Wedding announcements have been arriving in our mailbox at a steady clip for the past several weeks. As we look at these beautiful young couples (we love it when pictures are included) our hearts fill with hope that theirs will be a joyful and lasting marriage. We wonder, what their parents are telling them to help prepare them for this most important step of their lives? We suspect that most parents do a pretty good job of this, but in case you’re not quite sure what to say here are a few suggestions to consider. As you read these suggestions take a moment and apply them to your own marriage. It’s a proven fact, all marriages need continual refreshing.
15 Suggestions for your marriage chat:
1. Marriage is a lasting commitment that takes work. Let your son or daughter know that there may be days when they will wonder if they made the right choice, that someone else might be easier to live with. Tell them about your own struggles as you learned to live together and accept each other’s idiosyncracies. They need to know that marriage isn’t easy and there will be some difficult days as they adjust to each other, but it will all be worth it as they work together to solve problems. All of their family and friends who wish them well are counting on them to make this a lasting marriage. Their marriage doesn’t just belong to them, it’s what makes society and families continue as the Lord intended. That’s why people will be there to celebrate their marriage.
2. Cold feet and the jitters are normal and are not a sign for you to be a “runaway bride” or groom. As the time of the wedding draws near many brides and grooms are a little afraid — after all, it’s a huge decision. If they’ve taken the right steps in seeking a confirmation of the Spirit regarding their choice then that feeling can help them move forward as the wedding day approaches and the jitters set in.
Still, the option needs to be open to cancel the wedding if an overwhelming feeling of “this is not right” sets in. Your child should have the right to cancel the wedding without you putting undo pressure to move forward “because we have already spent so much money on invitations, the wedding gown, the flowers, etc.” That’s a small price to pay if, in the end, this isn’t right for your child and she or he knows it. Just stand by them with loving support.
3. Teach them to be absolutely 100 percent true and faithful to each other after the wedding. They must not let their eyes, their imagination, or their affections wander to anyone else. Not ever! Satan tries his best to make married people think that someone else is more attractive, more ambitious, more religious, more caring, a better provider, and a myriad of other things than their own spouse is. Don’t let him get even a tiny toe in that door. Don’t ever forget that you are married! Your time for looking is over. President David O. McKay used say, “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, and half shut afterward.”
4. That quote has more than one meaning. It also means, close your eyes to the faults of your mate and focus on his or her good qualities instead. Teach your child that doing this will help her or his marriage grow stronger through the years. When positives are the focus, then positives grow. The opposite is also true: when negatives are the focus they will grow. So tell them to see the good in their mate and compliment him or her for it, and ignore the rest.
5. Happiness in a person’s marriage depends upon them, not just on their spouse. Focus on making your spouse feel loved and cared for and stop thinking so much about what you want. Give your spouse what he or she wants and the natural consequence is that he or she will want to give you what you want. Selfishness sabotages marriage. Generosity, forgiveness, and compassion cause marriage to flourish.
6. Encourage them to stay out of debt. Debt leads to despair and often caused friction and mistrust within a marriage. Many divorces occur over debt and misuse of money. For wise counsel on this subject, watch with them this Youtube message by President Gordon B. Hinckley: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iutD3YMcedc.
7. Allow your mate to grow. Don’t expect him or her to have the spiritual depth or talents that it took you, the parents, years of marriage to develop.
Elder Richard G. Scott said, “You will likely not find that perfect person, and if you did, there would certainly be no interest in you. These attributes are best polished together as husband and wife.” (Ensign, May 1999, 26.) Becoming the perfect mate takes a lifetime of working together. The good part is that it can be a lot of fun along the journey.
8. Help them understand that the wedding is just a one-day event, while the marriage is forever. That’s where the true focus must lie—on the marriage more than on the wedding. Keep the wedding plans in perspective, don’t go overboard and spend foolishly. Let them know what you are able to do financially, and have that conversation as soon as you can so their heads don’t start spinning with out-of-control dreams of a wedding beyond their and your means.
9. Teach them to enjoy sexual intimacy as a married couple. When they’re married, it’s okay! You’ve taught your children modesty and sexual abstinence all their lives. That still applies when it come to anyone else, but not to each other once they’re married. President Spencer W. Kimball said, “There are many aspects to love in marriage, and sex is an important one. Just as married partners are not for others they are for each other. (“Miracle of Forgiveness” p. 73)
They need to feel comfortable about giving their sexual attentions freely to each other as married partners. They need to enjoy it and let it bless their marriage. There are many books out there to help them find sexual fulfillment in their marriage. Two good ones are “And They Were Not Ashamed” and “The Act of Marriage”. Also, the longest chapter in our book “Love That Lasts” is devoted to the importance of enjoying sexual intimacy and how to make that happen.
10. Help them understand the value of continuing to have fun as a couple. Have date nights, even if it’s just out for an ice cream cone, if that’s all they can afford. It’s important to spend some time together enjoying a walk, a picnic, a movie, dinner out, whatever they both enjoy doing. Make this a habit that will last throughout their lifetime, even when kids enter the picture. Especially then. It will keep their marriage strong and fun.
11. Let them know that any kind of spouse abuse is unacceptable. They are to let you know if that ever happens to them. You will help them. It must not be allowed. Make it clear that they must never be the instigator of any kind of abuse. Never!
12. Teach them the value of prayer as a couple. Encourage them to take each other by the hand and pray together every day. While serving in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley counseled, “I know of no single practice that will have a more salutary effect upon your lives than the practice of kneeling together as you begin and close each day. Somehow the little storms that seem to afflict every marriage are dissipated when, kneeling before the Lord, you thank him for one another, in the presence of one another, and then together invoke his blessings upon your lives, your home, your loved ones, and your dreams.
“God then will be your partner, and your daily conversations with him will bring peace into your hearts and a joy into your lives that can come from no other source. Your companionship will sweeten through the years; your love will strengthen. Your appreciation for one another will grow” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1971, 83; or Ensign, June 1971, 72).
13. Remind them that bringing children into the world is part of their responsibility as a married couple. And that’s not just a selfish thought because you want grandchildren to love and spoil…okay, that’s part of it. But the real reason is that the Lord is counting on them to bring His spirit children into the world. These children will present challenges, but will be a great source of joy and comfort to them throughout their lives.
14. Encourage them to create a loving relationship with their in-laws. They may need permission from you to call their mother and father-in-law “Mom” and “Dad”, and assure them that you won’t be offended by this. It’s one way to show respect and to honor them.
At least, suggest they approach this subject with the in-laws right away.
15. Assure them that when they marry they will become a new family, connected but separate from your family. Assure them that you will stay out of their marriage. If they need your counsel they need to ask for it. Otherwise, you won’t be in their lives telling them what to do. This is their marriage, not yours. Be sure they understand that they’ll always have your love and prayers, and that you trust them to make good decisions for their own new family unit.
End your discussion by asking if there is anything he or she would like to ask you. Don’t make fun of any question or comment made. Help them feel comfortable in asking whatever may be on their minds. End with an assuring hug and “We love you, and are proud of you.”
Our books “Love That Lasts”, which teaches the 14 secrets to a joyful, passionate, and fulfilling marriage, and “Meeting Amazing Grace”, a novel that teaches how to have happy in-law relationships, may be helpful.
[Gary Lundberg is a marriage and family therapist, his wife, Joy, is a song writer and author; they present marriage retreats, firesides and seminars and write books on creating happy relationship, see https://www.garyjoylundberg.com.]