Things I Wish I Knew Before Marriage
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Ann WilsonAnn Wilson and her husband Dave are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Mother to three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody and wife to one, occasionally grown-up husband, Dave, Ann balances a home life and professional ministry career building both on the grace and goodness of Jesus Christ. Frequently speaking at Kensington Church, a 6-campus church that welcomes more than 14,000 visitors every weekend, and touring across the country at m...more
Ann Wilson talks to engaged women about things to keep in mind, things to be prepared for, and things to talk with their fiance’ about before saying “I do.”
Things I Wish I Knew Before Marriage
Bob: If you are a bride-to-be, Ann Wilson has an important question for you to think about.
Ann: Is there anything about him that I cannot accept right now? Is there anything about him that I’m thinking, “Yes, when we get married, I’ll change that”? Because if you’re thinking that—some of you smile, because you know: “It’s not going to happen. Don’t think that you will change him.”
So as you look at him—think about him, right now, in your mind; okay?—is there anything right now that you cannot live with, at this very moment, that you would want to change?—because who he is today will probably be the man that you will marry, and don’t plan on changing him.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for September 19th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. Ann Wilson has a lot of very wise, very practical counsel for any bride-to-be; and in fact, this is something she’s been sharing with young women for a long, long time. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. So, guess what I found. [Laughter]
Ann: Oh, Bob!
Bob: Yes, I was digging in the archives; and I found—
Dave: Is that the cassette tapes?—eight-tracks?
Bob: I found a cassette tape—no, it wasn’t an eight-track—it was a cassette tape. We recorded, back in 1997—22 years ago—we recorded you, Ann, at a—this was a talk you gave to a group of engaged women at a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. We have a breakout—
Bob: —first we meet with the couples; and then, we used to meet guys with guys and girls with girls. You were with the women on a Saturday afternoon, getting them ready for their wedding night/getting them ready for the unexpected in marriage. It was a pre-marriage conversation. [Laughter] At this point, you’d been married for, I think 17 years, when you gave this talk.
Bob: So I thought, “This will be fun.” It’ll be fun for you—
Ann: Will it?
Bob: Yes! [Laughter] And it’ll be fun for our listeners to hear what you were saying about marriage, 22 years ago, to engaged women.
I should just mention, again, this happened in the context of a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. This week is your last opportunity to register for an upcoming getaway and save 50 percent off the regular registration fee. If you call us today or go online today and register, you and your spouse attend for half-price. This offer is good through the weekend; so if you want to take advantage of this, now is the time to call.
You can find a location near you/a weekend that works for you—mark it out on your calendar. Save some money if you register today. We promise you; in fact, we guarantee you that this weekend is worth the time and the money. Here’s how we guarantee it: if you come to the weekend and you go, “That wasn’t worth it,” we’ll give you your registration fee back.
Dave: That’s a pretty good deal.
Ann: That is a good deal.
Bob: Now, we’re not going to give you the full registration, because you only paid half-price; right? [Laughter] It’s not like, “Ooh, I can double my money!” No; no, we’ll give you what you paid for the registration back; but it’s how confident we are that it’s going to be a great weekend.
Dave: —where you get to hear talks like this!—right.
Bob: That’s right. You get to hear people like 37-year-old Ann Wilson talking to engaged women.
Ann: Oh boy. [Laughter]
Bob: I think this is going to be fun for us to listen to, but there’s a lot of wisdom that you shared with these women. I think our listeners are going to enjoy hearing what you shared with these young ladies.
Ann: You are on the verge of great possibilities in your marriage. For me, it’s just so much fun; because 17 years ago, in May, I sat in a room like this. There was no woman to speak—a man spoke to us, and that was just totally weird. [Laughter] So it is great to have you in here.
You know, as Dave and I came in here, I was 19 years old. In two weeks, we were about to be married. I’ll tell you what—we sat in here and we became so excited, because we had never heard some of this before. I bet, for some of you, this is new. We had never heard of God’s blueprint for marriage. It gave us so much hope; it gave us so much to look forward to; and our expectations of what we could have rose significantly.
As we did that, at this conference, we said, “We want God to be a part of our relationship, more than anything else,” because we understood the impact He can make on a relationship. You know what? This is amazing to me—but Dave and I, neither of us came from homes that were centered on Christ. At that point in our lives, neither of us had seen a marriage relationship that we would want. Our parents had okay relationships, but we had never seen a godly relationship that we would want to model. So for us, we had a great desire for this to really work. The things that they talked about, up in front—we wanted that!—we wanted those relationships.
The night of our honeymoon, we got down on our knees before our bed; and we prayed together on our knees and said: “God, do whatever it takes to make this relationship what You want it to be. Whatever it takes, God, take it. It’s all yours.” I have to tell you—we were so excited.
