Recently, I asked a few people who have been married more than ten years the following question: “If you could give one piece of advice to couples considering engagement, what would it be?”
Here are their answers:
Seriously, I think it would be to have Christian counseling first! So many issues can be uncovered in that process from emotional issues to financial issues! I know my spouse and I would have greatly benefited from doing that!
Well, of course I agree that quality pre-engagement counseling is the way to go! ~smile~ Before engagement and marriage, a lot of couples simply do not see the value in receiving counsel for their relationship or prioritize the expense as an investment. After all, this is the stage when couples look at each other with rose-colored glasses. When life is going great, why get counseling?
First of all, you want to make sure that behind all the fluttery feelings and insane happiness that there is a true friendship and life-long compatibility. You’ll want to get beyond the rose-colored lenses and make sure you are seeing your sweetheart for who he or she really is (and that your sweetheart is seeing you in truth as well).
Additionally, you’ll want to prepare for engagement and marriage just as you would prepare for a career. Even though you’ve seen other people’s marriages, you have not walked that road yet… and even if this is your second marriage, you have not walked that road with this person. Pre-engagement counseling can help you better prepare for what’s to come. With our inclusion of The PAIR Test, we help couples prepare for specific relationship joys and strains they are sure to face based on their individual personalities, temperaments, and outlooks on life.
Perhaps one of my favorite features of pre-engagement counseling is that it takes place before engagement. Once a couple is engaged, objectivity flies out the window. Suddenly, regardless of the emergence of red flags, the couple has committed to getting married. Premarital counseling is great (if you are already engaged, please get premarital counseling before tying the knot); however, most couples go into premarital counseling telling their counselors, “Please help us prepare to be married to each other” while couples in pre-engagement counseling are asking, “Would you please help us get to know each other and ourselves better so we can decide if we are a good match – and please help us prepare for married life.”
I would say to remember your responsibility in the marriage more than your partner’s responsibility. It seems people are more concerned with whether their partner is being obedient to Ephesians 5 than if they are obeying it themselves.
Ouch! As a married woman, I am convicted by this piece of advice! It is so much easier to focus on the speck in Eric’s eye than to deal with the log in my own. When Eric does not love me as Christ loves the church, I am aware of it! Sometimes I remind myself of it multiple times. I’ve daydreamed about how he should treat me. Yet, when I respond disrespectfully or choose to rebelliously thwart his God-given authority in our home, I tend to downplay my sin or justify my sin against his. “Sure, I was disrespectful, but as unloving as he’s been tonight, no one could blame me.”
Regardless of how Eric treats me, I am commanded to respect him. If the command came from Eric, I’d laugh and do whatever I wanted, but the command doesn’t come from Eric; rather, it comes from God. So, as you prepare for marriage remember that you need to focus your energies on becoming the spouse Ephesians 5 tells you to be. Pray for your future spouse and when (not if) you are wronged, ask God to deal with him or her. ~smile~
I would have to say sit down and lay out what your future will hold. Write down goals, budget, and go through Financial Peace University.
Yes, yes, yes, and yes! I love the wisdom in this piece of advice. There are theoretical topics pre-engaged couples should discuss, but there are tangible topics as well. Of course no one can predict their future with 100% accuracy, but to avoid discussing goals, career and family plans, and money is a recipe for a lot of “You think what about what?!?! ” moments later. Everyone will have to roll with the punches at some level in marriage, but as the saying goes, a failure to plan is a plan to fail. The more you prepare, the more calm you can be when life does take strange turns. Plan how you will react as a family unit when life doesn’t go as planned (e.g., layoffs, fire, death of loved ones, etc.).
One of the wisest, most tangible ways to prepare for engagement and marriage is to take Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class (solid gold) and to work on a budget together. Though we never recommend combining money until after marriage, it is a good idea to sit down and write out your collective income and bills and to discuss what categories (e.g., clothing, food, vacations, etc.) you would fund more, or less, and why. Most couples don’t see 100% eye to eye on how every dollar should be spent, so get a head start on budgeting now so you won’t be surprised and stressed out at your first married budget meeting. ~smile~
Don’t feel like you have to rush into an engagement. Use this time to become real friends first.
This is a huge one; I could not agree more. There is no need to rush into engagement and once you are engaged, don’t drag it out. The time before engagement is when you can really build a friendship with each other. You can learn and grow together without the stress of planning a wedding. You can give yourselves the chance to move past the ecstasy stage and into the best friend stage.
Some rush into engagement thinking it will put a lock on their relationship (i.e., keep them from breaking up), but engagement is no fool proof way to ensure commitment. The best way you can nourish your partnership is by not rushing through the courtship phase toward engagement. Enjoy the freedom of your single life while getting to know your honey on a deeper level. This strong foundation will help your union stand firm when the storms of life blow through… and boy, will they blow through. ~smile~
Heather, I would say a couple should not be unequally yoked as the Bible says. Both should have the same values as in the Christian faith. Then they should get good Christian counseling before marriage. This should save a lot of problems down the road.
Do you know anyone who dated another person hoping to lead him or her to Christ (otherwise known as missionary dating)? How did it turn out? What is scary about dating an unbeliever is that he or she might not come to Christ, but you might be so invested and in love that you cannot imagine pulling yourself away from him or her.
God knows how our hearts work. He knows that if we choose to date someone who does not believe as we do, we are likely to rationalize and marry him or her anyway. So many people are hurting today because they married someone with whom they were not equally yoked, and as a result their marriage has no spiritual intimacy or growth. If you love the Lord, you will want to serve Him. If you marry someone who does not believe in Him, he or she will constantly pull you in a different direction (not necessarily maliciously, but simply because they are not living a surrendered life). Imagine a team of oxen trying to go in two different directions. That is what an unequally yoked marriage looks like.
Before you get engaged, take some time and interview some experts in your life. Ask a lot of questions! Now’s the time to interrogate those couples you deeply admire and respect! ~smile~
What is the best relationship advice you have ever received? Please share it with us in the comments!