Last month, my fiance and I went into a premarital counseling program at our church. It consists of a 6-week, once-a-week educational course as well as a private counseling session. The overall goal of the program was to introduce newlyweds into the institution of marriage according to Christ, as well as a vast array of skills each couple needs to adopt going into the life-long commitment. I want to share some of the most poignant lessons that hit us on the road, as all of these apply to secular marriages as well. I thought it’d be helpful for those of you looking to get yourself ready for marriage, or just any other long-term partnerships:
1. Family matters the most to God. It’s the whole reason he sent Jesus Christ to bring you back to Him1.
2. No matter what happens, decide now that divorce is never, ever, ever an option2. You and your spouse will be leaving your respective families to unite and become one in flesh, bind by the Spirit. Marriage is a sanctity, and whoever separates the bond is essentially bringing your new family down from grace3.
3. The kind of love that lasts for eternity has all 3 components from Robert Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love:
4. As with all kinds of relationships, communication is vital – both verbal and nonverbal. Little things like touching, smiling, mimicking each others’ gestures and maintaining eye contact add up. In the same vein, verbalize your thoughts and feelings. It’s important for the both of you to be on the same wavelength.
5. Communication is a lot like building a home. Keeping a sense of security and comfort in the ways you communicate adds up to marital bliss. Let your partner know you’re always open for him/her to run to and share his/her thoughts and feelings. This simple tip makes it all the easier to have a deep, meaningful, and honest conversation all the time.
6. Practice active listening. Be present and responsive instead of nodding here and there while texting or playing online games.
7. It’s very, very important for your husband to have you respect him at all times, no matter how “@#$%^!*&” you’re feeling at the moment. Likewise, husbands, respect is not for free – it’s earned. Different men have different definitions of respect, so talk about it to the nitty-gritty with your future husband until it’s crystal clear for you.
9. Assumptions are the basis of most arguments. Even if the both of you have the most stable personalities around, people change and relationships evolve. We humans may be inclined to loss aversion, but don’t jump to conclusions based on the pain of the past. Accept that getting to know your partner is a life-long process6, so make it a habit to always ask your spouse first even if you think you already know his/her answer.
10. The quickest way to calm down a crying woman is to pull her head to your chest and hug her in that position. This tip was based on the pastor’s own experience, and at one point it’s proven true for us too, not to mention it’s biblical: According to Genesis 2:21-22, woman was created out of man’s rib, the bone that’s anatomically closest to his heart. So hug it out.
11. Money is the most common issue in marriage. Money in itself isn’t the root of all evil – the love of money is7. Money becomes an issue when it becomes your idol89. Either one or all of these 3 things will happen: One of you secretly dreams of piling up material wealth, one of you starts to have a different view on spending and managing funds, and/or one of you is going through a financial crisis. To prevent conflicts around money, make sure you are taking charge of where your money goes, instead of letting it having control over you.
12. Be transparent about your cash flow with your spouse. Honesty is still the best policy.
13. Live within or, if possible, below your means. Stay debt-free and avoid spending money you don’t have. Use credit cards to delay your payments, not to cover your shortages.
14. The key to peace and prosperity is contentment10. It’s pointless to compare your lifestyle with another’s. The larger your greed, the greater your loss11. Fact is, as long as you have something to eat and a roof over your head, you are already wealthier than billions of other people in the world. Give thanks in all things12, because all you really need to be financially secure is to trust Him.
15. Having more money doesn’t solve problems if you don’t control how you spend it. Learn to spend wisely with little, because you will grow in wisdom with much13.
16. Start early: Save and invest NOW. Time is a huge factor when it comes to wealth management. Assuming you and your spouse are in your 20s, factor in your current age, and you’ll no longer have to worry about making ends meet by the time your kids go to college14. Your profits not only bless them, but makes you a blessing for others as well15.
17. Conflicts: Disagreement or disapproval that arises when your interests/perceptions/priorities clash. Conflicts arise when resources are limited to fulfill these interests, when communication is weak, and/or when either one of you loses hope in finding a way out. God allows conflicts to happen so that husbands and wives would realize they need to be open and honest with each other in order for the marriage to work. Resolving conflicts also allows couples understand each other better, grow more intimate with each other as well as more dependent on God.
