When people hear the word “counseling,” they typically associate it with something being broken or wrong. Pre-marital counseling is the opposite. The goal is to prevent future conflict, misunderstanding, and hurt. These things aren’t avoidable, but having a biblical understanding of marriage and God’s purposes can improve your relationship, creating a firm foundation to enter marriage.

The Bible doesn’t specifically mention pre-marital counseling but encourages discipleship, discernment, and growing knowledge. It may be best to go to counseling if you’re engaged because it may save your marriage.

The ins and outs of counseling.

Couples usually ask a pastor, close friend or mentor to counsel them. It can be helpful to ask an older married couple that’s strong in their faith to get the perspective of the wife and husband. It can be helpful to go through a book while counseling, which can offer questions and guidance to discuss. You and your spouse can mark your books and add them to your bookshelf. There are numerous books to choose from, but ultimately the Bible is the book to be rooted in.

So you and your partner have decided to take the plunge and try counseling, no matter what other people might say, like, “Should you get married if you need counseling?” or “That’s so old-fashioned.” How can you get the most out of your counseling sessions? Here are some tips for embracing counseling in a way that’ll affect your future.

Take notes.

Just like being in school, taking notes is essential. If you have one, take notes in your book, write questions in the margin, and highlight points that jump out at you. Take your time to answer the questions your counselor gives beforehand. After your session, journal what you learned about yourself and your future spouse. Pre-marital counseling isn’t something to take lightly. It’s so self-reflective that you’ll leave with a better understanding of your future spouse, how they operate, and what you need to feel treasured and loved. It can also help you uncover your flaws.

Nothing is scarier than bringing the dark to the light and having someone else see the skeletons in the closet that you’ve been hiding. Having notes about these discoveries, realizations, and things you learned can be resourceful in the future when you need reminders of God’s intentions for your marriage.

Have discussions outside of counseling.

When you and your spouse were dating, did you set aside a specific day for date night? It can be nice having that time carved out of your busy schedules to spend time with each other intentionally. Once engaged, you can schedule your counseling sessions for Friday mornings. Instead of keeping your conversations about marriage within the four walls where you met for counseling, we can go over questions ahead of time with each other, which can be fun and encourages vulnerability.

It can also foster deeper conversations you couldn’t necessarily have while trying to get through your session for an hour. If you let yourselves be open with each other in an official setting, what will you do when those opportunities leave? Counseling isn’t only the stepping stone to the wedding but a lifeline for marriage.

Practice your tips.

A fun part of counseling is having weekly challenges. You can compare your lists of expectations of marriage, prioritize each other’s happiness above your own, and take a love language quiz, just as a few examples of the “homework” you may receive. Prioritizing each other’s happiness may stick with you, and you may have to come back to it multiple times in marriage. When you get married, you must remove yourself to love your spouse continually. It takes effort to love your spouse and for your spouse to love you, but it’s worth it end the end. Love is a choice; you can’t neglect small actions to make your partner feel chosen, forgiven, noticed, and special. Put the lessons you learn in counseling to use after your sessions are over.

Follow up with each other.

Counseling can be fun, but it’s serious. It’s not easy discussing your struggles with sin, pasts and hopes for the future. Pre-marital counseling is the time to discuss sexual histories, painful memories, and experiences affecting your view of marriage. It connects you emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. Following up with your partner after heavy sessions and check-ins is essential. It’s impossible to discuss marriage without discussing the beauty of the Bible, and Jesus has love for us. The two are woven together, with marriage as a symbolization of our relationship with God and His dedication to us.

Through counseling and discussing the marriage covenant, your partner can learn the depth of God’s love for them and the grace and forgiveness they’re freely given but don’t deserve. These sessions may leave you in tears, so communication and follow-up are vital aspects of any relationship, especially one that will become a lifelong partnership.

Many couples find themselves years or months into marriage when they find out they have different perspectives on theology, politics, how to raise children, who does the cleaning, or even if they want children. It’s critical to discuss these topics before committing to marriage. Counseling can help facilitate these discussions by having an unbiased, outside person to mediate. 
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