Best Pre-Marital Advice We Got and Love to Give

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Wanna hear the best pre-marital advice Mark and I received?

Well, maybe it’s not the best, but we sure do refer to it a lot. We use it and we tell it to other couples all the time. It even feels a little bit like a marriage hack because it’s so simple and yet pays huge dividends.

Here it is:

Whenever we deal with my family, I do the communicating and whenever we deal with his family, he does the communicating.

Probably not the profundity you were expecting. But I promise, it’s gold.

Our pastor wisely instructed us that each of our families of origin would always love us—meaning the one who came from that family. My parents are always going to love me. There’s nothing I can do to make them disown me. They may roll their eyes at me and not agree with a lot of what I do and say. But I’ll always be theirs. I’ll always have a place at their table. They’ll always have to take me back.

But not so with Mark (and vice versa with me and his family). It’s possible for him to rub my family the wrong way, to annoy them, to tally up enough points against him that they don’t really like him anymore. It’s far more likely that my family would reject him than they would me. He’s an outsider. There are boundaries in their love for him.

This is human nature. This is the reality of all marriages and families of origins. There will always be just a little bit of suspicion towards the other spouse.

In real life this has been very handy. If we can’t go to dinner at his parent’s house, he makes the call. If we can’t take a trip with my mom, I make the call. If my family has offended him or hurt him in some way, I defend him. I speak up. I take the responsibility of pursuing reconciliation. And likewise for him with his family.

Bottom line: we each champion and defend and run interference for the other to our families of origin.

Thankfully, by God’s sweet grace, we both come from great families. And they all read this blog and they’re all going to wonder what specific infraction I’m talking about. I promise, I’m not referring to anything specific! We are so very blessed to have solid and wonderful relationships all around. But we do use this hack in small ways all the time—it’s a way of life, an automatic way of communicating for us.

Like I said, not profound, but I promise it’s gold. As we’ve counseled many, many couples over the years and shared this advice, we’ve seen it work beautifully. It has the power to mend broken relationships in extended families, to bring peace to previously contentious relationships, to smooth things over and to set the stage for a lifetime of peace and harmony.

A couple examples to help paint the picture:

Say a husband’s parents want to babysit a couple’s toddler. But the couple knows the grandparents will feed the child junk food and they really don’t want them to. It’s the husband’s job to say so. He has to communicate the firm boundary to his own parents. In this way, the wife is protected from that difficult conversation, the in-laws won’t be tempted to think of her as a strict and cranky daughter-in-law, and peace is maintained. They may roll their eyes at their son, but they’re likely to respect his wishes, whereas if the wife had had the conversation they may be more willing to blow her off.

Or say a wife’s father is great with finances and wants to be really involved in the couple’s purchase of their first home. But say the husband is uncomfortable with his father-in-law knowing so much about their finances and also not too keen to follow his father-in-law’s advice. It’s the wife’s job to tell her dad that he can’t participate in the process. While the father may be disappointed, he’s likely to respect his daughter’s wishes. Whereas if her husband had this hard conversation, the wishes may be respected, but there would also likely be tension. The husband would probably be seen as hard-headed or foolish or a bully. But as the wife has the conversation, she protects her husband from harm and maintains peace in the extended family.

These kinds of things come up all the time and having a game plan in place ahead of time makes a huge difference. Whenever my husband’s family poses a question to us, I simply look at him and let him take the lead in answering. And the same goes for my family. While we really have sweet relationships, it’s a deeply ingrained habit for us, and I think a large reason why we do indeed enjoy peace all around.

May the wisdom of our pastor in pre-marital counseling serve you well too!

Mark and I are coming up on our 20th wedding anniversary. I cannot overstate what a joy that is for us to celebrate! We both come from much brokenness and divorce. To have an intact marriage that is vibrant and life-giving is almost too much for me to fathom. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to God for the gifts he’s given me in Mark and our long life together, thus far.

Originally written by Jen Oshman, wife and mama of four girls. Used with permission.