The Price of Premarital Counseling

Recently, an associate pastor who does premarital counseling asked, on his blog, what the value of premarital counseling is.

He and his wife meet with couples 8-10 times for 60-90 minutes each time. They use an assessment and workbook as they counsel. He has always done the premarital counseling at no charge, as part of his ministry. He was wondering what the value would be if he charged.

One reader of his blog made this reply:
Priceless, priceless, priceless. I think that it is a great investment. I understand that for couples starting out any cost can be prohibitive, but there are some creative ways to work it out. I liked the way that our church promoted it and supported it. They told us it was part of their prep program (which we read as requirements) and told us the cost. Then quickly added that they would provide matching funds for the cost. That helped us invest in the process because we had some literal investment and because our church family had invested in us. We have often referred to our marriage prepwork in the last 6 years. The only time I have “referred” to the white dress that cost more than the marriage prep, is when I need room in my closet…although, it is a pretty dress!:)

What do you think? For those who had premarital counseling and/or class, what was the value of it to you?

Obama and Defense of Marriage Act by Donna Edwards

Yesterday, President Barack Obama made a commitment at the The Human Rights Campaign's Dinner. He committed to repeal "the so-called Defense of Marriage Act." In a transcript of his message, he said:
"Will we uphold the ideals on which this nation was founded: that all of us are equal, that all of us deserve the same opportunity to live our lives freely and pursue our chance at happiness? I believe we can; I believe we will. And that is why -- that's why I support ensuring that committed gay couples have the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country. I believe strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away and passing laws that extend equal rights to gay couples. I've required all agencies in the federal government to extend as many federal benefits as possible to LGBT families as the current law allows. And I've called on Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and to pass the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act."

President Obama seems to be intent on redefining marriage and it's importance in the U.S. I find this value to be especially disconcerting and contradictory from a man who loves and cares for his wife and their marriage. No matter what a person's politics are, it is easy to see Obama's dedication to his family.

If you aren't sure what the Defense of Marriage Act is, read all of it here. The meat of it is:

`No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.'.

Definition of `marriage' and `spouse'

`In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word `marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word `spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.'.

Does repealing the DOMA affect me if I am not gay? I believe that values portrayed by our government usually become our cultural norm. In the years to come, most people of our country will believe that same-sex marriage is a right guaranteed by the constitution, even though it is not. When marriage opens up to any lifestyle, then it devalues it for all. When laws signed in the "60's allowed "no fault" divorce, it devalued marriage. We still deal with the fall-out of those state decrees.

As the same-sex marriage supporters push the legality of "one man, one woman" marriage, the issue will end up in the U.S. Supreme Court. In the next few years, we will see same-sex marriage legalized through the judiciary, not through legislation.

When that day comes, how will the church respond?
How will we define marriage?
Will we recognize same-sex couples who are legally married?
Will we let the government determine what constitutes a legal marriage?

Issues such as same-sex marriage are relavant to all of us. The Church must look at how we are going to value marriage. Are we going to follow the culture or are we going to change the culture?

How do you measure marriage in America?

How do we know the state of marriages in America today?
How do we measure it?

  • Do we ask people how happy they are?
  • Do we look at how many divorces there are?
  • Or how many are getting married?
  • Or how many kids are living with parents or how many births have married parents?

The Institute for American Values has colloborated with bi-partisan groups to come up with a marriage index which will give us an objective, realistic look at the state of marriage in America.

The Glue that Bonds a Marriage

We usually see adversity in our life as a bad thing. None of us like adversity .... in fact we would probably think people are odd if they do like it.

Adversity in life can bring a husband and wife closer together. If the adversity is conflict between a husband and wife, how well they are able to work through and talk about the conflict determines their level of marital satisfaction, not the conflict issue itself.

If the adversity is a circumstance in their lives (job loss, illness, etc.), it can draw them closer together or make them feel isolated. The adversity can draw them closer if they face it together, talk about it, not blame. When they are able to work together as a team, the oneness develops. If they aren't able to work together, then the circumstance drives a wedge between them.

The day-to-day difficulties that a couple faces produce opportunities for a couple to apply some glue to their relationship. The glue takes some time to set up, but it will. And the couple will bond, the oneness grows stronger. This process doesn't happen overnight, it takes years.

"We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." Romans 5:1-5

Jon & Kate - What happened?

If you have had a TV on at all in the last week, you have probably seen Jon and/or Kate Gosselin. They have had one of the most public divorces and quarrels of any public couple in a long time.

