8 Important Pre-Marriage Counseling Questions

As you approach engagement or if you are newly engaged, it is important to the start of a thriving and successful marriage to take time to learn more about your significant other. This often means having difficult conversations, talking about the future, and digging deeper into your past to discover how it made you into who you are today and where you hope to go.

It is better to have important and life-shaping conversations before you vow to spend your lives together. These conversations can help you discover any red flags or draw you closer to one another as you prepare to spend your lives together, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health.

Having important conversations before you wed can help you set realistic expectations for your marriage, improve your communication skills, and strive to improve your conflict-resolution skills before you face any major relationship challenges and barriers.

Greg Smalley said, “Make it your goal to create a marriage that feels like the safest place on earth.” The goal of marriage is not to appear perfect all the time, the goal is to create a safe place for pure authenticity between two people.

Pre-Marriage Counseling Questions to Ask Before You Say “I Do”

Here are a few questions to delve into with your significant other as you prepare to say “I do”:

1. What does a marriage commitment mean to you?

It is important to talk through commitment and what it means to each of you. Once you walk down the aisle and vow to spend your lives together, does that mean through thick and thin? Does that mean you vow to keep working even when you feel disconnected and distant from one another? What does that mean when one of you gets a job offer in a different place? Take time to talk through marriage commitment and why you were drawn to your significant other.

Henry Ward Beecher said, “Every successful marriage is the result of two people working diligently and skillfully to cultivate their love.” Spoiler alert: marriages face difficult seasons, therefore having these conversations and vowing to put the work into your marriage will help it grow and thrive on a beautiful level.

2. What are your life goals?

You must talk through your life goals, not only so your spouse can support you, but so that you can support them. Ask one another about your personal goals, career goals, and spiritual goals. What dreams do you have for your marriage? Do you hope to retire to the Arizona desert and start a nonprofit one day? Dreaming big together can draw you closer and help you support one another now and in the future.

3. What is your financial plan?

The battle with finances and how to handle finances is one of the major causes of fighting and disagreements in marriage. Engaged and married couples must continue to have financial conversations and plan together. Sit down and create a financial plan. Put your expenses on paper. See if you need to cut any expenses so you are not living hand-to-mouth.

Take time to talk through the plan for handling money:

  • Will you have separate bank accounts, joint checking accounts, or both?
  • Who will pay the bills?
  • How will you handle disagreements about how money should be spent?
  • Do you plan and agree to have full financial disclosure with your spouse?
  • What kind of debt are you going into marriage with?
  • Do you have or plan to have credit cards?
  • What is your credit score goal and how can you work together to get there?
  • Will you have an emergency savings fund?
  • Do you plan to start saving for a home or another major first purchase together?
  • Do you plan to start savings accounts for your children?

4. What is your plan for living arrangements?

If you both have your own place right now, what is your plan once you are married? Where do you hope to live once you begin having children? Talking through your plans can help alleviate stress and begin your journey in the best way possible. Establishing healthy communication is one of the best things you can do for your marriage relationship.

5. What are your desires for growing your family?

Some couples wait until years into their marriage to talk about their hopes and dreams for a family. To avoid miscommunication in the future, it is helpful to just talk through what you pray for someday. Do you hope to have children? Are you wanting a big family or a small family?

Have you had an abortion in the past that you have not discussed with your significant other? Do you hope to raise your child in church? What are your hopes and dreams for your family? Do you hope mom stays home with the children or do you hope to continue working?

How did your childhood impact your hopes and dreams of having a family? If you were raised in an abusive home and previously felt reluctant to tell your significant other, now is the time. If there were parts of your childhood and upbringing that made you into the person you are today and hope the same for your family, share those memories and dreams.

6. What are your mutual expectations?

Talking through various parts of your life and relationship can help avoid major disagreements and fallout in the future. Just talking through mutual expectations for your marriage can help cut those disagreements and frustrations in half. It is crucial to know that couples will have disagreements. Marriage is a game of working together to find common ground.

  • Will you spend holidays rotating between both sides of your family?
  • How will you support one another through chaotic work seasons?
  • What are your hopes for physical intimacy?
  • Do you hope to attend church together?
  • What kind of relationship do you hope your children have with your parents?
  • How will you continue dating one another?
  • Do you hope to continue date night once a week?
  • Do you agree on time with friends – separately and together?

“Behind every great relationship are difficult and uncomfortable conversations we rarely get to see. Great relationships don’t just fall into our laps. They require people to move through their fears and insecurities and do the hard work to move wounds into healing.” – Vienna Pharaon

7. How will you resolve conflicts?

Having a plan for resolving conflict is one that every relationship can benefit from. If you are having a conversation that continues to escalate, how can you manage it before it spins out of control? Can you ask each other for a timeout to calm down and take a deep breath? Are you willing to get creative with your critical thinking skills?

8. What does your spiritual life mean to you and for your marriage?

I pray that your love for each other will overflow more and more and that you will keep on growing in your knowledge and understanding. Philippians 1:9

To marry someone of like faith is the beginning of a beautiful and one-of-a-kind love story. Marriage, God’s way, is a marriage of forgiveness, grace, compassion, and unique and selfless love. As you begin to embark on your journey together, take time to set goals, pray for your significant other, pray as a couple, and let your faith live larger and louder than your fear.

