There are three common reasons why marriages fail and Pastors have the privilege of helping to prevent or at least minimise their damage on a couple preparing for marriage. This year I am already marrying nine couples. With each couple I require at least six pre-marital counselling sessions, usually spread over 6 – 9 months. But I am aware that there are pastors who do no pre-marital preparation with the couples they marry. I would like to share the broad outline of the ‘road map’ which I use to prepare a couple for marriage.
After a couple has asked me to marry them and I have explained that I only perform a wedding as a Christian Minister (not as a Civil Celebrant) we make an appointment for our first meeting. Ideally this first appointment is 9 months out from their wedding date – but we can squeeze the required sessions into a 6 month window of time. At the first meeting the couple supplies their full birth certificates which are used to complete the Notice of Intention (these provide the full names of their parents including maiden names). I then outline to the couple that we are going to be putting 90% of joint effort into preparing them for their marriage not their wedding. A wedding, as I explain to the couple, is under an hour. A marriage is meant to be for a life-time. I then quiz the couple on why they think most marriages fail. I generally have most couples get two out of the three top reasons why most marriages fail (communication breakdown / infidelity – breach of trust / lack of adequate preparation). I then give them their first set of homework exercises which includes purchasing 2 Gary Smalley books: For Better Or For Best for her to read; and, If Only He Knew for him to read. We then set the date of our next meeting which would be in another 6 weeks or so (if we are nine months out) or 4 weeks or so (if we are only 6 months out). They have to have their books read and be prepared to report on what they have read at our next meeting.
At this second meeting the couple report back on their homework assignments. We then begin to outline what intimate communication looks like. I explain that there are five stages to the most intimate communication. The first stage is using cliches. At this stage of communication we are intentionally keeping our distance while being polite. The second stage of intimate communication is facts. At this stage we are showing some trust in the person we are sharing with. This is an important point because with each stage of communication we are communicating with increasing trust. But it is the third stage of communication where most couples end up in conflict. And it is at this stage where the hard work of real communication begins.
[More to come]