How best can you help a couple you know to start marriage well?
I’ve got to tell you–I really want people to feel passion!
And so I write all of these posts trying to help people unravel marriage problems and get back to the passion, but it’s occurred to me over the last few years that it would be so much better if those problems didn’t start in the first place. If we could find a way to avoid a lot of the disappointments and misunderstandings earlier in the relationship, then maybe people wouldn’t lose that passion–and they could have a lot more fun in their marriages!
it took Keith and me several years to find our way back to each other (and back to passion) after our first initial disappointment in marriage. It’s not that our marriage was ever in trouble. We always had fun together and loved each other and knew we were going to stay together. But there was a lot of hurt that we had to work through, especially over sex.
We both have big regrets over our honeymoon. If we could have done it differently, how much hurt could we have prevented? I know that God has used that hurt, because if I hadn’t gone through it, I don’t think I ever would have started writing and speaking on marriage. But at the same time, we always wonder, “If only…”
So how can you help prevent a couple from ending up in the “If only…” club?
Obviously you can’t, entirely. But I do think that if we could give people the right tools earlier, or if we could help them have different expectations, a lot of hurt could be avoided. And I know you feel that, too, when you look at young couples (or even older couples) who are about to get married. We want to see it succeed and see them keep loving each other. So how can we help?
Give engaged couples practical, marriage tools
Buy them The Honeymoon Course!
My daughter Rebecca and I put together The Honeymoon Course to help engaged couples set the right expectations for sex in marriage; give them a BIG MINDSHIFT about sex for the honeymoon that will set up their sex life much better; and help them plan a trip that fits their expectations and aims, rather than one that leaves them exhausted.
It’s super fun, filled with teaching videos, quick activities the couple does together (nothing takes very much time!), packing lists, checklists, and even activities FOR the honeymoon so that they can build memories and have some romance. We’ve even included 5 all new sexy dares!
It really is a great way to help a couple start well.
Pay for professional pre-marital counselling
You can’t do this for just anyone, but if it’s a couple that you’re very close to, like your own kids or godchildren or nieces or nephews, consider paying for professional marriage counseling. Often pastors only do 1-2 sessions with a couple, and they don’t always do it well. When Katie and David got married, they were counselled by Tammy (my #1 right hand assistant!) and her husband Steeve, who is a chaplain in the military. (David’s also in the military). Steeve has developed an in-depth premarital counseling program that he does with couples, and it was awesome.
Couples need something like that, and it should be at least 5 sessions, in my opinion, to really get to the heart of things. Sometimes the counseling itself seems silly at the time, because every couple thinks, “Oh, this doesn’t apply to us, because we’re really in love.” But if the counseling focuses on developing tools for communication and conflict resolution, then when those problems do come, they’ll be equipped to deal with it.
I have a niece who may get married in the next few years, and I think we’re going to do this for them. I know their particular church isn’t the best one for marriage counseling, so I’ll make sure they get it myself.
Send them on a weekend marriage retreat
This is also a much bigger expense–likely several hundred dollars, unless you also want to cover hotel and meals (then it’s even more). But if you’re close to the couple, and you can afford it, and the couple is already married, consider paying for them to go on a marriage retreat! The Canadian FamilyLife Weekend Getaways are awesome, and Keith and I speak at a few a year. We took all my staff to one in April and they all had a great time. It’s one of the few times you get to talk specifically about your relationship, and the tools you learn can really help. There’s little else that helps as much as a good marriage retreat.
Let them know they can always call you
Whenever I go to one of my girls’ friends’ weddings (and there seem to have been a lot of them lately), I always tell the bride that if she ever has any questions or problems, she can call or email me. And then I Facebook her and repeat the offer so she knows I’m serious. Some have even taken me up on it!
I shared last week in a post about a woman who called her “aunt”, who was a nurse family friend, on their honeymoon because sex was hurting and she needed some advice, and the woman had told her she could call whenever. And I have friends who have done the same thing with my daughters (because sometimes talking to your mom is awkward). Let young people know you’re a safe place and they won’t be intruding!
Buy wedding gifts that emphasize their relationship
Okay, some more ideas for couples you want to bless, but you may not know as well. When you’re choosing a wedding gift, forego the Bed, Bath and Beyond wedding gift registry, and go for something that you know will bless their relationship.
One of the best habits to get set up when a couple is in their first year of marriage is spending time together regularly. The more that you can laugh together and create memories, the more bonded you will feel. So buy them something that will help them grow!
Tammy and Steeve always buy board games as wedding presents, and we may steal that idea. Try to choose board games that work wonderfully for two people (so no matter how much they may like Catan, try a different one). I’ve got a list of 20 2-person games, and I’ll be updating it soon. One of my personal favourites of all time: Carcassone. But check out the other games for couples as well!
You could also get them memberships somewhere active. Rebecca and Connor love the local rock-climbing gym. A season’s pass to the zoo or a museum or somewhere else they may enjoy hanging out can also work. Just anything that will help them spend time together! And, of course, the gift cards to a nice restaurant chain so they can go out to dinner are useful, too!
Ease the burden of the first few years of marriage
Another way to bless couples? When you’re giving wedding gifts, consider money. Sure, couples may love towels or a crockpot, but what they’re really concerned about is paying for next semester’s tuition or saving for a downpayment for a house. The other stuff can come later.
Gift cards to grocery chains or drug store chains can be greatly appreciated, because then some of the expenses they’re inevitably going to have anyway can be paid for, and the couple can put their money towards their true priorities. Rebecca likes to brag that they didn’t pay for groceries for a year after their wedding because of all the gift cards they received!
If you are going to buy something from the registry, get something top-of-the-line that they wouldn’t necessarily buy for themselves. Most people have towels, and they can make do with the towels they have. Likewise for bedding and pillows. But they likely would never invest in the really good bedding or the really good pillows, and most people put medium stuff on the registry. So consider blessing them with something top of the line that will last them for years.
Okay, those are my ideas for how to bless a couple who is about to get married.
Obviously it depends on how well you know the couple–you can buy the Honeymoon Course and board games for just about anyone. Marriage counseling or couples’ retreats you may need to know them a little bit better.
The wedding’s important. But the marriage matters much more!
With videos, activities, guided discussions, packing lists, and more, help a couple you love grow their marriage RIGHT–from the beginning.
Next time you’re invited to a wedding, instead of doing the normal routine about buying a wedding present, ask yourself: “How can I bless them and actually help their relationship to stay strong?” I bet together we can help a whole lot of marriages keep that passion!
What would you add to the list? How have you been proactive about helping to bless an engaged couple? Let’s talk in the comments!