what your social life might look like as a couple. If one of you is extroverted and the other is more introverted, how will you organize your social life to have a balance that works for both of you?
What do you plan to do about roles in your new family? If you plan to have children, do you want to be married for a certain amount of time before you start trying for a baby? How will you manage birth control if that’s your plan? What about your career when your children are young? Will one of you stay at home or do you intend to use daycare? Discussing these issues in advance isn’t vital, but it can help to reduce problems in the future.
There are four particular issues that absolutely must be discussed during premarital counseling. These are finances, intimacy, spirituality, and conflict. While finances and intimacy are always evolving in your relationship, they are hugely important. In fact, finances and intimacy can make or break a relationship.
Finances can cause a lot of conflict in relationships, so it’s essential that you spend time during premarital counseling discussing your thoughts and feelings about finances. You could discuss:
- Who will be responsible for paying the bills?
- Will you make financial decisions together?
- How will you deal with any disagreements about your finances?
- What amount of savings will make you feel that you’re secure?
- How do you feel about debt?
Debt is an issue that can lead to a lot of arguments. If you and your future spouse have differing views about debt, then this is something you really need to discuss in detail so that you can come to an agreement about debt before you get married. It’s quite common to have different ideas about debt – these usually come from our childhood experiences.
For example, if your parents struggled with debt and you saw the negative impact that had on your family when you were young, you may be staunchly against any kind of debt. If, on the other hand, you haven’t had personal experience of debt, you may have a more relaxed approach to the idea of debt. Coming to an agreement about how you and your future spouse will handle financial situations, including debt, can be achieved by using the Bible as a guide.
This is how the Bible talks about debt. You can see how God views it:
Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another.
The rich rules over the poor and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
The wicked borrows and does not repay, but the righteous shows mercy and gives.
God has always wanted for us to experience true freedom (John 10:10) but when we are in debt, it’s impossible to be truly free. Debt means that we owe someone else, which gives them a kind of power over us.
If you have a relaxed view of debt, it’s important that you realize that this view isn’t aligned with the word of God. You can pray with your future spouse for help with changing your heart so that you can be more aligned with God’s will for your married life.
No matter what the topic, if you and your future spouse have opposing views, it’s a great idea to look to the Bible for wisdom so that you can both come into agreement with God’s Word.
You can pray and ask God for help if you are experiencing conflict over any issue. When you pray, God will bring answers into areas of confusion and give you the direction that you need to have a happy and healthy marriage.
Intimacy can be a topic that’s uncomfortable to discuss but there’s no need for it to be. It’s really healthy to discuss issues around intimacy. For example, in premarital counseling sessions you could discuss:
- How frequently do you each desire to be intimate?
- How are you going to manage any dry spells (e.g. when one of you doesn’t want to have sexual intimacy)?
- What preferences do you have for intimacy?
- What are your views about sex?
- How do you view sexual temptation, and how can it be managed?
Even if discussing these things makes you feel uncomfortable, you still need to talk about them. It’s really important that you and your future spouse understand each other’s thoughts and feelings about intimacy. For example, if you’re not aware that a certain kind of behavior during intimacy is triggering for your partner, you may inadvertently create difficulties with intimacy.
It’s also helpful to talk about things like yours and your partner’s love languages. For some people, whose love language is physical touch, physical intimacy is more important than acts of service. Different love languages create different expectations and needs so knowing your partner’s love language can enable you to meet their needs (and they can meet yours) to create a really healthy marriage.
Intimacy isn’t just limited to sexual intimacy. There’s much more to it than that. You will need to discuss emotional intimacy, too. Everyone is different, and some people (often, although not always, women) like to have a strong emotional and/or intellectual connection (or intimacy) before engaging in physical intimacy.
For example, if your partner desires an emotional connection, it’s important to meet that need. Failing to do so may mean that your partner can’t get “in the mood” for physical intimacy. It may also be that if you’re not affectionate with your partner in public, then he or she may feel rejected and later refuse physical intimacy.
It’s important to explore why you have certain views about intimacy so that any difficulties can be worked through before you are married. It may be that your childhood experiences have impacted on your thoughts about intimacy, for example.
