A reader from Chicago, Illinois asks, “Could pre-engagement counseling ruin my relationship?” Why yes, yes it can. Allow me to give you three reasons why pre-engagement counseling could destroy your relationship….
- You may argue more after pre-engagement counseling.
Pre-engagement counseling is designed to help you get to know your future spouse – really well. In helping you to learn more about each other, our goal is to expose areas of agreement and disagreement. Often, when a couple is dating and heading toward engagement, both parties typically want to please the other person. In doing so, both people often do not bring up – or even actively avoid – issues about which the other person may be uncomfortable to discuss. Good pre-engagement counseling will bring those issues to the surface in a safe atmosphere where it is important to be open and honest – if not somewhat vulnerable – with each other. However, after the session is over, the issue will often still need to be worked through by the couple. This can increase argumentation over the issue – especially if both people have diametrically opposed viewpoints on the matter.
- You may find an incompatibility during pre-engagement counseling.
Some matters may not be as significant; however, other topics such as religion, children, sex, in-laws, household chores, and other daily life-impacting issues may arise. If you are a Christian and the person you are dating is of a different faith, there will be problems which result from that union (2 Corinthians 6:14). Or, imagine that you want a full-quiver of children, yet the person you are dating does not want any. Another thing to consider is the family of the other person. You’re not just eventually marrying your boyfriend or girlfriend, you’re marrying into his or her family. You’ll want to carefully consider their dynamic because your children may be heavily influenced by his or her family. Additionally, and this is a touchy topic, there is the matter of premarital sex. Some Christians who have completely abstained fall in love with another person who is no longer a virgin. At that point, there is the matter of forgiveness and wisdom. Often, people are quick to vilify those who would dissolve a pre-engaged relationship when finding out that the other person is no longer a virgin; however, what does the Bible say? Matthew 1:19, in reference to Joseph when he found that Mary was pregnant during their betrothal period, states: “And her [promised] husband Joseph, being a just and upright man and not willing to expose her publicly and to shame and disgrace her, decided to repudiate and dismiss her quietly and secretly.” Notice how the Bible characterizes him: “just” and “upright.” There is no hint of “How dare you!?! Haven’t you sinned too?!?” Also, this situation is a matter that requires wisdom. Those who have engaged in sexual activity with others before marriage are more prone to doing so with others after marriage. In addition, such experience invites comparison for that person which often leads to sexual issues within the marriage (which will also affect the previously-abstinent spouse). So, if a man or woman discovers that the other person is no longer a virgin, it may end up destroying a pre-engaged relationship. However, the above is not to say that the abstinent person must abandon the relationship. If both parties choose to work through the issues (though they will not be easy) and forgiveness applied where it is necessary, then the marriage can still become a wonderful and flourishing marriage upon seeking after righteousness together from that day forward (Joel 2:25).
- Pre-engagement counseling may expose different life goals and dreams that are not mutually compatible.
Though it is common for a woman to seek security, protection, and provision from a man – and for a man to seek nurturing, tenderness, and companionship from a woman – such things are often not enough to sustain a relationship. If the man is wealthy or the woman is drop-dead gorgeous – even those dynamics do not make a healthy long-term relationship. One of the key factors in pursuing a dating relationship are to look for common life goals and dreams. Compatibility lists that you write up can be helpful (if used in moderation, but for the purposes of inclusion or exclusion – unless it is something that you must have or won’t have); however, (among other factors) having similar goals, visions, and dreams for your future together will be a much stronger indicator of long-term marital success than checking items from a compatibility list.Now, with the above being said, I will offer a caveat… sometimes the dreams and goals of one spouse can change after marriage. It may be that the person did not know him or herself well enough to understand what he or she wanted out of life. It may be that he or she really did think that much of you that he or she really did wholeheartedly think that your dreams and goals would invigorate him or her for life… but now, his or her mind has changed. What do you do… get a divorce and find someone who is compatible for your life’s path? No. You continue on to love, respect, and cherish your spouse as you have vowed to do. Pray and seek the Lord’s guidance as to what He (not your spouse) would have you to do in going forward. He may change your goals and dreams too… or, He may just keep you on the same path. He may bring your spouse back to your path – or He may not. Ultimately, the main goal is to support your spouse in figuring out what the Lord has for his or her life and help him or her achieve those dreams and goals!
So, after reading the above, are you more persuaded to avoid pre-engagement counseling (as it may break up your relationship) or to engage in pre-engagement counseling? I hope you see the value in engaging in pre-engagement counseling. It is much better to discover those topics and issues that will drive a wedge between your current and future relationship together before the wedding than discovering those after the wedding… especially after you have vowed unto the Lord to commit to this person for the rest of your life. And if pre-engagement counseling can terminate your relationship, then trust me… your relationship didn’t have much to stand on anyway.
Making a marital commitment is a good and godly thing; however, you want to make sure you have sought the Lord’s guidance, your family’s guidance, your friends’ guidance, and some professional guidance in making your life-long partnership selection. The worst that can happen is that you realize that the other person is not a good, long-term fit for where you are heading (and where you want to head) in life and that there is another person out there who does match your heart’s desire. Wait upon the Lord… He is the best match-maker of them all. And if you think you’ve found “the one,” then I strongly encourage you to invest in pre-engagement counseling and premarital counseling.
(If you have a question about relationships you would like answered on PreEngaged.com, please contact us!)
Are you purposely avoiding difficult issues in your relationship? Exposing them early will benefit you!