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Premarital Counseling: What To Do Before You Say "I Do"

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Are you one of the 33% of couples who got engaged between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day? Yes, the holidays are not only a time for decorating, gift giving, and packing on some extra pounds--they're also the most common time of the year for men and women to pop the question. If you are a newly engaged Christian couple, your minds are probably whirring with excitement as you begin planning your special day. However, as you pick a venue and hire a wedding planner, don't forget the most important element of your wedding day: the preparation that comes through premarital counseling.

What is premarital counseling?

If you think premarital counseling is just meeting with an older couple in your church who gives you a list of "should's" and "shouldn'ts," think again. Christian family counseling, while taking on different personalities depending on denomination, is generally a six-week course that covers topics most likely to create division in your marriage. Topics usually covered include:

  • communication

  • resolving disagreements

  • handling finances

  • sexuality

  • family of origin/in law issues

  • parenting

  • spiritual growth

  • commitment

Counseling may be done as a classroom course offered throughout the year, or as a series of private meetings between the engaged couple and designated counselors in the church.

Is premarital counseling really that important?

You may think you and your future spouse know each other well enough to skip the advice. After all, you rarely ever fight, and you're pretty sure you agree on goals for your life together. However, premarital counseling forces you to define these objectives and take a close look at areas you may be pushing aside out of a vague awareness that you aren't quite on the same page. The reality is that the divorce rates among Christian couples are generally known to be on par with non-Christian couples. Noted Christian authors Jim Burns and Doug Fields report that premarital counseling can decrease the likelihood of divorce by 31%. Lastly, your pastor may not even agree to perform your wedding unless you have successfully completed counseling.

If you are newly engaged, schedule premarital counseling soon. Start by calling your pastor's office and asking how your church arranges counseling. You may need to sign up before the church will book your wedding, so don't overlook this significant detail.

Next, ask your pastor to recommend helpful books about Christian marriage that you and your spouse can read together. Lastly, see if you can attend your church' marriage fellowship during your engagement period.

The more you and your spouse can prepare for a solid, biblical marriage the more prepared you will be on the day you say, "I do!"