I’ve talked about the benefits of counseling before. As a single, I spent time with a counselor, working through some things where I needed some perspective. Tyler had a similar experience, so when we got engaged, we were both committed to doing pre-marital counseling. We worked through a book on our own, and then we went through a book with our pastor over the course of seven or eight weeks. Here are a few of the reasons why I’m glad we made pre-marital counseling a priority.
1. Sometimes it’s easier to process something with a third party. In a marriage you have to be able to talk about everything, but it takes time to build up the trust and intimacy to do that. And sometimes you don’t know what things you should be talking about and when during your dating and engagement it’s appropriate. A good counselor will know what questions to ask the two of you, and they can encourage you to share and discuss topics that might be awkward or uncomfortable.
2. It establishes an open line of communication with a pastor/counselor if you need it later. Learning how to openly talk about issues with our pastor, Mark, was a really good habit for us early on in our engagement. Because we established a relationship with him and as our pastor, he is invested in our marriage. We know his door is always open as we learn and grow in our marriage.
During one of our meetings, we asked Mark and his wife, Alice, all kinds of questions about the impact of full-time ministry on their marriage. As Tyler gets closer to finishing seminary and that becomes a reality for us, we have talked with Mark about that several times in the five months we’ve been married. As a young couple, it’s nice to know there is someone available to help us work through stuff when we need it. In some ways the real work of counseling begins once you’re actually married and see first-hand where you could use a counselor’s help or input.
3. Pre-marital counseling won’t eliminate conflict, but it will help you anticipate it. No marriage is without conflict, and we saw what our sources of conflict would be as we went through the pre-marital book with our pastor. We covered things like family history, communication, sexual expectations, finances, and child-rearing. On some issues we were coming from vastly different experiences and knew those areas could be potential sources of conflict. We both knew that finances would be an issue of stress based on when we talked about that during pre-marital counseling, and that has proven to be true in our marriage as well. That doesn’t mean we solved the problem and talking about money is always rainbows and unicorns, but it did help us anticipate it and be able to be patient and kind to one another when conflict makes us act a little crazy.
If you’re engaged or considering engagement, we at Boundless highly recommend pre-engagement or pre-marital counseling. Tyler and I worked through the book Preparing for Marriage published by Family Life Today, which was a helpful guide. There is also a new resource from Focus on the Family: Ready to Wed book and DVD series.
Pre-marital counseling is sort of like training for a 5K race. Sure, you might be able to finish the race without much training, but wouldn’t it be much easier if you trained and actually ran a few miles ahead of time? Counseling is a really valuable part of preparing for marriage and will make it easier to actually run the race and run it well.