FamilyLife Today® Podcast

How to Destroy Your Marriage Before It Begins

with Ann Wilson | September 20, 2019
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Ann Wilson coaches engaged women, offering practical suggestions for pursuing sexual purity before marriage, and gives a realistic picture of what to expect on their honeymoon.

  • 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.

Ann Wilson coaches engaged women, offering practical suggestions for pursuing sexual purity before marriage, and gives a realistic picture of what to expect on their honeymoon.

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How to Destroy Your Marriage Before It Begins

With Ann Wilson
September 20, 2019
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Bob: A number of years ago, Dave and Ann Wilson were mentoring a young couple about to get married. This couple gave them a signed document asking Dave and Ann to hold them accountable for purity during their engagement. In fact, Ann Wilson remembers what the document said.

Ann: “We, John and Sonya, have a mutual agreement to abstain from all physical involvement, excluding hand-holding, hugs, and kisses. If this agreement is broken, we are committed to communicating our violations to Dave and Ann.” Then they had us all sign it; we all signed it. They gave it to us and said, “We’re committed to sharing with you when we mess up.” We said, “Hey, guys, our door’s open. Knock on it anytime; come anytime. We’ll be here for you.”

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, September 20th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. It’s important to have accountability during an engagement period: people in your lives, who are going to ask you tough questions about the decisions you’re making/the choices you’re making to maintain purity during the engagement period. We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You thought we were done; didn’t you?

Ann: I did. [Laughter] We were doing—what are we doing?

Bob: We have Part Two of your message. This week, we’ve been sharing a message that you gave at a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. You were talking with a group of engaged women in 1997. You’d been married for 17 years at that point, and you were helping get them ready for their wedding day but also encouraging them, during this dating and engaged period of time, to keep their eyes focused on the Scriptures and to live honorably.

You know, if you stop and think, 1997 was a different day/a different era. The average path to the altar today—couples have lived together before they get married—that’s more typical than not.

Dave: Right.

Bob: So to be talking about things like purity seems almost anachronistic, but the Bible still is true; and God’s standards for marriage are still true and for dating are still true. That’s what we talk about at Weekend to Remember marriage getaways.

Ann: We would still say the same is true today.

Dave: We still do; we still say the same thing.

Ann: Right. I think the reason we got into this—and I think it’s so important to talk about—is for Dave and me, no one had ever said: “Why does God say, ‘No’?

Bob: Yes.

Ann: “Why does God want us to remain pure before marriage?”

Dave: It became sort of a mission to help couples with the answer to the “Why?” question. You know, here in this broadcast—I’m sort of excited because, Bob, we’re never in that room; it’s only the women.

Bob: That’s right.

Dave: I’m like, “What are they talking about?” [Laughter] Well, I just found out that she gets really, really honest about our life.

Ann: Yes, I don’t think I ever thought it would be on the radio! [Laughter]

Bob: Well, it is on the radio today.

Let me, again, encourage listeners—if you want to attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, today is the day to get in touch with us; because through this weekend, you can save 50 percent off the regular registration fee if you register now to attend an upcoming getaway.

We have getaways happening in September, October, November, and early December. You can go online and find when a getaway is coming to a city near you or a city you’d like to travel to, block out that weekend, register today, and save 50 percent off the regular registration fee. Again, go to for the information; or call us if you have questions at 1-800-FL-TODAY.

Okay, let’s dive in. This is Part Two of Ann Wilson’s conversation with engaged women at a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway in 1997.

[Recorded Message]


Ann: How do you handle the desires during the engaged time? First of all, see that word, “desires”?—that is a good thing. God gives us those desires, and they are good. They’re nothing to feel bad about. Man, it’s great to have those desires; it’s just a matter of being able to handle them during the engaged time.

One of the greatest ways, if you decide—and I hope that you will and think about it: “If you decide to stay pure,” and “If you had been doing things—to stop it—“How can you stop?” Here’s one thing: be accountable to someone. I can’t imagine if I had to be accountable with someone—and I have to say that Dave and I/we did stay pure in our relationship—I cannot tell you how hard it was. In fact, I used to think, “God, if we can make it through this, we’ll make it through anything!” I was just trying to stay sexually pure. It was very hard for us.

But one of the things is—if you can be accountable to someone, it will really help. Is there anyone you know—a couple in a church, some friends, someone that you can talk to—that can ask you: “How are you doing in the sexual intimacy area? Are you guys staying pure?” Man, if you know someone’s going to ask you that, it just kind of puts a little hindrance to it right then, that night.