When you’re planning to make a marriage covenant with someone, you need to discuss your thoughts and feelings about spirituality, too. You should discuss:
- How you think about and/or define spirituality
- What expectations you have for married life and being involved in a spiritual community
- Your views on the man as the spiritual leader in the household and how you will navigate this issue in your marriage
- Whether you share the same views about spirituality
It’s actually really important that you and your future spouse are in agreement about spiritual issues. That’s because the Bible tells us:
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living god. As God has said, “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.
2 Cor. 6:14-16
Conflict is an issue that can often be directly traced back to your childhood experiences. The conflict you witness in your childhood home can cause you to have maladaptive views about conflict that will need to be explored in premarital counseling.
It’s common to have a variety of experiences of conflict that have shaped your views, and these can lead to a more confrontational approach that causes damage to relationships. It’s important to recognize that conflict can be productive and intimacy-building this is how God intended for conflict to be used.
Good conflict can resolve issues in a positive way that does not demean the other person. This approach is not demoralizing and it’s not about us desiring to be “right” about an issue. At the heart of good conflict is a discussion that takes both sides into consideration before making a decision that you are both able to agree to. This way you’re not working against each other, but working together, in the same direction.
Being in a relationship is like being on a team, and marriage cements that team spirit. This is important to remember when you face conflict about an issue. Because you’re on the same team, it’s counterintuitive to be fighting against each other. You’re both, ultimately, striving for the same goal for your relationship.
That’s not to say that you won’t have different ideas about how to achieve your marriage goals but good conflict can help you to make joint decisions that are good for both of you. You need to adopt a united front in order to achieve your goals.
Accessing Premarital Counseling
There are more issues that you may need to discuss in premarital counseling, but this article has highlighted some of the more important issues that you’ll need to give more time to. If you are getting married in the near future and you want to have premarital counseling to ensure your marriage gets off to a strong start, there are Christian counselors available who can offer a Biblical perspective as well as a psychological one.
You should remember that God intends marriage to bring Him glory. Marriage is designed to mirror the covenant love and relationship that God has with us a constant reminder of how much God cares for us.
In your marriage, you may face challenges, but God is always with you, and He is always rooting for you. When you start premarital counseling with a Christian counselor, you can be sure that God will be invited into the sessions so that He is the foundation stone in your marriage covenant.
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You probably remember how it felt when you first fell in love with your spouse. It was an unforgettable state of mind and heart. The whole world and everything in it seemed changed for the better. Every good thing was a reminder of them. You drifted off to sleep with a smile on your face, and your first thought upon awakening was looking forward to the next time the two of you could meet.
When you made eye contact and they smiled at you, your heart felt like clay in their hands. Everything they said and every time they laughed, you were captivated.
While speaking about them to someone else, you would trip over your words. You thought they were practically perfect, and you wanted them to think you were, too.
You would rather spend time together than sleep, even if it meant you’d be miserable at work the next day. Your companionship seemed to meet all of your needs. The sense of satisfaction in being together was overwhelming.
This quote from Dr. Seuss may summarize your state of mind at that time: “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”
Now it is five years later, and you’re married to that same person. You’ve seen the ups and downs of your relationship over time, and you’ve learned that sustaining a beautiful marriage requires a deeper commitment than those thrilling feelings of falling in love. The stage of intense infatuation can’t be maintained indefinitely, and when those initial emotions started to dwindle, differences between us began to surface.
This doesn’t mean that falling in love is a bad or false experience. It’s the natural response to the beginning of a good relationship. This stage can provide the “spark” that motivates us to continue to grow in intimacy with our spouse.
Our goal should be to fan this spark into a flame that lasts for a lifetime. In Gary Chapman’s book Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married, he writes, “Being in love is not an adequate foundation for building a successful marriage.”
The Benefits of Christian Premarital Counseling
If you’re engaged and still in this season of infatuation, consider the help that a Christian counselor can provide for looking at the big picture of your relationship. You can work to build your marriage on the foundation of Jesus Christ. As Solomon declares, “a cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
Meeting with a Christian counselor before you get married can help you consider the sacred nature of the union you’re about to enter into. It’s vital for both partners to grow in their individual and joint commitment to Christ as they prepare to enter the marriage relationship.
Even if both of you are mature believers, you will find it difficult at times to show the patience, sacrificial love, and other Christian graces that enable a marriage to thrive. You can’t sustain your marriage without His help.
