Areas of Focus For Those Looking To Get Married…
I was blessed in the spring of 2001 to attend a fantastic six-week pre-marital counseling class at my current local church (Christ Church Lake Forest—www.cclf.org) with ten other couples who were engaged to be married. I have not gone back to refresh my memory of the content of those six weeks because I want this report to be from my own experience having been married for nearly eleven years, having counseled other married couples in that time, and having personally officiated six weddings.
If I were to prepare/lead a premarital counseling program at my local church, the areas I would focus on can be divided up into three simple sections—past, present, and future:
1. Know Each Others’ Personal Histories. That is to say, make sure you know the major/important events/details that the other person has experienced/endured prior to the upcoming marriage. This especially includes past drug use, past sexual partners (and the sexual activities engaged in), any arrests, family history (parental divorce, status of relationships with parents/siblings), any tragedies that may have occurred (personal abuse at the hands of another, death of a sibling/parent), etc. If secrets are kept before a marriage (and before the deep pressures of raising a family set in), it will be even more difficult for a truly/Biblically healthy relationship to develop after the wedding.
2. Know Each Others’ Family: The old saying is true—you don’t just marry a person, you marry their family. It’s not necessarily a “deal-breaker” if your future spouse’s family is abnormally dysfunctional or doesn’t respect you/the upcoming marriage, but a marriage (like parenting) truly takes a village to succeed and each person should fully understand before the wedding the intra-familial handicaps/challenges they are likely to face during the marriage. Sometimes the “enemy within” is much worse than anything we will face out in the world.
3. Know The Current Health of Each Others’ Faith in Jesus: This is most important. For a strong/mature believer who not only has Jesus at the top of their life but also at the center (around which everything in their life rotates/pivots upon), a marriage that is most likely to survive and thrive will require a spouse who is also “sold-out”/deeply in love with the Savior of the world. As romantic as it seems, if your future spouse has anything in their life ahead of Jesus (especially YOU!), there will be some incredibly deep unnecessary heartache during the marriage. Even the thinnest layer of Styrofoam in the foundation of a skyscraper will cause it to eventually collapse.
4. Know Each Others’ Dreams, Life Goals & Philosophies of Life/Child-Rearing: It is possible for two airplanes to enjoy being next to each other on the tarmac/runway, but if the planes are designed/scheduled to fly in two opposite directions, they would be wise to know that before welding their fuselages together. Similarly, two people considering marriage should know the non-negotiable dreams/cemented characteristics that each has before they decide to get married. For example, if a man has always dreamed of being a Navy SEAL, well, it would be helpful for his future wife to know that ahead of time because marrying a SEAL would bring with it some very difficult aspects. Or, a person who has always dreamed of a big family should know if their future spouse does not want to ever have children.
There are no formulas to guarantee a healthy and life-long marriage, but putting Jesus at the center, bathing the engagement process in prayer, getting counsel from mentors, and following the above steps will help to eliminate some of the major chinks in the armor of marriage.