The Resilient Marriage

Why Premarital Counseling?

Improve Your Relationship With Premarital Counseling

Premarital counseling can be an essential wedding gift a couple can receive. With premarital counseling, you can make instant improvements in your relationship and build a foundation for a long and happy marriage, benefiting from the fulness of marriage that God intends.

These are some of the significant benefits of premarital counseling and suggestions for getting the most out of your sessions.

Significant Benefits of Premarital Counseling

  1. Decide if you’re ready to get married. Go into premarital counseling with an open mind. Even if you discover that you and your partner may need to delay the wedding while you work on some issues, it’s much better to move ahead strategically than to stick to an arbitrary schedule.

  2. Set realistic expectations. Getting caught up in Hollywood notions of romance and fairy tale endings is easy. An in-depth discussion with your partner with input from a trained and objective expert can do a world of good in helping you to separate fact from fantasy. It enables you to prepare for the daily realities of sharing your lives.

  3. Communicate better. Skillful communication keeps a promising relationship on track. By understanding the basic principles, you’ll avoid common pitfalls. With practice, you’ll discover how to give each other the support and validation you seek from one another.

  4. Learn constructive conflict resolution skills. Disagreements are bound to arise as you manage the pressures of balancing careers, kids, and in-laws. By focusing on win-win solutions rather than getting your way, you’ll grow closer instead of drifting apart.

  5. Understand the stages of marriage. Most marriages move through predictable stages between the honeymoon and sharing your golden years. The rocky times will be easier to endure if you know that many couples work through temporary disillusionments and setbacks.

  6. Become a better role model for your kids. When you feel stable and resilient, you give your children an environment where they feel loved and secure. Your children will likely imitate your good habits as they grow up and find their life partners.

How to Make the Most of Premarital Counseling

  1. Examine your attitude about therapy. Society has come a long way in recent decades, but there’s still some stigma attached to psychological counseling. Try looking at premarital preparation the same way you must take a driving test before getting a license.

  2. Find the right counselor for you. Many people receive premarital counseling as part of the preparations offered by their religious tradition. You can ask family and friends for referrals if you prefer a religious or secular approach. The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy may also be a starting point for finding a therapist.

  3. Get an early start. Studies show that the year before your wedding is a prime time to start working on your relationship – while you’re still highly motivated and before bad habits set in. The first six months of marriage are also a productive window of opportunity.

  4. Take an inventory. Most premarital/Pastoral counselors will start by asking you to take an inventory. This inventory will give you a road map to identify your areas of strength and weakness and see where you need to focus your efforts.

  5. Supplement with marriage education classes. Targeted classes and workshops can be helpful on their own or as a complement to counseling. You’ll learn the fundamental ingredients for a healthy marriage and how to develop key skills, such as the importance of healthy communication.

  6. Practice what you learn. For premarital counseling to make a lasting difference, you must apply what you learn. You and your spouse can write your goals and monitor your progress together.

According to some studies, premarital counseling can improve your chances of staying together by 30% or more. Enjoy many years of wedded bliss by getting your marriage off to a healthy start!

To schedule your premarital assessment, please hit the contact button and learn how to thrive as you build a life together in marriage!

                                                            

The Resilient Marriage

Togetherness

There are several ideas about what makes a marriage strong. McLanahan, Donahue & Haskins (2005) share that some believe healthy marriages consist of either strong commitment, low conflict, or one that “provides economic and social security” (p. 3). Others, such as those found in the PREPARE/ENRICH (Olson, 2009) assessment, posit that communication, though complex, is critical in a marriage. Olson (2009) defines communication as an understanding of each other and sharing feelings. Having this type of communication leads to a Positive Couple Agreement (PCA) and, therefore, results in higher levels of relationship satisfaction (Olson, 2009).

     The idea that communication is essential is also highlighted in The Couple Checkup by Olson, Olson-Sigg & Larson (2008). The authors measured happy versus unhappy couples and reported that 95% were very satisfied with how they talk to each other, 79% agree their partner understands how they feel, and 96% find it easy to express their true feelings (p. 34). Further, Petersen (2015) emphasizes communication and suggests that “real listening gets us inside each other” (pg. 7). Additionally, those who are “willing to work at listening better can improve their relationships across the board” (Petersen, 2015, pg. 7).

     Another idea on what makes a marriage strong is found in the article The Most Important Relationship Strength You Must Have (Carter, 2017). The author equates strength within marriage to that of being selfless. Carter (2017) continues, one must be “cognizant of nurturing another’s needs,” and that “seeking the welfare of others, sacrificing everyday individualities, ignoring desire for self-glorification, and giving great dedication, devotion, and love for someone or something is the goal.” A marriage’s resilience is related to a desire for togetherness.