Making this investment in your future marriage can help you grow in emotional and spiritual intimacy as you prepare for your life together, and consider what to work on to build a strong foundation for your relationship.
7 Reasons Why Premarital Counseling Should be the Norm
Here are seven reasons why engaged couples should strongly consider premarital counseling:
1. Premarital counseling is an opportunity to learn to love each other more.
Whenever I ask an engaged couple their reason for getting married, their typical response is, “Because we love each other!” What they mean by “love” is generally an element of their relationship they want to protect and preserve in its current state.
Their experience of being in love motivates them to make it last indefinitely, so they are getting married to sustain their bond. Even the phrase “we fell in love” connotes something that happened by chance, implying that the romance in a love relationship is derived from its quality of being irresistible. However, this is a problematic perspective for two reasons.
First, this perspective makes love seem like a feeling or a possession instead of an action. Because it is simply a state of consciousness, there’s no compelling urge to work hard at loving one’s partner.
The second problem is that love viewed in this way is out of one’s control. So not only did you fall into love, but it’s possible that one day you might fall out of love. If you’re subject to emotional whims in this way, you might not see the necessity to intentionally nurture your commitment to your spouse.
In premarital counseling, you’ll have a chance to learn how to put your feelings of love into action, and to be intentional about expressing love to your partner.
The act of getting married doesn’t preserve romantic feelings in a vacuum. You’ll still need to be committed to working on your relationship, your commitment, and your intimacy. The wedding is the starting point, not the finish line.
John Mayer reminds us:
“Love ain’t a drug
despite what you’ve heard
Yeah love ain’t a thing
Love is a verb.”
2. Marriage lasts far longer than a wedding.
When a couple gets engaged, much of their focus shifts to preparing for the wedding day, but often there’s not as much attention paid to preparing for marriage itself. This is a shame, because the wedding lasts only for a day, and is merely a symbol of the reality of marriage.
Our cultural priorities appear out of whack when we compare the breakdown of marriage and the family to the extravagance of weddings.
On a global scale, the wedding industry is worth $300 billion, and over $55 billion of that is spent in the United States alone. Even if you’re trying to plan a frugal wedding, you’ve probably realized how overpriced everything is, from flowers to decorations to attire.
TheWeddingReport.com lists the average price for a 2016 U.S. wedding at $26,720. This huge expense is coupled with the time, stress, and energy involved in planning one’s “dream wedding,” adding up to a monumental amount of expense and trouble centered around this one day.
Getting married is truly a significant event worthy of celebration, and it’s not wrong to want to have a wedding to remember. But it’s important not to neglect the more vital aspect of your commitment: the lifetime you’re preparing to spend together.
This is where premarital counseling can be of great assistance, in helping you to prepare for the marriage itself. It does require an investment of time and money, but this will pay dividends when the honeymoon is over and you wake up to spend the rest of your life together.
A wedding lasts for a day, but a marriage for a lifetime.
3. Love is blind.
You’ve probably this cliche before, and it has an element of truth. Romantic love tends to blind us to our partner’s faults.
This isn’t altogether a bad thing. It’s good that we can be focused on the other person’s strengths, spotlight their good qualities, and gloss over their shortcomings.
Maybe you’ve had a conversation in which a friend waxes rhapsodic about the person they’re in love with, and you’ve privately thought that your friend was naive and that it was impossible for anyone to be so perfect.
However, this is a perspective many couples who’ve been married for awhile could benefit from. One tool I like to use with married couples is to ask them to describe one another’s positive characteristics in as detailed a way as they can.
It’s wise to be cautious about looking through rose-colored glasses before marriage. Making an error in judgment in choosing who to marry will affect your entire life. Rushing into marriage based on feelings of infatuation does not honor the sacredness of this union the way God designed it.
In the gospels, we see Jesus calling us to count the cost before we follow Him. In the same way, we should consider what marriage will demand of us before we take our vows. This doesn’t mean changing your mind out of fear and deciding never to get married; it means holding the institution of marriage in high regard and taking our future vows seriously.
In Christian counseling, you’ll have a place to discuss common challenges married couples face, preparing you to handle them in the best way possible. You’ll also have an opportunity to discuss each other’s faults in a safe environment, and commit to loving one another regardless, instead of believing that your partner is perfect.
