So, You’re Planning A Wedding …
It’s wedding season, a joyful and exciting time often accompanied by overwhelming pressure. In the midst of finding the right location, saying yes to the dress, creating an invite list and dealing with family expectations, couples can forget the reasons they are getting married in the first place. Some couples even find themselves making a pact to just get through the wedding planning so they can enjoy life together afterward.
But what about that life after the ceremony? Couples who are laser-focused on surviving the wedding finally get to the next day of the rest of their lives together, look at each other and say, “…now what?”
In working with couples for almost forty years, I’ve often had people ask me, “If we are right for each other, why do we need to prepare for regular life together?” I always tell them that no matter how much you love each other, it’s important to remember that you have lived a lot of life doing things a particular way…your way. And it’s not unusual for people to believe that their way is the only way. Once you get married and find out that your soulmate does things totally differently than you do, you need to be prepared with tools to communicate your differences and ultimately create new patterns of life together.
Learning things like how to prioritize quality time with each other and what strategies help with effective conflict resolution are all a part of the process. Premarital preparation helps couples navigate potential landmines ahead of time, setting them up to navigate those moments in ways that build up their relationship instead of tearing it down.
There are several options when it comes to marriage preparation. Some couples choose to go to premarital counseling. Typically, in this type of experience, couples will look at factors like how they were raised, their personality and how it meshes with the one they love, unspoken expectations, what conflict looked like in their home growing up, and more.
This experience gives people insight into themselves and the person they love, along with their families. Hopefully, it also helps couples look at areas that could potentially create conflict down the road.
In addition to premarital counseling, many couples have also found premarital education to be exceptionally helpful in preparing them for a healthy, long-lasting marriage. Premarital education varies from premarital counseling in that it gives you information and the tools to build a healthy relationship, equipping you to know how to:
- Communicate in a healthy way
- Manage conflict so that it builds up your relationship
- Effectively managing finances together
- Set boundaries with in-laws—how to leave and cleave
- Understand what intimacy looks like in marriage (it’s not just sex)
If couples have this knowledge and apply it, they have a significantly greater chance of building a life together that is healthy and resilient.
An example of something every couple experiences but few actually know about is a little chemical called phenylethylamine, or PEA. In effect, it’s a natural amphetamine—a stimulant that triggers the release of dopamine and norepinephrine, which provide the rushes of pleasure and the “butterflies” we’ve all felt at some point. PEA is high during those lovestruck days of dating and marriage; however, it dwindles after a couple of years.
The presence of PEA is what allows you to overlook a lot of things that would normally get on your nerves. As the PEA begins to dwindle, the person you once found thrilling may seem boring, frustrating or worse. Behaviors once considered “cute” — or that could at least consistently be overlooked — become sources of conflict. This can leave couples feeling confused, upset or even unloved.
Receiving this information as part of premarital education helps couples realize that this is normal, instead of thinking there must be something wrong with their relationship. Couples can be prepared and know how to intentionally create romance and care for one another as they move forward in their marriage.
In our work at WinShape Marriage, we want to help couples walk confidently into marriage with their eyes wide open. Our “Marriage Prep” experience is an example of premarital education; it is biblically-rooted, researched-informed, experiential and fun. It is designed to teach about PEA, as well as the importance of play and laughter in your marriage, how to support each other’s walk with the Lord, how to intentionally love each other well, and many other key tools for a successful marriage.
If you are preparing for marriage, I strongly encourage you to take the extra step and invest in premarital preparation. Why go into marriage hoping you can figure it out when there is information to be discovered to help you get off to the best start possible?
Some of my favorite resources are:
- Sacred Marriage, written by Gary Thomas
- Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts, written by Les and Leslie Parrott
- The Couple Checkup, written by David Olson, Amy Olson-Sigg and Peter Larson
Julie Baumgardner is the Senior Director of WinShape Marriage. She has nearly 40 years of experience of helping marriages and families thrive. Prior to joining WinShape, she spent 20 years as the President/CEO of First Thing First. https://marriage.winshape.org/
Family Life Radio is listener supported. Those who listen give to make the music and content possible to shine God’s love, peace and encouragement into hearts, revealing truths that direct people in the way they should go.
If you feel led to give a gift today to help others draw strength, gain wisdom and experience peace through Family Life Radio click here.