We had a couple—and we’ve had couples over the years that we’ve mentored—and they have made commitments. We have made commitments to them, saying, “We will do whatever it takes to help you guys stay sexually pure.”

This one couple—he was in his 30s, and she was in her late 20s. Neither one of them had had any sex before marriage and had not done anything. They committed to staying sexually pure until the day of their wedding. They wrote this thing, and they called it the “Freedom Covenant.” On it, they wrote this; and they brought it to Dave and me. This was the copy they made for us, and it says: “We, John and Sonya, have a mutual agreement to abstain from all physical involvement, excluding hand-holding, hugs, and kisses. If this agreement is broken, we are committed to communicating our violations to Dave and Ann.” Then they had us all sign it; we all signed it. They gave it to us and said, “We’re committed to sharing with you when we mess up.” We said: “Hey, guys, our door’s open. You knock on it anytime; come anytime. We’ll be here for you.”

For us, it was a true testament of their commitment to their relationship. They’ve been married seven years now, and I wish you could see them—they are incredible. People are around them are like: “What do they have? What is so good about their relationship?” Look at the price they paid, early on, to make that relationship strong. You know what else?—it started getting really hard, because they both lived in their own apartments.

They said: “We just can’t be alone together, but we want to be alone. We want to be able to share and talk, but it is so hard.” We said: “Here’s the deal. You guys come to our house anytime you want. We’ll all go upstairs, and you just spend the evening downstairs.” They would cook dinner, and they would watch TV, and they would talk. It gave them this great place to be alone and to talk. Just every few minutes, Dave and I would come down and say: “Hey, guys! Everything going okay down here?” For some of you, you may think, “Oh, that is so ridiculous.” But I see it as really cool, as their loyalty to one another and to God.

So that would be the first thing is to have some accountability: “Is there anyone that you could ask?” You don’t have to go into the detail, maybe, that they did; but someone just to ask you, once in awhile, and look you in the eye, “How are you doing?”

There’s another thing. When you are tired and depressed, it is so hard to stay pure. It’s so hard not to sin. You know what I mean? Have you ever been so tired you get to the point where, “Oh, what’s it really matter?” When you’re tired, or down, or depressed, or have had a hard time, that is our weakest times. So try not to be together during those times—talk on the phone/do whatever it takes—but try not to be together during those times, because we are most vulnerable during those times.

Be careful about what you’re thinking about and what you’re watching. I didn’t realize how my mind played such a significant role in my actions in those days. I would lay in bed and fantasize, for hours, of what I couldn’t wait to do with Dave. Then I wondered why it would be so hard when I was with him; you know? Just be careful of what you’re thinking about and what you’re pouring into your mind. Really take ahold of that and discipline yourself with your thought life.

Ladies, you know what happens? Let me add, too, when sex is involved in your relationship, it clouds the relationship in a way that I can’t explain. It’s like putting on a pair of glasses, and the things that you would normally see, maybe, you don’t see. This is a time to stay very focused and clear to see things that God wants you to see. That’s why it’s so important—don’t let the glasses be on of sexual intimacy—because it brings an intimacy that God only intended in marriage. When I think about that, I just realize that God wants us to wait; and He wants us to work on these things now, so don’t let the glasses go on.

The other question is—and we’ve already pretty much hit this—is number three: “If we’re too physical before marriage, how do we get things under control?” The only thing I would say there, because I’ve already commented a little bit: “Commit to stop. Even if you’ve been having sex for years, it truly matters right now, today; and God will honor that. If you want the very best marriage, pay the price today.”

What makes a woman feel loved? Do you know? During sex, a woman, in love-making, feels loved. A man, during love-making, feels very significant; so think about what you can do to make him feel significant without sex, if you have already been doing that. If you’ve been involved in premarital sex, think: “What can you tell him could make you feel loved without sex? If you’ve decided to stop, think right now what he can do. Have him tell you verbally how much he loves and appreciates you.” “What can you do to make him feel respected and significant?”—because that’s what he brings, and that’s what he draws from the sexual experience; so think about that as well.

Also, four is: “Discuss your fears.”  If you have any fears, let me implore you to talk openly about them. It’s amazing how, as things are in—I call it darkness—if you’ve never expressed a fear, the fear seems to just get bigger and bigger. But as you bring it out and openly express it, the fear goes way down; so openly discuss any of your fears.

If you have been sexually active, maybe this is your next question: “How do you handle the guilt from the past?” I’m sure many of you have probably heard 1 John 1:9, that: “If you confess your sins, He is faithful and just and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.” If you confess your sin today of what’s been going on, it’s gone! He forgives it! If you’ve committed to turn away, He forgives it. Go with that—go with God’s Word. You may not feel it, but know that you are forgiven.

