I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

Preparing My Sons for Marriage

What would I tell my sons before marraige?
Who you spend time with, is where you will find your companion for life.
Your interests should be her interests. That’s why many find their wife at church or school.

Be of like mind…spiritually.
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God. 2 Corinthians 6:14-16a

Marry a Christian.
You may be going parallel paths now, but as time happens, those paths separate.
It’s not just being a Christian that matters.
Are they following Christ?
Does she just do enough to feel like a Christian? Or is she pursuing Christ with her entire heart? It will make a difference in what her priorities are. And whether she will submit to you.
Being a missionary was important to me. My future husband had to be willing to be one too.
I’ve even counselled my sons about whether their future wife loves the country or the city.
You can’t take the country out of the boy, if that’s where his heart lies. I’ve seen too many couples—who one loves the country, the other loves the city. It’s hard to do both. A wife who wants the city, can make your life miserable if you move her to the country.
She may say she would try the country, but when “country happens”—the electricity goes out once a month, the bugs overpower her house, the cow eats her roses, she may not think staying in the country is worth it. But her willingness is worth something.

Have same doctrines.
What you believe affects what you do
Your doctrine affects your practice.
Sometimes similar doctrines can be demonstrated differently. That’s why there are so many churches. Some may believe the same core issues, but emphasize one more than others. For example, charismatic churches emphasize the Spirit’s role more than a more “conservative” church, even though what they belief may be similar.
What they say may not always be what they actually believe.
Often as the practice changes, i.e. allowing women to lead worship or to teach, then their doctrine changes, allowing them to preach.
Their doctrine changes to fit their practice.
Differences in both should be considered, discussed and evaluated.
How they look at the Word of God and Salvation (and staying saved) is crucial to evaluating other beliefs. If those are different, look no farther.

In our counselling young couples, we’ve never encouraged the woman to leave her church prior to a commitment by the man. Why? Because as a daughter, she is protected by her father and the church where he attends. To leave the protection of her father allows her to become vulnerable to the deception of Eve.

Remember the woman was deceived. The man willfully chose. That’s why sin was passed down through Adam.

But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.  2 Corinthians 11:3-5

And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 1 Timothy 2:14

After the woman marries, she is now protected by her husband. That is symbolized in the wedding ceremony when the father hands over his daughter to her husband.
Women don’t like to recognize the need for protection, even with spiritual things, but the Bible demands it.

Which leads to the next point.
Be Like Minded with family.
The way she treats her father will be the way she treats you.
Likewise, the way my son treats me, as his mom, will be the way he will treat his wife.
Not all my training was accepted or obeyed.
Good manners, being polite go far, but on a deeper level, tone and thankfulness goes far in making a cheerful home.

How does her parents reconcile differences? What does she do with conflict?

If the woman you are wooing has trouble obeying or submitting to her father, and can’t wait to leave the house, she may be using my son to escape, only to repeat her actions when she grows tired of him. Run!
Family dynamics will never be understood. There’s too many factors and hidden motives and motivations.
No two families are the same, even grown and married siblings develop different family atmospheres.

I remember reading the Little House on the Prairie Series and then reading Farmer Boy (Laura’s husband’s childhood.). Laura was raised in a house of music and fun with hard work even though they struggled to meet their needs. Almanzo, Laura’s husband, was raised in a house of hard work, where children didn’t speak at the table. They were well off.
When they married, sometimes working hard wasn’t enough and having fun didn’t happen. How they worked together to solve those difficulties made a difference in how united they were as a couple. Talk about those issues beforehand can help prevent surprises later.

What is their culture?
When my husband’s family visited him in school before we were married, I tried to learn his nieces and nephews’ names. Everyone was mija and mijo (meaning my daughter and my son, even though they weren’t, how does that work?). And what’s with all this Spanish intertwined with English?

When we were making our wedding invitation list, we agreed to invite “just family.” I had ten people. He had two hundred. I said, “Just family.” He said, “That’s just family.” I learned Mexican’s “total familia.”

Growing up, my dad would give us “the 10-minute warning” before departing for church, so we could all be sitting in our pew waiting for it to start early. When I married and we lived with my husband’s family, I learned “Mexican time” was like “mañana.” (Living it makes you know it, but not always understand it.)

