Pre-Marital Counseling Discussion With Mark Jones

Mark Jones

Mark earned his Master’s Degree in Christian Education in 1992 from Dallas Theological Seminary. He is a Board-Certified, Faith-Based Clinical Counselor. He has taught and lead worship around the country and ministered in North America, Africa and India. He serves as Chairman of the Board for Shabby Chic Ministries,, based in Dallas, Texas. He has been in full-time pastoral ministry for 27 years. Mark has been married to his beautiful wife Rebecca for over 23 years and together they have 4 wonderful children, ranging in ages from 21 years old to 2 years old. As pastor on the Staff at Trinity Bible Church in Richardson, Texas, Mark serves as the pastor of Worship and Prayer and has a growing ministry in counseling, both to members of the church and the community at large.

SUMMARY: In this edition of “It’s Just Coffee”, hosts Phillip Crum and Kathleen Mills discuss the benefits of pre-marital counseling with Mark Jones.

Episode #21 | Life Tree Counselor Mark Jones talks about pre-marital counseling with Kathleen Mills and Phillip Crum.

Kathleen Mills-Proprietor, Counselor at Life Tree Counseling
Phillip Crum-The Content Marketing Coach
Mark Jones-Counselor, Life Tree Counseling


PHILLIP CRUM: Good morning, Kathleen. Do you know what time it is?
PC: It’s that time again. It’s time for another edition of “It’s Just Coffee.”
KM: It is just coffee. How are you doing, Phillip?
PC: I’m darn good. It’s Friday.
KM: It’s the end of the month. We’ve had a good month, haven’t we?
PC: It’s been a good month. It’s gone faster than I thought it was going to be, and I didn’t get what I wanted to do done, but I got some other things done that I wasn’t planning on, so July will be interesting also. We’ve got a roomful of folks here. This is good. On we go. Lifetree, shameless plug. Thirty seconds. What do we do at Lifetree?
KM: We are a counseling center. We see children, adolescents, adults. We see clients come to us through employee assistance programs, insurance and self-pay. We’ve been doing this for 22 years.
PC: And your business model is one where you take baby chicks, raise them, and push them out of the nest.
KM: That is our gift.
PC: So if an LPC-I is looking for a home, they should call you, yes? We’ll give your contact info in a little while, when they’re done. Oh, by the way, I’m still PC, the content marketing coach. The elusive Mark Jones on the agenda once again. Mark’s one of your counselors?
KM: Yes. It’s showcase time. It’s Mark Jones. Hello, Mark.
MARK JONES: Good morning, Kathleen.
KM: How are you?
MARK JONES: I’m doing well. Today’s a good day.
KM: Good to see you.
MJ: Thank you. It’s good to see you as well.
KM: I’m really excited about talking about this topic.
PC: Before we get into that, I was listening to you pre-recording chatter about some basketball this-that-or the other. Run through that for me?
KM: Run through that, Mark.
MJ: A great young man that my boys – actually all three of my kids – went to school with up at Preston Christian Academy – Julius Randle, just was drafted yesterday in the first round, seventh pick and he’s a Laker now, and just heard last night, as well, that he just signed a deal with Nike. Things are going well for Julius.
PC: First round, seventh pick?
MJ: First round, seventh pick. Laker. He’s playing with Kobe now.
KM: Who would have thought.
MJ: Pretty nice. Nineteen years old. He’s an amazing basketball player. So shout-out to Julius Randle.
PC: Big shout-out.
KM: That family has been very blessed. It’s been fun watching him.
PC: He’s 19. He obviously just got out of high school. Did he just get out of high school, or has he been out of school for a year?
MJ: No, he played for Kentucky for a year and did really well there. He had a great year.
KM: Didn’t you see March Madness?
MJ: It’s been a big deal. He’s been – if you Google Julius, he comes up right after Julius Caesar, so he’s popular right now. Local boy doing well. It’s something to cool to watch.
KM: That’s something to celebrate.
PC: So what’s on our agenda for today for Mr. Jones.
KM: One of Mark’s complete gifts is walking couples before they get married. The pre-marital counseling, and we’re going to title this “Why Do Pre-Marital Counseling?” What’s the goal, what’s the purpose?”
PC: Have you talked anybody out of it?