It is important to realize before you say “I do” that marriage is a journey, not a destination. You will face difficulties. You will have disagreements. You will make up and work through disagreements. You will have seasons of disconnect. You will have seasons of beautiful and one-of-a-kind connection. Marriage is a beautiful ride and one that is worth the difficult conversations.

Christian Premarital Counseling

As you prepare for marriage, consider pre-marriage counseling to help work through these topics and to help you set realistic expectations for your marriage, improve your communication skills, and strive to improve your conflict-resolution skills before you face any major relationship challenges and barriers. You can invest in the future of your marriage by attending pre-marital counseling with a counselor who wants to see your relationship soar.

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What Does the Bible Say About Marriage? 6 Truths from God’s Word

Have you ever wondered, “What does the Bible say about marriage?” If so, this article is for you. In the beginning, when the world was young and harmony reigned, God blessed the first marriage, between Adam and Eve. After Adam was created, there was nothing in the creation like him, and God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone”. God created and brought Eve to Adam. Created in God’s image and Adam’s equal, Eve was “bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh” as Adam put it.

Adam and Eve had one another in this brave new world – someone who was an equal but different and complementary. Since people are made in God’s image, it makes sense that Adam and Eve had an innate desire for relationship and that it wouldn’t be good for either of them to be alone. As descendants of Adam and Eve, all of us are the result of this first marriage.

Cut to the 21st century, where many struggle with the relevance of the institution of marriage. Despite our difficulties with marriage, there is a beauty to the way marriage brings two lives together and the two become one flesh, one new family unit when they leave their parents and cleave to one another (Genesis 2:24).

This “leaving and cleaving” creates a committed space of unashamed intimacy within which a man and woman build a life together. What can we continue to learn from the Bible about marriage?

What Does the Bible Say About Marriage?

It is good

One of the things the Bible says about marriage is that it is good. The book of ancient wisdom called Proverbs puts it this way: “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22). Presumably, she who finds a husband also finds what is good.

Again, this makes sense in light of human nature and our inclination toward being in relationship with others, including this most intimate of human relationships. The marriage relationship is a life-long commitment (Romans 7:2). All things being equal, weddings are generally a time of celebration.

In some liturgies, the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11) where Jesus turned water into wine is mentioned as another divine endorsement of marriage. If God was behind marriage when the world was perfect and the specter of arguments and divorce was absent, the wedding at Cana shows us God still endorsing marriage even in our broken world. It is good, and it is worth celebrating.

It is a mystery

Of all the things one could say about marriage, one apt description is that it is a mystery. It’s a mystery in a least two ways. First, despite our culture’s fractious relationship with marriage, the vast majority of people are still drawn towards making the public and lifelong commitment that is marriage.

Second, and more important, reflecting on marriage while writing to Christians in the city of Ephesus, the apostle Paul brings up what was said in Genesis 2 and reminds these believers that when two people get married, something monumental takes place – the two become one flesh.

But then he says that human marriage is an echo of the relationship that Jesus has with his church. This is a “profound mystery”, he says (Ephesians 5:32). It’s a bit mind-bending, but human marriage is patterned after and is an echo of the relationship between Christ and his people. Getting married draws you inadvertently into something beyond yourself, something timeless and cosmic – profound mystery indeed.

It isn’t for everyone

Even though marriage is a good gift, it isn’t for everyone. There are some for whom the celibate life is their calling. Both Jesus and Paul make this point. Some people have made the choice to remain single “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus continues, saying, “Let the one who is able to receive this receive it” (Matthew 19:12).

In other words, some people may decide to stay single to maintain an unswerving focus on the kingdom. Paul puts it this way:

Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him…if you do marry, you have not sinned… I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided.1 Corinthians 7:17, 28, 32

In other words, if you want to get married, that’s great, but marriage comes with certain responsibilities or anxieties, and you must be aware of that. If you want to stay single, that’s also great. The single life enables a certain kind of unbroken focus on the kingdom. In other words, the calling toward either marriage or singleness is morally neutral; each life comes with its own joys and burdens.

It’s not perfect

Marriage is not perfect because the people in it aren’t perfect. The reality is that people no longer get married in the blissful context of Genesis 1 and 2. Married life is now way more complicated than that. Coming after Adam and Eve and their rebellion, all marriage now happens in the context and shadow of Genesis 3.

Adam went from composing poetry for Eve, his beloved wife, saying, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23) to blaming her for his disobedience of God’s command: “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some of the fruit from the tree, and I ate it”, he says (Genesis 3:12).

She’s now merely “The woman”. Humanity moved from loving adoration to shifting blame to one another, from being both “naked and unashamed” (Genesis 2:25) to covering our nakedness and hiding ourselves and our motives from one another and God.

Instead of mutual care and self-giving, there is now selfishness, inordinate desire and seeking dominance over the other (Genesis 3:16). Sin entered our lives, complicating and twisting this beautiful relationship given to us by God.

It should be protected

Because we are not perfect and we’re getting married in a post-Genesis 3 world, marriages are fragile and need protection from the people in (and those not in) them. The Bible is full of warnings against adultery, but it also concerns itself with harmful attitudes between husbands and wives that undermine love, mutual appreciation, warmth, forgiveness and so on.

