When or if a couple chooses to participate in premarital counseling before walking down the aisle, they are investing and preparing for their marriage. Sadly so many couples do not know this! They don’t take the time, to invest the money and energy in preparing for a lifetime of a marriage. This is what I always see in my counseling practice when a couple enters into marriage counseling, and it is as a result of poor or no preparation prior to their marriage. More money and effort are spent on the wedding day but no quality time and effort is made prior to their marriage and wedding day. This is not an opinion. This is a fact. I always discover this as I listen to the couple’s struggles and pain a few years or even a year into their marriage.
The goal of good or effective premarital counseling is to discuss important aspects of marriage in a safe and moderated setting. These important keys are asking the right and difficult questions when two people decide to spend the rest of their lives together.
Many couples do not know how to discuss difficult issues and ask questions that are critical. The kinds of topics usually discussed include finances, sex, the roles of each spouse in the marriage, the decision-making process about parenting, in-laws, friendships, career issues for both, and a big issue I often hear from couples are addictions or addictive patterns in one or two. These issues in particular apply to Christian couples. Just because you believe in Christ or follow Him, it does not mean that you have truly addressed your family of origin issues and your behavior and your history which will interfere and show up in your marriage. Good Christian counseling is when a therapist knows how to integrate the psychological components and your Christian faith. It explores each individual’s faith and how their faith influences their lives and relationships as a whole.
More than that, the goal of Christian premarital counseling is to build the foundation of a marriage that is Biblical and God-honoring. Do you know how to do this, when you enter into a marriage when you are still struggling with addictive patterns that you may be in denial about, or some painful part of your past that you have not dealt with? All of this will show up in your daily life and the reality of your marriage.
Your Personal Faith
One of the first topics addressed in Christian premarital counseling is each individual’s faith. Do you both follow Jesus in your daily lives? What does that really look like? This usually goes much deeper than the core elements of faith. Ideally, you both want to be ‘equally yoked’ or ‘run the race of faith’ at the same pace. If one person is more spiritually mature than the other person, there is an imbalance, and generally, it creates a rocky foundation. This is especially true if one person is a believer while the other person is not. I must add, that believing in Christ is not enough. What matters is are you really following Him and does your life show that? This is a very important issue.
Your Family History
One of the largest influences in a marriage is the expectations, habits, and patterns that are set during a marriage. Your family of origin will have a profound influence on who you become and shape your behaviors. These subconscious expectations are usually learned by observing the interactions of other family members who are married, such as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even siblings. The assumption that all families function similarly may present several issues in the marriage when it comes to daily life together. These may be minor differences, but over time, they have the potential to erode relationships if they are not addressed. An example of this may be one person who grew up in a household where only one parent participated in the household chores while the other person grew up in a household where the responsibility of the chores was split. If each person goes into their own marriage with their expectation of what the household responsibilities look like, one person will inevitably feel frustrated by all of the responsibility placed solely on them.
A smaller-scale example may be putting laundry in the hamper to be washed. One person may believe that if the clothes are not placed in the hamper or are left on the floor, it is not their responsibility to pick up after their partner, and the clothes do not get washed. These different underlying expectations could greatly influence the outcome of marriage if they are not addressed appropriately.
Prioritize Spiritual Intimacy
A Christian marriage with God at the center requires the couple to seek God first, and do so in prayer together. Christian premarital counseling will provide the couple with the tools they need to build spiritual intimacy. A great way for couples to prioritize spiritual intimacy is to start their day with a devotional, prayer, and fellowship with God. There are so many more ways to achieve spiritual intimacy, and your Christian premarital counselor will guide you and provide you with the tools you need to succeed.
An important element of Christian premarital counseling is how each person communicates both verbally and non-verbally with their partner. Studies have proven that a lack of effective communication is one of the leading causes of divorce. More specifically, men feel like their wives are always nagging them to do things, while women feel like their husbands do not validate their feelings or emotions. Therefore, it is incredibly important to not only address what you say but how you say it or what is not said. In Christian premarital counseling, an important step is to learn how to communicate so that the needs are heard and validated respectfully.
You learn to communicate the important needs and desires, instead of the surface manifestation of the needs. This may look like a person explaining that they need more help around the house in the form of cleaning due to a busy work schedule instead of constantly demanding a chore list of laundry, dishes, dinner, etc. Effective communication is key to a happy and healthy marriage.
One of the most important skills to learn in marriage is not to avoid conflict but how to resolve conflict when it arises. An important question is do you have good relationship skills? Do you have difficulty talking through or tolerating hard conversations? Do you know how to disagree with each other without criticism or contempt toward your spouse? A marriage consists of two very different individuals with different histories who enter into a lifetime of marriage and closeness. It is inevitable that disagreements will happen. In Christian premarital counseling, couples look at not only the Biblical approach to conflict resolution but also how to listen, relate, interact and connect with their partner through disagreement. Couples are taught how to set aside their own desires and seek a solution that is honoring God, and how to recognize when earthly needs are placed above spiritual needs.
Many times, conflict occurs when God is not at the center of the relationship. Effective conflict resolution leaves both parties satisfied their needs are met.
Your Mission and Service Together
One of the largest discussions in Christian premarital counseling is identifying your mission as a couple and fulfilling God’s purpose. This looks different for every couple and affects many aspects of marriage. This addresses financial habits and how money is utilized in marriage, whether you bring children into the world and how you will raise them, and even where you live. Are you called to live in America, or are you called to serve as missionaries in third-world countries? Where is your community, and how are you called to serve those around you? God has a greater purpose for your marriage, not just getting by in life with a partner.
Seeking premarital counseling is one way to ensure that you are marrying someone who you can spend the rest of your life with. Please be sure to interview a therapist carefully who is experienced and comfortable with these issues. Not too many therapists know how to integrate the Christian faith with the challenge of couples therapy. This is simply a reality, so be sure to vet the counselor that you wish to work with. Do not be shy or hold back from asking important questions to you as a couple. Christian premarital counseling is vital if you wish to place God at the center of your relationship and serve Him in your marriage. After all, marriage is between not only two people, but God is the bond that unites you together.
Jousline Savra is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist specializing in premarital counseling and Christian counseling. She has extensive years of practicing with Christian individuals and couples struggling with numerous struggles. A common question she sees in her office is how long does it take to effectively prepare for marriage? She recommends at least seven to nine months of premarital counseling before you say I do. Be prepared that she will ask you about the key issues in preparing for marriage, but also she will ask each of you those difficult questions that perhaps you two have not been able to address.
With over 23 years of experience, Jousline will walk through important dialogues that should address the right communication and relationship skills so that you can begin to prepare for a marriage that lasts a lifetime- but this is completely up to you, do you want to do this hard work? If so, you can give her a call today.