MJ: Yes, and if I can, that’s a good thing. It’s better to talk them out of it prior to getting married. It’s more than talking them out of it. The main thing that’s happened over about the last 25 years has been to encourage people to put it on hold. That’s proved to be very profitable. I think the closest we ever got was maybe in two months before the wedding, and not on purpose, but some things came up during the course of our time together, and my recommendation was to… Just things that I saw some red flags that weren’t insurmountable but at that point, if they had continued and not dealt with these things first, I saw some real tragedy down the road. The recommendation was to put it on hold and it was hard. They had to make a lot of phone calls and set some things aside, but God used it in a major way, and they’re doing amazing now. They will tell you that it was the right thing to do.
KM: It was prudent to be patient and wait.
MJ: To deal with the stuff before. Marriage is hard enough. Once you get married, and you have so many dynamics coming in that you don’t even know about, so as much as you can take care of beforehand and at least addressing beforehand, the better you’ll be and the better… You’ll have the tools to handle things that are going to come up later on. Yes, that’s not my goal to talk somebody out of it, but it is to be able to help them recognize what they’re about to step into.
PC: How about I just let you two talk for a minute.
KM: Tell the listeners, what is the protocol? When do you recommend couples come in to begin pre-marital counseling? Just that whole timeline, if you will.
MJ: As soon as the couple decides that they’re looking to make the relationship permanent. They can start thinking about that. It’s time once they’re seriously dating and think that “We may be moving on towards getting married.” That’s the time to come in and just start talking. Not even necessarily when they’re engaged. I have couples that I’m talking to right now that are not even engaged yet. That’s even a more ideal situation because we’re able to talk about some things, walk down some roads prior to getting engaged to see if they even need to go that next step. What happens is, once you give your heart away, once you get to a certain point in your relationship, if and when you do see things that are difficult or things that you might think, “Wow, that’s a real red flag. That could be a deal killer,” it’s hard to turn back to go the other way, once you give your heart away. Once you get closer to the wedding… I’ve had people that I’ve worked with, one couple that the wedding was too close and they knew that they needed to put it on hold. They knew they possibly shouldn’t get married, but they had sent out the invitations. They had bought the dress, all those different things. They said “Well, since we’ve already done that, we want to spare ourselves the embarrassment.. We’ll go ahead and get married.” That was not the right decision.
KM: It wasn’t as nearly as enjoyable as it should be.
MJ: They just had more difficulty down the road as a result of not stepping back. So the right time is when you think you’re going to be serious, when you think “I want to take the next step with that person.” Hopefully, prior to the engagement, but definitely when you get engaged.
KM: I always thought it would be after the formal engagement, so it’s nice to hear. When you’re in a significant relationship, when it’s going that way, to do it as early as you can and there’s no reason not to.
MJ: Right. I’m actually working on a project of my own right now that I’m probably going to call “Twenty Questions to Ask Before He Puts a Ring on It.” Just something that a young lady can take and look through it – kind of a checklist – and ask herself, “Are these things true? If these things are not true and they never change, do I still want to go down this road?” To help her assess who he is, who they are, prior to even getting engaged.
KM: Would you have another 20 questions separately for men to review that?
MJ: That’ll be number two.
PC: Do you run into any stigma? The word “counselor” has a stigma to it. That means you’ve got a problem. It’s not a preventative stigma. It’s “You’ve got a problem. You need a counselor.” Have you had to deal with that? That’s sort of before they get to you.
MJ: Right. What happens is, a lot of times, a counselor can have that stigma to it, but a lot of times, the language I use is, “I want to come alongside you. I want to walk with you through this journey.” My commitment to every couple I’ve married since my first wedding years ago is that I’m with you in this, not only for pre-marital counseling, but we’re going to keep in touch with each other throughout the years. I’ve got couples that I married 25 years ago, and we still keep in contact. I still check up. In my office on the desk behind, one of the things I ask every couple that I walk this journey with is for a picture of me and them during the wedding and so after the wedding, once they get their pictures back – usually, they bring it to me framed, and I keep