The Bliss of Being in Love
I remember the feeling of “being in love” when I first started dating my wife. What a thrilling experience! As I floated through each day, the world seemed like such a marvelous place. Everything beautiful reminded me of her. I would fall asleep grinning and wake up to the joyful anticipation of getting to see her or talk to her.
My heart would melt when our eyes met and she smiled. Her laughter was music. Her words were poetry. I would get flustered just talking about her. I believed all the best things about my beloved, and wanted to show her only the best parts of myself.
We would stay up all hours of the night (even if we had to work the next morning) just to spend more time together, and being together was all we needed. I had found the woman my heart longed for all my life, and I felt an exhilarating sense of fulfillment.
I could relate to the words of Dr. Seuss when he wrote: “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”
Flash forward five years to the present, and I have learned that marriage in all its fullness and beauty is more demanding that the simple experience of “being in love.” As it turns out, my wife and I have countless differences that surfaced as these intense emotions began to naturally fade.
I want to be clear: Being in love is a wonderful thing. It is an important and significant stage of a relationship, and the “spark” that is established during this time is valuable for motivating us to pursue romance and intimacy with the one that we love.
But to fan this spark into an enduring flame requires so much more. As Gary Chapman writes in his book Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married, “Being in love is not an adequate foundation for building a successful marriage.”
The Benefits of Christian Pre Marriage Counseling
A Christian counselor can help you gain a larger perspective on your relationship. Even more importantly, counseling together can help you begin to build your marriage on what the old hymn calls “Christ the solid rock.” As Solomon declares, “a cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
Christian pre marriage counseling can help you and your partner to weave your lives more closely with Jesus as you approach the sacred covenant of marriage. Trust me, even at your best, you will not have the patience and sacrificial love required to sustain a thriving marriage on your own. You will need His help!
Taking the time and effort to participate in counseling with a pastor or professional therapist is an excellent way to grow in your relationship and discover the other elements necessary to establish a solid foundation for Christian marriage.
7 Reasons Why Pre Marriage Counseling Should be Required
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The following is a list of seven reasons why pre marriage counseling should be required for every engaged couple.
1. Because counseling is an opportunity to grow in love
When I ask people why they want to get married, they usually respond, “Because we love each other!” Whatever they mean by “love,” it is always something they want to preserve or keep the way it is.
They enjoy their experience of love and they don’t want it ever to end, so their gut reaction is to enter marriage in order to hopefully sustain this amazing thing they have found. The popular expression “we fell in love” similarly seems to express something beyond our control that we simply stumble into.
While the image of being helpless to resist the power of love is romantic and poetic, two problems emerge from this type of thinking. First, it characterizes love as something people “have” or “feel” instead of something they “do.” This removes the motivation to put any effort or work into loving their partner.
Second, it places love outside the control of either partner. This leaves them vulnerable to “falling out of love,” and provides no opportunity to nurture and mature in their devotion to one another.
Pre marriage counseling is a unique opportunity to learn early on how to actively love your future spouse, and to grow in love for each other through intentional expressions of love. Why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of such an opportunity?
Unfortunately, getting married won’t freeze everything the way it is at this early, passionate stage of your relationship. Marital union will actually demand that you foster and develop your love as you grow together. Your wedding is only the beginning.
John Mayer reminds us:
“Love ain’t a drug
despite what you’ve heard
Yeah love ain’t a thing
Love is a verb.”
2. Because your marriage will last longer than your wedding.
Why do we focus so much time and effort on planning weddings and so little on preparing for marriage? After all, the wedding will soon pass and fade into memory, leaving you the rest of your lives to focus on the substance that all the wedding symbolism represented. Is it possible that we have our priorities backwards as weddings grow more and more elaborate and marriages less and less secure?
The global wedding market is now a $300 billion industry, $55 billion plus of which is the U.S. wedding industry. Anyone who has attempted to plan even a modest wedding knows firsthand the exorbitant prices charged by the bloated wedding industry for simple accoutrements like bouquets, centerpieces, and cake stands.
According to theweddingreport.com, the average cost for weddings in 2016 in the U.S. was $26,720. Add to this immense cost the time, stress, and energy that normally go into planning “the perfect wedding,” and the toll that is paid for this single event mounts even higher.
Although marriage is a life-changing event that is certainly worth celebrating and a wedding can be a beautiful and memorable ceremony, it would seem that more emphasis ought to be placed on what follows: life together.
Pre marriage counseling is a worthwhile investment that will help to shift your focus onto this much more important topic. The commitments of time, resources, vulnerability, and effort that you make to counseling will pay off as you wake up to reality after the honeymoon. Don’t skip this step.
Your marriage will last longer than your wedding. Plan accordingly.
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3. Because love is blind
The popular expression “love is blind” has a ring of truth to it. Essentially, this is the concept that when you are “in love” with someone, you cannot see their faults.
There are certainly benefits to this “blindness.” For example, we tend to see the best in each other when we are in love. We focus on and embellish the positive attributes of our partner, overlooking any shortcomings that we notice.
