Engaged couples can benefit from a premarital counseling retreat to help prepare for holy matrimony. Marriage is more than wearing a white dress, but it involves joining two distinctly different individuals in a lifelong bond. Instituted by God, it is a relationship designed to be mutually fulfilling, wholly sacred, and primarily for the purpose of producing offspring. The holy bonds of matrimony were never intended to be broken by divorce. Sadly, today's statistics indicate nearly half of all marriages will end in divorce within the first ten years. Thus, it would behoove couples to seek professional and spiritual counsel before entering into such a permanent union.
Potential partners can find information about a premarital counseling retreat near where they live by logging onto the Internet or searching the local telephone directory. Many churches, Christian organizations, and secular social services agencies offer two- or three-day events at remote locations, such as a camp site, major hotel, or resort. The purpose of hosting a session at a remote location is to offer engaged couples an opportunity to get away from family and friends, careers, and the concerns of everyday life, and focus solely on gaining an understanding of what marriage entails.
During the premarital counseling retreat, men and women will not only gain a greater insight into the institution of marriage, but also learn more about themselves and their partners. They will soon realize that dating and falling in love with someone is easy; but wedlock engages the whole individual. When dating, most people put on their best behavior and wear a pleasing facade. But behind that facade, a myriad of personality issues that may adversely affect the marriage could very well exist. By attending a premarital counseling retreat, couples are guided through a process which helps them reveal hidden character flaws and ascertain whether each of them is a suitable marriage partner. Potential mates should be open to making the necessary adjustments suggested by counselors to become better permanent partners. They will also discover that contrary to popular belief, marriage is not a 50-50 partnership. Sometimes, the relationship requires husbands to give 60 percent and wives 40 percent; while at other times, the requirements could easily reverse.
Experienced counselors or spiritual advisors conduct lectures and one-on-one interviews, and offer exercises designed to expose engaged couples to different scenarios common to holy wedlock. Advisors might also discuss the role of husbands and wives in a traditional marriage; expectations for sexual intimacy; responsibilities of each spouse in childrearing; and how to deal with marital crises, such as chronic illness, the loss of a child, joblessness, or infidelity; and more importantly, how to begin thinking as a couple and not individuals. During the two- to three-day premarital counseling retreat, counselors will try to expose couples to as much information as possible to help them realize the potential problems and solutions, blessings and burdens of the matrimony.
In a Christian setting, a premarital counseling retreat will also address issues of the pair's faith. The Bible clearly admonishes believers not to be unequally yoked, or married to, non-believers. If a Christian desires to marry a non-Christian, they can expect to encounter problems, especially an ongoing war of the wills. A born-again believer in Jesus Christ will be subject to the laws of God; while the non-believer will be governed by the god of this world system, which is Satan. In such a case, the non-believer should seriously and prayerfully consider becoming a born-again Christian prior to entering into marriage with one who believes and faithfully serves Jesus Christ. "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness: and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (II Corinthians 6:14-16).
The goal is that most couples come away from a premarital counseling retreat with more knowledge, a deepening love, and a greater determination to make their marriage work. They can utilize the principles learned in the retreat to help build a solid foundation for a future life together; and they are armed with enough ammunition to ward off negative influences which might undermine a determination to succeed. Couples may decide to attend future events prior to marriage or enroll in follow-up programs designed to help newlyweds stay on the right track. At any rate, attendees will be better prepared to endure the highs and lows of married life without giving in to the trend to divorce when problematic issues arise.
Those who leave a premarital counseling retreat with the decision to separate or postpone marrying should not view themselves as losers. The decision to postpone or cancel a wedding is not a poor one, but a judicious determination which could save couples from making a lifelong mistake. Not everyone who falls in love or is sexually attracted to another is intended to marry. In spite of what one's emotional attachment, if the weekend encounter reveals serious character flaws, personality clashes, irreconcilable differences, or a lack of faith which might hinder future happiness and cause couples to divorce; the best recourse may be to wait until those issues can be resolved. If two people are meant to marry, they will. Getting to the altar may just take a little more time.
