5 Lessons I Didn’t Learn in Premarital Counseling

Fifteen years ago today I walked down a sandy aisle and married Jason barefoot at sunset (swoon!). Having a decade and a half of marriage under my belt doesn’t exactly qualify me as a marriage expert. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I have learned a thing or two along the way. In fact, here are five things I never heard in premarital counseling.

1. Marriage is not about me. (It’s not even about us.)

If someone had asked me to articulate the purpose of marriage before I walked down the aisle, I might have responded with an answer like:

  • To make me happy.
  • To demonstrate a commitment.
  • To have babies!

Those things are wonderful side effects of marriage, but they aren’t the main reason God designed marriage. Nope, marriage was created for a much more cosmic purpose.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31–32).

God created marriage to tell a story. The story isn’t about me and my groom or you and yours. The story is about Christ and His Bride, the Church. Marriage is designed to showcase the greatest romance in history.

2. There is a better word for marriage than “work.”

The main message I heard about marriage before my wedding was “marriage is a lot of work.” If marriage meant a lifetime commitment to blood, sweat, and tears, I wasn’t sure I wanted in. But after fifteen years of marriage, I can think of about a zillion better words to describe it than “work.” Words like:

Rewarding
Sanctifying
Fun
Precious
A Gift (Okay, that’s two words.)

Yes, marriage takes effort, but it’s more like the effort required to paint a masterpiece than the elbow grease required to dig a ditch. It’s fruitful work, delightful work, “let’s build something great together” kind of work.

If you’re someone who’s heard “marriage is a lot of work” enough times to make you suspicious of the altar, allow me to change the script for you. Marriage is a lot of gifts. Sure, sometimes the unwrapping of those gifts requires a little effort, but the payoff is worth it.

3. Submission is beautiful.

As a newlywed, I never backed down from a fight, and I started plenty of them. I wanted to be Jason’s equal in every way. If I sensed that he was trying to one up me or exert authority over me, the claws would come out. Looking back, I’m embarrassed by that behavior. What a mess I made!

Let’s revisit Ephesians 5 for a moment. (It’s a great chapter to park in if you want to understand God’s vision for marriage.)

Verse 22 says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”

How’s that for clear-cut truth? As a wife, God asks me to submit to my husband. The reasons for that authority structure within marriage are vast and varied, but the heartbeat is this: My willingness to submit to human authorities reflects my willingness to submit to God’s authority. If I arch my back and clench my fists every time my husband asks me to do something, it reveals my tendency to rebel against God’s best for me as well.

It simply doesn’t work to have two chiefs in the teepee. This doesn’t mean I am not Jason’s equal. Since we both bear God’s image, we are equal in value both to our Creator and to each other. But we are not the same. If submission feels like a four-letter word to you, I’d encourage you to grab a copy of Submission Isn’t For Sissies by my friend Kelly Wehunt.

Don’t wait until you’re married to ask the Lord to teach you His best in this department. Run to His Word, and then submit gladly to the authorities He has placed in your life right now (parents, teachers, bosses).

4. Getting married doesn’t mean you’ll never be lonely.

Marriage doesn’t work like a magic wand. It can’t forever banish loneliness, insecurity, or fear from our lives. I was surprised to realize it’s possible to be married and still be lonely.

Sometimes my husband and I are physically separated for work or other commitments. I can’t be with him 100 percent of the time. Being married doesn’t mean I’m never alone.

Sometimes my husband and I are emotionally separated. For whatever reason, we just don’t see eye to eye. Being misunderstood by someone so important to you can be painfully lonely.

Sometimes even when Jason and I are in the same zip code and things are going well, I still feel lonely. That’s because he cannot meet every emotional need. I still need female friends who I can relate to, spiritual mentors and leaders, and other people to invest in. Putting all of my needs into one emotional basket (marriage) can lead to deep loneliness.

5. The best marriage book on the shelves is the Bible. The best marriage counselor is the Holy Spirit.

If you want to be a great wife someday, let me encourage you to start asking the Lord to prepare you right now. He is both your creator and the creator of marriage. He is best suited to give you everything you need to honor Him (and your future husband) well.

Proverbs 31:12 describes a bride this way: “She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.”

You don’t have to wait until you’re married or engaged to be a godly wife. Ask the Lord to show you how to love your husband well “all the days” of your life.

I’m not against marriage books or marriage counselors. However, the best marriage resources out there should use God’s Word as their foundation. Avoid the bookstore register, and race straight toward your Bible. You already have the best marriage book of all time sitting on your nightstand!

After you say “I do,” keep running to the deep well of God’s Word for His blueprint for how you and your husband can display the gospel through your marriage. Here’s a list of passages that I’ve run to often over the past fifteen years:

Before You Say “I Do”

What questions do you have about marriage? We want to take this opportunity to help you find the answers in God’s Word. Place your top marriage questions in a comment below. I’ll choose four of your comments that Jason and I will answer in August. If your question is picked, we’ll send you a copy of Letters to My Daughters: the Art of Being a Wife.

About Author

Erin Davis

Erin is passionate about pointing young women toward God's Truth. She is the author of several books and a frequent speaker and blogger to women of all ages. Erin lives on a small farm in the midwest with her husband and kids. When she's not writing, you can find her herding goats, chickens, and children.

