Jessica just recently got engaged. She can’t stop staring at the ring on her finger and she’s caught up in a whirlwind of decisions to make about her wedding colors, dress, venue, flowers, bridesmaids, and more. She’s already thinking about the songs she wants to be played during her reception and beautiful beach destinations for her honeymoon.Jessica already lived an active life with a bursting social calendar and now she has one of the biggest events of her life to plan and prepare for. She’s not really thinking about what married life will look like or the kind of struggles she may face.
Sure, she’s had plenty of disagreements with her now-fiancé, but they’ve always worked through them so she hasn’t given much thought to personality types or communication styles or what might need to change once they’re married.
Jessica is like many newly engaged women, and this couple is like many couples who don’t give much thought to Christian premarital counseling or consider its benefits. The state of bliss that surrounds most newly engaged couples doesn’t last forever, however. They’re happy and in love and they can’t possibly imagine something going awry or their feelings towards their future spouse changing.
The reality, however, is that conflicts are bound to arise. As couples navigate life together, many unforeseen circumstances such as job changes or losses, moves, children, the death of a parent, health challenges, or financial troubles can create issues.
Differences in parenting philosophies, money management, or how they’ll approach schooling their children may arise and while both may seem like they’re on the same page at first, one would be amazed how many individuals change their minds and their approaches as they age and mature in life. It’s important that the same intentionality and focus a couple invests to prepare for a wedding is invested in planning and preparing for their marriage.
What is Christian Premarital Counseling and What are the Benefits?
Christian premarital counseling is a form of couples’ counseling that helps couples prepare for the situations they may face in marriage. Most programs will introduce a couple to the top six areas of challenges they may face, which include:
Sex in marriage can be a hot topic and a major area of conflict. You and your spouse may have different expectations about how you’ll engage in intimacy, how often, and what is enjoyable. It can stir up insecurities, fears, and past traumas that are important to discuss and/or be prepared for.
Dealing with In-Laws
Some couples love their in-laws and some couples are apprehensive about them. Your in-laws will likely have opinions about how your wedding day should go, how often you should visit them, what holidays they want to see on, how you should raise your children, what you should feed your children, what kind of gifts you can give your children, whether or not you should be supporting them in their old age, and so much more. If one person is harboring bitterness or anger towards the other person’s mother or father, it can cause division and make that person feel torn between their family and their spouse.
Managing Money and Finances
While you may be on the same page now, if one of you gets a reduction in income, receives a promotion, decides they want to stay home to raise a child, buy a house, or any other big financial decision, conflict can arise. You might not need to talk about every single situation that could arise, but it’s important to get the tools and awareness you need to navigate these challenges when they do arise.
Choosing Child-Rearing Approaches
You were likely raised differently than your soon-to-be spouse and while you both are kind and loving people, at some point you will likely do, say, or discipline your child differently from what your spouse expects. When that happens, you need to be prepared for how to deal with it and how you’re going to raise your child going forward. As new research comes out or you read up on different philosophies, one or both of you may change your mind and you’ll need to be prepared for how to handle parenting issues when you’re not on the same page.
Delegating Roles and Designating Responsibility
Who’s going to take out the trash or do the dishes? What happens when your spouse is supposed to take out the trash and it sits there for two days only to leak on the floor and create a sloppy, smelling mess? If you normally do the dishes, but you have a week where you’re stressed, sick, or have a big project to do, what’s going to happen if they pile up and there are no clean forks, bowls, or pans to cook dinner in? Are you expected to cook dinner? Will you have to ask for help or order out? Delegating roles and responsibilities can be a major point of contention in a marriage and it’s important to learn how to navigate them with grace and love even if you think it won’t be a problem now. Your bliss may turn to bitterness and learning how to keep the right heart attitude can be a very valuable skill.
Practicing Religion and Spiritual LeadershipIf you’re both Christians, you don’t have to navigate practicing different religions, but what happens if your spouse is hurt by a pastor, leader, or church member and wants to leave the church or switch churches and you don’t? What if your spouse isn’t operating in spiritual leadership and discipline and you start condemning him or her for not being up to par? How do you make it a point to pray and worship together even when you’re busy or angry? Even when you’re at the same spiritual maturity level and have the same love for God, conflict can arise in your spiritual walk as a couple.
In the Christian premarital counseling program you choose, the counselor or counselors will walk you through many of these challenges and introduce you to different conflict and communication styles. You may also discuss the differences between the way males and females think and take personality assessments so you’re more aware of each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.
There are numerous benefits to Christian premarital counseling, some of which include:
- Improvement in communication
- Improvement in conflict management
- An easier adjustment to married life
- A more realistic view of marriage
- A deeper sense of commitment
- A greater understanding of your values or differences
- More awareness of your partner’s strengths, weaknesses, and personality traits
- Greater unity and teamwork
At this point, you may be wondering what kind of questions might be addressed in Christian premarital counseling. The uncertainty around this can be daunting, but you don’t have to be nervous or anxious. Your counselor may ask you questions such as:
- What do you want out of marriage?
- How might you like your fiancé to improve?
- What’s your family background?
- How did your family deal with conflict?
- When you’re upset, do you want to talk until you work it out or be left alone?
- What issues do you disagree about now?
- How do you plan to manage your money?
- Do you want children? If so, how many?
- Where will you live?
- What are your goals in the next 5, 10, or 20 years?
- How often do you expect sex?
- How often do you expect to spend time with your in-laws?
- How do you want your spouse to show you love or affection?
- How much do you plan to spend on groceries per week or month?
- Are you okay with debt or do you want to live debt-free?
- What is your spouse’s role in marriage?
- What rules do you want to establish for your marriage?
You’ll go through several questions with your premarital counselor, but you’ll also talk through your family and relationship history as well as build your toolbox of healthy communication and conflict management strategies.
One of the biggest hurdles couples face to signing up for Christian premarital counseling is fear. Many couples are afraid that if they talk about their issues or discuss what can be highly charged topics in a deeper way before their marriage, they’ll end up breaking up or with more issues than they thought. They’re often afraid that discussing such topics will rob them of those feelings of happiness and euphoria.
That’s not the case. Premarital counseling isn’t a way for you to see whether you’re a good fit. You’ve likely already established that, which is why you’ve arrived at this point. Premarital counseling is a way for couples to prepare for the challenges they may face and anticipate topics of conflict so that they can be better prepared and implement strategies that will help them enjoy a lifetime of marriage. It’s also a way to foster greater intimacy and unity.
If you’d like to enroll in Christian premarital counseling, we’d love to help you intentionally and proactively prepare for marriage. Call our office or visit our online counselor directory to get in touch with a Christian marriage counselor today.
“Engagement Ring on Shoe”, Courtesy of Gift Habeshaw, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “The Ring”, Courtesy of Kreated Media, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Wanna Hang With Me Forever?”, Courtesy of Seth Reese, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Kimi Albertson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License