The role of a Christian counselor could be compared to that of an optometrist; people can already see, but the Christian counselor wants to help them see better.
4. You need to prepare for conflict.
Some engaged couples can’t even consider the possibility that they might face conflict one day. Of course, they inevitably do, and then they wonder if they made a mistake in who they married. But no matter who we are, we will have disagreements now and then, and this is normal. The important part is how we handle conflicts when they arise.
As Gary Chapman writes, “Large or small, all conflicts have the potential of destroying an evening, a week, a month, or a lifetime. On the other hand, conflicts have the potential of teaching us how to love, support, and encourage each other. This is by far the better road to travel. The difference is how you process the conflicts.”
In premarital counseling, you can learn to accept the fact that conflict is inevitable, and prepare for it by planning how you’ll respond. Therapists work to help you listen to each other with empathy and seek to understand, instead of assuming the other person has bad motives.
If you don’t prepare for conflict, you risk being torn apart by it. Counseling is one helpful way to learn to grow through conflict and become more (rather than less) intimate as a result.
5. You need a financial plan.
You may have heard that money is one of the top subjects to cause arguments in marriage. Statistics prove that this is true. Talking about finances can seem prosaic and unromantic, but it’s a vital part of preparing for marriage.
It’s important for couples to set aside the idea of individualistic ownership of money, and to view all resources as joint property. Becoming one flesh applies to every area of life, including bank accounts.
In Christian counseling, you can discuss your plans for budgeting, spending, and saving. This will prepare you for a well-stewarded financial future and will help protect the peace in your relationship.
6. You had different parents and different upbringings.
What we saw in our parents as we grew up tends to set the norm for us as to how we think marriage should be. Maybe your parents had a loving commitment to one another, or maybe they argued a lot and were verbally abusive. Whatever the situation, it’s likely that you subconsciously internalized it as being normal.
This obviously carries into one’s future marriage relationship, even in ways you may not have expected. A wife might act the same way she saw her mother act while assuming that her husband will behave in a similar way that her father did. But meanwhile, her husband might have seen his father act in a completely different way, and this influences how he behaves in his own marriage.
Taking the time to work through these issues before the wedding can prevent disastrous misunderstandings afterward. Your counselor can work through your upbringings with you and discuss how they influenced your expectations for marriage.
7. God honors marriages that bring glory to Him.
It’s crucial to remember that marriage is an institution created by God Himself, and we need His blessing in order to thrive in it. It is a high calling and a difficult one, but if we are called to be married, God will enable us to obey Him in it.
If you and your partner are walking with God, you can be confident that he will provide everything you need to sustain your marriage. You might recall the famous “love passage” in 1 Corinthians 13, where Paul outlines what true love looks like when it’s lived out perfectly.
Sometimes we can feel that this standard is unattainable and not even worth trying for, but we can rely on God’s power to love beyond what we can do in our human strength.
A Christian counselor desires to see you thrive in your marriage and depend on God’s strength to do so. If your heart is to glorify Him, you can cultivate a heart of humility and servant love that desires to serve Him first and foremost. Marriage can be a channel through which you and your spouse experience the blessing of His love.
If you are engaged, please don’t neglect to prepare for marriage with focus and intention. Contact a Christian counselor to help you work through both the positive and negative components of your relationship, and prepare to enter marriage from a place of truth and strength.
Paul’s prayer for the first-century church is also applicable to marriage: “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other ” (1 Thessalonians 3:12).
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The Bible recognizes the importance of marriage. In the Bible, it is the first human relationship described. In the New Testament, Jesus, our Lord and Savior, affirmed marriage as one man and one woman becoming one flesh. Christ’s married followers were encouraged to love their spouses as they love themselves and to submit to one another out of reverence to him.
Knowing this, it is important that everyone who enters into this sacred union is aware of what they are getting into. It is an exciting step but one with many responsibilities.
Essential Premarital Counseling Questions
This article presents some vital premarital counseling questions to answer before making that lifelong commitment.
Such premarital counseling questions are often raised in session to ensure that the engaged couple is truly prepared for life together. Before tackling such questions, consider reading the accompanying Scriptures to prepare you spiritually for discernment.
