FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Are You Really Ready to Get Married? David & Meg Robbins

with David and Meg Robbins | March 6, 2024
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The anticipation for your big day is overwhelming. Have you discussed anything besides the wedding details? In-laws, finances, baggage? Don't worry! David & Meg Robbins share insights they wish they'd had before marriage. To make sure you're all set for your big day, grab their book "Preparing for Marriage".

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

As the big day nears, are you truly ready for marriage? David & Meg Robbins share insights they wish they’d had before marriage.

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Are You Really Ready to Get Married? David & Meg Robbins

With David and Meg Robbins
March 06, 2024
| Download Transcript PDF

Shelby: We’ll get to the program in just a second. But first, I’m Shelby Abbott. We are rapidly approaching Easter. Sometimes, families need ideas for what to do with their kids to help them focus appropriately on more than just candy and bunnies.

We celebrate the resurrection. It’s the most important event in the history of all humanity, of all of creation. FamilyLife’s Resurrection Eggs® are a great way to help your kids, not only have a great time, but also focus on the true meaning of what we’re celebrating when it comes to Easter.

[They are] a dozen plastic eggs that have little items inside. A book comes along with it to help guide you through the story of what the significance of the resurrection is in a way your kids can understand and be pointed to the true meaning of what we’re celebrating.

We want to send you a carton of these eggs along with the book when you become a monthly financial partner to help support and make the ministry of FamilyLife possible.

You can get a carton of these eggs by going online to where you can find a “Donate Now” button at the top of the page, or feel free to give us a call at 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

When you do give, thank you so much. We’re going to send you these eggs. Have a blast with your kids pointing them to the true meaning of what we celebrate at Easter, the resurrection of our Savior and Lord.

David Robbins: Start off as honestly as you can. Don’t hide; press in; get honest and vulnerable; bring other people into it. In your pre-marriage work, get as honest as you can, because it will surprise you how much you’ll be tempted to slip into hiding and shame.

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!

Dave: We started a conversation yesterday hearing from David and Meg Robbins, who are back in the studio today—the president of FamilyLife. Welcome back.

David: It’s good to be back.

Meg: Thanks.

Ann: We love having you guys with us.

Dave: We started this conversation about two things you wished you had known before you got married. We actually only got one; we did the wives’ edition. Today is men’s day— 

Ann: —woo-hoo!

Meg: Alright!

Dave: —husbands’ day.

Ann: I’m kind of nervous, actually.

Meg: What are they going to say?

Ann: I don’t know.

Dave: It is interesting as I officiate a wedding, [I’m] looking at this couple and thinking, “I wish I could tell them all this right now,” which you can’t at a wedding. It should be done beforehand.

Ann: Right.

Dave: It’s sort of what we’re doing. Okay, David, let’s start with the husbands’ edition. If you think of your first one, what’s one thing you wish you had known before you were married 21 years ago?

David: It’s almost 21 years ago; 20 years ago, yes.

Ann: Meg, do you know what he’s going to say?

Meg: I really don’t; kind of, maybe?

David: I think for me, when I think about a couple getting married, I was so grateful for the pre-marriage counseling we had that got out our hopes and expectations, because the thing I would say is you do not know your hopes and expectations unless you are specifically asked about them or until they aren’t met.

There are going to be a lot of things in life that you’re going to have to live some life to really realize [them]. But getting married, in that pre-marriage space, is such a great opportunity to get honest about what hopes and expectations you have.

I remember, we went through Preparing for Marriage, FamilyLife’s resource that’s been recently redone and refreshed. I remember doing the “Expectations and Hopes” worksheet and thinking, “I would have never known. We would have been totally tripped up by this. I would have never thought that this would be the way we would do it.”

Meg: There really were so many things that were these big “aha” moments that we had no idea we were both thinking about them completely differently until we sat down and worked through the questions.

David: I’m flipping through, right now, the new Preparing for Marriage book. There’s a whole worksheet here that you go through that you are able to talk about. Then you can get mentors to help you process it. “Will one of us be the primary financial provider? If so, which one, or do we both anticipate pursuing our careers?” You start dreaming about the future, and you may think very differently about those unless you’ve really talked about it.