18. Just because you have different opinions doesn’t mean you’re mortal enemies. Keep in mind that no two persons agree on every level. Most marriages fail because they focus on their disagreements more than they do communicating their wants, their needs, their desires, their fears, and the love they have for each other. Always aim for win-win: Don’t forget that you and your spouse are on the same side16.
19. No temperament is better than the other. God uses all temperaments when Jesus called all 12 of his disciples17, with each temperament comes its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Our MBTI profiles match, and based on the DISC typology, I am more Dominant and Conscientious and my fiance’s more Influential and Steady. We’ve taken a formal DISC test before, and our results justify just how true of the fact that we complement each other to be evermore like Christ.
20. It’s the differences that makes a husband and wife bear a complete image of God18. We may play distinct roles, but we’re equal in dignity. A husband’s role is to lead his family into worship, to deliver God’s word to each member of his family, to be responsible for every aspect of his family’s welfare, and to be the head of his wife just as the head of every man is Christ. Wives are there for her husbands to be of his help, become his noble companion, and to turn to as his source of joy.
21. It’s the God-fearing man who prioritizes his family above all who will have an enduring legacy19. Your children are your legacy, so if you want them strong and sound and resilient, you must build your home under the foundation of God’s laws20. Don’t go too hard on them21, but remain authoritative and consistent with your care22. At some point, it’s very easy for parents to see their kids as their end-goals in life, and you start to load your burden on them. Always be willing and ready to be used by God to become a blessing to them as well as others, instead of forcing them into your own will23.
22. The 6 needs of every child you’re going to be responsible for:
- Physical needs Basic hygiene and nutrition is mandatory for the proper growth of your child.
- Emotional needs Children need to feel they’re free to express themselves with you. As they grow older, they need to discipline themselves and learn how to control their feelings.
- Social needs Playtime and bonding with peers are essential for the development of his/her psyche. Socializing teaches them about fairness, tolerance, loyalty, physical coordination, and conflict-resolution.
- Intellectual needs This is where tiger moms should watch out – your children will not fulfill your unfulfilled dreams or achieve your unattained goals. They have their limitations (IQ, EQ), and they should follow the proper academic guidance according to their ability.
- Financial needs Children need to understand that money is only a means to an end. Parents ought to teach them how to give, how to save, and how to make use of money wisely.
- Spiritual needs Children need to be able to relate with God freely and as they are. At the end of the day, it’s they themselves who will understand God’s will for them and their life’s purpose.
23. Fathers-to-be are responsible in leading his family in worship, prayer, and Bible study at the family altar, whereas wives help to make sure the kids follow and remain obedient in God’s ways. Altars can be your dining table or living room, but having the time to pray, worship, read His word together sets your family up for loads and loads blessings in life24.
24. Of all the methods in the world, children learn best by example2526. Consistency is key: You can teach them to put the toilet seat up over and over again, but if you say it and your child sees your spouse does another, it’s an inconsistent teaching/warning in their eyes, and they will never learn to put the toilet seat up. Be a good example together27 for them to imitate.
25. If they’re born rebels, the best way to teach them is to enter their world. It’s difficult to become intimate with a teenager. During this age, their levels of self-esteem are pretty volatile, and their sense of self has not reached maturity. It’s best you explore their hobbies and interests in order to speak their language. Spend time with them for you to bond with the kid. Let him/her know it’s okay for them to open his/her heart – that’s where you come in with love and without condition, and an equal amount of discipline as well.
26. Sexual intercourse in covenant marriage is not just for procreation, but also pure pleasure given by God28. He designed men to be biologically more active and aggressive, making them possess a higher sex drive that needs to be satisfied regularly. To them, intercourse helps develop a stable self-image and the kind of confidence that permeates throughout other aspects of his life. Not only does regular sex builds him up, it also reduces friction at home (minor problems like why doesn’t he put the toilet seat up?!), causes him to become a more loving husband, and ultimately makes him a happy man. Likewise, the sexual portion of your sense of self-worth will come from your husband through intercourse. You’ll feel like a real woman, knowing you’re cared for and loved29. You’ll also worry less, reduce your levels of anxiety, and overall become more relaxed with regular sex, especially if you’re in a marriage where your emotional needs are met.
