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”?

25 thoughts on “Marriage advice from Christian philosopher William Lane Craig”

  1. OK, I’m getting responses to this post by e-mail and Facebook. How come nobody is brave enough to leave a comment? I know that all my female readers are going to disagree with the delaying childbirth, but William Lane Craig has spoken, and I’m pretty sure that means that there is no point in arguing about it because he will crush us all into squishy goo.

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    1. My wife and I also agree on the point of delaying childbirth. When we first discussed when we wanted to start having children (before we got married, of course) we found that we both wanted to have several years of marriage just the two of us for many of the same reasons Dr. Craig cited.

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  2. I am a female and I will openly state I affirm delaying the birth of children early in the marriage. No, I don’t think that this will be the case for everyone, in every marriage. Yet, I would make a case for it for several reasons. One, it allows the newlywed husband and wife to settle into their transition of marital oneness and their roles as husband and wife. Two, it helps in establishing marital intimacy and sexual oneness. I don’t have children but as a professional counselor who is a Christian, I have heard time and time again how children affect sexual intimacy. They are indeed a gift from God and the focus of the marriage then, as it should, transitions to the cares and needs of the children. I wouldn’t recommend this type of transition for a newly married couple still building intimacy with one another. Finally, I would affirm the intended couple to discuss their financial views and goals, and the things that would best help them achieve and/or work towards these goals. If that included delaying children for a season, I think the couple should do so wisely.

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  3. My wife and myself ended up getting pregnant (her that is) about 2 months after we go married. We were young when we got married (20) and I will say that children changes everything. It’s difficult. That being said, it’s difficult no matter what age you are. It really depends on your maturity level, how you view children and the purpose of marriage.

    We now have 3 children, 5 years later, and I’ll say that it’s changed me and shaped my character for the good more than anything else ever could. So would I do it again? Most definitely. I’d only change my initial maturity level.

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  4. “William Lane Craig has spoken, and I’m pretty sure that means that there is no point in arguing about it because he will crush us all into squishy goo.”

    Haha!

    Personally, I think that Dr. Craig’s advice was spot-on for points 1,3,4, and 5. I would say, however, that the issue of delaying children is largely going to depend on the couple in question. I DO think it’s healthy to have some amount of “husband and wife” time before the kiddos come along…but God’s designed things so that we AUTOMATICALLY get upwards of 9 months of it (unless the first child is conceived on the wedding night and is born significantly premature, I guess).

    My wife and I got married a week after she turned 21, and three weeks after I turned 21. We’re both students living on a very minimal income, so we’ve been trying to delay having children for more “pragmatic” reasons. So far that’s been successful (nearly two years along now).

    At the same time, we’re both very much looking forward to having children in the future…and if we were to find out tomorrow that she’s pregnant, we’d both be excited. Things would be tough financially, but we’d make it through.

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  5. My husband and I waited, and I’m thankful that we did. We wound up waiting for 15 years as it turns out. Admittedly, there were extenuating circumstances, I had a chronic health issue that needed to be brought under control, we were both very young and not quite out of college, and we were both very poor. But, the intervening years brought us closer together and made us even closer best friends than we already were. Now that we have our first (maybe only child), there just don’t seen to be too many really major crises anymore. I can’t imagine that would have been the case had we been coping with him as newlyweds before all the other things we’ve been through.

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    1. But would you recommend this as a general approach for everyone, not just someone in your circumstances? How much should parents care about creating the conditions (stability, prosperity) that will allow their children to thrive? I think this is particularly interesting in a time with there is so much single motherhood by choice. Do adults have a responsibility to control themselves so that they welcome children into a stable (1 year of marriage completed) union and where there is a plan to pay for things that the child will need? I see a lot of babies being had by people who don’t seem to be anticipating the needs of children.

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      1. I think it’s easy to take that too far. I think in current American society, the people most able to provide for their children are also the people with the highest threshold of what they consider adequate minimum provision, which leads to their having fewer children, and having them later—exactly the people who, in my view, should be having more children.

        In other words, in crude but concrete terms, some poor couple (probably not even married) has children at age 20 without thinking about it, and the children don’t get what they need and grow up in poverty. Some other couple of married, thoughtful people who could do a much better job parenting, and provide materially much better, maybe should start having children at 24, but puts it off until they’re secure, almost rich, say at age 30, and even then only has two children, because they think they shouldn’t have children until they already have the money to pay for four years of college, etc. Then the next generation will be poorer and less thoughtful, because it will be made up of more of the former category, and fewer of the latter. I think that’s really too bad.