Well, six months later—remember Dave said that we moved to Nebraska—and as those six months were rolling along, we were amazed at just how different we were. We were amazed at how shattered our dreams had become. On the drive from Finley, Ohio, to Nebraska, we got in one of the greatest fights we have ever been in. In fact, it was a 15-hour drive. I bet I cried 10 of those hours; it was just lovely. [Laughter]You know, one of the times, I turned to Dave. I looked at him and said: “You know what? It was a mistake that we ever got married.” And he turned to me and said, “You’re absolutely right.”
Now, how can you go, six months prior to that—of having these great hopes and expectations for this godly marriage—and six months later, say words like that to one another that pierced my heart? Hopelessness just descended, and the walls just started building up.
Ladies, what we’re going to talk about today is stuff I hope that you can grasp and take with you—things that you won’t just hear, as Dave was talking about—but things that you can apply in, not only your marriage, but even starting today in your engagement time.
What is the purpose of engagement? For Dave and me, what happened for us, at that point—what we realized is: “What did we learn at that conference? What did they say?!” When we got to Nebraska, we pulled out the manual. We started saying: “Now what do we need to do here to get back on track? What are some things that they said about communication that we should and should not do?” We started scouring this book. It became second to the Bible as far as wanting to learn and apply some of that.
The purpose of engagement is, first of all—we’re going to talk about these four things, and I’m going to really plug in on two of those—is to, first, to test your commitment. Also, the purpose in your engagement time is to plan for your marriage; it’s to anticipate potential problem areas; and it’s also to plan the wedding.
As I look at those four things, you know what I think sometimes? I think what we get caught up in, as we become engaged, is we center right into this planning-the-wedding part. Look at you!—it’s like, “Yes,”—because it takes up so much of our time. There are so many things to be done that we can focus in on that—when that’s just a small thing—because the purpose of engagement is much more vast than just planning the wedding.
In fact, if you take this cup, and let’s say you just bought this cup. Let’s pretend it’s like this really nice jar or a pot. You want to put this really neat plant in it. The plant will be your marriage. Let’s say you’re going to plant it in here. What do you need to make this plant thrive, and survive, and grow? You’re going to need a lot of things. Sometimes, all we do in this engaged time is—we just say: “Hey, we’re just planning our wedding. That’s what engagement is for; isn’t it?—the engagement period.” No way! This period is so much more than that!
I’m not going to talk so much about planning your wedding, because you guys are in the midst of that right now; but also, this is the time to test your commitment. This is a time of saying: “Is there anything about him that I cannot accept right now? Is there anything about him that I’m thinking, ‘Yes, when we get married, I’ll change that’?” Because if you’re thinking that—some of you smile, because you know: “It’s not going to happen. Don’t think that you will change him.”
As you look at him—think about him, right now in your mind; okay?—is there anything right now that you cannot live with, at this very moment, that you would want to change?—because who he is today will probably be the man that you will marry, and don’t plan on changing him.
This is a time for you to look at each other and to say: “Who are you?” and “What are you all about?” Look at him; watch each other; observe one another. Let me ask you: “How much time have you spent on dealing with communication? How much time have you been discovering how you resolve conflict? Do you guys know how you do, and how each of you do, in conflict resolution?”
When Dave and I first got married, we both had very different ways of dealing with conflict. My family—we got together—it’s like: “There’s a problem. Let’s put it on the table. Let’s talk about it. Let’s deal with this. Let’s tackle this thing!” Dave came from a family, where his parents, at one time were both alcoholics. As we looked at that, what happened for Dave was—when he would have conflict, he’d be gone; he would leave.
In one of our arguments, when we were first married, I can remember having this argument—Dave standing up and saying: “You know what? I don’t really need to deal with this,” and he left the room. I was like—being the quiet person that I am—saying, “You are leaving?!” Then he walked up the stairs, went into the bedroom, and closed the door. I stomped up the stairs, like, “You come down and fight, you chicken!” [Laughter] We were really good at conflict resolution in those days! [Laughter] But as you think about that—I mean, we have had to learn. Dave has totally changed in that area, where sometimes he even has to pursue me.
How do you guys resolve conflict? What is your style? Are you one to withdraw? Are you one to talk? Ask one another: “How do you think we do with conflict resolution?” and “What is your style, and what do you think my style is?” Those are so important key things.
The other thing that’s really important is dealing with unresolved anger—issues of the past or chronic anger. So many times, those can come out in a relationship; and those are great things to know about and learn about.
