Model Your Marriage

Cheryl and I believe strongly in premarital counseling. The lack of appropriate training for marriage is, in my opinion, one of the leading causes for problems in marriages. If you go into anything unprepared, you are likely to get into trouble quicker than if you prepare in advance. Make sense?

I would be curious to know how much effective premarital counseling some of my readers have had and what difference it made. You can leave a comment about that on this post. My suspicion, however, based on the people I have spoken with through my ministry, is that most have had very little effective premarital counseling.

If this is your case, it may not be too late. Obviously if you are married, you can’t do “premarital counseling”, but you could get some marriage counseling, before your marriage needs it. That’s being proactive about your marriage.

Knowing that most readers will not take me up on my suggestion let me offer another solution. This is something that every couple can easily do. It’s less threatening, inexpensive, if not free, and highly effective at helping your marriage.

My advice today: Find a couple whose marriage you can model. Allow the strength of someone else’s marriage to impact yours.

What you will find, when you see a marriage that appears to work, is that two imperfect people found a way to make their marriage thrive. There may have been hard times, probably were, but they weathered through them and made their marriage better as a result. Their process of making their marriage work will help you learn to strengthen yours.

Stop for just a minute and think of one couple whose marriage you would love your marriage to look like. Ask them if you can hang out with them once in a while, or  at least exchange emails with them, and if they will make themselves available to your marriage. Let their iron sharpen your iron.

Finally, pay tribute here. Who is one married couple you would love your marriage to look like? What about their marriage encourages you in your marriage?

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27 thoughts on “Model Your Marriage

  1. Ron — this is great advice. My husband and I had great pre-marital counseling, but immediately after our wedding (9 days) we moved 3000 miles away from everyone we knew, and it's been tough to find a couple we could model our marriage after. Now, nine months into marriage, we're feeling the gap.

    The e-mail idea is a good one, one we hadn't thought to try.

  2. We had to do a personality survey separately and a marital questionnaire and our pastor reviewed it. Our friends were more concerned and gave us a questionnaire of over 100 questions you should have discussed prior to marriage (family, money, parenting, conflict) and we talked/discussed each of those. However now that we are actually married and actually parents, those “surface” surveys and questions were bogus and we had no clue! Luckily we are dedicated to eachother and our vows to God, and nearly eleven years in and LOTS of work later, we are still learning. I believe effective premarital counseling would have better equipped us to avoid some of the issues we had over the years.

  3. I think you are so right about counseling, Ron. Being a young, 20 something, single lady, it is SO hard sometimes to find that model of marriage to watch. I have divorced parents, divorced grandparents, and have even seen some of my young friends already abandon their love for their spouse, most before the age of 25. These reasons coupled with other insecurities about marriage have me in no hurry to seal the deal. I think many of my generation find this to be true.

    All that being said- I watch a young couple who totally exemplify serving one another in their marriage. They both love the other more than they love themselves. And have 3 awesome kiddos in the making!

  4. Know what?? Ron is so right about finding an older couple to model after.
    Personally when we were younger & new in faith watching others was somewhat discouraging rather than encouraging. Maybe it was their desire to be a 'model couple' but we found people will not always be honest about their problems. Sometimes they will put on a 'showy' front which rather turns you off instead of making you want to copy them. Sometimes their style of communicating & expressing their affection is just SO not you!! The more they would try to be 'exemplary' the more unappealing it seemed. When you notice people who aren't TRYING to impress others with their words but who have quietly stood the test of time with honesty & allowed the 'secret person of the heart' to attract others –then their example speaks volumes and ENCOURAGES us all. We thank God for them!

  5. I love this post! It is so hard sometimes to remember to seek WISE council, and not just “vent” about your marriage or spouse to someone who will tell us we are right. I know I have been guilty of that many times. Thanks for wearing your love for Cheryl on your sleeve. I believe it gives guys the courage to try it out too, and girls the idea that maybe they deserve that too. No perfect marriage, but there is perfect LOVE.