it in my office so that throughout the years, every time I pass by, I can pray for them, I can think about them, I can shoot them an e-mail. I even have couples who still come back in once or twice a year just as a checkup, “How are we doing?” kind of thing. It’s a commitment from me. It’s not just them going to see a counselor to get a check off, to get a discount for their wedding license or something. It’s actually a partnership that I commit to walk alongside them as a friend, as a coach, but also when they hit a bump in the road, to have somebody that knows them, someone that is committed to them, to come alongside them and remind them of why they got married, remind them of some of the tools we talked through and how to apply those tools all the way through. Actually, it’s been a positive thing, that they know somebody’s in their corner, that they know somebody that’s committed to them. But that also knows them, that I’ve walked with them and saw what they bringing into the marriage because we all bring things in. All of us have suitcases, all of us have baggage no matter how functional or dysfunctional your background was, you’re bringing that in and you’re bringing two families together. As much as you can do to walk through those things and to be able to get the tools on how to make those things work as a couple, rather than as singles, the better. Have somebody that will walk through that with you as a third party, that can look in from the outside but also knows you, that’s what our journey’s been like.
PC: Since you track all these couples that you married, do you track them numerically? Do you know what your batting average is? Nine out of ten couples?
MJ: I don’t take any credit for this at all. I believe that the couples that I work with understand that there’s no such thing as irreconcilable differences, that if two people are willing to do whatever it takes.
PC: Willing.
MJ: Willing to do whatever it takes, and willing to do it God’s way, there’s nothing you can’t make it through. They’re taught that. I repeat that over and over again, not only through our time together, but it works.
PC: So what you’re saying is you’re batting a hundred.
MJ: I don’t take any credit for this, but over the years, there’s only two couples that have not stayed together. That beats the averages. I think that says a lot for making the commitment to not only make the investment into pre-marital counseling, but also to apply that afterwards, also to put those things into practice and to be committed to the marriage.
KM: I think the fact that you’re following them and you’re mindfully praying for them, if you will, and supporting them and you’re partnering, just like what you said a couple of minutes ago. You’re actually continuing to partner. It’s not, “We’re doing pre-marital counseling. See you later. You’ve done the course. Goodbye.” I think many do that. What you’re talking about is you’re committed throughout the whole walk.
MJ: Right.
KM: That’s powerful.
MJ: Some pre-marital counseling – not all – but some pre-marital counseling can be pretty much talking about the surface things and you get ready for a wedding, pretty much. This is much more than getting ready for a wedding. You’re getting ready for a life together. The only time we really talk about the wedding ceremony is really in our last time together. We’ll talk about what you want in the ceremony, things like that, but 98% of the time we spend together is talking about life.
PC: So the takeaway here seems to be, girls, if you want this thing to last, get that man into MJ’s office. Who do you have more trouble getting in the office? The gals or the fellas? Or none of the above.
MJ: For pre-marital counseling, usually, it’s not really tough to get either one in. Post-marital counseling, most of the time, it’s tougher to get the guy in there. Actually, a lot of my focus is on the guy, and we can talk about that at another time as to reasons why. It’s an equal opportunity.
KM: You mentioned the 20 Questions a little while ago. Are there certain topics that are assigned to the questions that you could give a few of those questions in this particular, or subject matter?
MJ: They’re basic questions and some of them come from things like this that you may never think about. Question like “How does he treat the waitstaff at a restaurant?” People would say, “Why are you going to ask that?” Well, if you’re on a dinner date with a young man and he treats the waitstaff like they’re his slave, or he treats the waitstaff rudely, or he feels entitled, I can guarantee you that’s going to come home. I’ve seen that in the past. Things like “Have you played a game with him? Is he competitive?” That’s okay if he’s competitive. How competitive is he, and how does that work itself out? How has he been in a group setting playing a game.