This is also a time to anticipate potential problem areas. I bet some of you are seeing some of those right now, as far as—sometimes finances can be potential problem areas; in-laws. Any of you planning the wedding—and you’re in that right now—of dealing with the in-laws?
Also, let me add this, too: “How do you both correspond and relate in spiritual issues? Are you like-minded, spiritually? Do you both have the same passion for God?” It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be the same level of maturity, or one has been a Christian a longer or shorter period of time than another; what it means is that you both have a desire to mature, and walk and go toward God, not away from Him. You may think that that’s not that big of an issue. It is a huge issue, so ask yourself that: “Are you on the same level?”
Also: “How do you do in communication?—how are you doing?” Don’t think that conflict is a bad thing; conflict is a great thing. You know what? Dave and I probably had more fights in that first year—and at that point, when we were in the car, heading toward Nebraska—you know what my thought was?—“What have we done?! What were we thinking?! I was 18 when we met, and now I’m 19.” I was young; I had sexual abuse in my past that was affecting us right [then]. Dave came from a divorced family with two alcoholic parents. We had so much garbage! The tendency was for me to think was: “It was a huge mistake! This was not God’s will; this was not God’s plan. We should just split!”
And yet, I look at those things now and realize that, as God brought us together in that first year, instead of shying away from conflict, thinking, “This is a bad thing,” I feel like, that first year, God did more of taking us to where He wanted us to be in our relationship than anything else.
As you come across these major conflicts or arguments in the next years/in the next few months, don’t see it as, “Oh no”; see it as: “Look at this. This is an opportunity to go to the next level,” because that’s what it is—it’s an opportunity for you. Every conflict—I felt like, when Dave and I resolved one, it’s like: “We have more of an understanding of how God wants us to be and what we’re to be like.” It’s exciting if you can see it from that point of view.
All the time when you guys are getting together, what are you talking about in a significant portion of your time?—planning the wedding; isn’t it? Sometimes what can happen with the relationship is—it can deteriorate a little bit. You know how Dennis was saying, “Take a date night”? You guys are right here on the verge—when you get married and you have children, it’ll be hard not to talk about the children—it’s becoming practiced and intentional about discussing your relationship. When you go out at night, take a significant amount of time to set aside to say, “How are we doing in our relationship?” Plan now. Start pouring in things now that will cause this plant to grow up strong and healthy. Be intentional on what you talk about.
Okay, the other way of planning for your marriage is to know your man. Now, on this part, let me just say—I’m going to be really real with you; I’m going to be really frank. That’s just kind of my personality anyway—it’s like, “Oh, was I supposed to be embarrassed about that?” So if it embarrasses you—I hope it won’t—but it’s just some of the stuff that God has really dealt with me on a personal basis. I want to share it with you; because I wished, for years, that someone would have had the guts to share it with me.
As we talk about these, I’ve had people/some women that have been angry with me; because they say, “You know, I can’t believe you shared that stuff.” Let me just add this—the things that we’re sharing with this—it comes from the Bible. You can disagree with me, guys; that’s okay; but what I’m saying is directly from the Bible, and this is what it says. If you want to disagree with that, hey, the choice is yours; but there will always be consequences to the good and the bad choices that we make.
In this engagement period, many women ask this: “To what degree should your physical expression of love go while still engaged?” and “How far can we go in God’s eyes?” Well, here’s what I did—at 15 years old, I lost my virginity. My mom had always said, “You know, Ann, this is something you need to wait until you’re married.” As a young girl, I thought: “You bet; I’m waiting. That’s me, Mom.”
The older I got, the more intrigued I was with boys. As I thought about it, I thought, “Why not?” Our home was a home in which verbal affirmation or affection was never displayed, nor was physical affection ever displayed. I didn’t realize it, but I hungered for somebody to love me. I lost my virginity at 15 years old. It was a hard, hard day, just because of some of the implications that happened as a result, just being so young and giving up something that was a treasure that was just thrown away and not appreciated.
At 16 years old, I placed my faith in Jesus Christ. I really wanted to do what He wanted me to do. Up until that time, I thought: “Why can’t you have sex? My mom said, ‘No’; people say, ‘No’; I see no reason why.” But I still wondered, “What does God say?”
I started thinking, “Well, maybe the Bible says something.” I would read things like this, in 1 Thessalonians 4:3: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified, that you should avoid sexual immorality, that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lusts like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him.”
I would read that and think, “Okay, that’s good. What does that mean?! Does that mean…” As I read that—“sexual immorality”—“Okay, so I bet that’s sexual intercourse. I bet that’s what that means, so everything else is okay!” I stopped sexual intercourse; and man, I explored everything else in the whole world that you could do. I was yearning for someone. I would go to Christian bookstores and try to just find books. In that time, there weren’t a whole lot of books that addressed the issue. The reason I share this is because I wanted someone to tell me what is okay/what is not okay.