  6. Jesus and His Bride. No matter how often she whores herself out to every fleeting thing that passes by, He continues to Love her, pursue her, give everything He has in order to win her heart. There is nothing that she can do that will persuade Him to stop loving her and fighting for her heart.

    As Michael Card said once in a song;
    "He loves us with passion,
    without regret,
    He cannot love us more,
    and will not love us less."

  7. Our pastor knew my husband longer and better than he knew me. He met with each of us once, individually. I really don't know what he said to hubby…he says not much. The only thing I vividly recall that came from my session was the question, "You know he's moody, don'tcha?" Uh, yeah. That was the extent of our "counseling". Fortunately, we have been more successful than most at nearly 23 yrs. But my wish for new couples is a definite, extensive sessions on practical things like handling children and most of all, finances. Its too easy to see those kind of "differences" in anything but glossy, "oh we'll work it out when we get there" kind of mentality because its all about the wedding and rose-colored love in the beginning.

  8. I think that pre-martial counseling is very important. We were required to have counseling suing a book called "before you say I do" The problem was that my husband didn't see it as something that we needed to do but rather something that had to do in order to get married. The pastor that married us required the book. If this book had been taken seriously then we would have had a lot fewer things go wrong in our marriage. The other problem I see, and something that we are trying to teach to our girls, is that the longer that you know someone the better things will be. There have been a lot of suprises as we have been married that we could have known about if we had waited a little while. We were married almost 1 year after we met. That is not long enough to get to know anyone, but expecially the one that we are going to spend the rest of our life together. I am glad that you and Cheryl are so compassionate about pre-marital counseling. I think it is a great thing. We have made it almost 20 years but there have been a lot of rough roads and a lot of recommitment in order to make it this far.

  9. My parents marriage ended after 13 years, I suspect it was over long before that. They recieved little if any pre-marital counseling and it showed in their expectations of each other after they wed. I came along early in their marriage so I saw most of their struggles and fights. Having lived through this I knew there had to be a better way to be married.

    God blessed my wife Marla and I with great pre-marital counseling. We were engaged for a year before our wedding date (would never suggest that long of an engagement to anyone, it inhailed vigorously, thankfully I was in Korea for three months of that.) and our counseling went once a week for about 6 months. In that time a couple, who's marriage we desired to mirror, lead us through "Prepairing for Marriage God's Way" by Wayne Mack. It set such a great foundation for us that our first year of marriage (which is supposedly one of the worst) absolutely rocked and left us looking forward to celebrating more years with each other!

    I still find myself asking what did I learn about this, and how do Joe and Karen Sawyer emmulate this Biblical principle in their lives?

    • Thanks Mason for your honesty here. I'm glad you had a couple to set a high bar for you. Our small groups pastor has used this study. It's long, but worth the investment!
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

  10. Thank you so much for a wonderful post. When my husband and I were married, the first year was hell. But we wanted to make our marriage work and we worked on it and ourselves. We always heard from friends, family and strangers that we had a very special relationship. That we had more love in our 8 years of marriege than many couples have in 50. I was always surprised by these comments because I could not understand why other people's relationships were not as strong and loving as ours. And you were right too when you said the tough times make for better times. Again, thank you. You are a wonderful and wise man.

  11. (Part One)

    I used to think it sure would have been nice if Jesus had been married. People say because he lived here that he can identify with everything we've been through and because we know he did it, we can be encouraged to do it too. But I used to wish that he'd been married and been a parent and that the Bible would have shown us through Jesus how to be a "perfect spouse" and "perfect parent".

    Of course, there are lots of other folks He did choose to include in the Bible to give us instruction in these areas, and I'm certain he knows best and if he'd put the details of his own marriage and parenting in there it wouldn't have benefited us any in the long run- or he'd have done that. Besides, how much more sad would the Bible have been had Jesus been crucified in front of his young wife and children?

    At any rate, we only had a few hours of premarital counseling by the preacher who married us. We did a Bible study on our own and memorized 1 Cor. 13.

