Next month I am celebrating 10 years of marriage to my best friend. Can you believe it! Where has the time gone! To celebrate all things wedded bliss, I’ve decided to share one of the articles I completed for the launch issue of The Christian Lifestyle Magazine, published in April 2017.
Tamsyn Cornelius ponders the intricacies of marriage and pre-marital counselling.
Planning a wedding may be an exciting time of heartfelt celebration and self-discovery. This season leads up to one of the happiest days of your life, and rightly so. However, a few years down the road you may look back, as I often do, and think about that special time a little bit differently than you did before.
Biblical pre-marital preparation helped us establish a solid foundation prior to our marriage, but still, there are a few things I wish I had known before taking the plunge.
You are no longer your own
By law, when a couple marry without an antenuptial agreement, they enter into a legal contract in which they are classified as ‘one’ entity. Biblically, we are said to be yoked together with our spouse and become one in the eyes of the Lord and the Church. In theory, this sounds simple enough. Prior to marriage I wish I had delved a little deeper into the real meaning of ‘being one’.
The challenges often arise in the everyday decisions we make as a couple – the places we go, the friends we keep, and the time spent together or apart. Prior to marriage, my obligations, priorities and routines pretty much centred around my own needs. Once wed I quickly needed to figure out that I was now intertwined to another and would need to share the complexities of my everyday life with my husband.
Finances are more important than you think
Within the first month of marriage, my husband and I had our first major dispute. It centred around a bill that needed to be paid. At that moment, it felt as though we were saying goodbye to the honeymoon phase of our relationship and hello to the realities of marriage. It ended up as a huge misunderstanding between the two of us. Nonetheless, I suddenly realised the overwhelming pressure that financial strain may have on a marriage.
Who will manage the finances in your home? Will you have a joint account? Who will oversee the budget and pay the bills? These are some of the most important questions that should be discussed during your pre-marital prep.
Your spouse will not make you whole
Contrary to popular belief, marriage does not complete the circle of your life. It is not the pinnacle of your existence and neither will it make you whole. Only Jesus can do that. As broken individuals, we often enter a marriage with our own baggage from past sins and hurts. We need to leave this with the Father and not add to the burden of our spouses, who in turn may be dealing with their own fears and transgressions.
Transparency is key
Open, honest communication is vital for the success of any relationship. In fact, many divorced couples admit that a lack of communication and transparency in their marriage was the cause for their separation.
My spouse and I have very different communication styles. I need time to process information before reacting. His response is to jump right into the thick of things, often confronting me about issues that I have not yet had time to think about.
It often takes time for us to figure things out and communicate in a way that is comfortable for both of us. Being transparent means being able to bear your soul to your spouse. It also requires a careful understanding of how you both communicate in order to grow a happy, thriving marriage.
Your family may not be prepared
“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh,” (Genesis 2:24). This serves as an important biblical lesson for marriage. Together a couple will cleave to one another, leaving their parents and families behind to start their own.
In the early days after marriage, your parents and extended family may not be fully prepared for the ‘leaving’ that is so clearly emphasised here in Genesis. You will need to set the tone and help them understand where your new commitments lie. You are now united to your spouse – he or she is your new responsibility and first port of call.
Differences make you stronger
My husband loves savoury treats and I adore chocolates. He enjoys late nights while I am an early riser. He is loud, social and extroverted; I am timid, behind the scenes and soft-spoken. So many differences, yet God chose to join us together as one.
In the beginning, the differences may spark an initial attraction. However, in marriage we can easily let these very differences drive a wedge in our relationship instead of allowing them to reinforce who we are as a couple.
From the start, I wish I had learned to celebrate the God-given quirks and differences in us both, to strengthen our bond and marriage.
Pre-marital preparation is just the beginning
Every now and then I need to check in with my husband with important questions: Are we doing okay? Are we happy? How can we strengthen our marriage?
The reality is, that after the big wedding day, the challenges, demands and daily struggles will still be there. We need to remind each other about the promises we made before God and our loved ones – promises to love, cherish and honour our spouse through the good and bad times.
There may be stumbling blocks along the way. Things may not always work out as planned. Yet, it important to check in with your spouse regularly and to take time out to speak about your expectations, needs and concerns.
The whole idea of pre-marital counselling is not to prepare you for the wedding itself, but to create a basic foundation from which to build a successful and thriving marriage; one that honours God first and above all else.
*This article first featured in the April 2017 issue of The Christian Lifestyle Magazine.