27. What makes him/her tick? How male and female respond differently:
- M Physical, compartmentalizing
- F Relational, integrating
- Stimulated by
- M Visual, centers around the body, aroma, action
- F Touch, centers around the mind and emotions, attitude, words
- M Response, physical needs, physical expression
- F Response, emotional needs, relational intimacy
- Sexual response
- M Acyclical, quick
- F Cyclical, slow
- M Fast, short, physically-oriented
- F Long, deep, emotionally-oriented
28. Before the Fifty Shades wave, the world considers sex as a taboo topic for daily conversations30, but married couples should freely and openly navigate through their sexual relationships31. One-night stands, premarital sex, and other pervasive sexual activities unjust in God’s eye have corrupted the social narrative of sex today. A truly happy and fulfilling sexual relationship cannot be achieved in one night. It may not be the most important thing in life, but sex is right up there along with food, shelter, and money.
29. Any marriage problem that comes along the way has to do with either one or two or all of the 3 factors:
30. Family planning is the very foundation of Christian procreation. Husbands and wives ought to pray together, discuss with each other, and give serious consideration when it comes to childbirth32. Be responsible and use contraceptives!
31. Abortion is out of the question. I mean, you wouldn’t want to murder a baby, would you?33
32. According to Genesis 2:24, man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife. Theologist Volkhard Scheunemann explains that this is not just a matter of willingness to let go, but the physical, spiritual, and financial ability to leave as well. This brings a shift in priority from his parents to his wife. From there he should be given the freedom to make decisions for his new family without feeling sorry for his parents. All this in no way means a husband-to-be gets a license to break the 5th commandment. On the same vein, parents are no longer decision makers for their son as much as they become advisors. Good reads: Leave and Cleave Part 1 (Why living beside your parents is bad for your wife), Part 2 (why it makes you stick closer with each other), Part 3 (the black guitar) on Relationship Matters.
33. No child born out to the world is an accident. His/her parents might be one, but as long as God allows the fetus to come into existence out of a womb, he/she has a definite purpose determined way before the father’s sperm meets the mother’s egg34.
34. We’re together and soon-to-be married for a reason so much bigger than ourselves. It’s not about us, it’s not about creating our happy little world, it’s not about making money, amassing wealth, having kids, see them grow up, retire then leave the earth. It’s about what we’re going to do with that little world of ours and ultimately, what our marriage will stand for. It can ignite hope in the hearts of those who no longer believes in love35; it can inspire the broken world to make amends with its neighbors; it can change the people in our lives in positive ways; and it will, put simply, bring back the glory to God.
- John 3:16 [↩]
- Matthew 19:6 [↩]
- Mark 10:9 [↩]
- Luke 6:31 [↩]
- Ephesians 4:31 [↩]
- Philippians 3:13-14 [↩]
- 1 Timothy 6:10 [↩]
- Luke 16:13-15 [↩]
- Isaiah 44:9-20 [↩]
- 1 Timothy 6:6-8 [↩]
- Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 [↩]
- 1 Thessalonians 5:18 [↩]
- Luke 16:10-12 [↩]
- 1 Timothy 8:17-19 [↩]
- Matthew 13:11-12 [↩]
- Ephesians 4:25 [↩]
- 1 Corinthians 12 [↩]
- Genesis 1:27 [↩]
- Psalms 112:1-3 [↩]
- Deuteronomy 6:4-9 [↩]
- Ephesians 6:4 [↩]
- Proverbs 29:17 [↩]
- Proverbs 29:11 [↩]
- Hebrews 10:24-25 [↩]
- John 13:15 [↩]
- 1 Peter 5:3 [↩]
- Matthew 18:19 [↩]
- 1 Corinthians 7:2-4 [↩]
- Proverbs 5:15-19 [↩]
- Romans 12:2 [↩]
- Genesis 2:25 [↩]
- 1 Timothy 5:8 [↩]
- Exodus 20:13 [↩]
- Psalms 139:13-16 [↩]
- 1 John 4:8 [↩]