Tag Archives: Counseling

Pre-marriage counseling is good, and pre-engagement counseling is even better

 

Painting: "Courtship", by Edmund Blair Leighton (1888)
Painting: “Courtship”, by Edmund Blair Leighton (1888)

OK, I was chatting with my friend McKenzie who recently got married to an amazing Christian man. She and I are both big believers in asking questions during the courtship. She sent me this article from Verily magazine that has a nice story, and lots of questions.

The article starts like this:

When you know, you know. And with Zach, I knew. Just eleven months into dating, I knew this was the man I wanted to marry. Zach felt the same about me. But instead of putting a ring on it then and there, we decided to seek out a pastor for pre-engagement counseling. You read it right, pre-engagement.

It might sound intense or premature at first, but I am here to tell you that it has been an awesome experience. Sure, the deal isn’t sealed until you say “I do,” but engagement is a huge decision, too. I don’t want to get engaged and then deal with our baggage. When Zach proposes marriage to me, I want my “Yes!” to be with eyes wide open, and pre-engagement counseling has really helped us move in that direction.

What has been so great about pre-marriage preparation? It’s a structured way for us to explore the most important ideas that will be the foundation of our marriage. We have a session once every two weeks for about an hour and a half, during which we’re working through the book Preparing for Marriage by Dennis Rainey with our pastor through homework assignments and discussing together. Of course, pre-marriage counseling can take many forms, but no matter where you might go to get pre-marriage counseling, there are certain things I think any couple should consider before truly committing. Whether you work through them pre-marriage or pre-engagement, like us, is up to you.

She has 4 sections and here they are:

  1. PERSONAL HISTORY
  2. FAMILY
  3. EXPECTATIONS
  4. MONEY MATTERS

The whole essay is very practical, but let me just quote the one that stood out to me:

Few people enjoy talking about money, and Zach certainly did not look forward to this conversation. But money, how we think about it and what we do with it, plays a big part in marital happiness. In our pre-engagement sessions we were posed with great questions when talking about finances. Here are a few of the important questions to cover in a conversation about money:

  • Who will be the primary financial provider in the family?
  • How will you decide on major purchases?
  • Who will pay the bills, balance the checkbook, and keep track of expenses?
  • What is your philosophy of giving (charitable donations to your church or other organizations), and how will you make decisions about giving?
  • What is your conviction about debt and the use of credit cards?

These were just a handful of the financial questions we were asked to think about. We also discussed how we want to handle our finances as a couple and individually (joint or separate bank accounts). It’s a lot to think about, but the goal was to get on the same page.

What I am seeing a lot of these days – I am literally seeing this everywhere – is when older women prefer to date and marry younger men who do not have jobs and who either never did some sort of post-high-school job training or are still students into their mid-20s. And I know why they do that. Younger men who are not serious about providing are very, very easy for older women to manipulate. She can throw out pretty much any crazy plan she wants – and maybe say “God told me” – and he will have no authority from his own life experiences to second guess her. Because he is not responsible or disciplined himself. Young women not only struggle enormously with respecting men, they also prefer men who they do not have to respect, so they can run the relationship based on their own feelings and intuitions.

I have also encountered a very strange attitude among young women where they think that hard work in an area that doesn’t pay is as “promising” as hard work in an area that does. Actually, this isn’t true. Some people work very hard at things that don’t pay, and some people just choose things that do pay and don’t work as hard at them. What matters is not how hard you work, it’s what is in demand. An engineer working a 40 hour week is probably going to make a lot more than a graduate student working 80 hour weeks. Or an assistant professor working 80 hour weeks. The important thing is not to just be busy and organized. It’s much safer to choose a field where you can earn a good salary without killing yourself. Work stress is a stress on the marriage, especially if both spouses have to work because the male provider isn’t making enough.

There is no substitute for earning and saving money. You can’t run a marriage without money – somebody has to pay the bills. Pre-engagement counseling is useful to find out whether one or both people has a proven record of being able to earn, save, and invest. If both people have never earned, saved, or invested, that’s a pretty bad sign. Especially the way things are going with the economy and the national debt. Marriage poses serious financial challenges, and they cannot be wished away. If your plan for prosperity is to discern God’s mysterious will through your feelings and intuitions, then you should make a new plan.

New study: couples who divide housework on traditional sex roles have a lot more sex

Here’s the press release from Agence France Presse. (H/T Stuart Schneiderman)

Excerpt:

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, as they say: the more housework married men do, the less sex they have, according to a new study published Wednesday.

Husbands who spend more time doing traditionally female chores — such as cooking, cleaning, and shopping — reported having less sex than those who do more masculine tasks, said the study in the American Sociological Review.

“Our findings suggest the importance of socialized gender roles for sexual frequency in heterosexual marriage,” said lead author Sabino Kornrich, of the Center for Advanced Studies at the Juan March Institute in Madrid.

