Postponing Love

A couple of 14-carat gold wedding rings. Pictu...

Dear Christian Counselor,

 

I’m looking for the most thorough, rigorous Christian premarital counseling book that you’re aware of. I need recommendations for a Christian couple that’s recklessly rushing towards marriage after spending very little time together. They’re determined to hold their wedding asap, but they’re also very open to premarital counseling and any books we recommend to them. I’m looking for a book that challenges naivete and the fairy tale they’ve spun for themselves about the necessity to get married now, without experiencing each other over time.  Many thanks!

 

Dana

 


 

Dear Dana,

 

This couple is blessed to have such a caring friend, and they may need your friendship more in the months to come if they are rushing into marriage. Before I address your question, I’d like to address your underlying fear. While there is some evidence to indicate that a longer dating relationship gives marriage a better chance of success, it is far from the only factor. The Bible does not presume that a bride and groom even KNOW one another before they marry. It gives them the same advice as it gives couples in longer dating relationships: to love and respect one another (Col. 3:18-19), not to divorce (Matt. 19:1-6) and to work as a team to build God’s Kingdom (Ps. 45). If both spouses love Jesus and are even more committed to Him than they are to each other, that will give them the strength, wisdom and grace they need to create a loving partnership. Other factors, such as their cultural value systems, family support, income and communication styles are also very important, and those are things that should come out in premarital counseling. But be warned: I have tried to talk people into postponing marriage with very little success. Those in love are thinking not primarily with their heads, but with their hearts filtered through Cupid’s chemicals. Give them all your best advice, but in the end, YOU must trust God for His work in their lives – through a happy marriage or an unhappy one.

 

While I know of no resource which deliberately bursts young love’s balloon, there are some books below that I would recommend, in no particular order. I would also recommend that the couple talk with a pastor or counselor who is trained in premarital work, someone who can speak into their lives with compassion and wisdom. May God guide them – and you, too, as you walk alongside them.

 

Thing I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married by Gary Chapman

(Contains exercises and discussion questions.)

 

The Meaning of Marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller

(Covers the basics of Christian marriage thoroughly.)

 

Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas (A different, deeper perspective on marriage.)

 

Preparing for Marriage by Boehi, et al.

(Contains worksheets on decision-making and relationship evaluation for engaged couples.)

What Marriage?

20120714-105714.jpgDear Christian Counselor,

What do I do with my marriage? I am tired and hurt and devastated. We have been married three years and have fought this entire time because he is controlling and emotionally and verbally abusive to me. I have since learned he cheated on me before we were married and also recently. I feel lost and not knowing what I am to do at this point. On top of all of this, he is not remorseful for his behavior and choices and says I deserved it.

Lost and Alone in Marriage


Dear Alone in Marriage,

My first reaction is to say to you, “What marriage?” Jesus names adultery as His exception to the prohibition on divorce (see Matt. 19:9, for example) because it breaks the relationship so thoroughly – physically, emotionally and spiritually. So you do have the option of divorce. You did not say whether you or your husband are Christians or have a Christian community, but if you do, it is time to engage those resources. You need a pastor, a counselor and a group of friends supporting you, praying for you and helping you through this time. If you don’t have these things, go get them!

Just because divorce is an option doesn’t mean you have to take it. But if your husband remains unrepentant in the face of confrontation by you, your pastor, Scripture and the Holy Spirit, then I would suggest you enforce a separation, even if you remain in the same house. Use the time to do your own counseling, especially in terms of your identity and decision-making, investigate your legal and financial options, and pray, pray, pray. For something this important, you want to know you followed God rather than culture or even your own ideas. In the end, you will either have to build something totally new with your husband or pursue life on your own, because what you have is not what I would call a marriage.


Related Material:

Questions About Forgiveness
An Unrepentant Spouse

It’s Not Just about the Money

imageDear Christian Counselor,

I’ve been married 26 years. I’ve always handled the finances with very little input from my husband. I’ve quit my job to take care of my Gma full time, his idea, and am not receiving a paycheck. Our daughter is ready for college, but he refuses to sit down and talk about anything to do with money. He’s out of town during the week and comes home on the weekends. He’s been helping his brother with our money but finally quit that. He loves to play the slots and scratch offs. I keep telling him we do not have money to spend like that. He went and got two loans for cash 6 months ago and I found out by accident. The non-communication is killing our marriage. I feel like I don’t have a choice cuz he’s the only one with money coming in. I feel like he does and says what he wants cuz he knows there’s not a thing I can do. Help!

 


Dear No Choice,

How exhausting! You have so much happening all at once. It is heartbreaking to read. The first thing I wondered when reading your question was, “Does she have any type of support system?” This is certainly a time to rely on your friends, relatives, and church group for prayer, emotional support, and help navigating these issues. This is not a road to walk alone.

I also highly recommend counseling, even if your husband will not attend with you. Your questions highlight sadness, worry, frustration, loneliness, and feeling helpless. It would be beneficial for a counselor to screen you for anxiety and/or depression. I also wonder if your husband is struggling with an addiction given what you’ve said about disconnection, taking out cash loans, and lottery tickets.

Money is one of the largest topics of dispute among married couples. Because the deeper nature of this dispute is less about money and more about anxiety and control, it is easy to see why couples disagree. Money is never just about money. It is both sad and hopeful to point out that financial issues are merely the tip of the iceberg. My guess is that there is much more happening beneath the surface for you both. A counselor can help you explore the history of your marriage, your personal histories, and how you two took on the roles that you are currently playing in your relationship.

Lastly, there are some red flags in your letter that concern me. If you were my client, I would advise you to consider talking with a financial manager. It might also be a good idea to consider meeting with a social worker who can help you make decisions about your daughter’s education and your grandmother’s health. Alleviating some of these stressors might give you more space to heal as you address the aforementioned marital problems.

This is probably not an easy response to receive. Let me encourage you in the promise of hope. The Gospel teaches that no pain is ever wasted and nothing is beyond God’s redemption. May you know the shepherding presence of Jesus as you walk this valley and may you know a marriage better than what you could dream of.

— Jessica