A great adventure is about to begin! However, just like any adventure in life can be better prepared for, rather than just showing up and seeing how it all plays out, so too, can you take steps right now to ensure a smoother journey ahead for you and your beloved.
I am sure you have a million questions, and unfortunately, most of those will go unanswered until you actually see those events in your mind playing out in real time. There are a few things that no one can teach you or provide a “How To” manual for, but thankfully, God is always present, He is all-knowing, and He promises to never leave you or forsake you – whether the season of life be favorable or challenging to your faith and relationship.
What are some of the things that do not come with an instruction manual? In-laws. We all hope and pray that we will be blessed with the ideal in-laws, don’t we? In our hearts, we yearn for marriage to consist of adoption into a second family; an enhancement to our lives, harmonious relationships that are effortless and present, etc.
I hope and pray this is a reality for you! However, unfortunately, this will not be a reality for everyone. What happens when your new spouse’s default is to call their mother, instead of first discussing the matter with you? What if you cannot do something as efficiently as her father or older brothers would do it?
Do the new in-laws even like you and welcome you into the family? Or are there in touch in-laws at all, to even help you glean some insight into your new spouse’s world? These are all things we tend to just brush to the side and deal with later on, but just this one single topic of in-laws can either wreak havoc on a new marriage or enhance and bless the new covenant.
Do you have thoughts and concerns about your soon-to-be spouse’s relationship with his/her family? It will help to get those concerns out into the open with an unbiased third party (counselor) so that we can set the stage for a healthy relationship from the get-go.
One thing that I tell my premarital couples, is that we are starting this marriage from a place of absolutes. We will not even allow the “D” word into our vocabulary, because we are making a covenant with God and promising to work as hard as we need to in order to make this relationship work.
This can be quite challenging, because our hearts are prone to wander, and we are prone to becoming discontent and disengaged grumblers who compare our lives to those around us. However, if we take the option of divorce off the table right away, we will be more apt to put in the effort and humble surrender to God on behalf of the health of our marriage.
Obviously, if infidelity or abuse enters the picture at some point down the road, this topic changes – but for the sake of this article, we are assuming that your relationship consists of everyday challenges that are typical among two unique individuals whom love each other and want to invest in a thriving marriage for the rest of their lives.
Topics for Premarital Counseling
What are some topics that are worth discussing in premarital counseling? First, let’s begin with each person’s definition of commitment. What does commitment mean to you? How have you seen commitment throughout your family system and throughout your life? Making a commitment is the first step, and following through every single day with that commitment is the next.
What are your goals for the future? If she has ideas of having her own business and living in a different region than you both live now, this is something that needs to be discussed in advance. Do you both want to live near families of origin? Do you both want to be working full-time?
Are children in the future picture? These topics are worthy of discussion in the early stages of the relationship because they will have an enormous impact on the relationship down the line.
What are your expectations for marriage? What will time with friends look like after you say “I Do”? Is there any discomfort concerning a salary differential among the both of you? Do you identify as an extravert while your spouse seems to be more introverted? If so, will you be clear on how to navigate alone time versus time spent together or with friends or family?
What are the expectations concerning family planning and who will stay home, who will take on a certain role, etc? Most of these concepts will naturally play out as the time comes, but they are certainly worth discussing in this stage of the relationship as to avoid unneeded conflict later on down the road.
There are two specific topics that will likely be ongoing and ever evolving in a relationship: Finances and Intimacy. We could spend several sessions on these two areas alone, and for good reason. They can make or break a marriage!
Let’s discuss finances first. Who will pay the bills? Will full financial disclosure about your individual, personal financial situation happen? How will you guys resolve disagreements concerning the expenditure of money? How much money do you each need to have in savings in order to feel secure? What are your views on debt? This last one is a real doozy.
My husband and I each had differing views on debt when we first met. It was really interesting! He was adamantly against debt, and because I grew up in Southern California with a culture of “to have debt is to be American. Nothing out of the ordinary here.”
My parents divorced when I was young, and the topic of money was never discussed with me in a productive manner, and I saw that our family didn’t seem to feel one way or the other about debt. Thus, I did not think there was anything especially wrong with debt.
