I am currently having pre-marriage counseling with about four couples and I will be marrying another couple this Saturday. It seems like everybody wants to get married.
I love weddings. Everyone’s so pretty and romance is in the air. However, I have done enough post-marital counseling to have a little pessimism in me. I’ve never met a couple who didn’t want to stay married the rest of their lives. But many of them don’t. Things change and people change.
I don’t think there is anything a person can do to prevent a failed marriage. But I do think there are some things a person can do to make the odds better.
I’m a runner. I’ve only entered one race, a marathon, but I know one thing about running a long distance – you have to prepare. It’s easy to sign-up for the marathon. But if all you do is set the date and show up, you will not finish the race. Couples can set a date and think they are all ready for the wedding, but if they have not prepared for the marriage they will end in failure.
Some couples think they can get married and it will all work out. That’s really stupid. You can’t train for a marathon while you’re running a marathon – unless you use your failure to begin the training for your next marathon (which is what many couples end up doing). If you want your marriage to be a sprint, no problem! Just show up and run as long as you can and give up. But if you want your marriage to last your lifetime, you’ve got to prepare.
When Judy and I were planning our wedding, we went through pre-marriage counseling. Boy did that make me feel inadequate – because I was. I wasn’t ready for marriage and the counseling let me know it. So I began to read everything I could on being a good husband. I probably read 5-6 books about being a good husband the summer we got married. I wasn’t the perfect husband (just ask Judy), but I was better prepared for the marriage relationship.
Some people think that marriage is just an upgrade from dating. It’s a different world from dating. Others think since they have lived together they are more prepared to face the marriage better than those who don’t. That’s a lie and every statistic I’ve seen backs it up. If a couple lives together prior to marriage they have less a chance of success than those who don’t. Why? Because marriage is not based on compatibility. Ask most married couples and they will tell you that opposites attract and they are living proof. Marriage is not based on compatibility – it is based on commitment. And living together eats at commitment. So instead of building the relationship it tears it down.
So, how can a couple prepare for marriage? I’ll just give you a few. And if you’re already married, you can still work on these.
1. Take a premarital inventory.
I have done this with all the couples I’ve married. And I’ve paid for all my married children to go through this. The program I use is PREPARE. It helps you discover the strengths and growth areas of your relationship. There is also an inventory for married couples called ENGAGE.
2. Work with an older, solid married couple to talk through issues.
Too many couples do not have solid married couple they can pattern their life after. No couple is perfect. But when a couple has been married for years, they have some wisdom on how to deal with problems that creep up. Every married couple is different, but most couples face the same kind of problems. If I could, I would have every engaged couple sit down with another married couple who has been married at least 35 years and another couple who has had a failed marriage in their past. It’s better to learn from another couple’s tragedy than learn from your own.
3. Get involved in a church and concentrate on your relationship with Jesus.
There’s an old saying, ‘The family that prays together, stays together.’ That is really true. Don’t pick a church to attend just because the building would be great for your wedding pictures. Find a church that will help you grow in your love for Jesus. I’m going to tell you something that you may not believe. One day, your physical appearance is not going to be as attractive as it is prior to marriage. Time has a way of tearing us down. And your emotions will not always be drawing you together. There will be days when you just can’t stand the person you decided to marry. So, your body & soul (emotions) will be pulling you apart. You need a strong spirit to keep you together. You need Jesus! He is for you! There is no one who wants a marriage to succeed more than Jesus.
Whether you’re planning on getting married or have been married for years, I hope these have helped you.
Have you found other considerations that need to be dealt with before a person gets married?