PRE-Marriage Counseling

Once again I got fired up by a brother blogger (as if I’m in his league) today. This time it is Joe Sangl, my financial counselor. He wrote this post and at the end asked for what we’ve learned and I wrote some thoughts that actually applied to the subject before I went off on a tangent. I had to apologize for preaching on his comments page. Since I shouldn’t have done it there I can always put it on my own page, so here’s what I wrote:

I think Shawna and I have learned that half the battle is communicating about money without getting mad and throwing our hands up. Also, bringing an outside perspecitive and source of accountability and encouragement (your class and counseling) has helped us to realize where our communication breakdowns have been. We’re not only learning how to manage our finances but we’re learning how to communicate about them as well. It is so awesome when we’re both on the same page. We can almost enjoy the money game.

One of our hot buttons is pre-marriage counseling because ours was terrible. So now we have a bunch of our own ideas about what it should be like. Well, one thing we believe now is that every couple should have to go through your financial counseling (or a similar variation of it) before they get married and for about a year after being married. That might sound radical but money is one of the most common causes of divorce and I thik some radical thinking and action is the only thing that’ll ever put a dent in that. If churches would stop putting a band-aid on needs like pre-marriage counseling then maybe there would be a lot less post-marriage problems sucking the life out of churches.

As you can tell I feel pretty strongly about this – so much so I went a little overboard in my comments on Joe’s page. In case you’re wondering who did mine and Shawna’s pre-marriage counseling – don’t worry, it wasn’t either of our preacher fathers. It was the pastor of a very large Church of God in Atlanta – that should narrow it down without calling any names. He was supposed to be doing Hal (Shawna’s dad) a favor so we could get counseling from outside the family. We got “special” treatment because of their acquaintence and this guy graced us with an opportunity to appear before him for two 30 minute sessions – to counsel us on a lifetime future in marriage. Thank God we’ve found our way through six years because many couples don’t.

I know all that sounds very negative and ungrateful towards a man that does a good job at a good church. But why isn’t it excellent? In my opinion this issue should be right up near the top along with the emphasis our pastor, Perry, puts on children and youth ministry.

When people say what their top life experiences are what do you usually hear? The day I accepted Christ, the day I was married, and the day I had children. Guess what – all three of those can be in one way or another tied to marriage. The church is Christ’s bride and we’re to model our relationship with Christ and our marriages after Christ’s love for the church. The day you get married is a big deal but it is just a wedding day, and I won’t get started on how people plan more for that than they do for the 60 years following it. And having children is the reproduction God intended to come from married relationships. I don’t claim to be an expert about all this stuff but dang it seems important. Why aren’t more people taking marriage counseling seriously?

Do churches view marriage counseling as a burden or an unworthy cause because it isn’t a ministry? Maybe that’s not it but is it given as much attention as the women’s ministries or mens ministries? These are often times just outlets for couples to just get away from each other and thus avoid their problems – and that’s supposed to be ok as long as they live their whole miserable lives that way and never set a happy example for their children or grandchildren.

We’ll look at a graduating senior from high school or college like they’re an idiot for not going to a college or career counselor, but we see young people getting married without any counseling at all. Or, if they are getting counseling they’re getting a joke of an excuse for it like what Shawna and I got. I’m starting to ramble now but it’s frustrating to think about six and half years of marriage now and so many things could have been easier if we would have had good PRE-marriage counselling.

You can hate me for doing it again if you want, but I’m mentioning it again… Our church, awesome, is getting ready to start some new counseling from what I hear, and I can’t wait to see if we can get involved in some way. I at least can’t wait to hear of it’s success – hope it reaches a lot of people and changes their lives, shows them where to go for answers and how to endure the challenges they will inevitably face – and stay together. I’ve already heard one of the pastors talking about how one of the thoughts they want to keep in the back of their mind is to challenge couples in a way that is almost trying to convince them not to get married. I can see NewSpring being downright bold about that approach and still getting positive results. I can’t wait to see it happen.

This won’t be the last you hear out of me on this subject…

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