What began with a fascination over this delightful set of kids has deterioriated to voyeurism by the American public. What happened to the marriage in the wake of chronicling two sets of multiples????

I remember the first time I saw Jon & Kate Plus Eight. My daughter was watching it every week and drew me in. The story of a Christian couple who worked hard to bear children and refused to abort when faced with the reality of raising 8 kids - what an inspiring story.

The Gosselins seemed to have pitched the idea of making a documentary/reality show of their brood in order to have a means of supporting that many kids. Both parents were intelligent adults with professional careers. Kate quit nursing in order to stay home with the kids. After a couple of years on TV, Jon quit his job to help at home too. Both admirable moves.

Part of my first viewing of the series was significant discomfort as I saw the way Kate talked to Jon. As one who has worked in the marriage field for over 20 years, the dialogue was an example of what not to say to your spouse, especially in front of other people, especially to a man. Kate showed her perfectionism in many ways on the show. She didn't understand the concept of "there is more than one right way to do something."

I can't imagine what it would be like to have six kids at one time or to raise sextuplets and twins, at the same time. The kids alone were enough to put an extreme stress on Jon & Kate's marriage. I am sure that most of us wouldn't have done as well as Jon & Kate in raising the kids. I don't say any of this from a self-righteous viewpoint, because I am sure I would have been more on edge and more critical than Kate.

Jon chose women and things over his relationship to his wife and over what is best for his kids. The sudden wealth and notoriety steared him off course. What has happened to their faith?

For all of us who can learn from their mistakes - has it been worth it financially to lose the marriage? Would the marriage have fallen apart without the TV show? Maybe, but being in the lens eye has hastened the dissolution.

Most marriages do not survive in the long term without respect and gratitude. They can, but they usually don't. The couple communicated little or no appreciation or respect between them. That lack of nurturing between the husband and wife stiffles growth and oneness.

For most marriages, the essential element of time spent alone, with each other, brings a bond that no one can stand against. This oneness comes from talking through the hard times and having fun together in the good times.

Most of all, marriage takes a commitment to each other, no matter what. A person can keep that kind of commitment to a person if he has that same commitment to the Lord. With His presence in a person's life, he can live that commitment with kindness, compassion, and forgiveness - essentials to commitment.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

Laughing Bride Tells All

About a month ago, a YouTube video went viral after showing up on the MSN homepage. The groom mispronounced some of his vows and his bride started laughing and couldn't stop - one of those moments many fear but few experience.

The great part is that they interviewed with Stronger Families (a marriage initiative in the Pacific Northwest). Andrew and Melissa Engstrom shared the way the dated and the joy that came with their wedding day (and night).

You have to hear the bride share it herself to really get the impact. The story is very touching and encouraging; every teenager would benefit from watching it. What an encouragement to those other young people who are committed to purity and those who have raised and taught them!

David Lettermen and Sex and Marriage

David Lettermen, on his late night talk-show, revealed that he has recently been blackmailed about "some creepy things" he had done. He started this segment of the show by saying, "Do you want to hear a story?" Of course, the audience was delighted to hear David Letterman tell a story.

As he went through his story, the audience kept laughing and seemed to be waiting for the punch line. At one point, Letterman even asked why it was funny. He finally revealed what the "creepy things" were that he had done. He admitted that he had sex with some women who worked for him. The audience applauded him when he confessed.

Letterman explained that the blackmailer had been arrested that day. It was if the audience saw the blackmailer as the bad guy and Letterman was the good guy.

I had been flipping through the stations earlier in the evening, I stopped on CNN as they announced "breaking news" that was just being reported for the first time. The "breaking news" was about Letterman's story, which would be told on his show that night. I stayed up and watched it. As I watched him finally come out with the "creepy things," I kept thinking the audience would fall into a silence appropriate to the conversation. When they kept laughing and applauding, my thoughts ran to "where are we in our culture that sexual immorality is applauded?"

Letterman never disclosed who the women were or when the incidents occurred or who initiated them. Regardless of whether they were before his marriage or after, they were committed outside of marriage, on more than one occassion. Were they situations of "to get ahead or keep your job, you have to sleep with the boss?" or were they initiated by the women who were open to having sex without commitment? We don't know and that is not the real issue to me.

Even though I have enjoyed many aspects of Dave's humor, he has continually degraded women and focused on their sexuality above all else. I am reminded of Scott Stanley's statement that commitment to one person in marriage means that you are saying "yes" to that person and "no" to all others.

Dave, just say "no."