Premarital Christian CounselingStructured premarital Christian counseling is designed to help engaged couples form realistic expectations of wedlock and avoid divorce. Relationship therapists or spiritual leaders conduct sessions prior to the nuptials to apprise prospective couples of the purpose of wedlock, the respective roles of husbands and wives, the basics of child rearing, and rudimentary financial management. Their goal is to help potential partners avoid the pitfalls of marital disunity which often ends in divorce. Statistics indicate between 38 and 50 percent of first-time weddings among Christians will fail within the first ten years; a higher percentage of divorces occur among non-believers. The reason for marital discord may be the fact that most couples do not have an understanding about what matrimony entails! Most couples are so engrossed with planning the wedding or honeymoon that virtually no thought is given to what happens the day after they say "I do." While some astute newlyweds may plan to purchase a new home or car, or set aside savings, the emotional or psychological component of two individuals becoming one eludes them. But that's where faith-based premarital counseling comes in, seeking seasoned ministers to gain better knowledge, wisdom and understanding before walking down the aisle.
Sessions for premarital Christian counseling usually begin with a couple meeting with the pastor who is to perform the wedding ceremony. Sessions can consist of one meeting or several over the course of months prior to the ceremony. The duration of meetings may be predetermined by the church's protocol, or arranged according to how prepared a pastor deems the couple to be for marriage. The clergyman may ask each partner to share their personal viewpoint about getting married or how they feel about one another. An astute spiritual leader is not trying to dissuade or persuade young people to either marry or not to marry, but to provide couples with enough Biblical based information to make an informed decision.
Using scriptures from several books of the Bible, including Ephesians, Chapter 5; I Corinthians, Chapter 7; or I Peter, Chapter 3, a wise man or woman of God will simply reveal God's plan for matrimony and certain gender-specific roles that help make the relationship succeed. "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;" (Ephesians 5:22-25).
A primary consideration addressed in premarital Christian counseling will certainly be whether each partner has made a personal decision to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Becoming a born-again believer enables men and women to be governed by the Holy Spirit and guided by the Word of God. A strong marriage is actually based on an individual's personal relationship with God; and two people joined together in holy matrimony create the strongest relationship bond that can ever exist. "The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matthew 19:3-5). God works in the midst of a husband and wife who will first of all, love, honor, cherish and obey Him; and then love, honor, and cherish each another. During premarital Christian counseling, partners will have the opportunity to examine whether they are truly in the faith; and remedy a lack of spirituality by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Otherwise, they are deemed to be unequally yoked; and that can be the beginning of serious marital problems.
During premarital Christian counseling, the pastor may also guide couples through role playing, giving them several scenarios to discuss what kinds of decisions might be made in different marital circumstances. A husband-to-be might not consider choices that could be made if chronic illness, joblessness, or infertility should threaten to derail a happy home. Similarly, women need to carefully consider their potential to love a husband's children from a previous relationship or willingness to relocate frequently because of a mate's occupation. Exposing partners to potential pitfalls and providing Biblical sound solutions gives couples the opportunity to really assess whether marriage is the right move to make. The decision to establish a lifelong bond with another individual should not be entered into lightly. Premarital Christian counseling can give prospective husbands and wives a chance to weigh the pros and cons of holy wedlock or become more resolved to follow their heart.
Once couples have undergone premarital Christian counseling, the spiritual leader or pastor may issue a certificate of completion or a verbal agreement to perform the marriage ceremony. But couples should remember that completing a course in premarital Christian counseling is no guarantee that the marriage won't encounter problems. Marriage not only requires love and sexual intimacy, but also mutual trust and an abiding faith in God to keep what two people are willing to commit to Him. Potential mates must be willing to seek God singly and together, to follow the Holy commandments, to build a life centered around Jesus Christ, and to be determined to keep the marriage vow through sickness and health, poverty and wealth, as long as they both shall live.