It also addresses the harmful attitudes of others who are not in the marriage and who don’t take the marriage covenant seriously. The letter to the Hebrews says, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4).

God is aware of the world we live in, the temptations and challenges we encounter in daily life. Sometimes the spouses in a marriage, or the people close to them, don’t honor the marriage covenant. This can have dire consequences for all involved.

It’s a partnership

A marriage is a partnership in which both spouses have a role to play and something to contribute to the nurture and health of the relationship, and any children that may come from the marriage. Both the husband and wife have a role to play in instructing their children and in how they relate to each other.

“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction,” says Proverbs 1:8, “and do not forsake your mother’s teaching”. Paul talks about the framework within which our relationships work. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ”, he writes in Ephesians 5:21.

There is to be a conciliatory attitude in the marriage relationship to help that relationship flourish, so when we talk about “submission” and “loving one another,” it is not about sublimating your personality or strength but about leveraging it toward making the marriage work. This requires the work and wisdom of the Holy Spirit in us.

Christian Couples Counseling

Our marriages need strengthening and for us to grow in listening, handling conflict and hardship in a constructive manner. Couples counseling is a great way to continue this growth and address any underlying unaddressed issues so that your marriage flourishes.

Whether you are encountering persistent difficulties within your marriage or simply want to continue working toward a flourishing marriage, prayerfully consider Christian couples counseling with your spouse.

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Premarital Counseling for Today’s Generation

Many couples are reflecting on how 2020 went for them and wondering how 2021 will treat them. We noticed a boom of weddings in 2020 despite the pandemic. This encouraged many to get engaged and to hopefully get married in 2021. We may wonder why people are getting married, and it could be as simple a matter as singles and dating couples being tired of living alone.

The pandemic has brought many issues to the surface such as depression due to constant isolation and anxiety when alone. Autophobia is the fear of being alone and is especially difficult the older you are. Undoubtedly families and couples did better than singles while being left alone for such a long time during the pandemic.

Although some took the risk of going out during the outbreak, many had no option but to stay at home out of concern for a loved one. This woke up many men and women to consider moving forward with their partners toward marriage. This is a noble solution to the problem of being alone. Wisdom would say that although it’s great to get married, we must build solidly to have a long-lasting marriage.

As a minister, I notice that couples in our church tend to rush into marriage but many, if not all, of these couples wisely seek advice. The pandemic is causing doubts and questions for possible weddings of 2021 such as financial costs, wedding attendance, where to live, school, jobs, family distance, etc.

A blessing in disguise of the pandemic is that it is helping couples to work through these issues with others, which is helping them to count the cost of moving forward.

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’Luke 14:28-30

These couples cannot afford to put up money for a big wedding, and they are wondering where to live because, if the pandemic extends, they want to know could they be safe, and what is around them in walking distance i.e., parks, beach, trails, stores, etc. With this in mind, partners are asking one another about pre-marital counseling.

Premarital counseling is a foundational precursor to a healthy marriage because we tend to invest in what’s important to us. The passage in Luke helps us to consider how we are building. Couples aren’t just “fools rush in”, there is an alternative that can support a stronger relationship that will remain resilient during challenging times.

Sadly, many couples also ended their relationship in 2020 because the pandemic tested them beyond their capabilities and forced them to tap out. Couples’ characters were exposed and with the added pressures of isolation, they had no one to turn to. These marriages had little to no support that otherwise could have been of immense help.

The question is, why didn’t these couples have support? We could chalk it up to many possibilities, but one vital reason could be that it wasn’t discussed at their premarital counseling. We all have friends, but we don’t turn to them to get input especially about sensitive material as insecurities, sexual intimacy, conflict, jealousy, deceit, secrets, etc.

If adequate support is not set up in advance this challenge can be difficult to overcome. We all need support to move forward in life. We all appreciate the heroic stories of individuals, but the most encouraging ones are the teams of heroes that show everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.

The Avengers, Justice League, and Star Wars are all some of the biggest box office hits in the last decade. The reason for their success is that they are teams fighting off a great evil. These have become bigger revenue-generating franchises and have overtaken the individual hero’s place as top of the box office king. Why do we have less enthusiasm about being a team in our marriages? Marriage is a perfect opportunity to be a team and have others team up to helps us.

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

This is an interesting passage for couples because if my partner and I are one then who is going to help our one unit? Some may suggest that spouses are the other individual to help them out, but we can challenge that position by reminding everyone of the goal that God designed in Genesis 2:24 “the two will become one.”

By that principle, a couple who follows the word of God is one unit. The secret of Christian marriage is that we get to celebrate two lives joined together in holy matrimony, yet they are not alone. In the kingdom of God, we have support and guidance to face any issue. Marriages should never be alone. As separate individuals, we can support one another and maximize the potential of our unions.

2021 is going to be a full year of many couples dating, getting engaged, then married. Families will begin and many joyous occasions will take place. During those moments there will be stress and anxiety and one way to combat those symptoms will be to get premarital counseling as soon as possible.

