You and the love of your life are engaged and blissfully intoxicated with each other, right? More than likely you expect your love to last and to remain married until death do you part. There is probably little to no fear. It seems inconceivable that you could end up another statistic in a culture where divorce is commonplace. You might be tempted to believe that the mechanics of a marriage will be easy because getting along and being good to each other seems so effortless now. You are confident you know what you’re doing.Yet many a married person has lamented that marriage comes with no manual. It is not unusual for couples once so in love to be shocked at the issues that arise in marriage. The first five years are reportedly critical. Most divorces occur in those first five years, when romantic love is disrupted by ignorance, bad relationship habits, and disillusionment.
The good news is that there IS a manual for marriage. Many manuals, actually. The time for you and your intended to educate yourself is BEFORE the wedding.
Premarital counseling is a hot Christian topic, and a plethora of books on the subject can be found in Christian bookstores and online. Below, I list my favorite premarital counseling books. Collectively, these are the “marriage manual” for getting your marriage off to an amazing start, and perhaps even more importantly, an enjoyable and satisfying journey through life together.
Best Premarital Counseling Books
The Holy Bible The place to look first in your preparation for marriage is undeniably God’s Word. It is God who invented marriage, and the Bible provides invaluable insight regarding behavior and attitudes of the heart in relationships in general and marriage in particular.
“Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” – Ephesians 5:33
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4
Verses such as these provide both preemptive teaching and a measuring rod by which we can evaluate our own conduct in order to make corrections.
His Needs Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage
Willard F. Harley, Jr.
If you select just one other book besides the Bible to read before your wedding date, His Needs/Her Needs would be my recommendation. If the subtitle, Building an Affair-Proof Marriage seems absurd or unnecessary to you, just ignore it – the emphasis here is not really infidelity. In this book, Harley presents an easy concept to understand and remember, namely that of the Love Bank – you and your spouse each have a Love Bank account in each other’s heart, and every interaction is either a deposit or a withdrawal. When you and your partner make many deposits and few withdrawals, your account balances will rise to the “romantic love threshold” and you will find each other irresistible. This is exactly what we all want in marriage.Love units are deposited whenever you meet an emotional need of your girl or guy. Harley defines ten emotional needs and invites couples to identify their most important emotional needs and teach each other how to best meet them. The idea is for each person to become an expert at saturating their loved one’s emotional needs so romantic love can flourish for years to come.
Love Busters: Overcoming Habits That Destroy Romantic Love
Willard F. Harley, Jr.
This is the companion to His Needs, Her Needs, so ideally you will read both of these books. Love Busters are the relationship behaviors that withdraw love units from the Love Bank. According to Harley, Love Busters usually fall into one of six categories: Selfish Demands, Disrespectful Judgements, Angry Outbursts, Annoying Habits, Independent Behavior, and Lying. You can make regular deposits into your partner’s Love Bank, but wipe out the balance with any of these love-killing withdrawals. Harley explains why these habits are abusive and should not be tolerated. He teaches how to overcome Love Busters so that you relate to each other in a more respectful and love-preserving way.
Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires, the Respect He So Desperately Needs
Dr. Emmerson Eggerichs
Love & Respect is similar to His Needs/Her Needs but it distills the ten emotional needs into just two: love and respect. Dr. Eggerichs asserts that in conflict, the more unloved a woman feels, the more disrespectful she behaves toward her man and the more disrespected a man feels, the more unloving he tends to behave toward his woman. When a man and woman fall into this grid-lock of unlovingness and disrespect, they are on the “Crazy Cycle.”
Similar to the metaphor of women being from Venus and men from Mars, Dr. Eggerichs talks about women having pink hearing aids and pink sunglasses and men having blue hearing aids and blue sunglasses. Getting off the Crazy Cycle necessitates that couples understand the very real differences between men and women in feeling, thought, and perception. Discover what is loving and unloving to her and what is respectful and disrespectful to him. This book provides specific strategies for strengthening your relationship through loving and respecting.
Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married
This book is awesome because it’s short and sweet (for those who are less than enthusiastic about reading), handles subjects with humor, and touches on key issues that many couples may not think to discuss prior to getting married.According to Chapman, romantic love is not an adequate foundation for marriage. Marriage, he says, has two stages: Stage One is the honeymoon period and lasts only about two years, and Stage Two is the rest of the marriage. Couples need to be prepared for Stage Two, and that is what this book is about.
The book covers important topics such as finances, sexual fulfillment, spirituality, families of origin, and who will do what (i.e. “toilets are not self-cleaning”). Each chapter is concluded by helpful suggestions and questions for couples to discuss.
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert
John M Gottman, PhD. & Nan Silver
Dr. Gottman has studied the habits of married couples for decades, and this book is the culmination of his life’s work. Among other things, this Seattle-based researcher is famous for the “Love Lab,” where he observed couples interacting in a real-life setting. As a result of his findings, Gottman boasts of being able to predict divorce with 94% accuracy. Wouldn’t you like to know what he knows so that you can avoid the pitfalls?
This book teaches you the six things that typically result in divorce and provides strategies for correcting misguided behavior and promoting a marriage that works and is fulfilling. Questionnaires, exercises, and practical tools abound to help you put the principles into practice.
How Premarital Counseling Can Help You Start Your Marriage Right
The most compelling reason to seek premarital counseling is to prevent divorce. Let’s face it, even among believers the divorce rate is alarmingly high. There are reasons for that, and one of them is a lack of preparedness. Premarital counseling will guide you and your partner through important discussions, help you develop effective communication and conflict resolution skills, establish realistic expectations for marriage, and encourage you to employ concepts and tools such as those covered in the books above, in ways that are personalized.
“Happiness,” courtesy of Jin.Dongjun, Flickr Creative Commons; “With this ring I thee wed,” courtesy of Pete, flickr.com, Public Domain