There is nothing more exhilarating and exciting than finding that special person to share the rest of your life with. The world seems a better place and together no challenge appears insurmountable. Relationships like everything in life that will be successful, require commitment and preparation.
During the early stages of any relationship, everything is just perfect, and your partner can do no wrong in your eyes. But that’s because in all likelihood you haven’t discussed some of those difficult and at times contentious topics.
Premarital Christian Counseling is a key step in laying the foundation for a successful and happy marriage. There will be times when the topics take you out of your comfort zone and you will more than likely discover that you have different views from your partner.
But that is to be expected and with the help of a professional Christian family therapist, you will find the solution together and start your marriage off united on all fronts.
The meaning of marriage and our expectations
What does marriage mean for you and your partner? When two people make a commitment to share their lives, it can mean different things for each of them. We may have different views on what a husband or wife’s role should be. We may differ on how to parent or how to manage money.
It is important to be on the same page from simple things like how you will divide up household chores, to important issues like parenting and conflict resolution.
The very first step is to gain an understanding of what you and your partner’s expectations are from a marriage. We all have these ideas but when it comes down to it, do you really know what you expect and need from each other? Are your expectations realistic? What is your vision for marriage?
Setting goals for your marriage and yourselves is equally important. You are there to support each other, to grow as a couple and individually.
“Good communication is the lifeblood of a successful marriage, so when spouses stop talking at a deep level, their marriages slowly die.” Greg Smalley
Communication is key and successful marriage is based on open and honest communication. Communication is actively engaging with your partner and a key expectation we often overlook is how we communicate.
We generally have subconscious expectations around communication, and we make a lot of assumptions based on our own past experiences. A classic example can be where one partner needs to share their feelings immediately while the other partner needs time to think. This type of interaction can be totally misinterpreted if you have not taken the time to understand how each other communicates.
Deciding how you are going to work together with your money is the third step to laying a solid foundation for your marriage. Many marriages fail because couples have not discussed how they will manage their money together which often leads to unnecessary financial stress.
“Which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” Luke 14:28
It is important to sit down and discuss your finances and create a budget together. Each of you may have different views on how to manage money based on how your parents managed their money. But now it is time to come together and create a financial plan based on your needs as a couple.
Many couples come into a marriage bringing debt along with them. It is crucial to be open about what you earn and what your debt is. Together you can decide how you will handle debt and how you will move forward.
There are many areas to consider – Will you have joint bank accounts or separate accounts? Who will be responsible for making payments? And lastly, what are your financial goals as a couple, the key to any successful marriage is working together.
Children and successful parenting
When it comes to raising a family, it’s important to have thought about what you want for your family. Many couples automatically assume that their partner wants to have children and if you haven’t discussed this beforehand, you may just find that you and your partner have very different views.
Discussions about how many children you would like to have when you would like to start a family, and how you will raise your children are all very important topics. Parenting styles vary and like finances, are often based on our own experiences. Things like discipline can be very contentious and any disagreements need to be ironed out ahead of time.
These are all key areas that need to be agreed on before you dive into the wonderful world of parenting. The most important gift you can give your children is a pair of loving and united parents.
The in-laws and extended family
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24
Another area that couples often leave undiscussed is how their extended families will be involved in their life. When you get married your commitment is first to each other and then to your family.
Conflict can often arise particularly if one spouse is very close to their family and the other spouse isn’t. For example, are you comfortable seeing your parents or siblings every weekend? How do you want them to be involved in your life? Who will you spend Christmas and other family holidays with? How will they be involved with your children?
As a couple, you will need to decide on your boundaries and what is and isn’t acceptable to both of you. Well-meaning family members have often caused unnecessary friction simply because as a couple you had not defined your boundaries.
This can be a contentious issue and a family therapist is perfectly placed to help you navigate through the ins and outs of defining what will work for you as a couple.
This is often the one topic that couples avoid talking about, but it is one of the most important aspects of a marriage. A marriage without intimacy is destined to fail. For intimacy to be successful you need to be able to communicate openly and honestly.
It is important to understand each other’s needs. What makes you feel loved and cherished? What makes you uncomfortable? How often do you need sex?
When it comes to intimacy there is no right or wrong answer, it is all about understanding your partner’s needs. It is equally important to understand that our needs change over time.
Faith and spirituality
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12
Faith, religion, or spirituality are important aspects of our lives and when we have the same belief system it definitely makes it easier. But not everyone has the same belief system or views, and this can cause conflict.
Faith should strengthen your relationship, not weaken it. Discussing your faith before walking down the aisle is crucial. Your faith will dictate how you raise your children, how you handle your day-to-day life, and how you worship.
How you handle conflict should never be accidental. No couple will agree 100% of the time and as Robert C Dodds said, “The goal of marriage is not to think alike, but to think together.”
Conflict is normal as we are all individuals with our own unique thoughts and views. As a couple, your goal is to find a solution to the conflict. You need to remember that it is never the two of you against each other, it is the two of you against the problem.
Communication is key to resolving conflict, you need to be able to express your feelings calmly and be able to listen to your partner’s views and understand their perspective. Meeting each other halfway and being willing to compromise is the only way to find a solution that works for both of you.
A final word
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Premarital counseling is an investment in your marriage that will allow you to lay a solid foundation on which you grow from strength to strength. Licensed Family and Marriage Therapist, Jousline Savra’s perspective and experience are that it takes at least six months of weekly counseling sessions for premarital therapy with a marriage therapist who knows how to facilitate couples, discuss important issues, and how to ask difficult questions before making a responsible decision for marriage.
You are invited to join Jousline in her private practice in Roswell, GA for a few sessions of preventative care. You’ll be glad you did!