No other relationship will play a more important role in shaping your life than your relationship with your spouse. If you are reading this article, you are probably either engaged or seriously considering marriage, and are excited about spending the rest of your life with that special someone. You certainly understand that no other relationship will impact your life more than your relationship with your prospective spouse. Yet many individuals make the crucial decision about marriage when they are caught up in the whirlwind of romance. They are so caught up in the moment that they fail to work out some crucial issues before they commit their lives to each other.
The goal of premarital counseling is to help you make the most thorough, comprehensive, and sound preparations possible. No other relationship can approach the potential for intimacy and oneness that marriage offers. And no other journey can bring with it as many adjustments, difficulties, and hurts. Challenges surface in any relationship, but there is much you can do to prepare for your lives together. This article is designed to help you to evaluate your relationship and to think through the process you are involved in.
Assessing Your Compatibility for Marriage
How do I know if he or she is the one? There are different feelings and ideas on how compatible a couple needs to be for a marriage to work. Compatible does not mean identical. Compatible means being able to effectively coexist, live, or work together. The purpose of dating is to find reasons to not be together, while the purpose of marriage is finding reasons to be together. Many people, however, approach things in the opposite direction. They find reasons to be together while they are dating, but after they are married they discover reasons not to be together. Singles often fight for their relationship when there is no obligation to each other, and then fight to be apart when they are married and have an obligation to their spouse.
There is no black and white formula for defining all of the factors that weigh into the area of compatibility. The key is how they play out in your relationship and how you feel about them. For example, you may be concerned about your differences in the way that you relate to other people. Yet you may find that your differences complement each other in unique ways. God often seems to bring two people together who are different in many ways. Identifying your similarities and differences in various areas is only the beginning in determining compatibility. You also need to address how your differences make you stronger as a team, and how your commitment could compensate for your differences.
This basically means that Christians should marry Christians. Sharing core values and a similar outlook on God is the glue of any relationship. God created marriage, and its greatest fulfillment and enjoyment can only be found when both husband and wife have made Him the priority in their lives. It also means that you should aim for someone who has a similar commitment and passion for the Lord. You should lift each other up in your devotion and service to God.
This means that you are able to understand each other’s feelings and to resolve conflict. It is important that your spouse understands you. Although emotional needs vary, many share similar foundations. People have innate desires for affection, such as hugs, kisses, and words of affection, as well as for honest and open communication. This includes talking about feelings, daily events, goals, and plans for the future. As you cultivate your relationship you will become more connected to your significant other as you learn more about each other and share experiences. You will learn to appreciate qualities, talents, opinions, and motivations in each other. It is not so important to have an overabundance of commonalities, or the same emotional needs, to nurture a relationship. Instead, each should understand the emotional needs of the other. Although you may not meet every need, an awareness and respect for each other’s needs is the primary requisite for an emotionally authentic relationship.
If you wear corrective lenses you may have had an experience similar to mine. I remember when I was in college and began to notice that it was harder to see the words on the board. Moving to the front of the room helped for a while, but it wasn’t until I attended a conference in a large auditorium and couldn’t read the projecting image on the large screen that I got the message that seeing clearly was a problem. Many couples can be compared to my, and perhaps your, experience. While these couples could once see clearly, their minds and hearts have become clouded by conflicting thoughts and emotions, and by not understanding what has taken place. Below I outline seven factors that are identified in the book Preparing for Marriage, and that can easily hinder a couple from seeing clearly.
In the excitement of the relationship, everything seems wonderful and areas of concern are often overlooked and ignored. You have a difficult time discerning the faults in your special person. And, if you do recognize problems, you are confident that they will go away when you are married.
You want to have a special person to share life with like everyone else. You are tired of living alone and you long for companionship and marriage. Your friends and siblings are getting married, and you wonder if there is something wrong with you. After all, you aren’t getting younger and he or she may be the only one who comes along.
Premarital sexual involvement can prevent you from seeing clearly all aspects of your relationship. It can also cause guilt, regret, and shame that can linger on into marriage.
One or both of you may not be following God as closely as you once did. This may be caused by a period of rebellion, unconfessed sin, or you may simply need guidance in order to grow in your faith. You may have no understanding of how God is leading you in the relationship because you do not know how to discern God’s voice.
If you are already engaged and your wedding date is getting closer, you will have discovered how quickly events snowball toward the decided date. So, if you develop doubts, it is harder to stop and the thought of cancelling or postponing your wedding seems unthinkable.
The thoughts already discussed above may cause you to make an unwise decision. However, the final two, may keep you from making a commitment.
Fear of Failure
You are bothered by living up to others expectations of your fiancé, peers, and family, as well as your own expectations. You fear that you will not be able to make your marriage work. You have seen other marriages end in divorce and you don’t want that to happen to you.
Fear of Commitment
While you want to be married and your fiancé seems to be the right one for you, you feel a deep sense of dread when you think about marrying someone until death do us part. What if someone else comes along who you believe is a better match and you are stuck? These thoughts paralyze you from moving ahead.
Seek Out a Christian Counselor for Premarital Counseling
Any relationship will have its challenges, but sometimes those challenges are indicators of deep rooted problems that, if not addressed, will poison your marriage. Although premarital counseling with a Christian counselor is always a good idea, if you see any red flags I recommend that you make it a priority. I would welcome the opportunity to sit down with you and your fiancé and help you work through any concerns.
Boehi, D., Nelson, B., Schulte, J, Shadrech, L. (1998). Preparing for marriage: Discovering God’s Plan for a Lifetime of Love, Ventura, CA: Gospel Light Publishing.
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