Has God Called You to Marriage?
(1 Corinthians 7:17)
Marriage life is not meant for everybody. In marriage, personal privileges may be lost, responsibilities are multiplied, and there is an increase in personal and relational boundaries.
Given these, have you sensed the calling to this life-long vow? Are you willing and able to become one with your partner – physically, emotionally, and spiritually? Can you sacrifice personal habits and preferences for his or her sake? Is your view of your future together something positive?
Are the Two of You Truly Compatible?
Life together under one roof is very different to just seeing one another a few days a week. It is during marriage that the “real” self is fully revealed as the good and bad sides are seen daily.
Do your personalities really complement one another? Are you able to laugh together and at one another? Do you feel secure in fully revealing your inner self – the good and bad, the hopes and fears – to your partner? Are you attracted to one another physically? Do you feel fully accepted by your partner? Do you fully accept him or her? What makes you say that life together will be better than life apart?
What Past Baggage are You Both Bringing In?
Who we are now has been affected by what has happened to us in the past. Emotional setbacks and disappointments, personal tragedies, vices and other habits can take a toll on us. If such things have not been properly dealt with through authentic repentance and emotional and spiritual healing, it is possible for them to return to haunt us.
To what degree are you still affected by your past failures, losses, fears and unrealized dreams? Does your partner know of these past struggles and how they affect you now? Are you aware of your partner’s past setbacks, worries, and tragedies? Have these been overcome or is he or she still trapped in the past? How well do you know your partner’s family background?
How is Your Communication?
(James 1:19-20 and Ephesians 4:26)
In a healthy relationship, communication is very important as people cannot read minds. When communication is clear, conflicts can be resolved and goals can be attained. Without such, then much suffering and hurt may take place.
Do you communicate regularly and openly? Can you easily understand one another? Are you both able to open up or is only one of you doing the talking? Are conflicts and misunderstandings dealt with immediately and in a positive manner?
Do You Complement Each Other Spiritually?
(2 Corinthians 6:14)
Friends and even relatives can have very similar likes and dislikes. But such similarities do not always pertain to how they view the Eternal. Married couples must be spiritually compatible lest they become drawn apart by conflicting spiritual views.
How does your partner affect your personal relationship with God? Do you encourage one another to love Jesus more than you did before? Are your spiritual beliefs and ways of worship the same or are there distinct differences? Does your partner inspire you to become a better person? Do you regularly pray together?
Are Your Beliefs About Money the Same?
(1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17)
Though money should never be the be-all and end-all, it is still an important part of human life and it may be used to bless the family and those around us. This is why money matters ought to be clear before this life of shared togetherness begins.
Are your ideas of about the importance of money the same? Do you have similar financial principles and practices (e.g. tithing, saving, investments)? Who is expected to earn and who is expected to manage the funds? Is it ok to have personal accounts? Can you afford married life with or without kids?
Do Those Closest to You Agree With Your Decision?
It is true that love is a personal choice. No one can force you to love another. But it is also true that love can be blind. When we are experiencing happy moments together, it is possible that we turn a blind eye to habits and actions that would normally alarm us.
Do your friends and family affirm this commitment? Is there anyone who believes that you or your beloved are not yet ready for that next step? Is there someone (other than your ex-flame) who thinks that the two of you are not compatible? What are their reasons for saying so?
Are You Both Emotionally Ready for Marriage?
Society today likes to designate milestones for people so sometimes people rush into things to avoid being labeled as “behind” or “unsuccessful”. Emotional maturity, however, is not the same for everybody. It cannot be rushed.
Are you both able to take responsibility for yourselves or is there a sense of dependency? Can you both handle your emotions in a healthy way? Do you trust one another? What addictions are present in your current relationship? Are you seeking help with such addictions? What makes you believe you are both ready for marriage?
Be Better Prepared for that Next Step Through Christian Counseling
Contrary to the world’s current beliefs, marriage is not something that should be taken lightly. There are many dire consequences that may occur when people jump into it without proper thought and guidance.
If you and your partner are seeking honest answers to the abovementioned questions, then Christian counseling can help. A professional Christian counselor can help you decide whether you are both ready or if there are some spiritual and emotional steps to take before committing for a lifetime.
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