If you’ve learned marital lessons, you can help couples prepare for matrimony.
by Susan Graham Mathis
As I printed out the premarital assessment my daughter and her fiancé had taken, my heart pounded. My husband, Dale, and I had used the PREPARE assessment numerous times as premarital counsellors and found it to be reliable. That’s why I was nervous—I knew it wouldn’t lie. What if my daughter and future son-in-law were incompatible—and I had to tell them? What if the results revealed a fatal flaw in their relationship?
Could He use us?
As an editor and writer for Focus on the Family, I never considered using my knowledge about marriage matters to serve couples. Likewise, my husband, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, never thought he’d use his advanced counseling degrees and 30-plus years of work in the field to guide couples. We both felt disqualified because of our own previously failed marriages—but God had other ideas.
Not long after we married, friends asked Dale and me to do premarital counseling for their daughter and her fiancé. Then others made the same request for their sons and daughters, and even for themselves. It was rewarding for Dale and me, but that was just the start.
Soon one of our pastors asked us to serve as facilitators and mentors in the church’s premarital ministry. We agreed, not only because we had been through the premarital class and found it helpful, but also because we knew the pain of divorce. We wanted to help couples realize that marriage is a journey, not a destination. We also wanted to share about the complexities of marriage, so they could avoid the heartache we’d experienced.
Something to offer
When Dale and I married, we never dreamed the Lord would use our broken pasts for His service. He can do the same with you.
Even if you’ve struggled in your marriage but have a healthy relationship now, you can pass on the lessons you’ve learned to others. Seasoned couples have years of experience that can be used to offer guidance. If you feel insecure about your failings, remember that every couple has made mistakes. Without a doubt, God can use your experiences to assist couples preparing to marry.
Real premarital preparation doesn’t mean spending an hour or two with a pastor planning a wedding ceremony. Premarital mentoring is much more. It involves helping couples dig deep to understand needs, expectations, differences, communication, conflict resolution, finances, sex, in-laws and more. It involves assessing their readiness for marriage and determining their compatibility. Sometimes it means they discover they are neither ready nor compatible—and that’s OK.
Most of the time, the outcome is positive. At the end of counseling, couples feel confident, informed and ready to build a successful and lasting marriage.
Perhaps your church has a premarital ministry you can become part of. If not, check with the pastor or counseling staff to see what they offer. Maybe you can take your church’s premarital ministry to a new level. Whether you work with couples as mentors or counselors—one on one, in a small group or in a larger class—premarital couples can learn from your experience and relationship.
The rest of the story
Perhaps you’re wondering what happened to my daughter and her fiancé. Fortunately, their PREPARE score showed a strong, healthy relationship with a high level of compatibility. They are now happily married.
Premarital Counseling Payoff
Couples who participate in premarital counseling report a 30 percent higher level of communication and overall marital satisfaction, according to researchers at the University of Minnesota and Brigham Young University. Premarital counseling can also have a strong impact on the decision of whether to marry. About 5 percent to 15 percent of couples who go through a premarital counseling decide not to marry one another.
Beatitudes for Future Parents-in-Law
It happens to nearly all of us: Our young adult starts seriously dating someone and then—bam!—he or she gets engaged. What’s a parent to do?
Take the lead in developing a healthy relationship with your child’s future spouse. Here are a few beatitudes for parents-in-law:
- Be open and interested as you get to know your child’s fiancé/fiancée, but don’t push or pry.
- Be intentional in developing the relationship through e-mail, snail mail, phone calls or visits.
- Be respectful of the couple’s plans, expectations and boundaries.
- Be diplomatic about and wait to be asked for advice and input, especially about wedding plans and their future.
- Be supportive as they become an independent, new family.
- Be an example of good conflict resolution by forgiving quickly.
Adapted from an article by ©Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.