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» Ship of Fools   » Community discussion   » Purgatory   » Where's the church's marriage advice for "non-standard" couples?

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Source: (consider it) Thread: Where's the church's marriage advice for "non-standard" couples?
# 18758

 - Posted      Profile for Mountaingoat   Email Mountaingoat   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Recently married, recently did the the HTB-endorsed marriage prep course. It was great, but severely lacking in useful practical advice for "non-standard" couples. In our case it's that my husband already has a daughter. But it got us thinking that there wasn't much in there for anyone who wasn't early twenties, never married, child-free, heterosexual or otherwise different. [no offence meant by inclusion or exclusion from my list!]

There's loads of good/bad advice out there about step-parenting, but I've seen very little about marriage relationships around step children. I know we're not the only people out there, but I've so far found few people willing to talk about it.

In my opinion, one of the best things I can do for my new SD is to have a great marriage with her Dad so that as a team we can support her as she grows up.

Any thoughts?

Posts: 4 | From: Warwickshire | Registered: Mar 2017  |  IP: Logged
mr cheesy
# 3330

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I can't speak for your personal situation, but I think it is a very good point that HTB and other evangelical marriage courses assume that everyone is standard.

I'd be interested if there are any church marriage prep courses for gay people.


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Utterly socially unrealistic
# 15351

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I doubt you even need to tag the evangelical prefix in there.

Unless you specifically go for something in a "special interest" context (for want of a better phrase) then most of the material is going to be hitting the biggest target.

Although that said, I'd guess that most of the material will be mostly applicable regardless. To some extent the principles are going to apply regardless; where it gets 'interesting' is that some circumstances are likely to highlight different pressures earlier, and involve different dynamics in working those principles out.

Vain witterings :-: Vain pretentions :-: The Dog's Blog(locks)

Posts: 1399 | From: just north of That London | Registered: Dec 2009  |  IP: Logged
Jane R
# 331

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Gay couples aren't allowed to marry in the C of E at the moment, so I'd be very surprised if any parishes offered an official marriage prep course for them.

I think our vicar does individual sessions for each couple rather than a course, but I'm not sure exactly what she does or how many meetings she has with them (or whether some of the pre-marriage prep is delegated to other members of the pastoral team). Whatever she does seems to work though - we have quite a lot of couples joining the regular congregation after getting married in our church.

Posts: 3958 | From: Jorvik | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Schroedinger's cat

Ship's cool cat
# 64

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I suspect most of the material should be relevant for any couple. It is about relationships and life together, from what I remember when I looked through it.

But you are absolutely right that issues like being a same sex couple, having children or being later in life are fundamental aspects of a relationship, and need to be considered. They make it all different, they affect every aspect of the relationship, not to mention introducing their own issues as well.

So yes, I feel your pain, but the answer might be to get advice from other couples in the same situation. The problem is that the various "non-standard" issues are all different, and they all need their own advice. So I can understand a general course not covering them, but there should be some help for you available.

Music for your enjoyment
Lord may all my hard times be healing times
take out this broken heart and renew my mind.

Posts: 18859 | From: At the bottom of a deep dark well. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Og, King of Bashan

Ship's giant Amorite
# 9562

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Our rector just sent us to a counselor. Part of this may be that we don't have more than a handful of weddings per year at our church, so it doesn't make sense to actually sponsor a class. Part of that may be that a lot of those weddings are "non-standard" couples- either second marriages or same sex couples, so it doesn't make sense to try to fit everyone into the same class.

We did go through a general adoption training class with four other couples who were all in different situations- a same sex couple, a couple with a biological child, a couple with and adopted kid, couples who struggled with infertility and couples who were choosing adoption for other reasons. I thought they did a really good job of addressing the different needs, and creating a support group out of the people there. So it can be done, but it takes a lot of careful consideration.

"I like to eat crawfish and drink beer. That's despair?" ― Walker Percy

Posts: 3259 | From: Denver, Colorado, USA | Registered: May 2005  |  IP: Logged
# 16967

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In the CofE context I'd imagine that most of the weddings involve people who aren't practising Christians, so expecting them to accept faith-based counselling (or indeed any counselling) must be problematic. I've read that some couples resent it, although I suppose some appreciate it in the long run.

