Your pre-marriage counseling*
If you’ve read any of my articles here in the Citizen or if you know me and my ministry at all, you know that I strongly believe marriage is “God’s idea” and that His sole intention, specifically declared in Scripture, is for marriage to be the life-long union of one man and one woman. And I believe that marriage and family are still the backbone of our country and our society. I believe that we in the church need to help people in their marriage in the beginning and throughout the years. I believe that marriage is wonderful and exciting and fun. But I also believe that a good marriage takes work, preparation, and dedication.
If you come to me for your pre-marriage counseling, here’s what you’ll get. The basis of this questionnaire comes from my good friend Hugh Burns, who is a wonderful and effective relationship counselor with many years of experience, and who has helped many people over the past 40 years or so.
My instructions are that each of you must spend quality time by yourself actually writing full answers to each of these questions. When you each have finished individually, then you are required to spend lengthy and quality time sharing your answers with each other, delving deep into your hearts to share with each other what you “really” think about each of these subject areas.
So, if you’re engaged or just thinking about getting married, I’d suggest you follow my instructions given above.
A. What is your personal definition of “marriage”?
B. As you see it, how is marriage different from “living together”? Please be specific.
C. What are the reasons why you want to marry? Make a list, and then number each one in terms of most important (number 1, etc.) to least important.
D. Later on, after you are married, what would prompt you to seriously consider divorce? Please be specific.
E. Everyone, including you, has strong or very strong feelings and opinions about these aspects of “married life.” Write a summary statement about each of them. Please be specific.
1. Affection (what it means; how shown; how important is it; on-going expectations; public and private)
2. Alcohol use (yes; no; family history; designated driver; concerns about)
3. Assets and personal possessions brought into the marriage (pre-nuptial; yours-mine-ours; anything to remain in singular ownership)
4. Church and religion (beliefs; participation, tithing and giving)
5. Cleanliness (personal; in home)
6. Faithfulness (what it means; what it includes)
7. Friends (personal; shared; time with)
8. Jobs and careers (both husband and wife; one primary; issues)
9. Having a child (yes; no; when; number)
10. How a child is raised (by whom; discipline; routines; parents as examples)
11. Having a pet (inside; outside; bedroom)
12. Household chores (who does what; inside/outside; routines; rotations)
13. How decisions are made (discussions; compromises; who has “final word”)
14. How holidays are spent (with whom; where; money spent)
15. In-laws (time with; influence of; issues)
16. Leisure and fun time (how spent; where; with whom)
17. Money (who makes; who spends; budget; credit cards; major purchases; savings and retirement accounts; issues)
18. Neatness (personal; picking up clothes, papers, dishes; issues)
19. Personal appearance (at home; going out; weight; clothes; make-up; facial hair)
20. Personal health (weight; habits; exercise; Dr. appointments; checkups; issues)
21. Respect (the way you talk to each other; opinions; abilities; gender)
22. Husband-wife relations (who decides; how often; kinds; issues)
23. Talking (how important; when; about what; confidentiality; to others)
24. Trust (how important; about what; with whom; what makes it; what breaks it)
25. Computer usage (how much time online; when to be online and when not to be online; with whom; online relationships; Facebook or not; what to view and what not to view; is it private time or not; trust issues; intrusion issues)
26. Career (whose most important; would that change)
27. Out of town travel when spouse is not along (understandings; communications; propriety and trust)
28.Television time (how much a day; what shows; expectation of your spouse to watch with you; movie rentals; sports and all-day sports and all-weekend sports; issues)
29. Cars and car maintenance (buy new cars; buy used cars; how long to keep; who will maintain and clean; how important)
30. House (buy with mortgage; rent; what percentage of income to spend on housing; how big; apartment; issues)
F. If you want to get married now, why now? List 5-10 reasons for getting married now. Go beyond “because we’re in love”, that is, do some critical analysis. Then list 5-10 reasons for waiting, and list a few “milestones down the road” that could possibly be a good/better time to get married and the reasons possibly why.
G. As you see it, what will determine if your marriage lasts a lifetime?
*And, oh yes, we married people can benefit greatly by doing this, too!
Kollmeyer is pastor of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Fayetteville, Ga.
(Questionnaire ©2008 Hugh Burns, LMFT)