If you’ve ever heard someone talk about the guy or girl they are madly in love with, you may have rolled your eyes at the naïveté of such a rosy and one-sided portrayal of anyone. “No one could be as good as all that!” you may protest.
However, I have met couples with many years of marriage under their belts who would benefit from seeing more of the best in each other. I often encourage married couples to describe all the things they love about one another, going into as much detail as possible.
However, the blindness that love brings can be dangerous before marriage, because it often causes hasty decisions that do not consider the consequences of errors in judgement and do not treat the covenant of marriage with the reverence it deserves.
Just as Christ urges us to “count the cost” of following him, we would be wise to consider the great cost that marriage will demand of us before deciding to proceed. The purpose of this type of clear-headed reflection is not to change our minds about entering marriage at all, but rather to increase the value that we place on marriage as well as the sincerity of our vows to honor it.
Christian counseling can help to provide more clarity about the types of challenges that every married couple faces so that you can prepare in advance for successfully navigating them.
It can also help you to love your partner in spite of his or her faults rather than simply believing he or she has none. As a Christian counselor, I view my role as similar to that of an eye doctor, who helps people to see more clearly what is in front of them.
4. Because you need a plan for handling conflict
Many times, it is difficult for engaged couples to even imagine facing conflict because they seem to get along so well. When they inevitably do encounter conflict in marriage, their automatic thought is often, “I’ve married the wrong person!” However, even with the best of intentions, we are bound to run up against disagreements in marriage. What matters is how we handle them.
As Gary Chapman writes, “Large or small, all conflicts have the potential of destroying an evening, a week, a month, or a lifetime. On the other hand, conflicts have the potential of teaching us how to love, support, and encourage each other. This is by far the better road to travel. The difference is how you process the conflicts.”
Pre marriage counseling can help you both to accept the inevitability of conflict, and to have a plan of action for processing it. Professional therapists are trained to help you hear one another with empathy and understanding rather than accusing each other of malice or illogical thinking.
To fail to prepare for conflict is to risk being torn apart by it. However, through counseling and practice you can use conflict as an opportunity to show grace, gentleness, and goodwill to your partner and to achieve new levels of closeness in your marriage.
5. Because you need a plan for handling money
You have probably been told that one of the top subjects that married couples fight about is finances. I’m afraid it’s true. Almost no subject feels less romantic to discuss while preparing for the wedding, and almost no subject is more vital to have a plan for as you enter marriage.
One of the first and most important steps to creating unity in your marriage is to leave behind the notion of “my money” and “your money,” and to think of all of your resources as shared. If you are willing to become “one flesh” with another person, don’t hesitate to also share one bank account.
A Christian counselor can help you get real about what your approach will be as a married couple to spending, saving, and managing money. This is a crucial step to securing not only your financial future, but also relational intimacy and peace in your home.
6. Because you grew up in different homes, with different parents
Not surprisingly, we form our initial ideas about how husbands and wives should be by observing our parents. Your parents may have been very kind and affectionate to one another or they may have spent much of their time together engaged in loud, verbally-abusive arguments. However they behaved, you probably internalized what you saw as “normal” without ever realizing it.
This can affect marriage in a variety of ways, many of them unexpected. A wife will often behave how she observed her mother behave as a wife, and expect her husband to be more or less like her father, whereas a husband may have learned a completely different way of behaving in marriage from his own father.
By spending time in advance through pre marriage counseling discussing these differences in expectations and standards, disastrous misunderstandings can be averted. A Christian counselor can help you open up and share about the things you observed in your parents and consider how they have affected your own vision and expectations of marriage.
7. Because God honors marriages that glorify Him
Finally and most importantly, remember that marriage is an arrangement that was designed and ordained by God, and only with His blessing will it thrive. Marriage is a high and difficult calling, but everything our Lord calls us to He also empowers us to.
You and your partner have everything you need to be successful in marriage through communion with the author of love. In the oft-quoted “love passage” in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul describes in beautiful detail what perfect love looks like in action. The standard feels so far beyond our reach that we are tempted to give up before we even try to live it out, lest we fail.
But God does not leave us to love in our own strength.
A Christian counselor can help you to live out your marriage in the peace and power of almighty God. This starts with glorifying Him with your relationship. Marital love is an expression of humility and self-sacrifice that brings honor to our heavenly Father. You were not meant to fail in marriage, you were meant to show off the divine love that lives in you.
If you are engaged to be married, give your marriage the attention and effort it deserves from the very start. Contact a Christian counselor to explore the blessings and the pitfalls you will encounter, and enter your marriage empowered and equipped. My sincere prayer for you is like Paul’s for the Thessalonian church in the first century:
“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other ” (1 Thessalonians 3:12).
“Stand by Me,” courtesy of Brooke Cagle, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Love Story,” courtesy of Zoriana Stakhniv, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Just married,” courtesy of Photo-nic.co.uk, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Love Always Trusts,” courtesy of Skye Studios, unsplash.com, CCO License