Another one is: “How often do we want to go on dates while we’re married?” That’s a huge thing. And then, there’s one here about screen time. That is truly one that has certainly impacted our marriage, but 20 years ago when we were going through the “Preparing for Marriage” worksheet—

Ann: —that wasn’t in there.

David: —it wasn’t in there.

Meg: No, it wasn’t!

David: Cell phones had just become a thing, and we were learning how to text each other. That’s something, an expectation, that we now have to really process, because it affects every home in a really intense way. 

Dave: Do you remember any expectation, [whether] it got met or it didn’t? Do you remember?

Ann: You wish you would have known this, even though you were well prepared. What didn’t you know?

David: Yes; I definitely think, when it comes to making big decisions about where we’ll live—do we take this job or not? do we live in this city? do we move? do we not move? Those are the, until you are in them, you really don’t know how you’re going to live them. We, by the grace of God, when having tense times and being paralyzed and stuck in some big decisions—I’m thinking back to, really, the first one we entered in to about “Do we come back from living overseas or not?” We were so grateful to [say], “Let’s go get input. Let’s go get mentors.”

Those are the real moments that, maybe, I had expectations that, “Meg is going to follow along to whatever my next dream is.” In Italy, we became more of a team, where I [thought], “This woman is so gifted! There’s so much she brings to the table. Our decisions have to account for both of our giftings and wirings and hopes.”

I think we came into marriage knowing, yes, I’m a leader in the home, but yet, I really did genuinely value Meg and who she is. We talked openly about what we both wanted to do. But until we got in that moment where we kind of viewed it differently, that got me stuck a little bit, because I wanted, even before then, to value her, yet we were viewing things a little differently.

What God did was reveal, in that process—I think He let it linger to actually reveal sin in my heart; that I felt like I was getting behind in life when it came to building equity and buying a home.

Ann: Yes.

David: I was 30, and all my friends had homes! God wanted to get at something in me. That was one of the beautiful things about the expectations and the lengthening of the process. He had something for me in it.

Dave: What was that? What did He want to get at?

David: He wanted to get at, “David, you’re going to start making dumb decisions because you just want to catch up with your friends.” [Laughter] “You want to go get a house. You’re making this excuse that you and Meg both are creative and love making a home. All you want to do is buy a home, so you don’t get behind.”

There’s some wisdom in that, yet it was playing an idol, central role in my decision making of, “Let’s go back to the states.” It took us having mentors and talking about our values for me to realize, “That’s playing way too high of a role in our decision, and I’m actually not valuing Meg much at all. I’m valuing this false sense of security of, ‘I’m feeling behind’.”

Meg: Yes, I think that the Lord was challenging, “What do you really value most? And are you willing to let go of some hopes and dreams that you have that you may not have realized no matter how you thought through your expectations beforehand.” Some things change, you know? I think the Lord was taking you to that.

I think what we didn’t realize about decision making is, we felt like and assumed, probably, that the Lord would always make it clear; that if we sought Him, then He would show us exactly what to do. And that decision, in particular, when we were trying to decide about coming home from overseas, I remember us both thinking, “We are seeking the Lord out, and He isn’t giving us the clarity that we were hoping for.”

That’s why our mentor said, “I think you’re just going to have to take a step of faith and choose. In both of them, you are wanting to follow the Lord.” 

But through that process, and the not knowing and not having clarity, was what took David, especially, into his own heart in the process. That’s how he got deeper in to see, “Okay, where are my values off?” The reason the Lord might have been withholding clarity is just so that we would walk deeper into that together.

Ann: I think I realized, too, getting married, how God revealed so many sins and cracks in my own life: “Look what Dave has brought out of me.” [Laughter] But that is not true. I should have said, “Look what was already inside of me, and the pressure of our marriage has brought up things that God is wanting to heal.”

Dave: But God brought me in there to point them out to you. [Laughter] That was my role, right? That’s what a lot of us think.

Ann: Yes.

Meg: Right.

Dave: It’s sad that we think that. But it’s already there, and marriage is like a pressure cooker that sort of brings that out.

Ann: That’s what happened to you, David. It just revealed, “Oh, this is in me.”

David: Yes.

Dave: It’s interesting—you don’t know what I’m going to say—

Ann: —I have no idea!