“Couples in which men participate more in housework typically done by women report having sex less frequently. Similarly, couples in which men participate more in traditionally masculine tasks — such as yard work, paying bills, and auto maintenance — report higher sexual frequency.”

His study, “Egalitarianism, Housework, and Sexual Frequency in Marriage,” looks at straight married couples in the United States, and was based on data from the National Survey of Families and Households.

[…]”The results suggest the existence of a gendered set of sexual scripts, in which the traditional performance and display of gender is important for creation of sexual desire and performance of sexual activity,” Kornrich said.

Prior to that study, there was this Norwegian study.

Excerpt:

Couples who share housework duties run a higher risk of divorce than couples where the woman does most of the chores, a Norwegian study sure to get tongues wagging has shown.

The divorce rate among couples who shared housework equally was around 50 per cent higher than among those where the woman did most of the work.

“The more a man does in the home, the higher the divorce rate,” Thomas Hansen, co-author of the study entitled Equality in the Home, said.

[…]“Maybe it’s sometimes seen as a good thing to have very clear roles with lots of clarity … where one person is not stepping on the other’s toes,” Mr Hansen suggested.

“There could be less quarrels, since you can easily get into squabbles if both have the same roles and one has the feeling that the other is not pulling his or her own weight,” he added.

Men, if you want to avoid losing everything by marrying the wrong woman and getting a divorce, then pay attention to these studies and choose wisely. Find out what you are designed to do in a marriage, and what women are designed to do. Train to do your jobs well, and pick a woman who not only does her jobs, but wants you to do yours. And respects you for doing your jobs.

Study: 70% of divorces caused by domestic issues like money or housework

This is from the UK Telegraph. (H/T Stuart Schneiderman)

Excerpt:

According to analysis of divorce cases by Gateley, a UK law firm, seven in ten marriages fall apart because couples fail to reach an agreement on decisions relating to the home, such as how monthly finances are arranged, where couples live or how household responsibilities are carved up.

Only one in five marriages ends because of infidelity, the law firm said.

The company said that couples who treat marriage as a “business merger” – and talk about domestic issues – are much more likely to stay together in the long term.

Of the seven in ten marriages that fail because people can not agree on simple domestic issues, by far the most common cause is lack of agreement over finances. One in eight of these marriages disintegrate because couples are unable to agree on where to settle down.

Elizabeth Hassall, a partner and head of the family division at Gateley, said that it is surprising how many “fundamental decisions” are barely discussed before couples get married.

She said: “Yes it’s romantic to be walking down the aisle, but the realities of a ‘merger’ are a little more cut and dry, It is often the case that people simply don’t think about it, or feel comfortable discussing life choices, but what is apparent is that going into a marriage blind could be a recipe for disaster.”

That study is from one law firm, but it reminded me about this story about a Norwegian study that discusses the importance of traditional roles within the marriage.

Excerpt:

Couples who share housework duties run a higher risk of divorce than couples where the woman does most of the chores, a Norwegian study sure to get tongues wagging has shown.

The divorce rate among couples who shared housework equally was around 50 per cent higher than among those where the woman did most of the work.

“The more a man does in the home, the higher the divorce rate,” Thomas Hansen, co-author of the study entitled Equality in the Home, said.

Researchers found no, or very little, cause-and-effect. Rather, they saw in the correlation a sign of “modern” attitudes.

“Modern couples are just that, both in the way they divide up the chores and in their perception of marriage” as being less sacred, Mr Hansen said, stressing it was all about values.

“In these modern couples, women also have a high level of education and a well-paid job, which makes them less dependent on their spouse financially. They can manage much easier if they divorce,” he said.

There were only some marginal aspects where researchers said there may be cause-and-effect.

“Maybe it’s sometimes seen as a good thing to have very clear roles with lots of clarity … where one person is not stepping on the other’s toes,” Mr Hansen suggested.

“There could be less quarrels, since you can easily get into squabbles if both have the same roles and one has the feeling that the other is not pulling his or her own weight,” he added.

For another academic study on this featuring Brad Wilcox, click here.

I think that these studies are interesting because I often hear from women that they are most afraid of being cheated on by men and that this is the cause of divorces. That is the number one threat to divorce in their minds – adultery. But the data seems to show that there are other issues that are more important – and more preventable. Feelings of love don’t resolve these domestic issues that are the real threat to marriage – it takes rational communication and planning before the marriage to defuse them. Naturally, negotiation works best when there are no distractions from crazy emotions and sexual passions. But I have often found that women are opposed to answering tough questions and being led in a particular direction during courtship. So on the one hand, they are fussing about adultery, which is a low-risk problem. And on the other hand, they are preferring an emotional roller coaster to reasonable courting discussions, which exposes them to the real threat to marriage.

Marriage advice from Christian philosopher William Lane Craig

Here is a question of the week from Dr. Craig on “Marriage Advice”!

