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:

About the Author

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is married to her high school sweetheart, Jason, and together they parent four energetic boys on their small farm in the midwest. She is the author of more than a dozen books and Bible studies, the content manager for Revive Our Hearts, and a host of the Grounded videocast. You can hear her teach on The Deep Well with Erin Davis podcast.