    Reading over your Marriage Moment I thought much less about marriage and much more about parenting. We get very limited "preparenting counseling" from our own parents, and none in the public schools. Just as with marriage, we have to depend on the Bible and find models of parenting to learn from as we ourselves parent, whether it's Tripp's "Shepherding a Child's Heart" or the neighbor reclining in the lawn chair yelling repeatedly at her kids not to run… but they know that as long as Mom is in that chair she doesn't mean it, and the second she changes the inflection of her voice to lead to consequence, they know that, too.

    Being that my mom left when I was 12, I remember being home alone in early adulthood as a new mom and having to call one of my friends to ask how to get a can of juice open that didn't have a pull tab. How foolish I felt when she immediately replied, "A can opener."

    It is other parents who have been the best teachers of Biblical parenting, either by modeling it or by showing me the consequences of not doing it God's way.

    For example, the son of our childrens' ministry director was throwing a toy grenade at the preschoolers in their hallway after Sunday School one morning, one of a myriad of challenges we were having with him and his brothers. The grenade sounded real and made sparks, and would scare the children. (No toys were allowed by the childrens' ministry director to be brought into the Sunday School rooms, and these kinds of incidents were encouraging the other children to bring toys which were taken from them until after class.) After approaching his mother privately and being told that she felt it would dishonor what his father does for a living (infantry) to intervene, we went (over a period of several months' time) to two elders in the church and then had a meeting with the pastor and his wife and the boys' mother.

    The mother of the boy (aka, childrens' ministry director) kept saying it was because her son was a boy and boys were different that these behaviors (hitting and biting other kids and teachers, throwing the grenade at church, throwing rocks at cars in the parking lot…) should be tolerated.

    • You are correct, this is true of parenting also. I have often said that we need "pre-parenting" counseling as much as marriage. Having those around to learn from is a great substitute…perhaps even better.
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

  12. (Part Two)

    However, one mother in the room with three girls of her own spoke up. She explained that if a girl in a SS class were to pick up a doll and bang its head on a table or a wall, we would intervene, because we know children learn what they play. We would say, "This is how we hold the baby. We love the baby." And we would demonstrate how to hold and rock and care for the baby. She said Jesus was a boy and he didn't go around destroying things and hurting people.

    Listening to this wise mom was such an encouragement to me. Our son was only 3 at that time, and to hear that it was indeed possible to raise a godly boy because Jesus was a boy was very valuable.

    I once called this same mom and asked her some advice about a challenge we were experiencing. Many times I would take my son out to play, and the mom next door would send her son running out with his guns to play with Elias. I didn't want Elias playing with guns. I asked her how she thought I could word my concerns with my neighbor, and she advised, "We don't pretend hurtful things."

    The same mom of three did not watch TV in their home, and would explain to her girls when they asked, "We do not need to be entertained by ungodliness."

    Spending a lot of time with other godly moms is the same kind of iron sharpening we can get from spending time with godly couples.

    I have to be honest with you, Pastor. I am very apprehensive at this point about making that kind of effort for our marriage. Spending time around other women can inevitably stir up lust in my husband that can create big problems. Other women lean over right in front of my husband to pick up a toy or a child, or he will be talking with her and she will have all his eye contact and he will seem to forget all about being a married man… for an hour or more. The last time another couple came to stay with us, the woman (my age) came down to tell us goodnight with only a bra-less nightshirt- and panties showing. And the last time we spent time with another couple, the wife greeted us in her swimsuit. It was a one piece, yes, but with a buckle holding the front together, and gaps. If we are going to spend time with other godly couples, maybe we should move to Alaska where women wear more clothes.

    • I agree with your comment about hanging out with other couples. I should have said this in my post, but I did suggest this in my picture…I recommend finding someone a generation or so ahead of you…they've walked where you are walking and will walk. Thankfully, there's less temptation there…Great comments.
      Twitter: Ronedmondson