This past year, Eric and I wrote a book titled: So You Want to be a Fiancée?: How pre-engagement counseling can change your life. During this series, we are highlighting a handful of chapters! Today, we’re looking at the second chapter: Is Pre-Engagement Counseling Right for Me?
Who Benefits from Pre-Engagement Counseling?
Pre-engagement counseling is a relatively new concept, but we expect it to be the new normal in just a handful of years. We have all heard of premarital counseling where couples meet with a counselor or minister to discuss topics that pertain to marriage. We also believe in premarital counseling and believe that engaged couples should prepare to be married to each other. However, premarital counseling is often used to help each other figure out if they have selected the right person. Too late.
Once she has said yes, the couple is no longer objectively checking the other person out – especially after the dress is bought, the invitations are sent, the church is booked, the wedding party is asked, and the food is ordered.
Therefore, we believe the best time for counsel is *before* the engagement ring goes on the finger.
Though some couples may be in more need of counseling than other couples, we know every couple who is considering engagement will be blessed by going through a quality pre-engagement program. It is a small investment than will pay big relationship dividends for years to come!
How is Pre-Engagement Counseling Different than Premarital Counseling?
Premarital counseling allows couples to prepare to be married… to each other. Pre-engagement counseling offers you and your sweetheart an opportunity to objectively look at your relationship without the pressures of engagement and wedding planning.
Couples just do not look at their relationship as openly and honestly as they do before a commitment has been made. Pre-engagement counseling helps couples answer the question, “Are we a good match?” Engaged couples have already moved past that question (and we hope they have seriously considered their choice with counsel and wisdom). Premarital couples are at the stage where they want a better understanding of how to traverse the ins and outs of married life.
But We Know Each Other So Well…
When Eric and I got engaged, we thought we knew each other inside and out. We did know quite a bit about each other, but we learned a lot more over the first few years of marriage… a lot of it the hard way. Several times after finishing up a pre-engagement session with a couple, Eric and I have commented how much we wish we had been through a quality pre-engagement program when we were dating. Not that we would have chosen differently (i.e., not to get engaged and married), but we would have likely uncovered a lot of truth about ourselves that could have better prepared us for our future together.
Once we were engaged, we did (what the church called) premarital counseling – it was much more like question facilitation, not a counseling process – with a sweet couple from our church. It did not go into depth about who we are. We talked about topics such as finances, family of origin, problem solving, lifestyle expectations and more; however, it was mostly surface conversation and did not delve into our specific personality traits and how our temperament would impact our communication. Knowing what we know now, such preparation would have been priceless!
We are thankful for all we have learned along the way and we want to bless others through our discoveries by helping couples go deep with each other before they get engaged! There is always more to learn about each other and yourselves. Pre-engagement counseling provides that opportunity to explore your relationship and discuss topics you may not have otherwise considered. ~smile~
Getting Married Anyway
Broken engagements are painful. So painful that some couples realize they are not a good match, but continue with the wedding and get married anyway because they don’t want the embarrassment, pain, and consequences of a broken engagement.
One lady I knew said she was so committed to the process of getting married that she did not pay attention to the fact that she did not want to go through with it. Just before walking her down the aisle, her dad asked her if she was sure she wanted to “do this” (a common question fathers ask their daughters before walking them to their grooms). At that moment, she realized she did not want to get married… but she went through with it anyway. She cried all the way down the aisle and then put her tears away and got married.
She was faithful in her marriage for several years, then due to infidelity on his part, their marriage ended. I am not suggesting that pre-engagement counseling would have solved all of their problems (that would certainly be a faulty expectation); however, maybe if they had looked at their relationship through clear lenses, guided by a couple who could have helped them zero in on specific areas of concern, they would have uncovered some red flags and decided not to get married. There was so much pain that could have been avoided.
What if this Process Breaks Us Up?
The majority of couples we have seen for pre-engagement counseling have grown closer through the discussions and assignments they have completed together. Many of our couples become engaged soon after finishing the process and then have walked down their aisles in matrimony.
Alternately, some of our couples have broken up after completing the program. Yet, we firmly believe that each break up we have seen has been for the best. It is not the couples who are well-suited for each other and ready to get married that break up after receiving counsel. It is the couples who are either not ready for marriage or are not a good match for each other.
Breaking up is painful. I can certainly attest to that; but, when I consider the pain of my breakups and compare it to the pain I see in couples who are going through divorces, I am thankful that my former relationships ended when they did. Though excruciating at the time, in the long run breaking up was best for all of us.
We are excited to watch our couples grow closer during the pre-engagement process and we especially love hearing their engagement stories!
If you are considering engagement or know someone who is, check out our book: So You Want to be a Fiancée? (We’re currently offering a “pay what you can afford” option because we don’t want cost to be a barrier to this life-changing information.)
If you have further questions about whether or not pre-engagement counseling is right for you, feel free to contact us and we will be glad to answer your question (privately or on an upcoming mailbag video if the principles of our answer could apply to a lot of people).
Stay tuned for our next post where we will discuss what to do if your sweetheart is not interested in pre-engagement counseling.
What are some ways you think pre-engagement counseling would bless your relationship?