Food is important.
Will she cook what you like?
My mom gave me a Mexican cookbook for a wedding gift.
If I was going to marry a Mexican, I better like beans. (I don’t, but I’ve learned to camouflage them with sour cream and cheese.)
When my husband said he could eat beans with every meal, he meant it.
My husband appreciates his tamales at Christmas and his enchiladas throughout the year.
He’s learned to like pie for breakfast, and pork chops and sauerkraut.

What about family?
Sharing expectations can avoid later heartaches.
Does she want children? How many?
Don’t expect her to change.
But then, don’t expect her not to change.
If she said she wants a large family, but then after two she is done, don’t be surprised.
If I had known how hard it was to be a mom, would I choose to do it 7 more times?
Probably not. But then I would have missed so much.
Because we, as a couple, chose to allow God to direct how many children, and when, it was not for me to say “I’ve had enough.” We allowed God to give or not give. Then as difficulties came, it wasn’t for me to say, “No more children.”
Until it became a health issue, where it was my life over more children.
When I almost died, we decided, God was telling us “That was enough.”

Know her strengths and weaknesses
Appreciating her strengths is one thing. Appreciating her weaknesses is another.
Ask her what they are.
Often her greatest strengths are her weaknesses.

Before we got married, I was impressed with my husband’s great patience.
But after the wedding, I realized his patience allows him to wait a l-o-n-g time to do something.
Opposites attract.
Can you live with her weaknesses or strengths without her ever changing?
It’s not enough to be able to stand her weaknesses.
Nor is it enough to be able to live with her.
Can you live without her?

I was attracted to my husband’s patience, because I don’t have any. I can’t wait.
That can be a major frustration when I want something to happen.
If I manipulate the situation to make things happen then I’m usurping his authority and things don’t go well. That is unsubmissive.

Which leads to the next point.
Talk about roles.
Don't assume anything.
Without Christ, submission is impossible. With Christ, submission is hard.
Some may not consider that you should be the leader of the house.
Evaluate her culture, her family dynamics, her church setting. Do women lead?
Then your future wife has female role-models that takes charge and dominates.
What does she consider her own role to be?
When asked before he married what he was looking in a wife, my husband said a wife who wouldn’t work but would stay at home with the children.
The person responded, “You won’t find one.”
He did.
I’m glad.
Staying at home is hard. Sometimes it would be easier to go away and allow someone else to deal with dirty diapers, nasty attitudes, and child training.
There’s no paycheck for doing the unrewarding jobs for a long time.
Except the way my husband encourages me to keep doing what we both are committed to do. And watching the milestones of each child that I would miss at work.

Which leads to my next point:
Be the leader. (Remember, this is what I’d tell my son.)
But if no one is following, you can’t lead. If she must make all the decisions, then she’s not submissive. Run from her. You won’t be happy.
You were made to lead.
You were also made to protect.
When we were first married, I had trouble waiting for my husband to open the car door for me. It seemed like such a waste of time. I could open the door. But it symbolized him checking the area, making it safe for me.
That’s why men are suppose to walk on the outside of the sidewalk when a couple is walking: to protect her from a stray horse, or car that might veer into her. (Old fashioned but symbolic of his role.) When he does these things, I feel special.

Set guards to protect both of you.
In courtship and dating, No Touch Rule protects both of you. The more you allow, the harder to stop.  Enter your marriage bed undefiled by protecting it before you start. Set the line, don’t step over it.
Hormones are strong. Emotions can easily sway logic. Once feelings get involved, thinking is harder.
Stay friends first and protect each other.
Don’t be alone. Be chaperoned.
Don't be alone with a girl.
My husband, as a married man, still honors those boundaries with others. I’m glad.
It’s those walls and boundaries that Song of Solomon speaks about that keep the foxes out of our vineyard.
Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that are ruining the vineyards while our vineyards are in blossom.  Song of Solomon 2:15

Treat her like a sister. Defend her purity and honor.

The way you treat your future wife before marriage will affect how she responds to you after marriage. If she couldn’t trust you to keep your hands to yourself while you were dating, then she will have trouble trusting you later with other areas. That trust factor will be broken. She will doubt. That will cause insecurity. That will hinder intimacy farther down the road. It’s the way she is designed.
You are designed to protect her. Do it.