KM: Playing well with others?
MJ: I had a friend who was engaged. She brought her fiancé home to meet the family and they both loved tennis. They had never played tennis before prior to this. They’re on a court and he didn’t realize how good she was. She blew him away. At the end of the match, he got so angry that he took his racket and he threw it at her and just about hit her. She recognized, and rightly so and good for her, that she took her ring off right there on the court and threw it at him and it was over. She recognized that if he could do it right then, what could he do later on?
KM: They were just playing and having fun.
MJ: Exactly. Becoming a student of the person that you’re with, in seeing them in different situations so that you can see how they are going to react and if it’s going to be something that’s going to be a problem. Because if he did it then, he’ll do it later.
KM: You’re focusing on what is the behavior telling you. What is the behavior telling me, and it goes both ways.
MJ: Absolutely.
KM: So you give the situation and it’s that mindset of it’s not what they’re saying, it’s what the behavior – what is the behavior telling you who this person is?
MJ: Exactly. It goes much deeper than the questions, but these are questions that you need to say, “These are things I need to think about.” Give some time thinking about it. We spend so much time on other things. We spend time on our cars, we spend time on our whatever it is. But so many times, people don’t spend time on this most important relationship that you’re not only going to affect each other, but you’re about to affect another generation that’s going to be watching you and learning from you. We’re trying not only to help these two people, but we’re trying to change the landscape and affect the next generation, as well.
KM: Walk me through – there’s this certificate for pre-marital counseling which you get a discount on the marriage license.
MJ: If you go through – I do eight sessions, and seven of those are together, and then I do one session with the couple, with each individual separately. Upon completion of that, I work with an organization called “Together Texas” and from them, I give you a certificate and you take that when you get your wedding license and you get a significant discount. It pretty much takes care of your whole…
KM: So there’s another added value to seeing you because you can provide them with the…
MJ: Yes. In comparison, but yes, there is a monetary value and anything you can save, every dime you can save, absolutely.
KM: The pre-marital counseling is a lot cheaper than a horrific divorce.
MJ: Absolutely.
KM: Where can people reach you?
MJ: People can reach me through e-mail at mark at lifetreecounseling dot com, or they can call the office at 972-234-6634, extension 103.
PC: And currently, when are your working days and hours?
MJ: Fridays and Saturdays, I’m available right now for appointments.
KM: So sign up. Saturdays are great for pre-marital counseling because people work and Saturday is a great time to do some couple time in the pre-marital and all that.
MJ: Just to add to that, if you are a single and you’re dating somebody and you just want to spend some time talking with somebody about what you’re thinking, please come see me. We can talk about that, as well.
KM: Those same 20 Questions can help, can’t they?
MJ: Absolutely.
KM: It’s all about the 20 Questions.
MJ: Yes.
KM: Delivered by MJ.
MJ: Stay tuned.
KM: Excellent. Mark, it’s a pleasure to have you at Lifetree.
MJ: Thank you. It’s my honor to be there.
PC: Very nice little wrap-up and good, because we’re out of time. Where can people find you, Miss Kathleen?
KM: Same place, lifetreecounseling dot com, same number, 972-234-6634, extension 104. I do return my calls. And what about you?
PC: I’m still PC, the content marketing coach. I can be found at contentmarketingcoach dot us. Or call me. 214-264-6297 if you need Mark’s phone number or something, and I’ll give it to you. It’s been fun.
KM: It’s been great.
PC: It’s been interesting.
KM: Phillip, thank you so much.
PC: You are welcome.
KM: MJ, we’ll do this again.
MJ: Absolutely. I look forward to it. Thank you, Kathleen. Thank you, Phillip.
PC: Thank you, Mark. It’s always good to see you. If you’re listening out there, this is one cool dude here. You need to sit down and talk to MJ for a while.
KM: He’s the great encourager, the rock. He’s my rock. You know that.
PC: Thank you very much, buddy. Thank you, Mark. Thank you, Kathleen. We’ll see you next time, and on we go.

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