Preflight Planning: “Where’s This Marriage Going?” (Part 1)
Imagine that marriage is like flying a plane—and you’re about to taxi down the runway. Here’s the first of three blog posts about preparing for a smooth flight.
In my 20 years as a family counselor, I have never had a couple come to me before they say “I do” to counsel in preparation for marriage. But I have countless experiences of couples coming to me with the remnants of marriages that have crashed and burned. Marriage counseling is often the last resort for these relationships gone awry.
Imagine for a moment that marriage is like flying a plane. Together, as pilot and copilot, you are going to strap yourselves in, start the engines, taxi down the runway and eventually pick up enough speed to take off. Do you know where you are going? Do you agree on your destination? In other words, do you have a “flight plan” for your marriage?
Mike and Karen* had been married just over a year. It was not a first marriage for either of them. They had known each other for several years; and when they began dating, things moved quickly. They married a few months later. Now, after several months of unsuccessful efforts to work things out, divorce papers had been filed.
What went wrong? Both of them had different views of where they were going and how they wanted to get there. But they didn’t know this until it was too late.
A flight plan is necessary
Before a plane can take off to its destination, a flight plan has to be filed. The pilot and copilot have to plan ahead, decide the best route to take, anticipate the weather and be prepared to respond accordingly.
Marriage is the same. But most couples spend more time planning the wedding ceremony, reception and honeymoon than the actual relationship! Is it any wonder that so many marriages end in divorce? What might have changed for those couples if they’d filed a marital flight plan before saying “I do”?
If Mike and Karen had only discussed ahead of time what they both wanted from the relationship, they would have discovered some very serious differences. They would have known they were traveling in different directions.
Unfortunately Mike and Karen’s story is all too common. Too many couples fall prey to the emotion of their relationship. They fall in love—that wonderful emotional feeling that comes initially—and they assume that it’s enough to base a substantial, successful relationship on. It’s a great place to start. But a relationship is not and cannot be built on this feeling.
The reality of marriage is different from our expectations. A successful partnership requires more than just feelings; it takes a plan. What could Mike and Karen have done differently so that they would not have been facing divorce?
Mike and Karen needed to ask each other some simple things before the wedding:
- Where are we going?
- How will we get there?
- What “bumpy weather” can we expect and how will we deal with it?
All relationships will go somewhere; the key is knowing where you’re going and making sure it’s a destination you have both agreed on!
Questions to consider
Here are some questions to consider when planning your marriage takeoff:
What do you want for your future marriage? Have both of you shared and discussed your hopes and dreams for the future?
What will you accomplish by getting married? Are you looking for companionship, financial security, to be taken care of, to raise a family, to have a certain standard of living? Each of you will have a different set of expectations that you hope marriage will fulfill. Talking about these ahead of time may prevent disappointment and heartache later.
What do you want to have or achieve as a result of your marriage? The answer to this question reflects the physical and monetary goals you set as a couple, like where and how you’ll live, what your income will be, how many children you’ll have, where and how often you vacation, etc. The more you know beforehand, the less chance of conflict later.
Finally, but most important of all, do you know that God has a purpose for your marriage? He is the One, after all, who designed the institution of marriage and created the first couple, Adam and Eve. You can be sure, as you read their story in Genesis, that God had a flight plan for them, just as He does for all couples.
This is a big topic, but the main point of this blog post is to encourage you to seek out what God’s purpose is for marriage—and for your marriage in particular! Knowing and discussing that purpose with your spouse or future spouse will help you to keep your relationship on course even when you run into turbulence!
To learn more about the biblical foundation for the institution of marriage, read “What Is Marriage?”
*Names have been changed.