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  6. Absolutely, I think the number one factor, that cannot be emphasized enough, in having a lasting marriage is to make sure that both potential spouses agree that divorce is not an option for any but the most serious reason (serial adultery, severe physical abuse), but I strongly disagree with Dr. Craig on #2 and #4, have issues with the way he worded #3, and feel that he could’ve made some additional important points in #5.

    #2: Dr. Craig suggests that couples delay the arrival of their first child for several years, and gives his own 10 year delay before having children as an example. With the average age of marriage climbing nearly every year, and women especially not being educated about their ticking biological clocks, a couple that marries at, say, age 30, isn’t going to have much time to wait around to “decide” to have children. A healthy woman’s fertility first starts to dip around age 27, and goes practically into free fall after age 35. At that same time, the risk of birth defects rises dramatically. Women with health problems could find that their fertility window is even smaller. While children change the marriage and home dynamics, infertility is certainly a rocky and depressing road that can lead to the end of a marriage. Additionally, if couples “should” prevent children, which are the natural result of a marriage union, and more specifically of the marital act, how does WLC think they should go about doing so? Many types of contraception work either primarily or secondarily by making the uterine environment hostile to a fertilized egg, causing a very early abortion. Some can cause health problems that could impede or destroy fertility.

    I consulted my husband on the issue of whether couples should delay children, and his opinion is that it depends on the couple and their attitudes toward and expectations of having children. Children can strengthen a marriage and bring great satisfaction, but only if couples don’t allow their children to become the center of the marriage. Everyone, including children, is better off if the marriage is “couple-centered,” not “child-centered.” Too many couples lose focus on each other when children arrive, and wives can be especially likely to give all their energies to the child, while the husband is neglected, eventually causing the relationship to deteriorate or even end. This can be an issue no matter how long a couple waits to have children. How children are going to be cared for and raised, and how important the marriage relationship is should be ideally be discussed before marriage is even considered. Also, a couple that waits to have children can get comfortable with having a child-free life, enjoying many of the activities they did when they were single and could adopt a lifestyle that may be incompatible with children, creating an even bigger shock if/when they do decide to have a child. Personally, I think it is easier to have a child just short of a one-year anniversary or soon thereafter, the couple will have 9 months to get things in order for the little one’s arrival, and can practice keeping their bond strong while doing some family activities.

    As a Christian, there is nothing in the Bible that suggests that married couples should prevent the arrival of children, rather, they are commanded to “be fruitful and multiply” and the general tone of verses relating to family and children or the lack of children point to children as a blessing and barrenness as a curse or at the very least as withholding of the blessing of children.

    I also found it troubling that Dr. Craig suggests that if the wife wants to have children right away, “Her verdict should be decisive”. Why? What if the husband wants children right away? What if the wife suddenly decides she doesn’t want any children to pursue a career, or changes her mind about how many to have, and the husband doesn’t agree or it doesn’t mesh with what the couple decided before marrying? Shouldn’t the husband have a say in these matters? And, if, as WLC suggests, the wife does not work outside the home, why delay having children? She should have plenty of time and energy to care for them and still be able to give her husband some attention when he arrives home from work.

    #3:I agree that couples should confront and discuss problems honestly, but I don’t like that Dr. Craig framed it as “fighting” or “arguing”. To many people, that implies that the couple should be yelling at each other and fight it out until the problem is resolved. From talking to many people who have had very long, very successful and happy marriages, it seems that it is best to let the two parties cool off for a bit if a discussion gets too heated and tempers start to flare. Additionally, such discussions or arguments should be done in private, away from children and other eavesdroppers.

    #4: I am surprised that anyone still recommends marital counseling, when such counseling has a 75-95% failure rate. Many, if not most, counselors are going to make it seem like a couple’s problems are going to be very difficult and/or impossible to solve, and my perception is that counselors are generally biased to favoring the wife, especially since women are usually more open to discussing their feelings in general, even with near strangers. I asked my husband about this, and he felt the way I suspected: that nothing could make him think that marital counseling would be useful and he would refuse to participate in such a waste of time and money.

    #5: Wife section: I am glad that Dr.Craig approached the subject of the husband’s need for sexual intimacy, but I wish he would’ve also stressed the importance of respect and submission to the husband’s leadership. The lack of respect that wives are showing their husbands in society today is nothing short of appalling.

    Both of you section: I would argue that the “growing separateness” is caused more by the husband and wife having separate social lives and focusing too much on friends, sharing problems in their marriage with friends and family rather than discussing things with each other, and just not making the marriage the number one priority between the two of them.

