As marriage counselors who work with a great many hurting couples on a daily basis, we are continually surprised at how little engaged couples think about married life. The blushing bride and groom get so busy buying the dress, renting the tuxedos, designing the cake, and preparing the ceremony that often times the marriage relationship gets put on the back burner.  Sometimes just mentioning pre-marital counseling to the blissful bride- and groom-to-be elicits a somewhat dumbstruck response. “But we’re so happy,” they say as they look affirmingly into each other’s eyes.  “How could anything go wrong?” At that point our realism kicks in and we want to say, “Just give it time, sister, something will go wrong.”  Why will it go wrong? Because life isn’t perfect and studies show that blissful feeling quite literally has an expiration date on it.

God didn’t design us to stay in a state of euphoria permanently. Neurobiologists have discovered a certain chemical released in the brain when a couple falls in love. This chemical is called phenylethlamine and it functions in the body much like an amphetamine  -- thus explaining the superhuman feelings of a couple in these early stages.  Young couples often make statements like “I feel like I can walk on air,” “I don’t need to eat,” “The grass is greener,” “The sky is bluer.” Since phenylethlamine is released in the presence of your partner, you want to spend every waking moment with him and most couples do just that. Amazingly enough, during this stage of their relationship, couples never seem to tire of one another. 

But unfortunately there is a villain in this fairy tale.  Phenylethlamine highs cannot last.  As with any chemical your body builds up a tolerance to it, and the body requires more and more of the substance to acquire love’s special spark. Neurobiologists say it takes about four years for the chemical to fade, to run its course. Once the chemical is gone, the couple is faced with the difficult challenge of doing love with their own basic brain chemistry.  This can create quite a struggle for many married couples.

This is where those couples who have had pre-marital counseling seem to shine. Statistically, those couples weather the storms of the first year of marriage better than couples who did not participate in pre-marital counseling. And with the 57% divorce rate in this nation, we think pre-marital counseling is a good idea for every couple.

Wisdom in Many Counselors

Proverbs says that there is wisdom in many counselors (Pr 15:22). There are a great many pre-marital programs available through pastors, lay ministers, singles sponsors, or trained relationship therapists.  A fresh, objective perspective can be very effective in giving young couples the guidance they need to build a life together. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what happens in pre-marital counseling, let us familiarize you.

A good pre-marital counseling program will acquaint couples with the six areas of conflict that often lead to divorce.  In therapy, we call these “toxic subjects” because they can become toxic for couples to discuss them.  These issues are:

  • Money/finances
  • Sex
  • In-laws
  • Child-rearing
  • Roles (delegation of responsibilities and jobs in managing the home)
  • Religion/spiritual leadership. 

In counseling, couples are given ample time to discuss these issues thereby aiding conflicts that might ensue. Many young lovers come back to us in the first year of marriage and thank us for helping them develop a plan to handle the problems they naively thought wouldn’t occur.

Conflict Resolution