HEY, GIRLS! We love hearing from you, but feel limited in the ways we can help. For one thing, we’re not trained counselors. If you’re seeking counsel, we encourage you to talk to your pastor or a godly woman in your life as they’ll know more details and can provide you with ongoing accountability and help. Also, the following comments do not necessarily reflect the views of Revive Our Hearts. We reserve the right to remove comments which might be unhelpful, unsuitable, or inappropriate. We may edit or remove your comment if it:

  • * Requests or gives personal information such as email address, address, or phone number.
  • * Attacks other readers.
  • * Uses vulgar or profane language.
  • Megan

    How do you know what a godly marriage looks like if you’ve never seen one?

  • Laura Prysko

    What kind of spiritual practices/devotions do you do with your husband?

  • Leah

    At times it has seemed for me that the part before marriage (dating/courting) sounds fun, but once you’re married it seems to go downhill…does it have to be that way, or can it get better over the years?

    What are some thing that I (as a single 19 year old) can do to prepare for a rewarding, and sanctifying marriage?

  • Brittany Bradley

    Can you please show us what Godly submission as a wife looks like, a lot of the times people just tell women you must submit but never tell us what it looks like so we are left with the definition of whatever our culture tells us it means(which we know is wrong), and some of us never had a good model in our families. Thanks a bunch!! 🙂

  • Kim

    when your emotionally seperated, how do you refocus your relationship? And how to re center your marriage around god ? Thanks!

  • Audrey

    How do you keep loving before your marriage and after. Like how do you keep the exciting feelings you once had when you first met all the way to the day you say I do?

  • Lucy

    My struggle is expectations. How do I let go of my expectation for him to be perfect. Especially when it comes to spiritual things. I want him to always be hearing from the Lord, basically I want his mind and actions and words to always be spiritually focused and I struggle with this when he falls short.

    • Angela

      Pray for your team, as an “us” and not a “him”. It is sometimes easier to pray humbly & gently for someone when I consider myself a part of whatever person/group I am praying for. God, help us to reach out to You more, give us a desire for more of You, convict us where we are wrong & guide us when we need direction.

      • Lucy

        Thank you so much Angela for your response! I actually had not thought of doing this and I think what you said is very helpful and I would like to begin to apply it to my life and my relationships. Thanks again!

  • Abby

    I am 19 years old and have never dated, a fact which I am rather proud of. I am content to not date at this point in my life, but I still struggle when cute boys “walk in the door.” “Knowing” if it’s the right guy will be a struggle for me until I “know.” How did you and your hubby know you were right for each other?

  • Rebecca

    How do you know that the man you are dating is the one God wants you to marry?

  • Mais

    How can I have hope for a healthy, God-centered marriage, when I’m haunted by my parent’s divorce? And how would I go about defeating the lie that my fate would be the same?

  • Joyful

    How do you know if a young man and you are supposed to be married in the end?

  • A

    How do you handle disagreement about something as a couple in a Christ-honoring manner? Theological, personal, relational disagreements etc?

  • Iiris

    What would you say is the hardest thing in a marriage relationship? Why do you think it is the hardest and how do you work on it in your marriage?

  • Emily Torbert

    What would you say marriage looks like when it’s exactly what it’s supposed to be? When a husband lays down his life, a wife submits, and both showcase Christ?

  • Daphne Wilson

    I just got married two months ago, and I’m so grateful to have learned many of these things through our premarital counseling. My question is about sanctification in marriage. I’m finding that sanctification in marriage is a whole new level (not for sissies) and I’m having a hard time being joyful about some of the rewards that come from it. What are some practical things you do to remain joyful in the process of sanctification?

  • Alison

    What does “good communication” entail? I’ve heard many times that communication is key, but I don’t know what good communication looks like.

    • Christa Mielke

      Read Conversation Peace by Mary Kassian. Excellent book on Biblical communication!

  • I also just got married two months ago. My question is what does it look like to balance being a married couple and one flesh and being an individual. My husband and I are both in ministry, and for most of our work, we are together. But what is wise in terms of making space to be an individual (i.e. doing things that you personally enjoy) while also love and serving your spouse in spending time together?

  • Allie

    What are some ways that you can honor your spouse before marriage, and also before you even meet them?

  • hannahb

    Thank you so much for this, Erin. This is an interesting perspective!

  • Mary Ann Holandez

    Thank you for writing this article. My fiancé and I are getting premarital counseling scheduled as soon as we finish our questionnaire. Can a couple prevent miscommunication? If so how, and what should you do to prevent it? My fiancé and I have two different culture and I sure need help in this area.

  • Priscilla Guerra

    Thank you for all of your articles, Erin. I’ve appreciated your thoughtful writing to women of all stages of life. As a single woman, I anticipate the possibility of marriage in the future, so long as the Lord wills it. I’ve prayerfully sought to be under proper teaching so that I would have a biblical understanding of marriage, but I know much of my understanding is theoretical…haha. I’m sure it’s much tougher to submit and trust in practice.

    So, my question is, what are ways that single women can practice biblical submission while single? And, even though single women can be very independent, are there authorities that the Lord has placed over us that we might not be submissive to because it’s not in the context of marriage?

    Thank you so much! Blessings to you and your husband – may God be glorified in your marriage.

  • Tera

    Hi, Erin how to you submit to a spouse that doesn’t seem to make good decisions?

  • Missy Jane

    What things do you think are most important or vital to look for in a future spouse? When you look back at what you considered to be important to look for while dating, is there anything that you now see isn’t as important and we shouldn’t put as much emphasis on?

  • Pam

    ¿How do you know if he is THE ONE? ¿Is there just one guy that is perfect for you? ¿What happens if you mess things up? ¿Do you lose your opportunity for ever?