If you look at that word, “sexual immorality,” from the Greek, the word is pornia [πορνια]. What it basically means is this—I’m not making this up; this is what the Greek means that is not okay: “Anything outside of marriage to the point of becoming sexually-stimulated.” Okay, that’s a little hard to swallow here.
“But why? Why does God say that?”—that was my question!—“Why does everyone say, ‘No,’ without saying why?” You know why? It’s because God loves us so much that He wants the best for us. He knows what it’s going to take to have a great marriage. For me, I have to tell you—the reason Dave and I struggled so much the first year—it was because of our past. Dave brought this stuff in his background into our marriage, and I brought this stuff into our marriage from my background.
Ladies, I have to tell—if there is anything I could/if I could go back and change it, it would be that. If Dave could go back and change anything in his past, it would be that. Because when God says, “You two will become one in flesh,” it doesn’t just mean one physically; it means that you give a part of your soul to another person. God desires that just for your husband.
God doesn’t say, “No,” because He doesn’t want you to have fun; it’s not because he wants you to miss out. It’s because He truly loves us. Let me add, too: “Why does He?”—because God is protecting us. There is only one reason why God says, “Do not sin”; and the only reason is to protect us in every circumstance.
The reason I share that is because, for me, the feelings that I have/that I took in were such a lack of trust on Dave’s part—I just did not trust him to know that he would be pure with me after we were married. The other thing were just the flashbacks that we both experienced that were just a natural consequence.
Also, one of my greatest fears was the fear of comparison. Dave and I just went to his high school reunion. I grew up in the same hometown he did, and I knew who his girlfriends were. Just to talk to those ladies, and to meet them, and to be around them—even now, it’s hard, after so many years—that I know that he gave all of himself to someone else. God loves us, and He’s trying to protect us.
Bob: Well again, we’ve been listening back to the first part of an extended dialogue that you had, Ann, more than 20 years ago with engaged women at a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. Listening back to it, you’re hearing stories you haven’t thought of for awhile; right?
Ann: Oh boy, yes; and so is Dave.
Bob: —like that high school reunion?
Dave: Yes; when I heard that, it took me back into regrets. What Ann’s trying to communicate is: “Those don’t go away,” and “You can make decisions, now, that will protect you for the future.” So yes, I haven’t thought about that in a long time.
Ann: I know; it was painful, too.
Dave: I’m glad you brought that out of the archives, Bob.
Ann: Yes; that’s great, Bob.
Dave: Thanks a lot.
Bob: But here’s what we have to say—those regrets may not go away, but grace covers.
Bob: God comes into the midst of those regrets and brings healing, and brings hope, and brings beauty from ashes; right?
Dave: He definitely has done that in our marriage. It’s also one of the reasons we want to help couples: “Don’t make the mistakes we made. God will forgive. God will meet you right there, and bring beauty into that darkness; but boy oh boy, we’re standing on a fork in the road, saying, ‘Don’t take the road I took. You can avoid this.’”
Ann: I think, too, the reason I brought that up with that group, so many years ago, is because we experienced the consequences of some of the mistakes that we had made; and why God gives us direction in the Bible is because He’s trying to protect us and love us. We bore some of those consequences, but we also—you’re right, Bob—God has given us grace, so we want to help other people to maybe not go the same route we went.
Bob: I think our listeners got a chance to hear today—when you attend a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, you hear from real people, who have gone through real issues: who are candid, transparent, honest about the issues they’ve been through in their marriage. They’re not perfect, but they have found hope and help from the Scriptures, and they know where the hope and help is. They’ve seen God work.
I say this because we’re encouraging listeners, this week, to get in touch with us and sign up for an upcoming getaway. We’re going to be hosting more than 30 of these getaways in cities all across the country this fall. If you sign up before the week is out, you’ll save 50 percent off the regular registration fee; and you’ll be doing the best thing you can do to strengthen your marriage.
Really, if there was anything I knew that I could recommend to you—any other weekend that would do more for your marriage—I’d tell you about it; but for more than 40 years, the Weekend to Remember is where people have gone to learn more about God’s design for marriage. We’ve had hundreds of thousands of couples, who have told us, “This weekend made a huge difference in our marriage.”
Find out more; register today to save 50 percent off the regular registration fee. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information or to register online, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, our number is 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Join us this fall for a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. We think you’ll be glad you did.
We hope you’ll join us back again tomorrow. We’re going to hear more wise counsel from Ann Wilson, speaking to a group of young women about to be married. You’ll hear Part Two of her message tomorrow. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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