Caution! Slow: 3 Ways to Handle Critical Premarital Counseling

By April 26, 2017 February 22nd, 2018 Communication, Self Reflection

The engagement period in your relationship is one of the most exciting times in your life–and one of the longest waits you’ll ever experience. You’re anticipating a beautiful wedding, a romantic honeymoon, and seeing all the dreams you’ve created together finally come to life.

You feel like you’ve finally found “the one”…until a pastor, family member, friend, or counselor speaks out against your relationship. You’re thrown for a loop! What’s going on?

It’s very upsetting to hear someone you respect say that you shouldn’t get married yet. Most likely, your first response was emotional. But if you’re facing this situation right now, we encourage you to step back for a moment and look objectively at your relationship as you move forward.

1. Consider the Source and Motivation

If your pastor or counselor has taken a stance against the two of you getting married, they’ve done so for serious reasons. Most of the time, church leaders and counselors don’t approach these issues flippantly. Chances are, they see their fair share of couples coming to their offices for counseling every year.

Because your counselor most likely has extensive experience working with engaged couples, it’s important to ask yourselves if there’s something about your relationship you need to examine. And it’s worth taking a pause for long enough to find out.

Here are a few questions to consider as you sort things out:

  • Are both of you mature, healthy individuals?
  • Are you (and your intended) really ready for marriage?
  • Is your relationship mature, or has it been stormy?
  • Are there any signs of abuse in your relationship?

If you’ve cleared these questions and can’t reconcile them with your counselor’s feedback, you can always consult someone else. Which brings us to…

2. Talk to Family & Friends

If you’ve asked yourself the above questions and still feel like your counselor may have missed the mark, you and your fiance might want to consult trusted family members or friends. Share your counselor’s feedback, and see what they have to say about your relationship.

You may find that your family and/or friends have a different perspective on your relationship, or you may get similar answers. If their feedback aligns with your counselor’s and they think you should wait to get married–or they aren’t in support of your relationship at all–it’s important to proceed with caution.

3. Take an Objective Assessment Together

Sometimes, it can help to work with a collection of objective data to inform yourselves on how to proceed in your relationship. An assessment like SYMBIS is a great way to gather this data. You’ll go over your results together with a facilitator in your area, but you’ll have the added reassurance of knowing that your test results came entirely from the two of you

It’s scary and upsetting when you’re in love and planning to marry the person you want to spend the rest of your life with…only to be told you shouldn’t get married yet (or at all, as the case may be). When you’re in love, you’re blind; when someone tells you that you shouldn’t get married, you feel defiant and even more devoted to your intended. Every situation is different, but remember, the most likely scenario is that the person who provided this feedback cares deeply about you, and wants the best for your life and marriage.

We encourage you to take a deep breath, slow down, and explore this feedback as you move forward. As much as you may want to throw all caution to the wind and defy the advice you’ve received, it’s important to take heed. Make sure all the red flags are resolved before moving forward. We haven’t met a couple yet who wasn’t thankful for that extra time to truly prepare for a successful and healthy marriage.

Did a counselor or pastor tell you that you shouldn’t marry the person you were engaged to? What happened? Did you resolve the issues and move on to a happy marriage? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments section.

14 Comments

  • Tania says:

    Our family pastor and appointed marriage mentors told us we should not have gotten married and our testing showed us we shouldn’t have either. I would definitely encourage people to follow their advice if they are seasoned in marriage counseling. Both my husband and I, 6 years later and 3 kids later (pregnant with third) realize we should have never gotten married. We’ve been to a ridiculous amount of marriage counselors and religious leaders and although we are going to “stick it out” it has been a long and awful struggle that could have been avoided if we both were not so stubborn.

    • Cherie says:

      Thank you so much for your honest insight on the other side of making such a big decision! You are a blessing and I pray the Lord brings Grace & breakthrough in the relationship

    • Leslie E. says:

      I was so filled with uplifted hope for you your marriage and your growing family Tania after reading your comments here this morning. I’ve done volunteer counseling for people who go in and out of jail/prison for nearly 20 years and who am I to say what God can and cannot do in a marriage… or within people’s hearts or life circumstances. More power to you Tania and family- regardless of what the experts say! Who are any of us to put the limits on what God and motivation/powerful prayer can do. If no one else here has hope for you all then I am happy to stand in the gap for you and take the limits off what God can do.

  • Nancy Cline says:

    As a premarital mentoring couple who oversees our premarital Ministry, there is a couple going through the stages in the process of mentoring who’s SYMBIS assessment was glowing, yet who admitted during counseling with their pastor that their family is not in favor of them marrying.
    It appears they were not completely honest in taking their assessment. When they entered the process, they were simply seriously dating but quickly got engaged in spite of their pastor’s concerns. This will be the third marriage for him and the second marriage for her.

  • Beth says:

    My husband and I are certified SYMBIS facilitators and marriage counselors. We have the dubious distinction of having to tell people to have a LONG engagement and do counseling. A few times we have told people with compassion and care, they really should rethink a marriage commitment. This is never an easy task! This is never a fun thing to do, nor do we like doing this. However, those couples who married inspite of heeding ours and others’ advice have not had happy, enduring marriages. Heck, one couple lasted all of 6 weeks!! For the few that remained brave and open, and did the hard work FIRST, they get our respect. A few have made the difficult decision to part, a few have been married and are digging in with integrity. No one can say they were not told up front. I appreciate the Parrotts reminders. Premarital counseling is not just a way to say it was crossed of the to-do list or to gain approval. Pre-marital counseling should be a way to have a relationship assessed on so many levels for it’s worthiness to take the relationship into the long-term, the forever term. Take it seriously! Do it well and your marriage will thank you!

