As a marriage counselor, I have seen my share of troubled marriages. While each marital crisis is unique, one thing is universal for these couples- they did not get married to be miserable. They, like you, hoped to live happily ever after. They didn’t plan on one day looking at each other and questioning the decision of “‘till death do us part.” In many cases, the troubles these couples face predate the marriage. The marital disappointments connect to the couple’s interaction before they said, “I do.”
If you are engaged, there are important conversations the two of you should have about your current relationship. The topics below highlight key pitfalls that engaged couples can fall into that will lead to marital distress if not addressed. Building a strong marriage begins now. As you read, consider where your own relationship is and what may need to be addressed. Then share your thoughts with a trusted mentor or counselor.
Common premarital pitfalls include:
1. Expecting Your Fiancé or the Relationship to Carry Too Much
If your relationship has advanced to engagement it means you have shared significant moments together. You are likely a source of strength for each other. Your fiancé may know you better than anyone else. This is wonderful and probably a big reason why you want to spend the rest of your life together. However, if your fiancé or the relationship is your ultimate source of hope or help, it will be more than the person or relationship can bear. We are designed to be dependent, but that dependency must always be ultimately on the Lord (Ps. 62:5-8). Have you felt the weight of being the source of your fiancé’s emotional balance? Is your fiancé the only one you turn to when you need hope? Does the status of your relationship determine your happiness? Your relationship will buckle under this weight, but the Lord will not.
Couples must point each other to the Lord. You can pray together and share Scripture to encourage each other. These are wonderful habits, but you both need to personally be resting in Jesus and looking ultimately and regularly to Him. Jesus is the best savior and refuge for your fiancé; you are not able to carry that weight (Ps. 46:1). This truth must be the foundation on which you build your marriage.
2. Swimming at Only One End of the Conversational Pool
When a couple only occupies the shallow end of this pool, they ignore vital conversations. They have a lot of fun and often have great memories of exciting times. They talk about the things they enjoy doing or interests they both have. Life is fun, just like kids playing in the shallow end of the pool. But when things get difficult, talking is hard. They tend to get out of the pool when conversations go deep. They don’t have the relational stamina to swim in the deep end. It’s exhausting.
On the other end of this pool are the couples who tend to only swim in the deep end. Their conversations are often about vital areas of the relationship. They discuss their relationship, faith, family, and plans very deeply (and often late into the night). When they have conflict, they talk through all the areas of hurt or misunderstanding. Every aspect of their relationship has deep meaning, and they intend to find it. While this kind of relationship has more stamina to tread the waters of deep conversation, they can lack the enjoyment, playful interaction, and rest that the shallow end can bring. This too is exhausting.
Couples need both. You need to know how to enjoy the less deep end of life that finds joy and pleasure in the little blessings all around you (1 Tim. 6:7). You also need to have the relational stamina to go deep with one another and not drown (Prov. 20:5). Learning this balance now will greatly help your future marriage.
3. Getting Physical
Until you are married, sexual activity is stepping outside of God’s plan for your relationship. God designed sex with a purpose. Sex invites another person into the most vulnerable places of your life. It is an act of building trust. Sex is also one of the most significant ways couples experience betrayal. Sex can build or break trust in a relationship. Infidelity or adultery is when married couples take sex outside of God’s plan (Ex. 20:14). Fornication or sexual immorality is when unmarried couples take sex outside of God’s plan (1 Thess. 4:3-5). These activities are battering rams to the walls of trust in your relationship and future marriage. If you are engaging sexually now, you and your fiancé are saying, “I am willing to compromise on God’s plan of faithfulness for our relationship.” If you and your fiancé will compromise on faithfulness to God’s plan now, why should you trust that compromise in faithfulness won’t happen once you are married? God wants you to have sex. He just wants you to enjoy it the way He designed it (Heb. 13:4). His design protects your future marriage. His design also builds trust into your relationship.
As you read through these pitfalls, did you see some characteristics of your relationship? If so, it isn’t a deal-breaker but it should be a conversation starter. The Lord is a redeeming God. He is gracious and forgiving. Turn to Him for grace and consider talking with someone about these pitfalls. Seek out a wise mentor, a respected married couple, or a biblical counselor. Share this with them and begin the conversation. Having these conversations will help you now and in your future marriage.