    In conclusion, I propose an additional recommendation for the men: Don’t marry a feminist.

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    1. “In conclusion, I propose an additional recommendation for the men: Don’t marry a feminist.”

      Ha ha great conclusion!

      I think Mrs. W. makes an important point, not just about women’s fertility itself (it doesn’t have a long half-life) but also that so many women today are uninformed about it, and learn the hard way. That is truly tragic.

      Incidentally, a book pictured in the column to the right, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism, makes the same point.

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    2. That’s a really great comment!e,

      I think WLC recommends counseling as a preemptive measure, not to save a marriage, since his marriage has never been in that kind of trouble. In a lecture, he mentioned that he and his wife went to counseling to figure out how to deal with their kids.

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  7. I think putting off children a couple of years so that the new couple has a chance to get used to each other’s quirks and idiosyncrasies and get into a rhythm financially is probably a good idea, at least in the case of younger couples who may not be fully mature in terms of how they handle day to day life yet. I’m not saying it can’t work; and I’m not saying that if God decides you’re going to get pregnant (which has happened to me – our second child was conceived while my wife was on the pill) that you should abort or give up the child.

    Mrs. W made a great post and I agree with a lot of what she has said. However, I’m not as prone to dismiss counseling entirely – partly because I know two counselors I trust, and partly because many counseling failures happen due to the abject failure of one or both of the spouses to take anything to heart and actually work on making things better. Most marriage counseling failures that I’ve knowledge of can be summed up by this: one or both spouses thought the counselor would do something about the other one, and they saw no need to change themselves.

    I think it’s a bad idea to deter someone from seeing a counselor, as you are at that point pretty much promoting the whole go it yourself approach. And then both spouses put on their “I’m good” public faces and no one knows there is a problem until it is too late to save the matter – this has happened twice to couples that I thought would go the distance, both of them several years older than I am and had been married longer than I have (I’ll be at 18 years soon). Even if you don’t agree that counseling is beneficial, there needs to be an urging that when you are having problems that you have trouble resolving between the two of you, you need to seek help from someone instead of just writing it off or ignoring it and hoping it goes away. IMO, anyway. :)

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    1. I think that this is something for each person to test during courtship – does the other person take responsibility for their role in making the relationship work? If they make a mistake, are they accountable to a standard outside of themselves? Do they take responsibility? Do they make amends for what they’ve done? Are they teachable? Can they be convinced by reason and evidence that their views are mistaken? How much are they able to conform their behavior to truth, rather than just being dogmatic and/or emotional and/or aggressive?

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  8. My husband and I have been married going on 8 years now. We started out our marriage “trying” to have children when I found out that I could not take birth control for health reasons.

    We have had a time dealing with infertility in the years since our marriage, but one thing about it, we have had time for the two of us. In all honesty, if we had children as early in our marriage as we had planned, I don’t know if we would have made it.

    We had to both agree to set it aside for a season until we were both ready to think about having children again, for the sake of our marriage. It has taken us this long to really get to know each other as whole people. We dated for almost 3 years before marriage, and we still did not know a whole lot about each other. The first 3 years of our marriage were the roughest, but since then, we have experienced the best years thus far. We still don’t have children, but we hope some day that the Lord opens that door for us.

    I do think it’s up to the couple as to how long they wait, but I definitely agree with Dr. Craig’s advice.

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  9. I agree with much of what Melissa W has said. In regards to delaying children, the couples should consider their ages and look down the road. Will you be able to be an active part of grandchildren’s lives? Do you want to burden your child with your care when you are 80 and they are only 40? Will you have the energy in your 50’s to wrangle that wiley teenager?

    My parents were 40 when I was born. They were tired and I was not their focus. My children only knew their grandparents as infirmed individuals.

    Therefore, we had our children early. Yes, it was a stress, but it also solidly locked us together in our efforts to raise godly, well-rounded children.

    Unlike MW, I find that counseling can be of great benefit. However, you have to find the right fit. There are some wonderful interactive marriage classes available that are just as good as counseling. (Marriage Dynamics affiliated with familydynamics.net).

    I do understand all situations and couples are different.

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  10. I agree with Dr. Craig, but sometimes God takes the decision whether or not to have children out of a couple’s hands. My husband and I planned to be married several years before having children; three years into our marriage, we were surprised with our first child, and ten months later, we learned we were expecting our second, despite our efforts at prevention. My husband was still in graduate school, we were living in a tiny apartment, and the strain of not one, but two children at a time when we would not have planned them took a toll on our marriage.

