Los Angeles Christian Counseling
In the midst of all this craziness, getting Christian premarital counseling can seem like an afterthought or even a waste of time. Sometimes pastors require a couple to go through counseling before the ceremony, but if yours doesn’t, you might not have considered how important Christian premarital counseling really is for the longevity of your relationship.
Why Christian Premarital Counseling?
Scripture refers to the union of marriage as “two becoming one.” This commitment isn’t meant to be taken lightly!
Two separate, complex individuals have to learn to function as a unit. They’re going to become a union, but without losing their individuality in the process. This union is sacred and serious. Marriage vows are the weightiest commitment you can make in this life.
Before getting a driver’s license, most of us take driver’s ed of some sort. Before getting a diploma, we take classes and exams. It only makes sense that before we step into the enormous commitment of marriage, we would pause to prepare.
Counseling might sound too personal. It will take you out of your comfort zone. But just like going to the doctor for a checkup, it’s beneficial for your well-being and can help make sure you’re functioning at peak capacity. In fact, getting counseling before marriage might save you from years of pain and heartache down the road.
Rules of Engagement
People approach marriage from many perspectives, but a common viewpoint is that everything should be 50/50. You’ll love your spouse to the degree they love you. You’ll give as much as they give. You’ll sacrifice as much as they do.
Unfortunately, this mindset leads to a life of scorekeeping and competition, and it will severely limit your capacity for growth, health, and happiness throughout your marriage. Instead of being 50/50, marriage is supposed to be 100/100. Each spouse should bring his or her whole self to the relationship without holding back or keeping score.
In Scripture, this principle of dedication is made clear in the instructions to each spouse. The husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church and lays down his life for her, and the wife is to submit to and respect her husband as the church submits to Christ.
What does 100/100 marriage look like practically? What about your personal needs? Wholehearted dedication doesn’t negate your needs; that would kill any intimacy. Instead, when each person is fully committed to the relationship, they will:
- Have a healthy sense of individuality.
- Identify and express their own needs.
- Accept “no” as an answer.
- Set and maintain healthy boundaries.
For example, in the initial stage of the relationship, when you’re infatuated with each other, trivial issues like money or chores probably won’t seem like a big deal.
But as time goes by and the monotony of daily life sets in, these “small” issues can become magnified reminders of where your spouse falls short and can lead to resentment. Resentment often arises when we sweep things under the rug and continuously sacrifice for others without being honest about our needs and feelings.
Sacrifice is godly, but it can’t cohabitate with resentment. If you are “serving” your spouse in a bad mood, it’s better not to serve! This doesn’t mean kindness will always come naturally. What it does mean is that if we try to make ourselves invariably subservient, eventually it will fail, because each of us is only human.
When you love someone, you naturally want to make them happy, to help them, and to serve them in any way you can. When you do this out of the kindness of your heart, and the other person appreciates your efforts, the relationship functions beautifully.
But when service is expected or demanded, or it’s unappreciated, a failure to honor each other. If your spouse expects you to be subservient, they are placing themselves above you. If you expect yourself to be subservient without having real human needs, you’re encouraging them in their dishonor.
Possible Pitfalls in Marriage
Every marriage faces many obstacles, and it’s important to be aware of some of the most common ones, especially when you’re first starting out.
And for a marriage to thrive, both spouses must continually work on not being selfish. If one person is the giver and one is the taker, the union may seem to be functioning okay from the outside, but this is an unhealthy pattern that kills intimacy and mutuality.
Boundaries can help avoid the trap of one-sidedness. You don’t have to fulfill your spouse’s every expectation or request. You can ask your spouse to clarify. You can ask your spouse to wait. If you’re too tired to do something for them, it’s okay to be honest about it.
Have honest conversations about how you’re feeling, and be willing to compromise. Most of all, be patient with each other as you navigate each person’s individual needs.
Distribution of Chores
In households where one person brings in the income, usually, the other spouse is responsible for the majority of the housework. However, sometimes the breadwinner expects not to have to help around the house at all, and this will quickly lead to frustration.
Downtime after work is essential, but it’s not realistic to expect one person to do all the housework for two people, especially if they’re also the caregiver for children. Identifying and voicing frustration over housework early on can help prevent future arguments about it.
If you want to strike a better balance, try making a list of chores and initialing next to certain ones for each spouse. Then choose a specific time slot for when you will take care of each item on the list.
