As a pastor I have found good pre-marital counseling is crucial to a successful relationship. My point being this: “It is better to learn that a stove is hot before you touch it, than afterwards.” This is a great article I found over @ pastors.com.
Helping engaged couples find A.W.E. in their upcoming marriage
I have never had a premarital appointment where the couple said to me, “We don’t communicate very well.” When I ask them about communication, they gaze at each other with stars in their eyes and say, “We talk about everything.” When I check in with them six months after the wedding and ask, “How’s the communication going?” They look at each other and then say something like “We could use some help!” That’s probably your experience too. Over the years, I have developed a simple lesson to help couples, young and old alike, rekindle romance and keep the communication lines open. I call it A.W.E. This stands for affection, warmth, and encouragement.
So much of creating intimacy in marriage is developing a positive environment in the home. Yet most premarital counseling does not give couples the tools to help set the mood, atmosphere, and tone for healthy relationships. We have to teach couples to be intentional. It takes a lot of work and self-discipline to create what I like to call an atmosphere of A.W.E. in a marriage.
Personally, I have learned that my circumstances may not change, but my attitude can change, and that makes all the difference in the world. Every marriage can use a dose of A.W.E., and it is a great little lesson to teach couples to work on this on a regular basis. I have been talking to pastors for years about this subject, and yet the words affection, warmth, and encouragement are still displayed on my dresser at home. Marriages are won and lost by couples never tiring of doing the little things for each other as they cherish their relationship.
Affection UCLA came out with a study that says it takes 8 to 10 meaningful touches a day for a person to thrive. Far too many couples say that they are affection-starved. I suggest that couples try to have at least one 15-second kiss every day. Kissing is intimate. Kissing breaks down walls of low-level anger. At least a 15-second kiss when they leave for work and maybe another when they return. It doesn’t matter how the day is going, it shows a sense of intimacy that says, “You are mine.”
When people think of affection, the first thought is physical affection, but words of affection are very important too. One young man told me in premarital counseling that he had a hard time offering words of affection to his fiancee because he never received it growing up. I basically said, “Get over it!” His bride will thrive with security when he shares words and touches of affection. Affection is so much more than sexuality. I find that some mornings Cathy just needs me to hold her and remind her that I am still crazy about her.
Warmth We don’t talk enough about creating an environment of warmth in our relationship. I have begun to ask people in counseling, “What would you need from your spouse to create an atmosphere of warmth in your relationship?” Often people tell me that negativity and criticism shuts down intimacy. I don’t know anyone who has ever said, “I wish my spouse was more negative.” As absurd as those words are, too many relationships get in the bad habit of creating an atmosphere of complaining and negativity.
Teach your couples that if they will work proactively on bringing warmth to the relationship, even in difficult times, they can strengthen their communication. I know a woman who decided to have a “no complaint day.” She had the kids taken care of for the evening. When her husband came home from work, she greeted him at the door with a kiss. She put on good music, and they had a peaceful meal. Both of them had some “issues” to talk through, but she said, “Let’s make a coffee date to talk about those problems. Tonight let’s focus on each other.” She brought out more soft music and they gave each other back rubs. This was a smart woman, because she helped her husband realize that she could bring warmth to the relationship and not bring up the problems until another time.
Encouragement This may be the most important ingredient for effective communication. If Cathy gives me words of affirmation, I will walk miles for her. Too many couples were raised on shame-based parenting, and now they try the same tactics on their spouse. Words of encouragement are soothing to our life and relationship.
One of the games Cathy and I play with our family is called “affirmation bombardment.” We find three good things to say to each family member. It is amazing to watch the family dynamics change when words of affirmation are spoken. I ask couples to intentionally speak encouragement into their spouse’s life every day.
It was that great theologian Vince Lombardi, former coach of the Green Bay Packers, who once said, “When you stray away from the basics, you move toward defeat.” Far too many couples don’t take the time to offer words of encouragement and affirmation for the simple little things.
Paul gave some great advice to the Romans: “Out do one another in showing honor.” (Rom. 12:10b) Obviously, he wasn’t just thinking about marriage, but showing A.W.E daily is a wonderful way to honor your spouse. Recently, I asked one of the couples in my life that I respect the most: “What do you do to rekindle your relationship and keep it from growing stale?” Lee is about 68 years old, and he said, “On the day I married Helen I told her I would try to out-love her every day.” What a lesson to be learned!