  • Glenda Willis says:

    A premarital assessment and counseling only works if both people are honest. Even if you take careful steps before saying “I do” things can change after the fact.
    Counseling, counseling, and more counseling will only work if both people apply what is being said.
    So what to do if you find yourself in a marriage different than what was promised and/or expected and nothing seems to help.
    Give it to God. Let God change both of you.
    And if you wouldn’t pray it for yourself, then don’t pray it for your spouse.

  • Kevin says:

    My wife and I are certified SYMBIS facilitators and responsible for the marriage ministry at our church. We primarily handle pre-marriage counselling. As much as possible, we do not tell couples that they shouldn’t get married. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we try to show them their relationship and flag areas of concern for them to examine. We try to act like a mirror and reflect back to them what we see so that hopefully they can also see the issues. With the help of the SYMBIS assessment, this method potentially saved a divorce as a couple decided not to get married after they recognized areas of concern.
    Conversely, we have counselled couples that initially didn’t seem to be a good match but we have seen over the years that they have a great marriage.

    • Kris Emig says:

      Agree 100%….we are in the same position at our church and feel this is the right approach that has proven to be very effective in our 3 years facilitating SYMBIS. What a game-changer!

  • Anonymous says:

    What a fantastic post, and thank you for addressing this topic. I thought I was the only one who’d experienced this. My now-husband and I experienced a very rocky engagement season, which culminated in our pre-marital mentors and pastor cautioning us against marriage 10 days before the wedding. I completely agree with the importance of listening to trusted counselors, family, and friends, who often see things we do not. But even more importantly, listen to God and talk to Him more than you ever have. By His grace alone, my husband and I married and are closer than ever after two years of marriage. While we are still learning about each other and recovering from wounds of that period (particularly the week before the wedding), God is faithful! Trust what He is telling you and lean on Him every day, and you’ll be amazed what He can accomplish!

  • Steve Tecklenberg says:

    My wife and I had many people vocalizing opposition to our marriage. Included in the list were people who had been spiritual mentors for many years. The seeds of doubt that the nay-sayers sowed into our minds made our pre-engagement and engagement period quite difficult. But, we were both certain God intended us for each other, and so we disregarded their counsels and proceeded with our plans.

    That was eleven years ago. Today, my wife and I are very happy with each other. Sure, we’ve had challenges to work through, just like any couple would. We both approach them, though, as opportunities to grow in our reflections of Christ to each other, to our children and to those outside. The result is a union that is strong, and a bond that is deep. She is an incredible gift to me, and I feel honored to be her husband.

    To their credit, almost all of the original detractors have since come forward and asked for our forgiveness. The mentor couple, especially, very formally came to our home and outlined seven specific points where they had been wrong in their assessments of where they thought our marriage would go. And of course forgiveness was granted without hesitation, and we are good friends with them to this day. (In fact, we did our first joint marriage conference together with them last fall, and are planning another one soon).

    Our experience, though, did teach my wife and I a lesson: It is not our job to tell other people how God is or is not leading them. When we do pre-marital counseling (with or without a formal program), we make it a point to approach it positively and with encouragement. We do talk about potential hazards we may see in their combination, things that they need to be aware of and to be prepared to work through. And certainly bold character flaws are a huge concern, and should be addressed. However, any conviction to delay or stop their engagement rests purely with the couple. God, and God alone, knows the future. We don’t. He also alone knows His purposes for each individual life.

    Could it be that if we, as mentors and counselors, plant negative ideas in a couple’s mind, we may actually be serving to exacerbate the problem? Could we be placing seeds of doubt that would later plague them and sap away their energy to work through conflicts together? I have seen too many good things come out of “bad” marriages. I would rather focus – and encourage others to focus – on the grace and power of God to overcome challenges rather than retreat in fear and doubt.

  • Stella Oviedo says:

    Thank you for this article and insight. What do you suggest and how, to a family member who knows a couple shouldn’t get married because it has already been a very rocky relationship for them. They have fear of being another statistic. And fear of feeling like it’s another failed thing in there life. Thank you so much for this perspective.

  • Phil Flournoy says:

    After over 35 years of ministry and marriage, it is my firm belief that pre marital counseling should come BEFORE engagement, to help the couple decide if they are “right” and ready for marriage. Here is my experience. One the couple gets engaged, a clock starts clicking down until the wedding. The focus shifts from getting to know each other to planning and pulling off the wedding. Once a date is announced, the venue is secured, the wedding party is selected, the photographer and florist are determined, announcements are send out, it becomes almost impossible to put on the brakes to work on an area of concern discovered in counseling, much less to call the wedding off altogether because the red flags are too many.
    If couples who are seriously considering getting engaged did the premarital counseling before, it would either confirm their feelings or allow them however much time needed to work through the issues discovered in counseling.

  • Some really great information, Glad I found this. “What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child.” by George Bernard Shaw.

  • kisembo nellie says:

    what are the challenges you face as a premarital counselor

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