The honeymoon period eventually ends for everyone. Infatuation fades, and you’re in it for the long haul. The newness gives way to routine. This transition can be natural and even comforting, but it can also lead to stagnancy in your relationship if you’re not careful.Continuing to date each other is critical! Commit to doing enjoyable activities or hobbies together. Ask each other questions; don’t just assume you know the answers. Be curious about the other person’s day.
Hold hands. Remind your spouse what you like about them. Seek to have new experiences together. Keep doing the little things, and remember that it takes just as much work to maintain a relationship as it does to create one in the first place.
Whether your work is paid or unpaid (caregiving, volunteering, etc.), it’s a massive part of your life that can easily eclipse your marriage, especially if you’re passionate about what you do. Even people who work on staff at a church can use their job to avoid dealing with problems in their marriage.
If you find yourself preferring your work life to home life, ask yourself how you can restore joy to your marriage and seek greater intimacy, so your relationship with your spouse doesn’t have to compete with your career.
Adultery is common because temptation is common. In most marriages, each spouse will experience a significant attraction to someone that could eventually lead to an affair. The stronger your marriage is, the better you’ll be able to resist temptation.
All of us need our spouses to love and value us. It hurts when we feel unloved or unappreciated. This pain creates vulnerability to temptation, such as pursuing a feeling of worth and excitement in an extramarital relationship.
Almost every affair includes some component of complaining about a spouse. The affair partner just seems to understand so much better and can meet the needs your spouse isn’t meeting. This is a lie, of course, and we need to be aware of it so we can guard against it. Illicit satisfaction isn’t a need, as much as you might enjoy it at the moment.
Marriage vows are taken before God because they are based on more than how our spouse treats us. They are a solemn promise to honor the Lord by not being unfaithful to this person he’s given us for life. When we walk in wisdom, we will be safe from the foolishness of momentary pleasure that comes at the expense of those we love.
When you’re being tempted, it’s essential to identify what’s happening, cut it off at the source (stop having personal conversations with this person, for example), and spend time considering what your role is in the temptation.
Understanding your own vulnerabilities can help protect you. If you can, discuss them with your spouse. Being honest and humble can lead to greater intimacy.
Sex Before Marriage?
The sexual revolution of the 1960s led to a complete upheaval of our culture’s moral compass for sex. Previously, having sex before marriage meant that you weren’t a respectable person. It was assumed that men would not commit to marriage if they had free access to casual sex.
These standards began to be seen as archaic and even laughable. Sex outside of marriage is completely normal in our culture today. If you abstain, you’re seen as the strange one. Most couples are comfortable with living together before marriage.
Regardless of our culture’s sexual ethic, God designed sex to take place only within the bond of marriage. It is an act of intimacy that belongs to those who have committed themselves to each other for life.
Despite many people’s efforts to make it say something else, Scripture is clear that sex outside of marriage is wrong. Outside of Scripture’s teachings, some research has shown that couples who cohabitate before marriage have a higher risk of divorce, but other studies have shown conflicting results.
If you choose to be married in a church, you may find that premarital cohabitation is not condoned. The sacrament of marriage loses much of its meaning when the couple is already sleeping together and living like a husband and wife without having taken vows yet.
Historically, the act of sex after the wedding was seen as the capstone of the engagement and wedding. Legally, it was referred to as the consummation of the marriage. If a couple had not consummated their marriage and wished to end it, they would qualify for an annulment rather than a divorce.
Just as we should not treat the covenant of marriage lightly, neither should we look at the precious, bonding act of sexual union without honor. Intimacy isn’t limited to sex, but we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of sex. It is not the goal or meaning of the relationship, but it is also compelling and is not meant to be a physical act only.
Neurotransmitters in our brains create a strong bond between partners during and after sex. If a relationship is not safe and does not meet the needs of both partners, both can become callous to that bonding. We’re not always aware when our hearts are hardened. We must guard against treating sex as a mere act of gratification.
What does an ideal marriage look like? It’s when a man and a woman have a union of tenderness and strength, where each one takes responsibility for his or her own emotions and boundaries, and treat each other with kindness, openness, and consideration.
Our temperaments and childhood experiences affect how we function in our adult lives and marriages, and premarital counseling can be a positive tool for growth and preparation before taking the step of marriage.
“Pinterest”, Courtesy of Charles Deluvio, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Sitting Stoic:, Courtesy of Ayo Ogunseinde, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Stagnation”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Engaged”, Courtesy of JD Mason, Unsplash.com, CC0 License