Reinterpreting the purpose of premarital counseling
Premarital pastoral counseling is a broader activity than is often suspected, going beyond a set of interviews designed to prepare a couple for marriage. Its purpose is to extend the resources of the Gospel and the Church to a couple at a critical period in their lives. In the case of Bill and Gretchen, this meant reassessing their guilt over having had intercourse prior to marriage and setting it within the context of God's forgiveness. It meant helping Bill's mother to meet certain of her personal needs, and it meant helping Bill to understand his own interpersonal relationships more clearly. Later observation showed that, as a couple, Bill and Gretchen were able to sustain a meaningful relationship with each other and to meet the continuing stresses placed upon their marriage as they tried to help Bill's mother and father.
The adoption of the purpose advocated here enables the pastor to avoid the contagion of emergency feelings, to set meaningful partial goals for his work with a couple in various stages of the premarital counseling relationship, and to set premarital counseling squarely within the context of his total pastoral ministry.
KeywordsInterpersonal Relationship Critical Period Cross Cultural Psychology Meaningful Relationship Pastoral Counseling
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