Dave: —about one of the things I wish I had known. That’s it! I had no idea that marriage would reveal the brokenness and baggage, so greatly in my past that it was going to come out.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: I sort of had this idea: “Oh, it’s in the past. It’s done; it’s been dealt with.” The truth is none of it had been dealt with. [Laughter] I didn’t have any idea.

Ann: You just didn’t think about it as much.

Dave: I honestly really didn’t even know that, yes, I grew up in a home with two alcoholic parents; my dad was a womanizer chasing around other women and taking me on vacations with his girlfriends when I was a little boy.

Ann: [Joking] “But why would that affect you?” [Laughter]

Dave: And they were divorced when I was six or seven years old.

Ann: Right.

Dave: I mean, Ann’s comment is literally what I thought: “Why would that be a big deal? A lot of people have gone through that or worse. It’s buried in the past, and they’re fine.”

Then we got married and, for a while, we were fine. I think it was that we were living in the infatuation and the euphoria of, “We love each other so much. We’re doing what God has called us to do. We’re on campus every day sharing Christ and seeing God do miracles.”

Ann: But I think, when you add some kids to that pressure, then a lot more comes out.

Meg: That’s what I was thinking, too: “Certainly, getting married, I began to see how much self-righteousness I had. I didn’t realize. It was constantly in my face: “I want to justify myself and not admit that I was wrong.” But when kids came into the picture, I didn’t know I had a short temper until I had toddlers.

Ann: Me neither.

Meg: Things that it’s easy to think and convince ourselves: “Those things weren’t there before,” but they were.

Ann: They were.

Meg: It just brings it to the surface for us to see [and] be reminded constantly: “This is why I desperately need Jesus. I cannot muster up enough strength to overcome these things and this sin in my heart. Thank goodness, He has already overcome them. And what does it mean to live in a place where it’s okay that “you know me this intimately, and you see all this mess:” and that David can still love me in those broken moments.

Ann: I love that FamilyLife has revised Preparing for Marriage, because these conversations are critical before you get married. You can look at your baggage, assuming, “I’m going to deal with this and this.” But, Dave, I don’t think you can get into all of it—

Dave: —no, I mean—

Ann: —because once you’re married, you still have other things that God is saying, “Oh, now—!”

David: Things are going to be revealed.

Ann: Yes.

Meg: Exactly!

David: I think about John 16, where Jesus said, “I will give you the Holy Spirit who will reveal to you things that you are currently not ready to hear.” [John 16:12-15, Paraphrased]

Meg: Yes.

David: That’s what marriage does. It surfaces those things, and it allows for that fresh work to happen.

Dave: Yes; I mean, one of my thoughts is, it sounds like it’s a negative thing that all your junk is going to come out. It’s actually a beautiful thing.

Ann: It is.

Meg: Right.

Dave: Because it’s revealed—again, you can run from it, and you can deny it, and you can not step into it, or we have this choice—we can step in and say, “I’ve got to look at some things here that I don’t think I would have known if I weren’t married. But here I am.”

One of them I thought of was, I had no idea—we’ve talked about this many times, but I had no idea—that I really avoided conflict until we got married. [Laughter] We told the funny story of our first year of marriage where I walked out of the room when we got into a conflict, and Ann yells, “Get back in here and fight like a man, you chicken!” [Laughter] That’s what she said. Again, it’s a funny story.

Even in that moment, I had no idea: “Wow! I’m doing something I’ve done my whole life. I’m doing something I watched my parents do.” That day and then, many after [I thought], “Oh, you better deal with this. Do you understand what’s going on and why you’re leaving? Why you broke up with girls in college? Why you walked out of rooms [where there was] conflict? ‘Oh, I don’t know what to do here,’ and you withdrew. Well, you grew up in a home where conflict was bad, it ended in divorce; and you think conflict is bad. Let’s dial in on that.”

The result of that in our marriage, and would be in any marriage, is when you get healed because you step in—I think of James 5 where [it says that] you pray to God, and He will heal you as you confess your sins to one another. [James 5:16, Paraphrased]

As you bring people in your life that you work through this stuff with—and it could be a counselor; that would be a very good option, which we did; it could be some other couples that you get honest with and they walk you through it—God forgives your sin as you confess it to Him, but He heals you as you confess it to a brother or sister or other couples.

I think that’s sort of the journey we’re still on, but we would have never gone there without marriage. I say all that. Does that bring anything up in you guys where you think, “Wow! We’ve been healed in some ways, too, because stuff in the past, stuff that was part of our brokenness, was confronted because we are married?”