First, dating or engaged couples can jumpstart their long-term relationship by investing in a healthy premarital counseling series so that they can develop a great foundation to make their marriage strong. Second, they can develop a support network. If they do these two crucial things, along with reading their Bible and praying every day, then they can have confidence that will stay together for the long haul.

If for some reason their church, ministry, friends, or community cannot provide that, then therapy can be a great alternative. Marriage and Family therapists are trained in basic approaches that can help couples in their relationships hence the title “marriage” therapist. Some may say that therapy is too pricey and could take up a lot of your time. An argument can be made that investing in your relationship is priceless.

When I married Nicole, there was no price too high to pay for the ring, wedding, and honeymoon. We had a budget of course, but my attitude was that I wanted to invest in the things I thought were important to me. Where we put our money shows where we are invested.

My advice to those of you reading this article is that if you are considering getting married soon, think about possibly getting premarital counseling through a therapist who will be impartial and professional. Sometimes our friends and family can mean well when it comes to giving us premarital advice but at times that can have some biases attached with it.

A professional therapist is trained to be in the middle and not side with either partner. The licensed marriage and family therapist will work with both individuals to help bring issues to light that could be of concern and to build skills to help them navigate expectations for the future.

Having a healthy dynamic marriage is priceless. I look back to when Nicole and I got premarital counseling and I shudder to think what would be said of us right now if we had never invested in our relationship after our engagement. In truth, our marriage would be a nightmare.

I’m grateful that others supported me and helped me to learn ways to communicate effectively, how to plan out my week with my wife, prioritizing biblical values, sexual intimacy, reconciliation, daily encouragement, effective roles, letting go of past hurts, submitting to one another, listening, finances, etc. Many couples get married and do not talk about these issues.

It is no wonder that couples have so many arguments. They approach their relationship with optimism but then they hit a snag after the vows. When conflict arises, they realize that they didn’t prepare for these issues and are shocked when they have no one to turn to. They want to save face, so they keep it “in-house”. They go to church and pretend that everything is fine.

Deep down, however, they are yearning for help so that they can grow. This piece is written for those looking forward to getting married this year but honestly, anyone can get counseling at any point in their relationship. It’s an investment that will reap long-lasting rewards. One spouse can go alone, although it is highly recommended that both attend.

If the couple is healthy, and one spouse wants to process a trauma from their past, then that one spouse should get therapy and may not need to include the other. If the conflict affects both, then both should attend to get therapy. Premarital counseling will prepare the couple so that they will not be blindsided by any potential threats.

Athletes say that the worst hit they take on the field is the one they don’t see coming. With premarital counseling, not only will you be ready for those challenges, but you will also be ready to confront them. Not only will you be ready to confront them but be victorious as a wonderful team. I close out with an encouraging analogy from Jesus on how to build our spiritual homes:

Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.Matthew 7:24-27

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Pre-marital Counseling Questions to Ask Before You Say “I Do”

According to Scripture, marriage is the very first human relationship created by God. Jesus spoke of marriage according to the Old Testament as being one man and one woman united into one flesh. The Apostle Paul exhorted husbands and wives to love, respect, and submit to one another, doing so in reverence to Christ.

The Bible places much emphasis on the institution of marriage as the fundamental relationship in a household. Choosing to enter into this union is both an exciting and sobering time of life.

Pre-Marital Counseling Questions

This article considers several important pre-marital counseling questions that can be asked to give due consideration to the life-changing step you’re about to take by getting married.

These pre-marital counseling questions can be addressed in premarital counseling to help process some of the most important issues related to the decision to get married.

Always remember that two of the most vital considerations in the decision to get married are emotional and spiritual compatibility.

Is this God’s Calling for Me?

Not everyone is destined for marriage. This lifelong commitment comes with responsibilities, privileges, and inherent limitations. Am I truly called to this for life? Can I commit to oneness with my spouse in a partnership that includes physical, emotional, and spiritual components?

Does the future look bright when I consider the two of us moving forward together? Is this person someone I can submit to in the way Scripture discusses, deferring my preferences and making sacrifices for them?

Do Our Personalities Mesh Well?

Do we have complementary personalities, and do we accept each other as we are? Is being around this person enjoyable, and do I find them likable at a basic level? Do we understand each other’s senses of humor?

Also, consider whether you feel emotionally safe enough to be vulnerable with your partner, to speak even unpleasant truths in love. Consider whether you both have the freedom to confront one another in love.

Physical attraction must be considered as well, along with your baseline of common interests and hobbies, and how well you can share a workload together.

What Are We Bringing into Marriage?

The past must be considered in light of how it will affect your future marriage relationship. (See Exodus 20:5-6.) Habitual sins that have not been repented of, or emotional healing that has not taken place, can lead to a repetition of harmful patterns.

Consider the wounds, losses, ways of reacting to the world around you, besetting sins, and expectations that you bring to the relationship. Think about how you and your partner have worked through (or have not worked through) any current issues or past realities. It’s also vital to discuss your families of origin and backgrounds and how they will affect your marriage.

How Do We Communicate?

Are we able to understand and communicate with each other well (James 1:19-20)? When conflict arises, or hurt feelings happen, how do we resolve those things (Ephesians 4:26)?

Are We Spiritually Compatible?

