Jeff and I thought it would be a good idea to get premarital counseling before we renewed our vows. When we got married the first time, we had very little premarital counseling, and what we did have fell on completely deaf ears.
So we thought we would like to go through premarital counseling again and listen this time. We needed to hear someone tell us the rules. These are the boundaries. This is okay, this is not okay, these are things you never say to each other, these are areas you must be purposeful about, etc.
Our pastor, who had counseled us the previous summer, was happy to give us premarital counseling. We couldn't figure out what to call it, but he gave it a label at the beginning of our first session which fit perfectly: REmarital counseling. Funny.
We went through a workbook called Getting Ready for Marriage by Jerry D. Hardin and Dianne C. Sloan. In addition, we studied what the Bible has to say about marriage. I'm sure a lot of what we learned is very familiar to everyone else, but there were a few things that got through to our hearts for the first time ever, and I want to share them with you.
We learned that our marriage is a unique reflection of Christ. I had understood that I am a reflection of Christ, and that Jeff is a reflection of Christ, but I didn't understand that our marriage is a third, separate, unique reflection of Christ. Marriage reflects Christ in a way nothing else does. Likewise, our family reflects Christ in its own unique way. So in our family of four, we have six unique reflections of Christ. Six bits of poiema. That's pretty cool.
We also learned about the unity of the marriage relationship. Our book said, "We become more than ourselves when we come together with our mates... there is now you, me, and we. In the eyes of God and the world, the 'we' becomes a new creation in marriage." The book goes on to say that the lighting of the unity candle illustrates this new creation. Two lighted candles represent the bride and groom as individuals, and when they light the unity candle, their flames unite to create a new flame. They keep their individual candles lit, and now there are three flames. "When you marry," says our book, "you and your mate join together in a covenant relationship, which cannot be separated any more than one of you could recover your part of the flame from the unity candle" (p. 6). I love that concept!
We also learned that many marriages can survive without any love at all, or with just one kind of love, but for a marriage to truly thrive, several kinds of love need to be nurtured: emotional love, friendship love, and commitment love.
We also learned some very practical things about communication that have already made a difference in how we relate to each other. One of the rules is that you have to speak for yourself. Jeff is not very verbal, and one of our codependent interactions has been that he tries to get me to finish his sentences, and I like to try to finish them. We learned that no one can speak for him and it's important that he finishes his own sentences. We also learned what attentive listening is and how to practice it.
The main thing we liked about the workbook is that it is very practical. For every major area of teaching, there are a whole bunch of worksheets to fill out that help you get to know your spouse. They are all true/false, and for each question, you answer what you think, and then you answer what you think your spouse will answer. Then your spouse does the same. Answers for himself, and guesses at your answer. Completely fascinating.
In nearly every area, Jeff and I scored in the "you have problems and you need help" range. It was comical by the end. Jeff and I need to work on everything. Communication, attitudes, resolving conflict, spirituality, money matters, intimacy, and parenting. Sheesh. We decided we will take the next several months to go back through the book one chapter at a time to work through our differences. We call our differences Legion, for they are many. Just kidding.
I really liked that our remarital counseling brought to light so many things that we need to work on because the whole point of renewing our vows was to commit to each other with full acceptance and grace. We didn't go through a hard time, wait until we were all better and the other person was totally meeting our expectations, and then say, "Well, okay. You're good enough now. I'll recommit to you." The point was to recommit at the beginning of the growth and healing process. Not at the end.