Step 2: Meet With The Couple
After I have the couple take the Prepare Enrich test to find out their strengths and weaknesses, my wife and I meet with the couple between 3-6 times before their wedding. We customize which topics we spend the most time on. We always ask them if they have anything in particular they feel that they need to talk about and make sure it takes a high priority. Here are the topics we tend to spend the most time on and the resources we recommend for each. I have include a widget to show the current price on Amazon. You can click on the images or links to find out more info about these books at Amazon.com.
Biblical View of Marriage:
We spend some time looking at Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter and talk about God’s plan for marriage. We talk a lot about their family of origin and the example of marriage that was revealed to them.
While I don’t require it yet, I do highly recommend that they read Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God Book. I believe it is the best book on the Biblical view of marriage.
Expectation of Marriage:
We spend some time with the couple talking through what they think marriage will be like. We also talk about what the think their role and their spouses role should be. One of our homework assignments for them is to come with all the tasks they can think of (Ex. Cleaning the house, cooking, paying bills, etc.) and they must figure out who will do the tasks. Another homework assignment is to think about their expectations for their living environment and how things will be living together. Examples: Is the toilet paper roll go with paper up or down? Are bed sheets tucked in or loose? Can there be pills of paper on the floor or must everything be cleaned up right away? How long can the dishes sit? Etc.
Communication / Arguing:
The next topic we cover is communication. We stress it is only a matter of time before you will experience some type of tension in your marriage. We talk about how to handle the tension and some practical advice on way to fight fair. We have two main homework assignments. The first is that they need to tell me what they don’t like about their future spouse. I know this sound unromantic, but I do find it helps to take off the love blinders and see that they are marrying a broken person. Another of my home work assignments is to have them talk through how they like to show and receive love and what their primary needs or wants are from their fiancé. We talk about it report back to me.
I don’t require Paul David Tripp’s book, but I do suggest that the buy it. He reminds people to look in the mirror at their own sin before pointing out sin in your spouse and gives a series of practical tips on how to deal with conflict including a list of 6 commitments.
I also suggest that they get familiar with the concepts of the following books as a part of their assignments.
They can also get a brief summary and take a test at http://www.5lovelanguages.com
William F Harley Jr. His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage
The next major topic we cover is finances. I have the couple have a frank conversation about their debt and their financial expectations. We try to find out if they are savers or spenders and who will handle the finances (balancing checkbook, paying bills, etc.). One of my homework assignments is that they need to create a simple budget. To prime the pump for their conversation on finances, I have them watch Dave Ramsey’s videos on Dumping Debt and Cash Flow Planning: The Nuts and Bolts of Budgeting.
This is a great book that I really suggest that couple read. I also recommend that they take his Dave Ramseys Financial Peace University ASAP.
Family of Origin:
The next major topic we cover is family of origin. We talk about how their families impact their lives today and the affect they may have in the future. We talk about the traits and traditions they would like to continue and those that they would not like to.
Sex / Physical Intimacy:
We are pretty blunt with our couples and we ask them what their sexual history is with each other and other people. We talk about the importance of sex in a relationship. If they are the ideal couple that hasn’t had sex before and are waiting for their marriage night, we have a pretty blunt talk about what the first night is going to be like. We suggest that they get prepared (lubricants, get on birth control if they want to hold off having kids, etc). If they have had sex with each other before, we encourage them to hold off and work on some of these other communication stuff and talk about how it can create a false sense of intimacy. If they have had sex with other partners, we talk what concerns they may have and how they will deal with them. Our experience is that couples appreciate the frankness of our conversation.
This is my only required reading at this point. I highly recommend it. It is practical without being crass. Leman handles thing directly and with a sense of humor. It deals with most topics couples will face. The book is split up so that couples can read the first half before they get married (if they are virgins) and the last part after they get married. Before I was a did pre-marital work, I used to give this book away as wedding gifts. I have had couples email me thanking me for it months after their wedding.