Dating is a staged affair.
When you prepare for a date, you dress in your finest and take her to the finest dining you can afford.
She gets a glimpse of you as the prince that you are.
But it’s a false glimpse. You both look and act your best.
He cleans out his car, putting all his junk in his house.
She cleans out her house, putting all her junk in her car.
The image of clean and best is presented.
When you marry, you wonder, “Who is this person?”

Courtship evaluates compatibility.
It gives accountability.
You answer to the father for your actions to his daughter.
Respect the father by asking permission to see his daughter.
In today’s mobile society, many daughters don’t live with their parents.

When my husband and I met, we were in grad school: lecture, papers, and tests crammed into three weeks. It was intense. It revealed who we really were: How we reacted under pressure. What we valued. What pressure did to us.
We saw the good, the bad, the ugly—and he still married me!

I am not saying to replicate that intensity for your courtship experience, but evaluate her responses. They don’t have to be perfect, but if they show character traits that alert red flags, be willing to back off and re-think, without a pretty girl sitting beside you.

It’s never too late to say, “no,” until the ring is on her finger, unless you have taken her purity.
Then you have already made a commitment to put the ring on.

Marriage is for life.
When I read about Lincoln’s courtship and marriage, my heart ached.
He didn’t show up for his wedding. He was suicidal.
He knew they weren’t compatible, yet he felt honor-bound to marry her.
After marrying there is no turning back.
Marrying the wrong person is hell on earth.
Lincoln knew that first hand.
He’s not the only one.
If the girl you are courting manipulates you into doing things you shouldn’t do before the wedding, she will change you into a piece of bread—dry and wasted after the wedding.
But marrying the right person can be heaven on earth.
There is a reason God said it was not good for man to be alone.
He needed a help meet.
God gave him one.
He continues to give man the helpmeet he needs.
Your helpmeet should inspire you to be a better Christian, even if that means time with her is lost. If she is jealous of your time before the wedding, not allowing you to serve at church, help others, study—her demands will only become greater after marriage. But if she, too, is in love with Christ, you both will grow together to know God better. And there is nothing better than that.

Seek God first, and all these things will be added unto you….
And as my husband always reminds me, He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord. Proverbs 18:22

While recently going through our early pictures, I found our pre-marital counseling papers. I thought I'd share them with you here.

Family Backgrounds
1. How did your parent's physical and mental health relate to you in growing up?How did your parents handle disagreements? Describe their approach toward your discipline and instruction as a child.

2. How were feeling of love, warmth, and tenderness shown in your homes as you were growing up?

3. How would you like to have feelings of love, warmth, and tenderness shown to you in public and in your home?

4. What differences do you see between yourselves? Are these differences source of potential problems? What can you do to solve the problems?

5. Is there any way in which there is a dependency and/or something unresolved between you and your parents?

Dating Background
1. How long have you been going together? What kind of dates have you had? What have you done on the dates and where have you gone? Have you included other friends or have you just dated together?

2. What opportunities have you had to become acquainted with each other's parents? Describe what you think your future in-laws think about you.

3. Discuss your courtship and how it will contribute to your marital relationship.

4. In what ways will the type of courtship that you have had contribute to your marriage.

Attitudes Toward Marriage
1. Who has influenced your attitudes toward marriage, and how have your attitudes been influenced?

2. What fears do you have concerning marriage?

3. What do you want and not want from your parent's marriage?

Spiritual Maturity
1. Relate the 'spiritual milestones' in your relationship with Jesus Christ.

2. What are your personal life goals? How does getting married fit in with your personal goals? How does getting married to your intended spouse fit into your personal goals?

3. Describe the relationship between a husband and wife as you see it portrayed in Scripture.

Love Defined
1. Give your definition of love.

2. Why do you believe that you are in love with your intended?

3. Have you ever been in love before? With whom and what happened? Why do you think it happened?

Indications and Reasons
Write down a list of indications and reasons for you getting married to your "honey" at this time.

The Future of Your Marriage
1. What would you like your marriage to become and reflect?

2. In light of all the marriages today that are ending in divorce or are unhappy, why will yours be different? What are you bringing to this marriage that will make it work?

3. What will you get out of marriage that you would not have gotten if you had remained single?

4. Write down the role and responsibilities that you will have within your marriage; write down what you believe the role and responsibilities of your spouse will be. Do this individually and be specific. 

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Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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