Pre-Marital Counseling Part IV

by Darcie

The time has come – our last session of pre-marital counseling!!

You can find recaps of sessions 1, 2, and 3 here.

If you’ve been following our counseling journey, we’ve shared that we’ve really enjoyed the experience. Every single relationship in our lives requires hard work to thrive, and romantic ones are no exception. If anything, they require more attention than others.

Logan and I aren’t going into marriage thinking it’s going to be easy, and we believe that preemptive counseling is a good idea and went for it!

Not only did it create a space to work intentionally about our relationship, it also gave us the opportunity to reflect on our strengths and areas of growth.

Marriage Ceremony

As I shared in my most recent recap, Pastor Jim asked us some specifics about our legal ceremony here in San Diego. We followed up with answers to some of his questions including the Bible passage we want him to base his message on.

Logan chose our passage which is Ephesians 4:25-32.

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin.” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

I really love this verse because I think it speaks not only to a strength of Logan’s and my relationship – communication – but interestingly the most common issue I hear from couples who see me for couples therapy.

It’s true that communication is SO important in a relationship, and it’s encompasses many things – how you speak to each other, expressions of gratitude and validation, requests for affection and attention, etc. So when Logan suggested this verse, I was all for it.

I also liked that the verse talks about only speaking words that builds others up.

I believe Logan and are supposed to be each other’s cheerleaders, not judges. It can be SO tempting to criticize and judge, and we all do it even when we don’t want to. But this verse is a reminder to to always be trying to build each other up instead of tearing each other down.

And then there’s the part about compassion and forgiveness.

We all mess up. That’s reality, so forgiveness is integral to a successful relationship. If we can’t let go and move on, then we are going stay stuck in the past and keep score which will only breed resentment, bitterness, and discontentment in our relationship.

Relationship Goals

And not the hashtag kind. 😉

Our homework assignment was to decide on 1 personal goal each, 2 as a couple, and 1 related to our family.

We shared with Pastor Jim what we came up with:

My personal goal

  • Finish and submit hours for my MFT license by the end of 2019

Logan’s personal goal

  • Complete Google analytics course by May 15, 2019

Goals as a Couple

  • Go to church twice a month/try one new church by the end of June.
  • Come up with a list of what needs to happen to move (we’re keep where we are considering moving a secret for now!) by the end of the summer (August 31).

Goal related to Family

  • See my parents at least once a month.

Pastor Jim explained that goals are important in relationships because without them life can pass us by and we can easily become stagnant. The day-to-day takes over, and we get lost in the moment. Goals keep working toward something, and working together as a couple.

As a goal-oriented person, I was all for this! (In fact, Logan and I did our own goal-setting sesh together at the start of 2019!)

Finances

Logan and I have yet to determine how we are going to handle our finances. There are various ways that couples handle this, but I’ve heard/read that money is the number one thing that couples fight about.

My dad is a financial planner, so I was raised to be careful with my money and plan for my future. Needless to say, discussing money and finances is something I’m used to, but it’s nerve-wracking to think about having this conversation with Logan.

We grew up with two very different approaches to money, and two very different financial situations. As a result, we both have different current financial pictures and different views on how we should handle our finances going forward.

Since we were in counseling, I wanted to get Pastor Jim’s thoughts on finances. He’s been married for over 20 years, and Logan and I both respect him.

Of course this is an extremely personal topic, and what works for one couple might not work for another. Still, we felt that hearing some thoughts would only be useful when we have our talk.

Pastor Jim shared with us his personal belief that finances should be completely merged in a marriage because in God’s eyes, marriage means unity. Of course, he said, there’s no right or wrong, and what works for one couple might not work for another.

He shared with us three approaches to finances and what’s worked based on his experience counseling couples:

  1. Separate. This means that no money is shared, and the couple contributes equally to household expenses. Pastor Jim said that he’s only seen unsuccessful examples of this with couples. It’s the opposite of unity in a marriage and can add a host of complications to a relationship such as borrowing from a spouse, power plays, disparity in retirement and vacation options due to income disparities, etc.
  2. Blended. All finances are combined with the exception of a small amount of discretionary spending money. He said this is very common, and there is some benefit to it as couples report that they argue less about “fun” spending. The downside, he said, is that if one person is a spender and the other is a saver, complications can arise later on if one person is saving their discretionary money and over time has a nice nest egg while the spender has nothing. What happens then to the nest egg? Does it become far game? Does the saver go on a solo vacation with it?
  3. Combined. Pastor Jim believes that this one promotes unity within the marriage as all decisions related to finances are joint. There are no power concerns as all money is shared. There’s no question about who can afford what and how retirement will be managed. While there’s often a lot to be discussed this approach regarding spending habits, discussions are part of a marriage and this topic is not unlike any other than requires problem-solving.

Logan and I haven’t talked about finances since this conversation, so I can’t say how we will manage our own. I do know that it was worth discussing with Pastor Jim and hearing the pros and cons to each approach. It’s definitely a personal issue, and one that doesn’t have a right or wrong answer. The most important thing is that both people are on the same page regarding finances and there aren’t any power influences going on in the relationship.

Reflections

Logan and I would both highly recommend pre-martial counseling to every single couple out there who is planning to get married. And if you’re already married, go to counseling anyway! You don’t need to have any problems in your relationship to want to highlight the strengths and the areas of growth. There’s no harm or shame in relationship check-ins and learning tools to improve your relationship.

As a therapist myself, I can say that it was helpful for me as well! One could argue that I already have the tools to have a successful relationship, but there’s always room for growth.

Hope you’ve enjoyed these recaps and found them to be useful!

What do you think of pre-marital counseling after hearing our experience? If you’ve done it before, what was your experience like? I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories below!

Featured image by Bria Peterson

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