So, you have a son or daughter who is currently engaged, will soon be getting engaged, or is thinking about marriage. Or maybe it's your grandchild you are thinking of. Or maybe just a couple you know. You may be asking yourself the question, “Do they really need to get premarital counseling?” Well, Shawn and I, and many others would answer that question with a huge YES! Let me explain.
Remember those “rose-colored glasses” you used to wear? I am speaking of the rose-colored glasses most of us wore when we were dating or even during our engagement. We would come up against some conflict in our dating relationship but would not make a big deal out of it since we were trying to put on our “best face”. Many times, we do this out of fear of confrontation. We believe the lie that “conflict is bad, so we must avoid it”.
Those rose-colored glasses are just one of many reasons why couples need to invest time, effort, and money into premarital counseling. We need to learn how to handle conflict in a healthy way when it comes – and it will come! But let me suggest two primary reasons we believe every couple needs premarital counseling.
The first reason is that most couples today don't even understand the question of “Why Marriage?” from God's perspective. We think marriage is about our happiness, or finding someone to meet all our needs. Couples need to have a “Gospel-centered view” of marriage.
The second reason for couples to commit to premarital counseling is because there are so many things in a relationship that will not naturally come up in dating – and we believe it is critical to have intentional conversations about those things prior to marriage! Things like finances, roles in marriage, decision-making, sexual intimacy.... I could go on and on.
Shawn and I went through premarital counseling for about 6 or 7 weeks with the minister who married us. I clearly remember discussing things that we were not in agreement on and having to wrestle through those issues. It was not easy, but I am glad we tackled some of those issues early in our relationship. I honestly wish the premarital counseling had been more comprehensive, and we had another mentor couple to walk us through things, along with the minister.
And lest you think only those who are “marriage fanatics”, like us, see the need for premarital counseling, check out the quote below from a popular magazine called Psychology Today:
Premarital counseling is the smartest decision that any couple can make, and you don't need to be religious to try it. No matter how cohesive a couple may be, problems and differences will inevitably arise, so premarital counseling really functions like the best insurance policy a couple could ever purchase. - Seth Myers, Clinical Psychologist
Makes sense! We purchase homeowners’ insurance to protect us from the potential storms that can damage our home and property. So why don't we take the same approach to our marriages, which are so much more important than any property we own?
Let's Define What We are Talking About
And just to clarify, when I am speaking of premarital counseling, I am NOT talking about meeting with the Pastor or Minister once or twice to discuss the details of the wedding. That is NOT premarital counseling – that is wedding planning!
When I speak of premarital counseling, I am talking about a Pastor, counselor, or mentor couple meeting with the engaged couple 7-10 times over the course of several months. These sessions focus on both the “why” of a Gospel-centered marriage as well as the “how”. We need both the big picture of God's plan for marriage and the details of how to make things work day-by-day.
Why so many sessions over several months? A few years back, Marriage Partnership Magazine surveyed 3,000 couples from 25 denominations who had received some type of premarital counseling. When asked the questions, “Did your premarital counseling help you in marriage?”, the following is a breakdown of those who answered “definitely yes”:
One counseling session received: 15 percent
Two sessions received: 31 percent
Five sessions received: 53 percent
Seven or more session received: 75 percent (1)
These results lead me to believe that “more is better” when it comes to premarital counseling. I think this is true for two reasons: 1) it gives both the person doing the counseling and the engaged couple more time to build a relationship so that hard issues can be discussed, and 2) the additional sessions give more time to cover a wider range of topics that are common problem areas in most marriages.
Suggestions on Finding a Premarital Counselor
So, if you want to help a beloved couple you know to find a premarital counselor, how would you do that? Finding that help can be done in many ways, but I will mention just three here:
Talk to the Pastor/Minister or other church leadership to see what they do for premarital counseling and/or who they would recommend.
Find a local couple or counselor who is trained in the Prepare-Enrich Assessment. You can do that at this link. Then encourage your couple to take the assessment and do follow-up sessions with the trained couple or counselor
Ask other couples from your church who they used for premarital counseling for themselves or for their kids. I love getting personal recommendations versus searching the internet.
What Kind of Gift Will You Give Them?
Long after the wedding gifts are opened and forgotten, the challenges of marriage will face that young couple you are thinking of. As practical as that Amazon gift card may be, or as much as the couple wants that new item for their kitchen, we hope you want to give them a gift that can keep on giving to their marriage decades after the wedding day.
So make a real investment in your couple's future marriage. Help them make the commitment to do premarital counseling by BOTH praying for them AND by paying at least some of the cost for premarital counseling. You will not regret making that kind of investment in the marriage of this couple and their legacy for the future!
ADDITIONAL: Below are some great resources for couples who are engaged or who are thinking about marriage. This is not a comprehensive list, but only some favorites of ours and some of our mentors. These are NOT substitutes for premarital counseling, but additional helps for couples. If you hover over the title of each book, it is set up as a hyperlink to find that resource.
Tying the Knot – great Gospel-centered book!
Sacred Search – great book by Gary Thomas
Catching Foxes – highly recommended book by John Henderson
NOTES: (1) Taken from Preparing for Marriage Leader's Guide. Published by Gospel Light and FamilyLife 1998, 2010
Written by Glen Solberg, Abiding Marriage 2017. All Rights Reserved. Please email us at info@AbidingMarriage.org with any comments or questions.
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