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.
“Hold My Hand,” courtesy of rawpixel.com, pexels.com, CC0 License; “Watching the Sunset”, Courtesy of Jose Chomali, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Money”, Courtesy of Sharon McCutcheon, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Worship,” courtesy of Daniel Tseng, unsplash.com, CC0 License