As many of you know, I enjoy pre-engagement counseling quite a bit. If you’re not familiar with the term pre-engagement counseling (I’ll just refer to it as PEC for short), you can read more about it here. I enjoy PEC because we get to talk about topics that married people wish they would have talked over before marrying. So I’m going to start a series of short articles that highlight the key things to ask before popping the question.
I hope these will be of value to you, whether you are dating, or you’re a pastor conducting pre-marital counseling, or even if you are married and want to have more clarity about a topic.
I generally follow the Prepare/Enrich structure of topical discussion. The biggest topics that come up in PEC sessions are (in no particular order):
Family, In-Laws, and Friends
Spiritual Beliefs and Church Life
Blended Family Dynamics
Today I’m only going to focus on questions surrounding Communication. Communication may be the granddaddy topic of them all! Communication is perhaps the biggest indicator of how intimate you both are.
There are dozens of questions one can ask about communication, but here are 5 for starters:
- Do I make it safe for you to share your honest feelings?
- How do you feel when I’m silent? When I raise my voice? When I’m sarcastic? When I make eye contact?
- Am I confrontable?
- Do you like the amount of face to face communication we currently have?
- What is my most attractive communication trait, and my most undesirable communication trait? Who in your past do I remind you of when I do either?
These questions ought to get you started on a valuable discussion about your communication patterns. In my experience, unhealthy communication is the number one reason why marriages suffer. To be clear, unhealthy has many looks. Non-confrontational couples can be just as unhealthy as constantly fighting couples. If you detect unhealthy patterns during dating, they do not improve by themselves in marriage. In fact, they often become worse.
But take heart! Here’s what you can tangibly do. Ask one another the above starter questions with a heart open to illumination by the Holy Spirit. (Fight through the awkwardness! You can do it!) Then, practice what needs practicing so that the unhealthy patterns go away more and more. With practice, healthy communication may replace unhealthy communication, and you will find that “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11)