Benjamin Franklin sure hit the nail on the head when he said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When I think of all the Skittles I enjoyed growing up (and, after I was grown up) and see the consequence of my sugar addiction in the mirror each day, I wish I had taken my health more seriously as a young person. When Dad picked me up from school, or we ran an errand together, I almost always asked him if we could stop at the gas station and get a bag of Skittles (and he almost always obliged me ~smile~).
When I entered my teen years, the weight started to creep on a bit and my Mom advised me to make better food choices and to exercise. “You are going to be embarrassed if you end up weighing more than your mom.” At the time, I simply laughed to myself and thought, “Yeah, right. Like that’s ever going to happen.” Well, it did… in a big way! Still, the task of putting on my running shoes and walking past the candy aisle seemed daunting. “I will take care of myself someday. I am young now.”
As the years passed by, each one faster than the previous, it became clear that someday was not coming. If I wanted to avoid extreme health problems (and sooner than I originally expected), I had to make some changes; and, though I am doing far better than I once was at controlling my diet and making better health choices, those years of laziness and indifference stare me in the face every day.
My point in sharing this excerpt of my history is not to discourage you – quite the opposite. You have the opportunity now to say, “I am not going to wait until I am waist deep in bitterness and contempt to do something about my relationship. I am going to start now! Instead of letting the years happen to my sweetheart and me, I am going to tackle our relationship’s health and wellness now – before we get sick!”
Preventative Care is More Effective than Reparative Care
Preventative care is where pre-engagement and premarital counseling comes into play. Unfortunately, words such as counseling and therapy have a bad reputation. Too many people believe that if they attend counseling, they are admitting defeat or sickness in a way. However, we do not believe the same about annual physicals and dental checkups – they, too, are preventative maintenance. It is important to stay on top of our physical health, but it is also important to put time, effort, and humility into caring for our minds, challenging our beliefs, and healing our broken places.
Often, after working with couples for several weeks, one or both of them admit, “You know, at the beginning of this, I was skeptical; but, I am so glad we went through this process. We are closer than ever, we understand each other better, and we have learned so much about how to have a successful relationship.” Whereas, it is very rare to hear someone say, “I regret working out,” or “I wish I never had that checkup.” Typically, we look back on our proactivity with thankfulness.
With that said, here are five ways pre-engagement counseling can help you have a simpler, more peaceful marriage!
- It Can Uncover Hidden Areas of Contention. Exactly what do you mean when you say women should submit to their husbands? When you are angry, why do you walk away instead of talking out the problem? Excuse me! The trash can goes under the sink – not in the pantry. How do you not know that?! Whether they are life-altering or mildly annoying differences, couples have dozens (if not hundreds) of discrepancies – many of which they do not discover until they are man and wife. Going through even a month of pre-engagement counseling can help uncover some of these significant differences and give you both the opportunity to work on them before an unexpected conflict brings them to light. For example, Eric and I had some monumental theological differences which did not come up until after we were married. We could have saved ourselves so much newlywed grief had we discovered, and worked through, these differences beforehand!
- It Gives Couples the Opportunity to Work through Problem Areas with a Mediator. So many evenings of our early marriage were spent arguing over our different viewpoints. Had we uncovered these issues before engagement, with a couple who could guide our discovery and discussion, we might have spent those evenings enjoying each other’s company. Sometimes, I wonder if I could go through those first few years of marriage again; and, though I know I could, I would not want to deal with those same struggles again and neither would Eric. Had we realized the need for pre-engagement counseling, acted upon it, and humbled our know it all selves to receive instruction, I am certain the beginning years of our marriage would have been far more peaceful and enjoyable. (Unfortunately, those services weren’t available to us. So, we have created the program for others that we wish we had gone through!)
- It Can Strengthen the Bond Between Couples. When I was engaged to Eric, Mom said, “You love him now, but your love for him will change. It will grow deeper.” I did not know what she meant at the time, but now I really get it – and will probably understand it even more as time continues. The couples we coach often grow much closer after discovering and working through their issues. The stronger a couple’s emotional foundation is before engagement, the better the chance for a successful marriage.
- It Offers Couples the Ability to Say, “I Am Not Sure this Relationship is Best for Us.” While such an outcome sounds undesirable and scary, it is so much better than wandering into a marriage with angst – knowing something is not right, and not being able to put your finger on the problem. Couples often marry because it is the emotional next step, but do not take the opportunity to look at their relationship from all angles and determine if they are a good fit for each other. Sometimes couples marry because one (or both) could not find a way to end the relationship. A painful, but necessary, truth is you can love someone whom you should not marry. It is one of the hardest struggles in life, but not nearly as hard as marrying anyway and spending a lifetime stressed, disconnected, and lonely. It takes great maturity and bravery to say, “I love this person enough to let go if our relationship really is not for our best.”
- It Helps Couples Gain the Skills to Help Other Couples. One of the coolest outcomes of working with couples is seeing them take their knowledge to other couples. We want our couples to emerge from our coaching sessions with wisdom and understanding for themselves, but also with information and encouragement to help their family and friends when they see a need! When you come into contact with relationship-simplifying strategies, you want to talk about them to others! ~smile~ Wait a minute, Heather. How does helping other couples simplify my marriage? Well, have you ever been in the middle of an argument between a friend and his or her partner? Have you found your relationship weighed down by the problems in your friends’ relationships? We are not islands on this crazy journey and more than likely you will experience some tension in your relationship due to issues affecting those you love. The more you understand relationships, the better you can counsel and encourage your friends and family when they struggle which will indirectly, but significantly, simplify your marriage. And if they are helped by something you learned from us and they would like to work with us, then please have them contact us – we’d love to help them too!
Another quote which consistently impacts my life is from Zig Ziglar. He is famous for this quote:
The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want most for what you want right now. – Zig Ziglar
This quote is posted on the wall in front of our elliptical trainer to remind me that the temporary discomfort of exercise is getting me one step closer to what I truly want out of life. Sure, kicking off my shoes, grabbing a bag of chips, and binge-watching Hulu would be easier. It is, in fact, what I want to do right now (substituting the chips for a pint of cookie dough ice cream), but frequently giving in to my temporary desires keeps me from realizing my dreams.
Putting off the need to explore your relationship, work through problems, and uncover hidden issues is human nature. It is more fun to date, laugh, and hope for the best than to look at each other in a potentially uncomfortable, but honest, light. But, taking the time to push past the fear and overcome the desire to coast will get you and your honey to where you want to be much faster than delaying counseling and simply hoping everything works out well.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. – Benjamin Franklin
I keep going back to the above quotes again and again – perhaps because my nature is to procrastinate and hope everything works out with minimal effort. However, life has certainly proven the opposite is true. The parts of our lives we tend to – watering, pruning, and nourishing – are the parts which will grow and thrive.
If you have been toying with the idea of pursuing a coaching relationship with us, we would love to talk to you! Contact us or check out more about our services to see if we are a good match for your needs!
We look forward to hearing from you!
How can pre-engagement counseling simplify your future marriage?