Are we partners in our belief systems? When it comes to my relationship with God, how does this person affect that? Do I feel encouraged to become closer to God, or is it viewed as something incidental or unimportant? Do we pray together and encourage each other to put God first? Do we inspire one another to grow in our faith?

Do We Agree Financially?

Have we discussed our beliefs about managing finances and budgeting (1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17)? How will we merge our finances and manage our spending vs. saving habits?

What Do Others Think?

Do our families, friends, and/or church families affirm our relationship and decision to marry (Ephesians 4:15)? Do we have a support system in place?

Are We Emotionally Mature Enough for Marriage?

Do we display personal and individual emotional maturity (Galatians 5:22-23)? Can we both self-regulate our feelings? Do I view myself as responsible for my own emotions and struggles, and does my partner?

Are we honest and transparent with one another? Do I truly trust this person based on what they’ve done to earn that trust? Do they keep their word and tell the truth? Do either of us struggle with an addiction to anything? If we’ve had these struggles in the past, have we sought help and healing in a way that has allowed for restoration and growth?

Christian Counseling to Prepare for Marriage

If you would like a helpful structure in which to navigate these premarital issues, consider whether Christian counseling might be a valuable resource for you and your future spouse. A Christian counselor shares a similar worldview and value system and is a licensed professional who can guide you through these pre-marital counseling questions and help you discern your readiness for marriage.

Photos
“Engaged”, Courtesy of Ben White, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Hopes and Dreams”, Courtesy of Edward Cisneros, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Married Fight,” courtesy of Gratisography, pexels.com, CC0 License; “God-centered Marriage”, Courtesy of Ben White, Unsplash.com; CC0 License

Pre-Marriage Counseling Topics to Address Before You Tie the Knot

So you’re engaged; now what? Planning and preparing for your marriage (not just your wedding!) is the next step. Although you might find yourself caught up in the excitement and stress of getting ready for your big day, it’s important not to neglect the relational preparation you need to work through with your future spouse.

It’s vital to talk about the beliefs, expectations, and realities that will have an impact on your marriage long after the wedding is over.

Engagement is a time of joy and anticipation, but it can also bring out stress and conflict as plans get underway. So much energy can go into details related to the wedding that a pattern of neglect can form with regard to the relationship itself.

Premarital counseling is a good way to maintain intimacy throughout your engagement. It can help strengthen your relationship and facilitate constructive conversations and intentional preparation for the future.

Pre-Marriage Counseling Topics to Increase Intimacy

Discussing specific marriage-related topics can help you as a couple navigate the transition into marriage in a healthy way. Here are four examples:

1. Communication

Couples who struggle with communication may fear to seek counseling because it might compel them to talk about painful topics. But counseling can be a safe place to work on having open communication between the two of you. It’s a neutral, confidential setting to explore subjects that need discussion, as well as how each of you naturally tends to communicate.

We all have an instinctive communication style we prefer, based on our personalities and the way our parents and family of origin related to one another. We might think that our own communication style is what’s normal for everyone, but it can be shocking to find out that our spouse essentially speaks a different language than we do, and that’s considered “normal” to them.

Because of this, spouses often misunderstand and misinterpret one another just because of their different ways of communicating. There is much room for growth in intentionally learning how your partner communicates and how to speak their language. You can talk about certain phrases you each tend to use and what you mean by them.

Couples often think that their spouse should be able to automatically understand what they’re thinking or feeling. After all, they know each other so well, right? But this just isn’t the case.

We may develop an understanding of our spouse’s patterns over time, but no matter how long we are married, we will never be able to “just know” what another person is thinking or feeling unless they tell us explicitly. Otherwise, incorrect assumptions are inevitable.

When you don’t feel understood by your spouse, you’re much more likely to have communication problems or hurt feelings. As time goes by in your marriage, you’ll grow to understand each other better, but even then be sure to give each other grace for not being mind-readers.

The potential for hurt is actually greater when you feel as though your partner should understand you because of how long you’ve been married or how close you are to each other.

So engagement is the perfect time to start laying a foundation for healthy communication. Learn how to communicate your thoughts and emotions clearly and respectfully. Create habits of open communication, letting your partner know what’s going on with you, without assuming that they already understand.

Creating these communication patterns early on in your relationship gives you practice in handling conflict in a way that is mutually beneficial. Encourage each other and alert yourselves to potential communication breakdowns, especially those based on possibly false assumptions about the other person. Patterns of communication formed over a lifetime are difficult to break, so now is the time to adjust your habits of interaction.

2. Sexuality

In Christian environments, it may seem taboo to mention sexuality, but it’s vital to cover in premarital counseling. Sexuality is about more than the act itself; it’s a powerful instrument of connection between married couples, allowing physical and emotional intimacy to flourish.

Engaged couples often feel that they can skim over the topic of sexuality and that their sexual relationship within marriage will be effortlessly good, but this isn’t always the case.

Each future spouse has expectations, concerns, and questions related to marital intimacy, and premarital counseling is one of the best places to discuss these things. You can reflect on where your assumptions about sex developed (family, friends, education, etc.) and what expectations you’re bringing in to your marriage.

