The Premarital Conversation You Need to Have Before ‘I Do’

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!

Photo Copyright: antonioguillem / 123RF Stock Photo


Melissa is a Christian mental health therapist, wife of ten years, and mommy of two pretty neat kids. As a therapist, Melissa works with couples in all stages of their relationship – from premarital to preparing for retirement together. She also provides parent education as well as helps families navigate family dynamics and adoption issues. Melissa blogs about these various topics, and you can connect with Melissa on her site or her socials.

  • Continued from Melissa’s blog . . .

    My favourite sentence of this particular blog post was:

    “Expression of love is an invaluable topic to discuss as an engaged couple.”

    I’m happy to be in a marriage where we both feel equally about God, the world and our purpose in life.

    I acknowledge all the questions you raise in your blog post.

    We should not forget, though to give thanks to our parents if we feel they have done a great job inspiring us to be who we are today.

    Thank you for sharing your thought on this topic.

    I gave it a share on Twitter.


    Edna Davidsen

    • Melissa Gendreau

      Thank you for your comment Edna. Yes, I agree, we need to remember to show thankfulness and gratitude to our parents for helping us to be the people we are today. God bless!

  • Susan Evans

    I suppose we become like our parents unless we purpose to do something different. These are great things to talk about before getting married!

    • Melissa Gendreau

      As with everything, if we want to do it well we need to do it with intention and purpose. That’s true of marriage as well. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. God bless!

  • Susan Treacy McIlmoil

    This was a very helpful post. This is a topic so helpful to those getting married. I wish I would’ve read this before marriage! We definitely learn about marriage from our parents and I believe we can bring either a lot of baggage or healthy ways of dealing because of it. Good insight!

    • Melissa Gendreau

      I’m so glad you found the post beneficial. This was a conversation that naturally occurred with my with my husband and I prior to marriage. We knew the statistics of both coming from divorced homes didn’t bode well for our marriage. We weren’t about to let that happen!

  • Tammy Dunlap

    I love this! It makes me all the more grateful for how well my son and daughter-in-law have done in this first year of marriage, (no credit to me) and it occurs to me that the intentional focused communication encouraged in this article is awesome after the knot is tied as well!

    • Melissa Gendreau

      Thank you Tammy! I’m so glad to hear your son and daughter-in-law are navigating the waters of marriage well. Yes, I agree, the questions discussed can absolutely be discussed within the marriage at any stage. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. God bless!

  • Toluwalope Adefolalu

    I found the post very enlightening and beneficial, Thank you Melissa.

    I do have a question though….is there anything wrong with the woman being the spiritual driving force in a home??
    Thank you.

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