I remember getting asked to do premarital counseling for the first time. I was excited for the opportunity because it would force me to get some notes together that I could use again in the future. But I was somewhat at a loss for what to do. So I did what anybody would do. . . . I pulled out my premarital counseling notes from when my wife and I were engaged! My father did our premarital counseling, so they were very good notes. I updated them a bit, borrowed from them, and amalgamated them with some other materials that I had found helpful through the years. Invariably, a post on premarital counseling could be huge, so let me just limit it to one facet of counseling. I would like to share with you the reading list that I have couples read before, during, and after counseling. Hopefully this will be useful to you as you embark on this important endeavor of premarital counseling.
Book #1: Christian Living in the Home by Jay Adams. This book has wonderful advice on a number of key issues for new couples. If couples have been to Bible college, chances are they already have this book. I usually have a couple read this together and discuss it before we start counseling. During our first counseling session I’ll have them discuss what they learned and what they found helpful.
Book #2: How to Be Happy Though Married by Tim LaHaye. I know, it has a funny title. Don’t judge it by its title! My dad gave this to my wife and me, and we wondered if he was hinting toward something! Actually, this book has tons of practical advice, like the issue of who should manage the finances and basic communication protocols. One feature I especially like is that it covers temperaments in detail. I have found this information valuable in helping couples understand how to live with each other. I have couples read this during counseling.
Book #3: The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This book goes hand-in-hand with the information relating to temperaments. Usually certain temperaments (or a combination of temperaments) will have proclivities toward expressing love in certain ways. This book helps you understand yourself and also your mate. It is valuable for couples to read it before marriage so they start on the right foot with loving their mates intelligently and appropriately. I use this book during counseling. We spend time discussing it during some of the sessions.
Book #4: Intended for Pleasure by Ed Wheat. Please don’t blush after you read the title of this book! Yes, it’s about what you think it’s about. Important tip: Don’t have a couple read this until about two weeks before the wedding! For me, we are done with the counseling at this point, and I encourage the couple to read the book separately before the wedding. It is written in a discrete and knowledgeable manner. I think it helps couples go into marriage with the right expectations and the right information for a successful physical relationship.
Book #5: Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs. This is probably one of the most excellent books on marriage to come along in many years. Eggerichs takes the simple formula from Ephesians and applies it to various situations in marriage. He contends that a majority of marital problems relate to a failure of the man to truly love his wife, and of the woman to truly respect her husband. A study guide is also available, which is useful when a couple reads through the book together. I have couples read this book shortly after they have been married. I feel it helps them get aligned on the right path early on in marriage.
I’m sure many other books could be added to this list. I have chosen these because they help cover many bases with relatively few books. We need to keep a priority on premarital counseling to ensure the health of the marriages in our churches.