The decision to get married is, at least for the Christian, one of the most important that a person will make. This is because for a Christian, marriage is much more than a celebration of a couple’s love declared in front of friends and family. While it is this, it is so much more.When a Christian couple gets married, they make vows in front of God and witnesses, committing themselves to a lifetime of faithful unity. When believers get married, at least in God’s original intention, it is for life. It is a commitment to love and remain faithful to only one other person for the rest of your days. And for this reason, it is not a decision to be rushed into or to be taken lightly.
It is for this reason that churches like to offer premarital counseling before the wedding ceremony. It is an opportunity to take counsel with an elder in the faith, to consider the step you are hoping to take, and walk into that wedding ceremony as prepared and as certain as you can be in making such a weighty commitment.
There will be things that perhaps make complete certainty seem impossible because choosing one person for life can be a little frightening. But one can certainly walk into a wedding ceremony with greater wisdom and clarity with the help of a little counseling.
h2Four Things to Consider in Premarital Counselingh2
Good premarital counseling will allow you to consider the wisdom of your choice of a life partner, it will give you biblical guidance on God’s design for marriage, and it will give you a chance to consider your expectations of each other as a couple, as well as tools for dealing with the inevitable conflict that arises in intimate relationships.
strongConsider your choice of a life partnerstrong
While this one is perhaps a topic that most would wish to avoid when planning a wedding, as no one wants to face the possibility that they are making a poor choice, it is certainly wise to consider it. When one is talking about a lifetime commitment it makes sense that you would want to be sure that you are making a choice that you will not regret in the years of marriage up ahead.
Nobody’s perfect, and this isn’t a call to nitpick on every flaw in your partner and work yourself into unnecessary doubt and panic. But it is an opportunity to consider what qualities you hope for in a life partner and whether your fiancé is moving in the same direction as you are in terms of their faith and major life choices.
It may also be an opportunity for reflecting on what qualities you possess and wish to nurture in yourself as a life partner too. At the end of the day, calling off a wedding is not a sign of poor premarital counseling. You’re not married until you’ve made those vows, so if you do find yourself poorly matched, or not ready to commit yourself in that way, then better to discover that before the big day rather than after.
strongConsider God’s Design for Marriagestrong
While it may seem obvious that two believers hoping to get married would understand what a Christian marriage is about, nowadays that cannot be assumed. It is always good to be reminded before embarking on that journey what that singular commitment represents.
Christian marriage is more than just a union between two people; it is a representation of Christ’s relationship with his bride, the church. And this image gives helpful guidance to the couple in terms of how they are to relate to one another.
The husband is to love his bride as he does his own body (Ephesians 5:28), to love and care for her in the same way that Christ does the church, having given up his own life to present her pure and holy. This is not the picture of a hard master, but sacrificial love. And the wife is to submit herself to her husband, which shouldn’t be hard to do if the husband is sacrificially loving her as Christ loved the church.
In addition, there is the biblical concept of “leaving and clinging,” of leaving one’s childhood family and starting a new family unit of their own. Discussions about where the boundaries lie between your new family unit and the extended family will go a long way to resolving potential conflict in the future.
When one gets married their primary loyalty shifts from the family that raised them to the spouse they have now started a new family with. And for a marriage to thrive, both partners need to be fully committed to their marriage, without any competing loyalties outside of that new unit drawing one partner away from the other.
strongConsider your expectations of one anotherstrong
Lofty promises are often a part of a wedding ceremony, along with big dreams and romantic ideas of each other. But once the honeymoon ends, real life will begin, and it can become easy to become disillusioned with the person you wake up next to. Clarifying your expectations of each other, and communicating these to each other, will go a long way to smoothing out the road ahead as a married couple.
One way of doing this is for both partners to independently make a list of what they expect of the other and what they think their partner will expect of them. And then these lists can be shared and compared, an item at a time, using the answers as fuel for discussion as a couple and an opportunity for adjusting your expectations of each other.
The closer to reality your expectations are, the fewer opportunities for conflict there will be in the future, as unmet expectations can breed frustration and disappointment.
The expectations that could come up can cover a wide variety of topics such as how household chores will be divided up, how often either partner expects to have sex, how money decisions will be made, expectations related to the extended family, and thoughts on how future children will be raised. How many children each person hopes to have, or whether they hope to have children at all, are appropriate to discuss before the marriage.
Another important expectation that may need to be discussed is each person’s love language. How a person feels loved and communicates their love is an important thing to understand, as someone could be miscommunicating their commitment to their spouse simply by being unaware of what gestures mean the most to their partner. And when a person doesn’t feel valued by their spouse, the intimacy of the couple will be diminished.
strongConsider tools for dealing with conflictstrong
Finally, in premarital counseling, a couple will want to gain some tools that will help their marriage to thrive. This could be talking through how as a couple they plan to pursue their faith together. It should also include gaining relationship tools like working on how to resolve conflict – which is inevitable – as well as working on how to be better communicators.
While it is all helpful to be working through your expectations before you say, “I do,” the reality is that it cannot cover everything. Issues will arise that stem from things that you discover about each other afterward. Or, as the two of you grow in your own ways, you may find that what you want or hope for may also change.
So, it is not enough to simply check the boxes before you make the commitment and assume that you will be all set for life thereafter. You need to be ready to communicate your changing needs to each other and be able to renegotiate your roles and expectations with each other as you go along.
And when conflict arises you need to be able to disagree in a way that honors and respects each other, that you don’t say anything in the heat of the moment which you may regret in the morning. If your commitment is truly for life, there should be no need for ultimatums.
Rather, you should both be able to disagree in a way that both acknowledges that you are on the same team and tries to find solutions instead of placing blame. Being able to fight well, to disagree while still respecting each other, will play a huge role in how well you recover from those things that come up and threaten to turn you against each other.
If you have completed your premarital counseling and are still sure that you have made the right choice of a partner, congratulations! Now you are prepared to step into that commitment with your eyes wide open and set a clear direction before yourselves as a couple.
This doesn’t mean it will always be smooth sailing ahead of you, but rather that you both can anticipate and know more of what is expected of you on the road ahead. And there may come a time or situation where you feel you could use a little more counsel and wisdom to help you get back on track, but if your premarital counseling has been successful, you will understand the benefits of seeking further counseling help as well when needed.
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