It’s important to discuss how you will cultivate your sexual relationship within marriage, along with any concerns or curiosities you may be bringing into it. Depending on your comfort level, set some intentional time aside to discuss physical intimacy and how it will progress after your wedding day.

Don’t forget to discuss the practical matters too. What about birth control? How will this affect your relationship and any future plans to have children? Also, consider privacy and how it will be to live together if you have not already cohabitated. It can be quite an adjustment going from having your own space, even with your family of origin or a roommate, to sharing everything with a spouse.

As a couple, what can you talk about now that will make these adjustments easier? How much privacy do you each prefer? Contrary to expectations for a perfect Hollywood-esque relationship, real marriage can be hard, and busy schedules can make it difficult to carve out time for a spontaneous, exciting love life. Although it may seem less romantic, it’s often important to be very intentional in setting aside time for physical intimacy.

 3. Inner World

This is an opportunity to discuss your desire for your spouse to know and understand you deeply. Although you probably have this desire, it can also be frightening to be known this closely. In order to be close and increase intimacy, vulnerability is required. You have to let your spouse in.

A way to start doing this to explore each other’s inner world. This means getting to know your partner’s hopes, dreams, likes, dislikes, fears, and anything related to their preferences and desires.

Drs. John and Julie Gottman have described this process as creating “love maps.” Dr. John Gottman’s research has indicated that couples whose love maps are detailed tend to have stronger and more intimate relationships than those with less developed love maps.

This process of getting to know one another’s inner worlds is an ongoing activity that should characterize your marriage over the course of your lives. In the same way that a city changes over time, with new construction and expansions, our inner worlds do the same.

It takes work to get to know your spouse’s deepest desires, dreams, and fears, and when you do this, you’re creating your “love map” of their inner world. Love maps increase intimacy, because not only are you getting to know your spouse better, you’re investing time and value into the process.

Intentionally seeking greater intimate knowledge of your spouse should be at times that are relaxed, when both partners feel safe and comfortable (i.e., not during a conflict) and able to absorb what the other person is sharing. It’s a good addition to a date night. You can make it more structured by taking turns asking each other questions and discussing memories, struggles, joys, hopes, fears, and dreams.

Inner worlds are complex, layered, and only reveal themselves with time and effort. Life changes shape the details of our inner worlds. In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. Gottman says, “If you don’t start off with a deep knowledge of each other, it’s easy for your marriage to lose its way when your lives shift so suddenly and dramatically.”

For this reason, it’s best to create the habit of getting to know each other’s inner worlds early on in your relationship. Then you will have the tools to learn new things about your spouse throughout your marriage, which you can add to your “love map” of them.

4. Conflict Management

For some people, talking about conflict might seem counterintuitive. Oftentimes couples have the idea that the less conflict, the better; if they just got rid of conflict altogether, they would have a much better relationship.

But this isn’t the case. Conflict isn’t a bad thing that should be avoided at all costs. Instead, it’s an inevitable aspect of every human relationship, and handling it in a healthy way offers a key opportunity for genuine intimacy.

Conflict is unavoidable at some level, but the way you achieve intimacy through conflict lies in how you deal with it. Equipping yourselves with healthy conflict management skills gives you a chance to resolve issues without hurting each other emotionally. This way you can learn to understand your spouse in a deeper way, without leaving scars from hurtful conflict.

If there is a topic you know is likely to cause conflict, learning how to approach it without being on the defensive is an invaluable skill. Conflict does not have to turn into an ugly argument or be avoided altogether; instead, it can be resolved in a healthy way, and this knowledge can make each partner in the relationship feel more hopeful and confident when approaching difficult topics.

A willingness to examine current conflict patterns in your relationship is a helpful first step. You can identify any patterns that are destructive and that serve to escalate disagreements rather than settling them.

Once you’ve identified these patterns, you both can work on changing them to more constructive ways of dealing with the situation, allowing you to resolve disagreements in a way that allows for growth and intimacy.

A Christian Pre-Marriage Counseling Perspective

A Christian counselor can help facilitate these conversations, leading to the best outcome for both of you as you work toward greater intimacy. Depending on which topics you’re discussing, a counselor may give you extra materials, education, or practical exercises to work on the strengths and weaknesses of your relationship.

Every relationship has both strong points and areas where growth is needed, and addressing these points early on will allow you to build a strong foundation of intimacy.

One of the main objectives of premarital counseling is for the counselor to help you discover the preconceived notions and expectations you each bring to the intended marriage. This is a way for couples to get to know one another and possibly grow closer than they have been before.

Vulnerability opens the door to intimacy, allowing a beautiful chance for growth and flourishing. God’s desire is for married couples to experience oneness and openness through being intimate with one another.

This sacred unity develops over a lifetime, as both learn to submit to one another and to Christ. He uses this journey to transform us to be more like Him, which is part of His intended purpose in creating marriage.

Please remember that no couple is going to master and flawlessly implement perfect communication skills, love maps, or conflict resolution, especially before the wedding has even taken place.

Premarital counseling is simply a place to begin, and to give you knowledge and tools to help you with the transition into marriage. It allows you to be more aware of patterns in your relationship and the tools you’ll need for growth both now and in the future.