I think it's true, though, that many British churches don't yet envision families in a very 'modern' sense. And any church that willingly uses HTB's materials perhaps isn't the most tolerant with regards to the diversity of the modern family.

Posts: 6668 | From: UK | Registered: Feb 2012  |  IP: Logged
# 13338

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I'm also in a blended family and found a dearth of helpful resources from a faith perspective. Mostly I found you have to take a bit from here, a bit from there, a lot of prayer and trial-and-error to find what works in your particular situation. Most likely that's true in the other "non-standard" marital/family situations as well. What would be nice would be if the leaders of marriage prep classes would at least acknowledge that and affirm the journey.

"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

Posts: 11242 | From: a small canyon overlooking the city | Registered: Jan 2008  |  IP: Logged
# 16378

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Prepare-Enrich Inc. has an assessment tool that is designed for same sex couples, which is getting some "evangelicals" riled up. Prepare-Enrich is based on Adlerian psychology. I used to be a trained facilitator in the program. I highly recommend it.


Posts: 2193 | From: Pullman WA | Registered: Apr 2011  |  IP: Logged
# 18552

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Our diocese requires pre-nup, but does not define it. My former parish had a standard pre-nup series of meetings of the couple with the priest who would do the service. It worked well with all couples, straight and gay, highly educated and not-so educated, previously married, living together for years, even a couple in which one was a priest. My husband and I did the same process prior to our marriage after 27 years of being together and found it beneficial. Option was open at any point for clergy or couple to say “no.”

First session was “why marriage/why now?/ why church?/where is God in your life?” That could be a long discussion!

After that the major focus was on facilitating communication between the parties, letting them know that communication was key to just about all issues they’d face.

Rough outline was: Myers-Briggs type sorting, so that we could talk about communication pattern differences that seem hard wired, and how to understand self and other as equally valid. That again was a long discussion! Had some practical “yours/mine/ours” bit about money, a session on children existing from previous relationships and issues around prior spouses, and how to deal with the in-laws. There was homework with each session, with reporting back and discussion of what they’d learned by it.

There was also a solo session with each person, to ask if there was any history of sexual or physical abuse and how that individual had handled or was handling it, and when they might inform their intended spouse. Also a question if there was anything in their past that would be painful if it came out after the marriage (affairs, arrests, general “secrets and lies”. )

It was exhausting! For each one I facilitated I always found moments of deep blessing when one or the other of the individuals could express deep caring and love for the other, deeper than they’d felt safe to say or even to admit to themselves.

Let us, with a gladsome mind…..

Posts: 102 | From: US | Registered: Feb 2016  |  IP: Logged
From the edge
# 3081

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Originally posted by mr cheesy:
I can't speak for your personal situation, but I think it is a very good point that HTB and other evangelical marriage courses assume that everyone is standard.

This mentions step-parents and looks evangelical and British to me.

This looks evangelical and American.

Let's remember that we are to build the Kingdom of God, not drive people away - pastor Frank Pomeroy

Posts: 17944 | From: 528491 | Registered: Jul 2002  |  IP: Logged
Gill H

# 68

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We did the marriage course years back. I don't remember whether it said much about stepchildren, but as far as I remember it wasn't actually a marriage prep course. It was for any married couple at any stage. Certainly there were no newlyweds on r nearly-weds on our course, and most had children.

For me the biggest benefit of the course was that you get to spend time discussing with your spouse only, and don't have to talk to anyone else! You can therefore cheerfully disagree with the course if you wish and no-one else will know!

Rob Parsons' book 'Loving Against The Odds' and the related talks 'Marriage Matters' are also very good. Particularly the stuff on conflict.

They do, however, tend to assume all men work in offices,,,

[ 21. May 2017, 21:39: Message edited by: Gill H ]

*sigh* We can’t all be Alan Cresswell.

- Lyda Rose

Posts: 9313 | From: London | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
# 17175

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Gay couples are very welcome at the HTB marriage course fyi - I know people who have attended with no problems.

Consider the work of God: Who is able to straighten what he has bent? [Ecclesiastes 7:13]

Posts: 5319 | From: UK | Registered: Jun 2012  |  IP: Logged

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