My husband, however, saw struggles with finances in his family of origins, and he didn’t want the same for our new family, so we came to an agreement that we would (for all topics, not just debt, but this is where it really paid off) – use the Bible as the tiebreaker.
So here I am, totally fine with us being like every other American and in way over our heads with debt, and here is my husband, who does not want us to rely on credit cards, loans, etc.
When we looked to the Bible to see what God’s view of debt is, here is what we found:
Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another. – Romans 13:8
The rich rules over the poor and the borrower is the slave of the lender. – Proverbs 22:7
The wicked borrows and does not repay, but the righteous shows mercy and gives. – Psalm 32:21
Obviously, God came to set us free and when we are in debt, we are never truly free. We will always owe someone else. They will always have some sort of power over us. Thus, because my heart was not aligned with the Word of God, I made a commitment to my husband that we would pray together for God to change my heart and enable me to become aligned with His Word and His will.
It took a few months of praying for this to happen, but it did happen! I want to encourage you to do the same, no matter what the topic is. If you feel as though you’re falling out of love with your new spouse at any point, pray and ask God to renew that love within you!
Pray and ask God to bring answers where there is confusion; invite Him into your marriage in every area, and I promise you that He will bring you direction and help if you are wholeheartedly depending on Him to do just that.
Next up: intimacy. This is an uncomfortable topic for most, but it does not have to be. What is the desired frequency of intimacy for each of you? How will you deal with dry spells wherein one partner does not want to engage sexually with the other? What are your individual preferences in the bedroom? What are your views on sex? What are your views on dealing with sexual temptation outside of the marriage, etc?
These are complicated and uncomfortable things to discuss at times, but they still need to be addressed. Does one partner feel rejected or triggered by a certain type of behavior in the bedroom? Is your love language acts of services versus physical touch? Or words of affirmation versus quality time?
There is more to intimacy than just the sexual variety. How will you cultivate emotional intimacy? This is so important for not just women (though, we usually see this being the bigger issue for women), but sometimes men will need more emotional or intellectual connection before wanting to engage physically.
It tends to be a lot harder for a woman to “get in the mood” for physical intimacy if the emotional connection has not been stimulated first. Will you be affectionate in front of friends, family members or future children? If not, why? If so, why? How did you see physical affection displayed throughout your childhood?
Spirituality and conflict are two more areas that require a lot of attention and consideration. What does spirituality mean to each of you? What are the expectations concerning involvement in a spiritual community? If you believe that the man should be the spiritual leader of the household, what exactly does that look like? Do you agree on what that should entail? It is important to be in agreement concerning spiritual matters. Here is what the Bible says about it:
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living god. As God has said, “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. – 2 Cor. 6:14-16
Concerning conflict – what did you each witness concerning conflict in your childhood homes? If you’re entering into counseling with me, we will spend a lot of time in this area, because we have likely adopted varying views of conflict throughout our lifespan, and we may be prone to causing damage in conflict as opposed to having productive, intimacy-building conflict as God intended us to do.
Good conflict should not seek to demoralize or demean the other person for the sake of us being “right”; a good conflict will seek to hear both sides, and calmly, make a decision to pursue one direction together, as a team.
One of the most important things I can emphasize to you right now in your relationship is to remember that you are both on the same team. Ultimately, you’re both striving for the same goal and end result in most areas of the relationship; your methods of arriving at that goal may be different, but we must focus on the goal itself and a united front in getting there.
There are so many topics that need to be discussed and considered, that is will be difficult to include them all within this article! Thus, if you are on you way down the aisle soon and you would like to begin the process of creating a healthy marriage before it begins, please get in touch right away with a Seattle Christian Counselor so that we can help you achieve this.
God created marriage to bring Him glory and to directly reflect a covenant love and relationship among each other, as to remind us of the covenant love and relationship we have with Him. He is with you and He is for you! Reach out today so that together, we can find answers to your questions and invite Him into the very foundation of this new covenant.
“Engaged!”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “In Love”, Courtesy of Jenny Marvin, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Heart Shell”, Courtesy of Aaron Burden, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Walking on Water”, Courtesy of Azrul Aziz, Unsplash.com, CC0 License