Getting married? Have you thought about premarital counseling? Here are 4 tips to help you maximize your pre-marital experience from the couple who helped prepare Chip and Joanna Gaines for marriage.
Over the past 25 years, we have journeyed with thousands of couples, including Chip and Joanna Gaines, through marriage preparation. As the wedding countdown begins for you, we hope marriage will be as rewarding and fulfilling for you as it has been for us.
Before we dive in, we want you to consider using a term the church has used for centuries—marriage preparation—instead of premarital counseling.
Think of marriage prep more as an educational opportunity rather than a matter of mental health/wellness. Additional individual or couple’s counseling may be needed to deal with past hurts or issues like anxiety, sexual abuse, depression, or wounds caused by family members, but this type of counseling requires a trained and licensed professional.
In marriage prep, we walk through contemporary issues, sharpen your relational skills, and feature biblical principles to guide you through living out your solemn vows.
Here are our four tips:
- Consider the Pressure
We have seen many men who are so ready to be married. But it’s not only their inner desires that drive them—it’s the external pressure faced from singleness, grandparents, family, church friends, etc. to give a girlfriend her “ring by spring.”
These pressures—both internal and external—all build up. They push us. They pull us. They distract us. They are like a car riding our rear bumper on the freeway, pushing us to go faster.
It is good for us to slow down and think through where we are headed. To be intentional. To ask the right questions. To contemplate the questions behind the questions. Marriage prep prompts this reflection.
God isn’t intimidated by our questions. He welcomes them. It is through our questions and considerations that we see God working. Faith is developed.
It requires faith and intentionality. Don’t shortcut the process.
Driving questions to consider:
- What is pushing me to get married? What excites me the most?
- Are our parents for or against the marriage? Does it really matter if they are in favor?
- What do I need to know to have a meaningful and satisfying marriage? Why are dynamic relationships valuable to life?
- Consider the Foundation
Marriage prep helps you to “know thyself” and be secure with who you are before you enter a sacred commitment. You see, your core values shape your foundational assumptions for a healthy marriage.
In searching for answers to life’s questions, it’s best to look at the model of humanity, Jesus. Reading about His life, we find several “marks of adulthood” that did not exist during His childhood. His conduct in the Book of Luke helps us see that, in response to hard questions, He was able to think and communicate about important life issues without getting caught up in childish games.
Later in Jesus’ life, we see several other marks that identify Jesus’ maturity:
- His conduct was acceptable and appropriate.
- He considered others as more important than Himself.
- He was trusted to do what He said He was going to do.
The accounts of Jesus’ life help shape a correct opinion of God in our hearts and minds.
And as we mature, the same integrity that Jesus demonstrated should increasingly mark our character as well. If you’re going to love someone for the rest of your life, doesn’t it make sense that you be able to be mature and to take responsibility for not only your own life, but to look out for the other’s life, too?
Jesus said, “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought…You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.” (Matthew 5:5 & 8, The Message)
Marriage prep can help you get your inside world put right. It’s foundational!
Driving questions to consider:
- What is it you believe to be true about life? What drives you? Helps you determine right or wrong?
- How do these influence your current relationship?
- Do your actions match your beliefs?
- Consider the Expectations
Expectations. We all have them, whether they’re written down or floating in our heads.
Unrealistic expectations can be destructive and discouraging in a new marriage. Often, we focus on the veneer—the thin, polished, surface stuff. Instead of focusing on the veneer, focus on character, values, calling, and personal beliefs about God and life. Marriage prep helps a couple go deeper and gets them on the same page regarding the things that matter most.
God’s expectations for marriage include:
- Sanctification: Marriage will change us for the better.
- Servanthood: Marriage enables us to serve someone else.
- Spiritual growth: Marriage places us under the mutual spirit of love.
- Model: Christians need to see marriage as a picture of Christ’s relationship to the church.
Thankfully, like a teacher encouraging students to ask questions, James offers this: “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).
Wisdom. True insight into life.
Marriage prep provides space to reflect on whether your expectations are realistic in regard to your future relationship and the wisdom to know that Mr. or Mrs. Right is not a superhero nor a savior. Learn to accept him or her.
Driving questions to consider:
- What are some expectations you have for marriage? Do these match God’s expectations for marriage?
- What are the questions I am asking of our relationship? Are they the right ones?
- Why does disillusionment come when the honeymoon is over? How can disillusionment lead to fulfillment and satisfaction?
- Consider the Options
The days prior to a wedding can be hectic. One of the biggest mistakes many couples make is collecting great resources and then becoming overwhelmed by the amount of information gathered. Oftentimes, the resources are placed on a shelf only to be retrieved during a major crisis several years later—often too little, too late—when the damage is already done.
We highly encourage couples to participate in marriage preparation through one of these options:
- 8-session study on preparing for a godly marriage – We have written a Bible study workbook, To Have and To Hold, published by LifeWay. It is a great resource for couples leading up to their vows.
- Weekly Class – This is often done in a small group setting with a leader couple facilitating discussion. The idea is to provide a springboard of conversation for the engaged couple.
- Weekend Retreat – This is a condensed version of a class done in a relaxed retreat setting. Before and after the retreat, a couple will work through course content.
- One-on-One – Meet individually with a pastor or mentor.
So, as you prepare for your marriage, make time in your calendar. Grow in your understanding of Jesus Christ as your family becomes a priority. Allow the Holy Spirit to be Teacher, Instructor, Guide, Counselor, and Coach as you discover biblical principles that govern the way life can be lived to the fullest.
As you meet at the altar, may your wedding day fulfill your dreams; but more importantly, may you be adequately prepared to fulfill your vow—and enjoy the process. Have fun! The BEST is yet to come!
Byron and Carla are the Co-Founders/Executive Directors of Legacy Family Ministries. They are the authors of To Have and To Hold: Preparing for a Godly Marriage—a marriage prep Bible Study workbook. They have written and developed various marriage prep resources over the past 25 years while working directly with pre-engaged and engaged couples. They live in Waco, Texas.