Apr 102014 7 Responses

Do This Before You Put A Ring On It

It’s better than nothing. Sitting down with a counselor in the months before the wedding is better than never doing so. Premarital counseling can be a meaningful time which greatly influences the direction of a marriage. No couple should get married without first going through counseling.

Yet I don’t encourage premarital counseling. I don’t believe counseling is best suited before someone says, “I do.” I think it is most effective before they say, “I will.” (See: Never Call a Pastor for Premarital Counseling)

The problem with premarital counseling is that it is often too late. By the time a ring is on the finger, the mother-of-the-bride has already cried, dresses are shopped for, and ‘save the date’ cards are in the mail. It becomes harder to tackle the truly difficult topics which need to be discussed before marriage.

Once the engagement is public, the couple is often too biased to have an effective counseling session. (See: Pastoral Advice for Single Women)

I don’t encourage premarital counseling because I’m a proponent of pre-engagement counseling.

By discussing the important issues before a ring is involved and the news is public, the couple has an opportunity to honestly, openly, and privately wrestle with the meaningful issues regarding the most important decision of their lives.

Once the ring is introduced, everything changes. (See: Dating to Break Up, a Unique Perspective)

Only on a few occasions have I spoken with couples in a premarital setting where they came to the conclusion they shouldn’t get married, but each time it was a sad process. Many couples aren’t just in love with each other, they are also in love with the idea of being in love. The engagement process is a fun and exciting time, not only for the couple, but also for family and friends.

I have done more than one wedding where I assumed the couple was getting married as much for their parents as they were because they loved one another. Pledging your earthly lives to another just so you don’t disappoint your mother is not a wise decision. Premarital counseling can prevent that, but pre-engagement counseling is far better.

Consider a couple who gets into counseling only to discover they shouldn’t get married or comes to the conclusion that at least they shouldn’t get married right now. If the ring is already on the finger, they would then have to:

tell their friends and family the wedding is off

continually explain to others of a change of plans when asked

either live with or return items purchased for the wedding

decide what happens with the engagement ring

All of this could be prevented by several sessions with a professional counselor before the question is popped.

Rarely does a man ask a woman to marry him without some discussion. Conversations about the state of the relationship and the future intentions of each person normally take place before an engagement. When these conversations begin to take place, the couple should reach out to a counselor and spend several sessions with that counselor discussing:

Life goals

Expectations

Family history

Finances

Communication

This can be done with complete confidentiality, or the couple might choose to tell their families. Yet even if the families are told, they know the couple is only considering engagement and marriage–nothing is guaranteed. And if the relationship doesn’t move forward, the disappointment won’t be as much as if plans had already been made. (See: What to Look for in a Mate)

Of course, rarely does a couple conclude they shouldn’t get married when they go through counseling. Most of the time the issues which arise are more about skills which need to be learned than irreconcilable differences. Counseling before engagement isn’t just better in case the relationship shouldn’t continue, it’s also better if it should continue. If a couple decides to get engaged after pre-engagement counseling, they can have the confidence of a well-made decision and can spend the engagement enjoying the process and preparing for the wedding rather than wondering if they should get married.

If you are already engaged and haven’t received any counseling, do so. Call sooner than later. (See: You’re Not My Soul Mate)

If you are considering engagement, instead of asking her to marry you, ask her to go to counseling with you. Discuss the important issues and decide if you want to spend your life together.

7 Responses to Do This Before You Put A Ring On It
  1. Brendon Reply

    Kevin, I heartily agree, both from our own pre-engagement counseling experience as counselees and as a shepherd in ministry. One more category I feel pretty strongly about is transparency concerning past relationships and battles (past or present) with addictions. These can be such vulnerable and painful places, yet if the relationship is to continue toward marriage and grace is both given and received, potentially devastating barriers to growing intimacy are removed. And a rock in the picture is almost always going to cause anything not already disclosed on these topics to be very unsettling. Thanks, Brother.

  2. Yvonne Reply

    I agree. I’ve been married 42 years and, though we have a good marriage, I still wish we would have got counsel before getting engaged.

  3. Joel Reply

    I dont have a very good married life….

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  5. […] encourage pre-marital counseling, but instead, believe in pre-engagement counseling. (See: Do This B... kevinathompson.com/signs-should-call-off-the-wedding
  6. […] pre-marital counseling, I recommend pre-engagement counseling. To understand my thinking, see: Do Th... kevinathompson.com/before-you-get-engaged

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