The previous four posts were geared primarily to the young couple that had never been married and did not already have children. However, we all know that the storybook picture of a boy meeting a girl is not always how it happens. In the situation where someone has been married before or there are children then the premarital counseling potentially becomes more complicated. Not only must you talk about the major Bible themes, the eight practical issues for all couples, but now you should supplement your counseling with additional material depending on the history of the couple. Since the number of possible complicating factors is basically endless, I will leave you with three ideas to help in the more complicated cases:
Learn their story
We always want to learn the story behind people’s lives. In a situation where there are complicating factors like prior marriages or children, then it is wise to learn a bit more about all that happened. Sometimes you will find mostly innocent parties, sometimes you will find mostly guilty parties, but almost always you find people who are still recovering from deep wounds. It is wise to help them learn to deal with the wounds, to learn any lessons that might be helpful for this new union, and to set proper expectations for the future. Premarital counseling becomes something less than helpful if you do not take these significant events into account.
A word of caution. These discussions are never easy. It hurts to talk about our wounds and it sometimes is hard to hear about them. But remember, your goal is to love the couple by helping them prepare for a life together. That goal is both lofty and challenging, but well worth it in the end.
Tailor your counseling to their needs
Sometimes couples in these situations have already learned to handle their past’s in a biblical fashion. They have already implemented specific changes in order to be more honoring to the Lord. They have already put their experiences within a gospel centered perspective. Other times, they have not. Thus, it is important for you to tailor your counseling to whatever needs their story demands.
Help them be as prepared as possible
I am thinking about a case where a woman had a child and the child’s father was still involved. This situation creates a challenge for the soon-to-be husband and step-father. It is more than a two for one deal. Not only does the new husband, in this case, need to adjust to being married and being a parent, but he also must adjust to the fact that the parenting also involves the biological father. To some degree, no one can be fully prepared. However, a willingness to talk about how the couple can handle all the challenges associated with these situations can be very beneficial; even if it is hard to do so.
There are many other situations that would also be helped by taking the time to talk them through. The point I am trying to make is that some premarital counseling is complicated by other live factors. Rather than encourage the couple to “figure it out” on their own, it is beneficial if someone who loves them comes alongside and gently guides them through a few decisions. It will be a great ministry opportunity and it will help the couple be in the best possible position to have a marriage that reflects Christ and the church.