     A couple should devote time to developing their friendship through shared experiences, and in doing so, they will experience intimacy (Hawkins, 1991). Companioning is of high importance to a relationship, according to Hawkins (1991). He believes that investing time and energy into the relationship is also directed in Scripture, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” Genesis 2: 24 (ESV). In addition, the idea of closeness is also found in The Couple Checkup (Olson, Olson-Sigg & Larson, 2008) and ranked as second to communication in distinguishing between happy and unhappy couples. The authors define couple closeness as “the level of emotional connection between partners and the degree to which they balance separateness and togetherness (pg. 23).

     Should couples be similar or different given the various views of a couple’s strengths? While researching this subject it seems there is evidence for and against similarities impact on relationships. However, the similarities being measured varied, making it difficult to come to an overall conclusion. For instance, Luo (2009) suggests that previous research was conducted on well-established couples to predict relationship satisfaction, and therefore sought to examine similarities in couples who recently started dating. The study concluded that there was a strong correlation in age, ethnicity, extrinsic and intrinsic values, and political attitude (Luo, 2009, p. 5). Further, Keizer & Komter (2015) measured companionate factors, defined as “emotional affinity between partners,” and concluded this domain was not a prime determinant in relationship satisfaction (pg. 964). As you can see, different measures provide varying results.

     In a perfect world, similarity in faith would be number one. Paul says that we ought to be holy and set apart to God, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 2 Cor. 6:14 (ESV). However, the Pew Research center reported that four in ten Americans have a spouse of different faith and one in five are married to unbelievers (Murphy, 2015).

     Perhaps the focus in every marriage should not be on your partner but on “you and God” while considering that struggles and challenges of marriage can draw individuals closer to Him (Heffernan, 2002). Hawkins (1991) furthers this idea by sharing that God “frequently exercises our faith through trials and sorrows” (pg. 65), and continues, “intimacy is not possible without forgiveness and commitment to completing that which is lacking in the lives of our loved ones” (p. 66). Phil. 1:6 proclaims, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (ESV). We are not promised an easy life or an easy marriage. We know this by 2 Cor. 4:8,9 “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (ESV). I believe marriage requires a commitment to God’s purpose in the life of each individual and as a couple.  

     I also agree that selflessness and communication are foundational to the strength of a marriage. Selflessness, the idea of putting others’ needs before our own, is also found in Scripture. Some examples are “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others” Phil. 2:4 (ESV), and in Luke 6:38 (ESV), we are instructed, “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

If you are engaged and would like to participate in premarital counseling, OR you would like to further enrich your marriage by taking the assessment and receive feedback, please contact us at educatingcouples.gmail.com

References

Ayers, D. (2019). Christian marriage: A comprehensive introduction. ProQuest Ebook Central https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu

Carter, Z. (2017). The most important relationship strength you must have. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/clear-communication/201707/the-most-important-relationship-strength-you-must-have

Gande, T. (2017). How are personality traits and marital satisfaction related? Retrieved from https://canvas.liberty.edu/courses/86420/pages/watch-how-are-personality-traits-and-marital-satisfaction-related?module_item_id=8899058

Hawkins, R. (1991). Strengthening marital intimacy: Elements in the process. Baker Book House.

Heffernan, C. (2002). God’s design for marriage. Retrieved from https://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/gods-design-for-marriage/

Keizer, R., & Komter, A. (2015). Are “Equals” Happier Than “Less Equals”? A Couple Analysis of Similarity and Well-being. Journal of Marriage and Family, 77(4), 954-967. ,

McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T., Jr. (1999). A Five-Factor theory of personality. In L. A. Pervin & O. P. John (Eds.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (p. 139–153). Guilford Press.

McLanahan, S., Donahue, E., & Haskins, R. (2005). Introducing the Issue. The Future of Children, 15(2), 3-12. Retrieved June 9, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3556560

Murphy, C. (2015). Interfaith marriage is common in U.S. particularly among the recently wed. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/06/02/interfaith-marriage/

Olson, D. (2009). PREPARE/ENRICH. Life Innovations, Inc.

Olson, D. H., Olson-Sigg, A. & Larson, P. J. (2008). The couple checkup: Find your relationship strengths. Thomas Nelson.

Petersen, J. C. (2015). Why don’t we listen better? Communicating & connecting in relationships. Petersen Publications.

Sakaluk, J. K., Biernat, M., Le, B. M., Lundy, S., & Impett, E. A. (2020). On the strength of ties that bind: Measuring the strength of norms in romantic relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 37(3), 906–931. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407519881748

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (2016). Crossway, a ministry of Good News Publishers.