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 ninth chapter: What Topics Can We Expect to Cover in Pre-Engagement Counseling?
What Do You First Think Of?
What are the first three topics that spring to mind when you think of premarital counseling? My first three topics are: finances, communication, and conflict. Most of us have a preconceived idea of what to expect in marital preparation counseling and a lot of us would be right!
Well, pre-engagement counseling covers a lot of those topics and more! We believe discussing money before engagement is crucial because if you are engaged and months away from your wedding when you discover that your sweetie is thousands of dollars in debt or that he or she has no problem whipping out a credit card for every whim, you will find yourself in a pickle. “I love him and I want to marry him, but are we going to live in the poor house?” “I love her and want her to be my wife, but I don’t know if I can work hard enough to keep up with her spending!”
Couples need not wait until they are months or weeks from the altar to talk about money, parenting, in-laws, and conflict resolution skills. These matters need to be dealt with long before proposing or accepting a proposal. So, what subjects can we expect to come up in pre-engagement counseling?
The first area of interest in our pre-engagement program is compatibility. We don’t list pros and cons and then use the list to advise our couples on whether to stay together or break up. We offer an amazing tool called The PAIR Test. Couples answer a healthy number of questions and then we take their answers and graph out the results.
The graph shows our couples how they relate and compare to each other on various scales. Eric and I have found this test to be invaluable to us as a couple and to the couples we coach. It provides an objective measure and gives us insight into areas where couples are likely to experience little turmoil and areas where friction is practically inevitable.
The test does not give a cut and dry answer to the question “Should we get married?” however, it does provide insight into the joys and frustrations you are bound to face if you choose to move forward together. To date, all of our couples have cited The PAIR Test as one of their favorite parts of our pre-engagement program!
Our personalities are at the core of how we view and interact with the world. An introvert is going to seek time alone to recharge far more often than an extravert. An introvert and extravert who are joining in marriage need to be aware of some of the struggles they may face as a result of their differences. Some of us are incredibly organized. We don’t have to work hard to be organized, it just comes naturally. Others of us are more spontaneous. We feel strapped down and imprisoned by routines while our counterparts cannot function well without them.
Pre-engagement counseling gives couples a chance to explore personality similarities and differences. The more personality traits a couple shares in common, the more ease they will experience overall; but, different personality traits are often tools for growth.
Eric and I are about as opposite on the personality spectrum as a couple can get, but we have grown more from living with each other than we would have if we had married our personality twins. Differing personality types is not an automatic deal breaker for couples, but don’t get engaged before understanding your sweetie’s personality and studying the interaction between your personalities. This is something Eric and I cover in depth in our pre-engagement sessions because we find it to be so valuable.
It is far easier to extend grace to someone when you better understand his or her unique perspective. It sometimes drives me crazy when Eric takes on too many projects, but I have compassion on him because I know he is a driven person. Eric gets annoyed with how much I worry about offending people, but he knows that I value harmony at my core and that I need to maintain a harmonious environment in order to thrive.
If you were choosing a tennis partner, would you pick a football star? If you were hiring for a new restaurant, would you employ a highly recommended chef to wait the tables? The primary purpose for marriage is to glorify God, so couples should be better equipped to serve God together than they can apart. If their callings, skills, and talents point them in different directions and they choose to get married anyway, then one or both partners will not fulfill the tasks God has for them – or – they will constantly pull each other in unnatural directions. The owner of a ranch with a horseback riding ministry to special needs kids may love a missionary to China, but where would they live?
It is not fun to admit, but we are totally capable of falling in love with someone we should not marry. When you feel an intense connection to a person, it is upsetting to admit that your lives are not heading in the same direction.
However, dreams can change. If you have always wanted to be a psychologist, but now your heart is changing and you feel a desire to go into ministry with your boyfriend after you get married, that does not mean you are burying your calling, talents, and skills. They are just being funneled in a different direction. But, if you leave the core of who you are in the dust and try to adopt your boyfriend or girlfriend’s vision for your life, it will not be long before you feel completely incongruent. It is important that you marry someone whose goals, visions, dreams, and talents complement yours. A friend of mine in college said her boyfriend (now husband) prayed for a nursing major for a wife because he knew those skills would be highly useful and needed on the mission field.
What are your goals? What talents has God given to you? Do your goals, talents, skills, and visions complement those of your boyfriend or girlfriend? Are you heading in the same direction? Pre-engagement counseling helps couples determine if their life goals match and if they are heading down the same path.
Want More Information?
For more information on what you can expect to cover in pre-engagement counseling, check out the ninth chapter our book, So You Want to be a Fiancée?
If you have further questions about topics we cover in our pre-engagement counseling sessions, check out the document we have developed to answer what our pre-engagement program is all about. You can find that document here.
Join us next time as we talk about red flags to look out for in your relationship!
What topics would you want to cover if you and your sweetheart chose to do pre-engagement counseling with Eric and me?