We learn how to be married by the example of our parents, whether we realize it or not. They laid the foundation for how we view marriage and how we choose to interact with our spouse. This is a blessing for engaged couples whose parents were wonderful examples, but it can feel like a curse if your parent’s marriage was dysfunctional or ended in divorce.
Your marriage doesn’t have to follow their fate, however, you do need to understand the components of their marriage.
My parents and my husband’s parents got divorced. We love our parents. And we also knew that there were aspects of their marriages that we didn’t want to repeat. As an engaged couple, we took the time to discuss what we learned from our parent’s marriages. It was a lengthy conversation over a few different days.
I walk my premarital counseling couples through this same process as a starting off point. The answers to these questions provide conversations that allow me and the couple to understand where future issues and conflicts may arise. Answer the questions separately first and then come together for discussion or answer them more collaboratively.
How did your parents communicate with one another?
You may have experienced your parents set aside time to talk each day. Or they may have checked in with one another throughout the day. Did one parent talk more than the other? Were their tones loving and gentle or harsh and critical? What topics did they discuss?
How did they handle arguments?
Some people remember their parents arguing often and loud. Others witnessed more disagreements. But some don’t remember their parents arguing at all. My parents would have disagreements in the laundry room or they would go for walks together. So I didn’t know how to disagree with my husband. When we first married this was an area that caused me great discomfort.
Did your parents have defined roles that you could tell?
Some couples have designated chores and tasks. Other couples are more fluid in how they manage the home. This also includes management of finances. Who paid bills? Was a budget discussed? Roles within the marriage can lead to significant discord if not openly discussed prior to saying ‘I do’.
In what ways did your parents show each other love?
Some couples are more outwardly affection through physical touch and terms of endearment. Other people don’t remember their parents hugging or kissing at all. However, that doesn’t mean they had a loveless marriage. We often give love in the way we want to receive love. Or with the expression of love that we experienced most often. Expression of love is an invaluable topic to discuss as an engaged couple.
Was faith a part of their marriage and how?
Every couple incorporates God into their marriage and home in different ways. Some people don’t believe in God at all and others find ways to focus and glorify God in all that they do. There are couples where the husband is the clear spiritually leader and other couples where the wife is the driving force.
What would you like to emulate from their marriage?
Using the above answers, there should be multiple items for you to discuss in this section. Think also about traditions, positive memories, and times you remember your parents laughing together.
Are there aspects of your parent’s marriage that you do not want to repeat?
After answering the above questions you and your fiance should also have items that you want to do differently than your parents. My husband and I knew that we wanted to communicate differently in our marriage. We wanted our communication to be more intentional and open.
Following these discussions, you will have a wealth of information on how to begin your marriage. As I stated, this is a starting point. There are a plethora of topic-focused marriage books, articles, and studies. Given your discussion, you now will know what further information and conversations the two of you would benefit from. Congratulations on your engagement, and welcome to the process of building a relationship together, forever!
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