Preparing for a wedding takes couples on a time-consuming, roller-coaster ride of emotions and experiences, as they draw people together to plan and execute their Big Day. Meticulous planning goes into the detail of the day, but this contrasts sharply with the low level of attention and forward thinking that goes into preparing for the possibilities of the marriage journey itself.
Parents, pastors and well-wishers are quietly confident that the months and years following the wedding will be good and, on the whole, harmonious. So little is said or done by this hopeful crowd. The happy couple assume that the ensuing married relationship will take care of itself once the wedding day is over. Such complacency and assurance are fuelled by the positive emotions of the moment and, sadly, by the observation of the marriage ‘facades’ of other couples around them, especially in their churches. The soon-to-be-wed couple are often unaware of the truth that the length and appearance of a marriage are no indicator of its quality or health.
I have observed several disturbing and interrelated happenings in church circles – some of which have been long established and others that are gaining momentum.
A culture of silence
When a couple experience marital difficulties, these difficulties develop over time and begin to seriously compromise the marriage relationship. The husband and wife don’t talk to anyone about this, primarily because they’re not sure that they should. They have observed other couples in the church, and they all appear to be doing fine and they don’t talk about any difficulties.
A fear of judgmental attitudes
Another reason that a couple stay silent is because they don’t want others to judge them. A couple’s silence is enforced further by the fact that they don’t know who to talk to, or at what stage of difficulty they should be seeking help. The unspoken rule seems to be ‘You don’t talk about marriage problems in church’.
A lack of marriage support structures
A culture of silence coupled with a significant lack of marriage support structures in churches has contributed to the increased incidence of marriage breakdown and divorce in the church.
The occasional ‘marriage retreat’ is not enough to support marriages. Church leadership teams need to become more intentional and proactive about supporting marriages beyond their premarital counselling provision.
How can churches be proactive in supporting marriages?
Marriage mentors, marriage ‘health check’ courses, peer-couples support groups, marriage preparation courses, regular Bible teaching on marriage and prayer groups – these are some of the possibilities that a church or group of churches could provide for their married couples. Married couples need church forums in which they can find support plus strengthening and enriching opportunities, as well as personal help and counselling for their relationships.
Christian marriages have a diabolical opponent, which church leaders need to address by putting in place structures to counter such undermining forces. (Church leaders’ marriages, too, have a unique blend of opposing forces which must also be dealt with head-on… but that’s a discussion for another day.)
Prevention, they say, is better than cure. The Church’s challenge is to make preventative and enrichment structures available for married couples to tap into regularly, as well as personal marriage support and counselling. The aim should be to challenge the culture of silence, and to stem the tide of bankrupt Christian marriage relationships.
Newly-weds will have a brighter future, when they can foresee support and marriage enrichment opportunities provided by a caring church as an integral part of their marriage journey.
Louise Isaac partners with her husband Les to produce and facilitate marriage courses for churches. They have a passion for enabling long, healthy marriages, and will be running a weekend Marriage Preparation Course in London in January 2017.
More about the course…
Facilitators Les and Louise Isaac have been married for over 35 years. They will share from their own experience of successes and challenges, making the course dynamic, reflective and reality-based, with a Christian emphasis.
The course will include:
- Couples’ exercises
- Videos and case studies
- Single-gender group discussion
- Couples’ reflection and prayer time
- Workbooks will be provided
- Establishing good foundations
- Managing conflict
- Intimacy in marriage
- Marriage phases, and much more
This is a two-day weekend course, running from Saturday 10:00am to Sunday 5:00pm. Tea, coffee and lunch will be provided.
Registration is required, and bookings close by midnight on Thursday 19th January 2017. Spaces are limited, so for more information, visit