David: Absolutely! I think one of the first areas that comes to my mind is one of the things you were attracted to in me also became—there’s dignity in it, and there’s also depravity in that exact same space.

Ann: Yes.

Meg: That’s so true. I’m assuming you’re talking about how I was so attracted to David and how he was very passionate. I mean, If he was all in on something, he was all in—very passionate and was going to pursue it with excellence and wholeheartedly.

Really, that played out in college. When we met, he was a leader involved in the campus ministry that we were with (Cru). It was constantly something that drew me in. He was very outspoken about his faith and wanting to see people see and understand who Jesus really is. It was a beautiful thing. I saw that: “Man, he is so passionate about things.” But [in] all of the giftings that we have, what you’re saying is, there’s dignity in that, but there’s also depravity, because we’re not perfect, and we don’t perfectly live out our giftings that God has given us.

As we got married and had kids, that began to show up as workaholism. You’ve been very honest about that over the years. There was a point where probably around the same season when I was feeling like he was staying late, and I was thinking he was coming home at six. If he came home at 6:15, I was past my limit, you know. But to him it was, “I have to do all of these things and do them well.” Letting go of doing things to the level of perfection, which obviously, you’re not going to be perfect.

David: There’s that shadow side that—

Dave and Ann: —yes.

David: —in my early years didn’t come out, but [with] increased roles and responsibilities, there became an inflection point at where there’s that principle of choosing to cheat. I had to either cheat on perfect work or my family with work.

Ann: Yes.

David: It was an affair with everything being right and in order in what I do for a living.

My identity was overconnected to what I do even for the Lord. I was in ministry, and I was overconnected to it. There was some necessary work in that [depraved] shadow side that. There are two sides of that coin and God wanted to refine it.

Ann: I think that’s good for people to know, before you get married and even when you’re married, that your marriage is always evolving. Before we had kids we thought,
“We’ve got this down. This is amazing. We are so good at this.” Then we had kids, and we thought, “Oh, wait. There are new things.” Then we had teenagers, [and we thought], “Oh, wait.”

We keep seeing new things. Now we’re empty nesters, and it’s continually changing. But the good thing is, if we allow God, He just wants us on our knees in each one of those phases saying, “Lord, we can’t do this apart from You.”

Meg: Right.

Ann: That’s the beauty of changing and evolving when we continue to go through it with Jesus.

Dave: Yes, I was going to say, “That’s the agony.” [Laughter]

Ann: Yes.

Dave: Because it is so hard. I mean, you know, there are days where you are at your wits’ end. You just want to cry. I mean, I’m sitting here thinking, [and] there were days that we were yelling, and I was getting in the car to go to a meeting that I had to lead spiritually and cast vision. I was literally getting in the car, and she’s yelling at me, “Where are you going? What do you mean you’re going to another meeting?” I’m putting the kids to—”

I can remember pulling out of our subdivision, yelling at God, at my life right now: “What is going on? Why doesn’t she understand?” And then, stepping into the meeting saying, “Hey! Let’s start with prayer.” It’s not fake; it’s the dual that you’re living.

I say it was agony, but now, I also understand it was beauty, because God was using this beautiful thing called—I was going to say Ann [Laughter]—beautiful thing called marriage to say, “Man, I have work to do in you!”

David: Yes.

Dave: “You’re in a relationship [where] that’s all going to be revealed. If you let Me, I will transform you. If you resist Me, you’re going to still be that selfish, broken, messed up dude [who] will never become who I created you to be.”

That’s true for both husband and wife.

Ann: Yes.

David: Yes.

Dave: There’s this opportunity to say, “Okay, God. Here I am. Work on me, and make me your man, make me Your woman.”

David: I know we don’t have time to unpack this, but that would connect to the other thing I would share if we got into it, which I’ll slip in really quickly.

Dave: Way to go! I don’t get mine in.

David: Exactly. [Laughter]

Dave: You get yours in.

David: But it connects so much, because my other one is, “Start off as honest as you can. Don’t hide; press in; get honest and vulnerable; bring other people into it. In your pre-marriage work, get as honest as you can, because it will surprise you how much you will be tempted to slip into hiding and shame.”