Here’s the question:

Dear Dr. Craig,

Marriage is in the foreseeable future, and I would like to ask you for any advice before it happens. Can we avoid any mistakes? Would it be helpful to meet with a pastor for premarital counseling? Are there any helpful tips you could give from a Christian perspective or from your own experience?

Thank you in advance!

Zareen

Here are the main pieces of advice Dr. Craig gives:

  1. Resolve that there will be no divorce
  2. Delay having children
  3. Confront problems honestly
  4. Seek marital counseling
  5. Take steps to build intimacy in your relationship

And here’s the controversial one (#2):

2. Delay having children. The first years of marriage are difficult enough on their own without introducing the complication of children. Once children come, the wife’s attention is necessarily diverted, and huge stresses come upon you both. Spend the first several years of marriage getting to know each other, working through your issues, having fun together, and enjoying that intimate love relationship between just the two of you. Jan and I waited ten years before having our first child Charity, which allowed me the finish graduate school, get our feet on the ground financially, establish some roots, and enjoy and build our love relationship until we were really ready to take on the responsibilities of parenthood. The qualifier here is that if the wife desperately wants children now, then the husband should accede to her wish to become a mother, rather than withhold that from her. Her verdict should be decisive. But if you both can agree to wait, things will probably be much easier.

I wonder if the married readers agree with him about the “waiting at least a year after marriage bafore having children”?

Is it moral for a woman to conceive a child from an anonymous sperm donor?

I am opposed to any policy or program that increases the odds that a child will not have a relationship with their biological father as they grow up. This would include anything that makes it easier for parents to divorce or that facilitates single motherhood. Consequently, I oppose premarital sex, abortion, sex education in schools, no-fault divorce, and giving legal recognition to cohabitation or same-sex marriage. I want children to be able to have their biological father and biological mother close at hand, and to be able to rely on them and know them, so that they don’t feel alone and lost in the world. Although I am willing to permit other arrangements, I think society should celebrate traditional marriage – for the sake of the children.

Well, consider one challenge to this ideal situation where a child grows up with a mother and a father: conception via anonymous sperm donor.

Here’s a video that shows how children are hurt when they are denied a relationship with their biological father: (H/T Stacy McCain)

Robert Stacy McCain writes this:

The practice of anonymous sperm donors, and children fathered by them, is certainly legal and has a market. That would lead one to conclude that it is ethical, rather than unethical. In other words I’d say ethical means ‘not illegal’.

But is it moral? […]That is, does anyone think that the Almighty is pleased, and/or glorified by people thumbing their noses at the clear, simple, obvious, form-follows-function beauty of:

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. Gen 2:24

There is vast capacity to use modern technology to tinker about with the natural order of things. I’d like to fall short of a sweeping judgement here, in the space of a blog post. It’s possible that there may exist a really good case for why using an anonymous sperm donor is not immoral. But it seems that protecting the father’s (or the mother’s in the case of an egg donor) privacy at the expense of dropping a sizable existential dilemma on the offspring is immoral. That is, the biological parents (i.e. DNA providers) are doing to the child emotionally what the government is doing economically: casting debts upon them without any sort of dialogue. A variation on taxation without representation, if you will. Progressivism seems to be about finding the least vocal victim.

I don’t think that it’s enough for the child to just know who their biological father is, or to just see a picture of their biological father. I think it’s important that we promote the best situation for children, where each child has a real relationship with their biological father. And we can do that, if we are serious, in several ways.

Promoting marriage

Here are few wild, shoot-from-the-hip ideas to help children to have access to their fathers:

  1. We can research how fatherlessness affects children
  2. We can research what decisions are likely to lead to stable marriage, e.g. – regular church attendance and chastity
  3. We can repeal laws that are hostile to lasting marriage, e.g. – no-fault divorce
  4. We can enact laws that are hostile to divorce, e.g. – shared custody laws
  5. We can stop paying unmarried women to have babies
  6. We can give tax deductions to married couples who have babies
  7. We can give tax deductions to couples planning on marrying if they undergo marital counseling from a program of their own choosing
  8. We can give tax deductions to married couples whose children earn incomes, e.g. – the parents get a tax deduction for 1% of income earned by each child for life
  9. We can give tax deductions to married couples whose children don’t collect government assistance, e.g. – the parents get a 1% tax deduction on their household income for every child who doesn’t collect government welfare during the year
  10. We ban IVF for women who have not been married for at least 5 years
  11. We ban all taxpayer funding of IVF treatments
  12. We ban ban all private insurance coverage for IVF treatments

And so on, like that. This communicates to women that it is not OK to have a baby with an anonymous sperm donor. It communicates that we as a society want fathers to be around their children. It communicates that cohabitation is not the same thing as marriage. It communicates that marriages are for life. We need to get tough if we want children to be spared from the harm of not knowing their biological fathers.