But growth always takes time, and it’s very normal for a marriage to take at least a year to settle into a comfortable harmony and flow.  Marriage is a constantly-changing, ever-evolving journey of growing in intimacy, communication, and love.

The premarital counselor is simply a facilitator of discussions that will hopefully continue throughout your marriage as you resolve conflicts, get to know each other’s inner worlds and build a stronger relationship.

If you are engaged or planning to be soon, and you think premarital counseling could be beneficial for your relationship, let us know how we can work with you to prepare you for a godly marriage.
 

Photos
“Engaged”, Courtesy of Ben White, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Conversation”, courtesy of Christin Hume, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Hopes and Dreams”, Courtesy of Edward Cisneros, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Lightning”, Courtesy of Casey Horner, Unsplash.com; CC0 License

How Premarital Counseling Can Save Your Marriage Before it Starts

The days leading up to a wedding are packed full of visiting venues, tasting dishes from different caterers, selecting a cake, and finding the perfect gown to walk down the aisle in. In the flurry of activity, the most important to-do item is often overlooked — premarital counseling.

Dating and engagement are often times of infatuation. You love your partner’s loud laugh and the way he has a laid-back attitude toward life. Your heart melts a little when he smiles at you. Every moment together is thrilling and you feel like life with him will be a dream come true.

Fast forward to three years into marriage and you suddenly notice stark differences between yourselves, the things you once thought were adorable about your spouse annoy you, finances are putting a strain on romance and communication becomes a strenuous activity.

Why You Should Seriously Consider Premarital Counseling

Once you say your vows at the altar, there’s no going back. If you are going tospend the rest of your life with someone, shouldn’t you take the time to discuss in detail your desires and mindsets? Some couples wed because they make each other happy, but what happens when those feelings fade?

A Christian counselor in Newport Beach can help you gain a larger perspective on your relationship. A counselor might reveal to you a blind spot that’s been overlooked during the dating and engagement season. Agreeing to go to counseling can help you begin building your marriage on Christ’s solid foundation.

5 Reasons Why Pre Marriage Counseling Should Be Required

Matthew 9:6 tells us that when a husband and wife get married they become one, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

But becoming one isn’t always as seamless as it sounds. Two people living independent lives are suddenly thrown into a marriage where decisions and actions must be discussed and agreed upon together. Premarital counseling can help you ease into those early days of navigating married life.

The following is a list of five reasons why premarital counseling should be a top priority for seriously dating or engaged couples.

1. Identify conflict resolution styles

Chances are you and your partner have different views on how to resolve a conflict. Maybe you grew up in a household where your dad had an angry outburst, gave the silent treatment and then once his mood passed everything went back to normal. The conflict was never appropriately addressed. On the other hand, maybe you saw your parents address conflict immediately and openly.

Finding common ground with your future spouse on how to best solve conflict will give you a leg up in marriage. Conflict is inevitable when you are in a relationship. Maybe the wife needs thirty minutes of alone time to collect her thoughts and the husband is adamant about addressing the conflict immediately.

A middle ground can be reached to make sure both people are resolving the conflict in a healthy, beneficial way. Counseling gives you a safe place to create a plan before the conflicts arise.

2. Ask the hard questions in a safe place

Counseling sessions are known to bring the critical but tough questions to the table. The questions force you to plunge below the surface of your relationship and uncover your personal beliefs that may have been minimized during dating.

When you are blinded by wedded bliss you might forget to ask about when to have children, how to discipline the kids, who will provide financially, how will you split household chores, what church will you attend, and how to manage finances effectively.

3. Take the opportunity to grow in love

During the Passover Festival, Jesus knelt before his disciples and, in an act of true humility, washed their feet. “It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

In John 13:1, the words “he loved them to the end” jump off the page. The same statement can be applied to marriage. Spouses are called to love like Jesus which means loving each other to the end.

Love is more than a feeling. Feelings fizzle out, but commitment provides a place for your love to grow and flourish. You don’t want your love to be like the leaves on a tree. As soon as the wind blows and hard times hit, the leaves vanish. You want a love like the roots of a tree.

The hurricane winds may come and bend your marriage, but it won’t break it. Roots mature over years of marriage, but the roots grow a little deeper during premarital counseling. It takes effort and energy to continue to grow those roots past the early stages of romance.

4. Marriage lasts the rest of your life

Brides and grooms spend countless hours and dollars to host the wedding of their dreams. Pinterest helps brides plan their perfect wedding and the wedding industry responds with sky-high pricing. If you want to put that much time and money into one day, wouldn’t you want to invest into the days that follow?

Marriage is definitely worth celebrating, but not at the expense of life after marriage. Premarital counseling makes sure you are both on the same page before racing off to your honeymoon. You can walk down the aisle with more confidence knowing you invested time into the important topics that will shape the future you share with your spouse.

5. God honors marriages that glorify Him

God is the author of our lives and the designer of marriage. Marriage will refine you and mold you in new ways. You will experience the valleys and the mountaintops with your spouse. A marriage blessed and strengthened by the Lord can withstand the storms. Marriage is a high and difficult calling, but everything our Lord calls us to He also empowers us to accomplish.