I think, if you can lay the thickest foundation as possible of, “We are honest; we are authentic,” it’s amazing to me that, with scenarios like you were talking about, how much you can start closing up, drifting apart: “I can’t believe we’ve gotten here.” I can think back to our very first Weekend to Remember®; the afternoon. I opened up about something one year into marriage [saying], “I can’t believe that I haven’t been safe to talk about this with you. What’s my problem?” It took us getting away to crack open.

I remember four years later writing a note saying, “I’ve got to communicate some hard things that I’ve been stuffing. I want to do so in a letter, because I’m afraid I won’t be honest enough.”

There are just those inflection points where, whatever we can do in our pre-marriage counselling to say, “We will not hide. We will no go in a corner of shame. We’ll be as honest as possible and stay humble and teachable.” It will make you go to those moments more quickly. We try to keep those moments as short as possible and be honest every day. Yet, when you start withdrawing, what are those inflection things that push you back in it?

Ann: Those are great marriage tips, too; not just pre-marital tips.

Dave: That’s what I was thinking.

Meg: Right! I was thinking the same thing: it’s never too late to do that—

Ann: —exactly!

Meg: —to go to that level of honesty, vulnerability, and, even if—for us, to be totally honest, we did start with somewhat of that foundation, then David just shared at year one and then year four; but even still, twenty years in, it’s so easy to quickly withdraw.

We talk about it all the time. We naturally drift apart, and you have to fight for that intimacy. I think that really comes from taking those risky, vulnerable steps of authenticity and saying, “I’m going to let you in. I see that I’ve pulled away, and I have to do that.” At night I might turn my back and be quick to roll over. He says, “Are you rolling over because you are withholding something from me?”

David: I’ve learned to get more creative than [saying], “Are you okay?” That doesn’t really mean that much, you know?

Meg: That is so true. But he’s usually right. [I think], “Okay, what am I not letting you in? I’m going to take that step.” Sometimes, I do and sometimes, I don’t. If I don’t, it can quickly become a big gap.

Dave: You phrased it as “…something I wish I had known before…,” but it’s every day: year ten, year twenty, now, year forty-one for us.

I would add one last thought: if you aren’t totally honest; if there’s dishonesty or a little secret, just a little one, it will snowball. It’s like a sled on the top of a hill. You’re just tipping that baby. I know we’re in Florida, but picture yourself on a snowy hill. You tip it, and [say]: “It’s just this one little thing. It’s not that big, and there’s not going to be…”

You’re going down! There’s going to be a—

Meg: —right.

Dave: —it could lead to trauma. It could be a broken legacy.

So, I would just say, if you are listening, and you’ve got something, I think I just spoke and said, “That little thing you’ve been holding, today is the day you need to tell her; you need to tell him.” Maybe write it, like David did. Write it and say, “Let’s talk about this.” It could change everything.

Shelby: I’ve found that true connection and growth with your spouse (or your future spouse) is always preceded by vulnerability. Pretending gets you nowhere when it comes to authentic connection. What we’ve been talking about today has been really helpful wisdom for anyone, regardless of what your life stage might be.

I’m Shelby Abbott. You’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with the President of FamilyLife, David Robbins, and Meg Robbins on FamilyLife Today.

The Robbinses have written a book called Preparing for Marriage. Now, if you’ve been around FamilyLife for any amount of time, you might be thinking “Preparing for Marriage isn’t new.” Well, actually, it has been one of our best-selling resources of the past, but David and Meg have gone after it and really helped to revamp and revitalize this classic resource for today’s audience.

It's a study guide that helps address things like finances, and sex, and God, and family, and the future. We encourage you, if you know a couple that’s engaged or getting ready to get engaged: this would be the perfect gift for them.

You can get a copy of the all-new Preparing for Marriage at Just look for the banner on the website. And if you are preparing to blend a family, be sure to check out Ron Deal’s book, Preparing to Blend. It’s a couple’s guide to becoming a smart stepfamily. You can find Ron’s book in the show notes today.

So, what’s the back story on David and Meg Robbins? What were their challenges when they got married? What were the things that they faced that were difficult obstacles to overcome?

Tomorrow, they are here, back again, with Dave and Ann Wilson to highlight the importance of communication and being fully known in a marriage relationship. That’s tomorrow. We hope you will join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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