One of the most common myths I see in couples planning for marriage is the assumption that they possess an innate knowledge of how to be married. Unfortunately, many of these couples soon learn that joining two individuals into “one flesh” is not as easy as it seems. Premarital counseling has gained in popularity in recent years. Many researchers have attributed this trend to couples marrying at an older age and also an increase in education. Whatever the reason, premarital counseling just makes sense and can greatly help to get your marriage off to a wonderful start and help to prevent later problems. Below are five areas that I think are critical to address before getting married.
1. Communication and Conflict Resolution
It is commonly stated that 80% of marital problems relate to communication. With that said, it makes sense that this topic gets considerable attention in premarital counseling. How do you resolve conflict? What do you do when you can’t seem to compromise? How do you prevent defensiveness? What do you do once someone gets defensive? How do you speak your spouse’s love language? How does your nonverbal communication influence your verbal communication? All of these issues (and many more) need to be addressed as you seek to build a solid foundation for marriage.
While couples are always eager to enjoy God’s gift of sexuality together, there are many issues that can make things fizzle instead of sizzle. Expectations are always high on the honeymoon and if those expectations are not grounded in reality, frustration will ensue. In particular, past sexual experiences by either partner can lead to a crowded bed. Past sexual abuse or other trauma can often lead to problems down the road. Another major issue today is the reality of the pornography problem. I have addressed this at length in other posts, but pornography leads to unrealistic expectations. In addition to preventing problems, I also think it is critical for the couple to come to a Biblical understanding of true sexuality. To this end I strongly recommend Kevin Leman’s book “Sheet Music.”
A disturbing trend that I find in marriage today is the tendency to keep finances separate rather than combined. This leads to a “yours” and “mine” economy rather than “ours.” I find this tendency to be deeply rooted in communication problems and a lack of trust. If you feel this is necessary you need to seek counseling or read a good book on the subject such as Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover.” Other issues include setting a family budget, learning to account for that budget, setting spending priorities, real estate decisions, and future expectations about who will work when kids enter the picture.
4. Roles and Responsibilities
Everyone has expectations about roles and responsibilities that are often deeply rooted in their family of origin. Who works outside of the home? How do you divide household chores? Who takes care of the lawn? What were the roles of each person in their respective families of origin? You may think all of these details will just work themselves out in time, but starting the conversation before your wedding can prevent these areas from becoming sources of conflict. Chances are good that you and your fiance have different expectations.
I hope by now you have seen the word “expectations” a few times in this article. It’s important to remember that the distance between reality and expectation is disappointment. Will you seek to have children? How many? Where will you live? How much time will you spend with your families? While it is impossible to prevent all disappointment, the more realistic your expectations are then the less frustrated and disappointed you will be in your marriage.
There you have it, five reasons you need to seek premarital counseling. Many states have even begun to see its importance. In fact, where I live in Fort Myers, Florida, the county clerk of court will issue a discounted marriage license if you complete at least 4 hours of counseling with an approved professional. While 4 is good, I suggest 6-8 sessions–your marriage is worth it!