In this article, I would like to continue highlighting some of the practical issues that should be discussed with young couples preparing to marry. Last time, we discussed the issues of dealing with the past and maintaining a godly approach to purity during the final days of their single status. Now I would like to discuss the matters of expectations and problem solving.
#3: Great Expectations
We all have them. We all enter marriage with some idea of what we would like it to look like. Sometimes young couples who seem to be giddy with love come with the attitude, “Oh, I don’t have any expectations! We will get along great.” While you hope that they will not place unreasonable expectations on one another, the reality is that in real life laundry must be done, rooms need to be painted, the car needs to have work done, someone must buy the groceries, someone must handle the finances, rooms have to be cleaned, and on the list could go. Let’s face it, there is stuff that has to be done. This initial list does not even include some of the major issues such as the timing of children, the level of interest the woman places on a career, the expected lifestyle by the man (thus having impact on his soon-to-be wife) or how holidays and special events will be handled.
The point I am trying to make is that there are expectations and it would be wise to talk about them. Often a young couple is ignorant of these expectations because they have never been put into a situation where they were forced to deal with expectations. By forcing them to consider some practical illustrations you can really prepare them for the future. Here is a short list of the more important matters:
- Children, how many and when they would like to start having children
- Wife’s role in earning income, especially after children are born
- Household duties
- Financial responsibilities
- First major holiday after the wedding
In time, these expectations may change. The goal is not for them to create their entire working system before they get married. The point is to prepare them well for the early days. It is to help them make the adjustment from seeing each other when it works in their schedules to seeing each other all the time. In my view, if the couple can handle the transition well, then they will be able to make godly adjustments along the way.
#4: “I would like to make an accusation”
That is what you would say right before you are about to win the game of Clue. You have solved the “who done it” question and you are about to reveal the answer. In premarriage counseling we regularly talk about problem solving. Every couple is different in this area. In my own experience I have been with couples who seem to have a problem regularly and I have been with couples who act like they never had a problem. But in marriage, every couple has problems. So part of preparing them is making sure they know how to deal with a problem – even if you, as the counselor, need to start a couple problems!
This helps them learn how one another deals with adversity. So much of dating occurs when everyone is on their best behavior and when they are each trying to impress the other. But after the wedding ceremony, they will experience various kinds of diversity. Therefore, it is best to prepare them for that adversity.
Here are the basic steps that we teach and look for when working with a couple:
- Are they willing to accept their part of the problem? In Matthew 7:3-5 we are to remove the plank in our own eye before seeking to remove the speck in the other’s eye. Are couples, in the midst of a problem, willing to examine themselves?
- Are they willing to confess their part of the problem to God and to one another?
- Are they willing to forgive one another?
We believe that if an engaged couple can solve problems biblically, then we they are in a great position to have a God pleasing and very enjoyable marriage. If the couple allows problems to build, then they will be preparing for a life of hardship.
In part 3 of this series we will discuss the issue of communication and the relationship to in-laws.