    Our kids are now three and almost two, and things are much better. Hubby has graduated and is working full-time, and we were able to purchase our first home recently. I know God knows what he’s doing, and I know he gave us kids when he did for a reason, but, had I the chance to do it over, I’d definitely have waited to have kids.

    The part I disagree with is letting the wife call the shots. Husbands’ wishes are just as valid as wives’! It might work out fine; the husband might come around when he sees that cute little face, but he might not. He might resent having given up his dreams of having a few years alone with his wife, and this resentment could show up in a number of ways, none of them good. Children deserve to be raised by two parents who wanted them, not one who did and one who didn’t.

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  11. I found this all so very interesting. I turned 50 last month, and my husband and I celebrated our 30th anniversary last December. Oh, and we have 9 children, ranging in age from 12-28. I told my friends in the 7th grade that i was gonna marry him one day, and I did. I really don’t know what all the commotion is about; marriage is a truly wonderful gift from God, and children are blessings whatever the circumstances of their arrival. I agree that the marriage should be couple-centered over child-centered, but more importantly, it should be ‘other’ centered. If I truly believe that I’ve been crucified with Christ, and the life I now live is by faith in Christ who loves me and gave Himself for me, then my life reflects that, married, single, children or not. We don’t have a lot of extra money lying around, our children pay their way through college, but our children think their parents are the greatest and have the best marriage. Two of our children are married and each have 2 children; 2 more are getting married this summer, and we’re all so excited. When we married, a year out of high school, my husband said, now, no kids until Im done with school. We had 2 before he graduated! God has been marvelously patient and kind with us; above all, I’m grateful that when Jesus made me His, it was forever and NOT dependent on me, my wife or parenting abilities, but solely on Him and what He did for me it has been a great journey, and i must admit that i do look forward to the years when all my little blessings call somewhere else home….can’t wait to have years with my man alone. No two marriages are the same; enjoy and relish the good stuff, work on what needs work, and throw out the bad….not your spouse. I’ve enjoyed reading all these posts.

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  12. If more couples received honest and accurate counseling, mentoring, and support from family and friends, this type of advice would be almost unnecessary. The idea that you have to know each other really really really well before having kids is like saying you should date for *at least* [x amount of years] before getting married. As if this were a one-size-fits-all argument.
    A “standard” recommended length of time between marriage and becoming parents is slightly ridiculous. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be advising couples to prayerfully consider marriage and family before embarking on the journey. But I think this type of advice can easily make young couples end up on one of two extremes. Some will wait solely due to this type of advice, and then regret it because parenthood is truly their calling and passion and something they love and wish they would have done sooner. But they were just following “sound” advice. Others will have kids early (or have already had children) and then mourn the ideal of that elusive “growing as a twosome” time. This could very easily cause feelings of regret and discontent where there would have been none WITHOUT this advice.

    Do I think that waiting can be wise? Of course. But without a personal knowledge of the couple and their situation I think it can be dangerous to make this type of blanket statement, especially given that this is supposed to be “Christian” counseling, and yet the Bible is to my knowledge silent on the secular idea of “getting to know each other” before having kids. If we consider marriage and parenthood to be about loving sacrifice, joyful giving of oneself, and personal sanctification, maybe we should stop trying to figure out a perfect formula for “happiness” and start working on supporting singles, couples, new parents, and families as they strive towards holiness.

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  13. You might also want to link to Dr. Craig’s audio at the national leadership conference, where he talks about many of these issues. He’s a little more ‘male-friendly’ in that lecture.

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  14. I am totally agree to Dr. Craig those answer is really need to do,specially Resolve that there will be no divorce i am disagree to some people that the main solution for their problem is divorce pretty bad.

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  15. I fully agree with WLC here. My wife and I were married for 5 years before we had a child. And it was a planned pregnancy. We have since had 2 more children. It has been 17 years of marriage. Looking back I cannot see changing anything. If anything at all, I might have waited a little longer before having the first one.

    The reason is pretty much like what WLC was saying. People need time to get over the infatuation period. Newlyweds don’t really know each other at all. Until you live together and invade each other’s personal space for awhile, there are certain challenges that may never be experienced.

    So, to have a kid right off the bat might be a big mistake. Why else would we see so many single mothers out there? They rush. Even a potential criminal can be charming for 2 years. But throw him into a marriage and watch him become nasty and unfaithful. By that time there is a child ready to lose a father.

    The best thing is to wait a few years to give both people a chance to air out their dirty laundry.

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