What our Parents Teach Us about Marriage…

Statement of Faith

We believe that God created man and that He created them male and female. As such He created them different so as to complement and complete each other. God instituted monogamous marriage between male and female as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. Therefore, we perform and mentor marriages in accordance with Biblical guidelines. (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6; John 4:16-18; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 5:11, 6:9-11. 6:18-20, 7:1-3 and 7:8-9; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:3-7; 1 Timothy 1:9-11)

  If you had to write a book full of the lessons your parents taught you, what would be in it? Would there be a long chapter on the importance of kindness or having a good work ethic? Would there be a glossary of “things we don’t talk about” or an appendix of secret family recipes? While the contents might be different for everyone, one chapter that most of our books would have is “Lessons on Marriage and Relationships.” Yep, for better or for worse, our parents have a big influence on the way we think about and behave in our marriage. Through both direct guidance and observation, here are some of the things you may have picked up on.

How to show love and affection

Were your parents openly affectionate with each other, or was it rare to even see them hug? Were they generous with saying “I love you” or did they tend to show love more through their actions? Did they have pet names for each other? If you and your partner are very different in this area, having a conversation about each of your needs and preferences can go a long way in helping you avoid misunderstandings or misinterpretations. Talk about what feels natural for you versus what requires a bit more effort. Be open to putting in that extra effort while also showing each other empathy.

Who does what

How did your parents break down household responsibilities? Were they divided along traditional lines, or did they have their own unique mix of duties? Who was “in charge”? Going into marriage, this is one area where couples tend to bring lots of unintentional assumptions or preconceived notions about how their own relationship will operate. After all, it’s natural to feel that what we witnessed growing up is the “normal” way things are done. This might leave you at odds if your partner has very different ideas for how you’ll split up roles and responsibilities. Have a discussion about your expectations, but be open-minded and willing to adjust or let them go. Know that you can try out various things to see what works the best for your relationship. You’re not locked into one way forever, and being flexible will help you adapt to different seasons of life.

How to solve conflicts

Did your parents argue in front of you, or was it all done behind closed doors? Did they apologize to each other openly, or did actions speak louder than words? Was conflict something to be avoided, concealed, or was it just part of daily life? How do you feel when you and your spouse experience it? For many couples (and individuals) it can be uncomfortable addressing conflict, but reflecting on the way your parents handled it can give you both insight into your own tendencies. If you and your spouse are very different in this area, have a discussion about how this manifests in your relationship. Are there things you could both work on to make conflict resolution more productive?

How to handle money

Our parents not only model the practical ways of handling finances (who pays the bills or tracks the monthly budget), they also set an example when it comes to the values we associate with money. Was it tied to a sense of security or status? Did it mean enjoyment, like getting to go on a family vacation? Or was money related to feelings of control or influence? For some couples, differing values around money can make financial alignment an ongoing challenge. The influence of your parents’ money attitudes means that it’s not always as simple as making adjustments to spending and saving habits; differences often run much deeper. Keep this in mind as you navigate your financial journey together as a couple. Reflecting on what your parents modeled for you in their relationship gives you insight into where your own expectations and perceptions of marriage come from. It can help you and your spouse better understand each other, especially if you have very different ideas about what your own marriage should look like. It’s important to remember, however, that you’re not stuck doing things the way your parents did. You have the power to be intentional about what you want to carry on in your marriage (and potentially model for your own children) and what you’d prefer to leave behind.