Get Wisdom from those Around You

A Newport Beach Christian counselor can equip and empower you to step into marriage knowing your spouse on a deeper level. Marital love is an expression of humility and self-sacrifice that brings honor to our Heavenly Father.

Your marriage can be an example to others of Jesus’ love for the church. If you are engaged to be married or seriously dating, consider investing some time to experience the benefits of premarital counseling.

 

Photos
“Forgiveness,” courtesy of David Nunez, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Committed,” courtesy of Zoriana Stakhniv, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “To have and to hold,” courtesy of Jon Asato, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Jesse & Terry,” courtesy of Vanessa Porter, Flickr Creative Commons, CC by 2.0 

Rediscovering God’s View of Marriage

In society today, we’re bombarded by various opinions, agendas, and worldviews. We’re constantly fed messages by social media, politics, the news, and the neighbors next door. Sometimes in the midst of the many voices, we lose sight of truth. Let’s take a few moments to get back to the basics, particularly pertaining to God’s view of marriage.

What Does the Bible Say About God’s View of Marriage?

In Mark 10:8, we read that a marriage means that two people have become united as one flesh. So in a Christian marriage, does this mean the spouses do not retain individual identities? Does the Creator of the universe ask us to sacrifice our individuality when we take our marriage vows?

The short answer is “no.” Marriages do not flourish when spouses become so enmeshed that their individual personalities are lost. Each one of us is a unique person with our own goals and desires and that doesn’t change we get married.

A healthy marriage requires two partners who experience personal growth along their growth as a couple in intimacy and love. This is a difficult task and requires a careful balance. There has to be individual development along with an increasing bond with one’s spouse.

Do we see this tension in Scripture? Let’s look at Paul’s metaphor of the body and apply it to the unity of a Christian marriage. In 1 Corinthians, Paul describes the fellowship of believers functioning together as one body made up of many individuals. A body made up of only one member, like a foot, wouldn’t function effectively.

Rather, the entire body must work in sync and each part has to have its own purpose and identity (1 Cor. 12:12-31). The body of Christ is made up of all of these different parts working together towards the same goal.

Differentiation and Christian Marriage

We can apply this principle not only to a church community but also to a married couple. This will help us understand Jesus’ teaching that “two become one” in the covenant of marriage. I believe this means that by cultivating intimacy with our spouse, we became more fully united to them, as opposed to being “blended” with them. The most fruitful, godly marriages are made up of two people who are committed to personal growth and growth as a couple.

In his marital help book Passionate Marriage, Dr. David Schnarch describes this process as differentiation. Differentiation is the process of becoming yourself more fully as you engage in relationships with others, and particularly with your spouse.

Differentiation is the balance between the drive for personal growth and the desire to fellowship with others (55). This process should not make anyone into a loner. Instead, it makes our emotional bonds deeper and helps us develop holistically and healthily as individuals. It gives us an integrated “self-in-relation” that is unaffected by our circumstances.

Ultimately, differentiation allows us to grind off our “rough edges” and be ourselves more fully while we learn to love our spouse more (51).

Schnarch also describes the background of the word differentiation. It’s rooted in biology and refers to the process by which cells develop. All living cells originate from the same matter. As time passes, the cells differentiate—meaning, they take on their own individual properties. At this point, each cell “performs separate but related functions.”

Does this remind you of how Paul describes the body in 1 Corinthians? Schnarch adds: “The greater the differentiation, the more sophisticated and adaptive the life form” (62)—in other words, the more well-differentiated a life form is, the more it can adjust to challenging circumstances.

In the same way, people who are well-differentiated are secure in their personal identity, instead of relying on others to define them. When they are in a relationship, well-differentiated people can navigate conflict effectively because they have a grounded sense of self (55).

On the other hand, people who lack differentiation draw their sense of identity from those around them. They require validation from others in order to feel at peace with themselves. This is called developing a “contingent identity” (59).

People who have formed a contingent attachment lose their sense of self apart from their relationships. This causes them to have a great fear of changes in their relationship or in their partner’s emotions or moods.

How Christian Marriage Counseling Can Help You Differentiate

Differentiation is not a destination that can be reached overnight. Instead, it’s a journey toward a healthy sense of self, both individually and in relation to others. It’s a difficult process that requires a lot of work, including some decisions that may be uncomfortable.

This isn’t the easiest way to work on your marriage, but it is incredibly fruitful and will enable you to enjoy a much more fulfilling relationship with your spouse.

Becoming well-differentiated is a nuanced process, which means that it involves subtle complexities that can be confusing. How can you grow as a person and bond with your spouse at the same time? How can you develop a more grounded sense of self while still being “one flesh” in your marriage?

These questions are complicated, and there are no one-size-fits-all answers. If you think you need to work on this process in your marriage, a Christian counselor Newport Beach can help you wade through some of the complexities.

Whether you are just starting out or have been married for years, a qualified Christian counselor can provide you with the guidance and support you are seeking. Please do not hesitate to contact us for more information about setting up an appointment with one of our marriage specialists.

Photos
“Out for a Walk,” courtesy of Vladimir Kudinov, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Reconciled,” courtesy of Priscilla du Preez, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Committed,” courtesy of freestocks.org, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Field gazing,” courtesy of unsplash.com, pexels.com, CC0 License