‘‘I never really thought your marriage would survive this long.’’
‘’Excuse me?’’ I was so sure I had heard him wrong. My husband and I were totally stunned by this casual confession by a friend a year into our marriage; actually not just any friend…. the one who had introduced us. Before Hun and I could express our dismay, the guy explained himself. He’d known us prior. Our personalities and outlook on life…. too different. I was ‘Miss Independent’ with the drive to keep ascending the corporate ladder while acquiring as many papers as my display cabinet could hold.
Marriage was not really on my list of priorities. After all, I actually enjoyed best my own company — hibernating at home, curled up with a good book or movie. In contrast, Hun was happy-go-lucky. He also worked hard in the office. The difference is in how we recharge. Being a sanguine, he loves the party scene and at the time, the buzz of night life. A combination of loud music, great company, a dance floor and several bottles of Fanta were his ultimate treat… twice, thrice every week.
We tied the knot two years after we met. Before then, we had never stayed together in the same town for more than three weeks. Even though we couldn’t admit it at the time, I believe our greatest motivation to wed was to be legally together, geographically. The goodbyes were always so excruciating.
In hindsight, that was a very flimsy reason to build a marriage on. Nevertheless, I tearfully quit my job to join my newlywed husband across the border. Later on that day, we reflected on how we had managed to escape the train-wreck and instead have a marriage that most of our peers — married and otherwise — looked up to. God had used a marriage enrichment program to turn the destiny of our marriage around. Ignorantly, we had not prioritized pre-marital counseling. We only met the officiating Pastor for two short sessions on the week of the wedding. The same week we had to look for bridal jewelry, do final gown fitting, finalize plans with service providers, make payments, and choreograph our dance.
Counseling turned out to be just another activity to check off our already bloated to-do-list. Luckily, an opportunity to go through a marriage enrichment program came up a month after the wedding. It shook our marital foundation to the core. There was a lot of unlearning and relearning. We needed to unveil who we really were, sans façade.
Hun and I now facilitate marriage coaching and often see the impact of pre-marital counseling. A good program not only builds your marriage but also transforms the individuals. Some benefits are:
1. Accountability: Group pre-marital sessions and marriage enrichment programs give you lifelong couple friends who share similar values as you. Our accountability group is one of the best things that happened to our marriage. Hun and I have grown so much because of these wonderful friends who celebrate and rebuke us in love when necessary.
2. Work on You: Many relationships fail because in our selfish human nature, we quickly point fingers towards our spouses ignoring our own weaknesses.
3. Understand Yourselves: There are many ‘mismatched’ couples like Hun and I. One introverted, the other extroverted; one may be inflexible, another spontaneous. We soon begin detesting our partners for being different from us and try to change them. Pre-marital counseling helps navigate through that quagmire. First, you understand better why you do things the way you do, and also why your partner seems so different from you. In appreciating this, you can synergize the strengths and work on minimizing weaknesses.
4. Conflict Resolution: There aren’t enough books one can read to ensure a conflict free marriage. Marriage was God’s idea and like everything good created, the devil tries to destroy the institution. Also because marriage is between two different people from different backgrounds, differences arise. Conflicts are not the marriage-wreckers in themselves. Lack of proper conflict resolution skills is. Good pre-marital classes equip you on how to ‘fight fair’.
5. Acquire common values and goals: You evaluate your priorities. This is best done before marriage, rather than when you are already in it. The outcome of this examination may sometimes necessitate you to either postpone the wedding or call it off altogether in the event you realize that your visions are not aligned. Better a broken engagement than a broken marriage.
PS: This post was originally posted on Arusi Guru Blog Page