Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Don't Miss The Warning Signs Before Marriage

John and Alice were so in love.  They couldn't wait to get married.  They'd known each other for a good while and everyone expected marriage was a given. They had a date planned for a wedding in about a year and were just beginning to put some details in place for their special day.

Nothing in their minds could keep them from committing to spend the rest of their lives together.

Sure there were a few things that irritated John. For one thing Alice spent nearly an hour every day on the phone with her mom. But they were probably also talking about wedding details so that didn't seem like a big deal.

He did notice that Alice's dad was pretty quiet and never said much but he was nice nonetheless and he and John's future mother-in-law seemed to get along well.

John did wonder from time to time about Alice's continued connection to an old boyfriend, but they just seemed to be good friends and John liked the guy too, so what was the big deal? Alice would often tell John that she wished he was a little more like Alex the former boyfriend, but she was just trying to help John, right?

But five years later, John began to wonder if he should have noticed some of Alice's tendencies, actions and habits. No, there would never be a perfect wife but had he missed some warning signs that would have told him about potential big problems later.

Because now, Alice continues to put more stock in her mother's views than his. Alice still sneaks around texting Alex, keeping their "friendship" going but not telling John. And to this day John has still never felt any respect or deep affection from Alice. She continues to belittle him about most everything and they have little intimacy of body, soul or spirit. He wonders if that's really the way her dad is.

When I deal with couples in marriage counseling, I have found (and so have they) that there were almost always signs during the dating phase of their relationship of potentially bad things to come.  But instead of talking about them, exploring more and even deciding not to marry the couples simply ignored the signs and hoped things would change or never show up at all.

Of course we must understand that we can never know our spouse completely when we marry. People change and so do circumstances. The covenant we make at the altar must endure beyond good feelings and be lived out through two imperfect people.

But there are warning signs that may also tell us this marriage shouldn't happen, that there are qualities, habits or attitudes in the other person or their family that will not help that marriage be a healthy and godly one. Do not ignore them.  You must explore them, talk through them with a qualified pastor or counselor and prayerfully consider whether the marriage will work and be fruitful.  A spouse who is not willing to look deeply within themselves is going to have trouble with honesty and authenticity later.

Some potential areas of concern to watch for are: unhealthy relationships or connections with parents or other family, unresolved abuse issues, strange marriage role perspectives, distorted views toward the opposite sex, unaddressed fear and anxiety concerns, distorted ideas concerning money, children or God.

So what does a person or couple do to avoid trouble later. First, take notice of the signs.  It may just start as a bad feeling but don't ignore it. Explore, get wisdom, find out more.

Second, talk about it with the other person.  Most of the time you need to get someone else involved who will help you both look honestly at your concern to determine if it's anything significant. This is why quality premarital counseling is essential!

Third, be willing to postpone your wedding or break up. There are far worse things one of them being sitting in an office like mine years later in despair with little hope knowing you made a big mistake and those hidden problems are now major problems for your relationship.

Marriage can be wonderful and it's always a growing, learning, giving and sacrificial commitment and covenant. But marriages with unrevealed disease and dysfunction are usually doomed to die a slow death. Don't miss the signs.  They're usually more obvious than you think.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

1 comment:

  1. This is a bit long, sorry, but it's got a happy ending!:
    My wife and I were just talking about this last night, how couples just blunder into marriage in a stupor of love, usually without any good perspective on potential issues.

    This article is spot on. The issues were there for us while dating. She was shy, avoided confrontation at all costs, had no passions, and was almost completely passive relationally. But of course to someone pursuing her, these were just challenges to be overcome. 3 years married and after putting so much effort into the marriage, it was exceedingly obvious that she lacked capacity for personal or relational development. At work she blossomed but the rest was a sad mess.
    All this, we have found, came from childhood issues- no dad, bossed around by sister and mother, latched onto extroverted people to mask lack of self. Bit like cinderella without the magic fix. And these deep things are not easily overcome, or even approached, when not being able to talk about issues, is one of the issues! But we found a great book 'Bad childhood, good life' by Dr Laura and for the first time we could see all these previously unexplained things which were quite actively holding her back from life. Nothing else, no reason or explanation or argument or dispair from me or (limited) input from anyone else had resonated with her before that.
    We have made massive gains in the last 6 months and it is just the beginning of a long, difficult but rewarding process of personal growth and marriage growth, like it should be but just from a terrible start.

    Couples will hit their issues at some point. Best to do so before they destroy the marriage, as Gary said, and with a third party well before premarriage counselling.