If for some reason some of these feelings of guilt do not go away—if they continue to linger on and on—it may be a great time to talk to someone else about it: a counselor or a friend.

Also, look at, too: “How much should you tell your future mate about your past physical involvement?” The goal here is to promote oneness. Now, Dave and I—we have been extremely open, to the point where I think we kind of went overboard, as far as, I wanted all the details of his past. I don’t think that was healthy—I wanted to know out of insecurity—but there are some things that you definitely need to share.

This is up to you of how much you will share, and that’s something that you can discuss; but some things you should share. Some of them are this: “If you are not a virgin, that’s something that you should share with him,” “If you’ve had an abortion, that is something that you need to share,” “If you’ve been sexually abused or assaulted,”—huge things.

Why do I say you should share them? Because they will seep into your marriage, and he has a right to work through those things with you. It will help you, in the long run, for him to know some of these issues; because what you don’t want to happen later is—you don’t want him to think that you deceived him, because that will lead to a whole host of other problems.

How do you handle the flashbacks of past physical relationships? You know what?—flashbacks are just a consequence. I never struggled with flashbacks until I had been married, probably, 12 years. It was just this phase that I went through of feeling like it would be great to think about past relationships. My choice was whether or not I would go back and just indulge in that thinking or if I would think, “I’m not going there; I’m going to press on.” It’s a natural consequence, but it is our choice whether we will feed on those thoughts.

Let me add this question—number four: “How can you receive your future mate, knowing his past experiences?” That is one of the greatest issues of fear that I face with women, and it’s the same thing that I faced. That’s why I think, for me, it was one of my greatest fears—that I would not compare and I would not measure up. I had the fear of rejection; I had fear of so many things.

Here’s what I would say about that. First of all: “Is he committed to you? Is he committed to your relationship?” If he is, here’s the deal, ladies: no one else—I don’t care how many women he has been with—no one else is like you. That’s the greatest thing—is that you may have been or he may have been sexually active before—but you are unique. With you and with him, it will be a whole new ball game; it will be a new experience, and it will be good.

And the things to compare—there is no reason to compare; because his love for you is so great, and he is committed to spending his life with you. But let me add this—that you’ll be tempted to have those fears. Satan will tempt you more in this area than any other, of just saying, “No; just think of what he used to do…”—just don’t go there; don’t go there. When you feel those insecurities, express your fears; and let him love you and express his love for you, verbally.

Let me add—this experience is brand-new for both of you; no one is like you. That’s my encouragement, and that’s what I’ve seen over the years. You know what’s happened with Dave and me? Even though the beginning was so hard and so rocky, God used those times for us to be so good. I look at all the conflict we had; it made our relationship great, because we had to continue to work at it.

For you, if you’ve been sexually involved, God can use that for good in your lives. It’s not something today to just be so down about, but to commit today to go on and to have the best today. There is hope; because God can take something that we may be fearful of and make it into a great, great thing.

Finally, let’s talk about the honeymoon expectations. Some of this stuff is just real practical. Do see a gynecologist, and discuss your options for birth control together—talk over those things together. Also, as Dennis said—and you guys probably can’t wait—but buy something that you feel comfortable in and that he will like. He’ll love you in anything. If he buys you something, hey, you wear it.

Be patient with yourselves. This is a lifetime. Have fun, laugh, don’t take it too seriously; because you really do have a lifetime to build in this area. Just love one another and express your love in a wonderful way of giving and receiving the way that God would want you to.

Let’s talk about some don’ts of a honeymoon. Don’t expect perfection. Be willing to laugh; be willing to have fun; and don’t assume that he knows how to please you. Talk to one another. Encourage him; show him; guide him. Be thoughtful in how you express to him anything.

I wish that someone would have said to me: “You know what? Your one-year anniversary will be a lot better even than your marriage and your honeymoon night, and your two-year anniversary can be even better.” For Dave and me, it has just gotten better, and better, and better. It’s amazing that that happens if you continue to work on it and not build the walls. Communicate and share openly your needs as well as your desires to please your mate.

Also, some women really want to know what is acceptable in marriage. Ed Wheat talks about that—he says: “The union of marriage frees the couple to enjoy their bodies in whatever ways are most pleasing, provided that both are being pleased and neither are being hurt or offended. You should feel free to experiment and to know each other in the most intimate sense possible.”

But let me add, also, in this that I know there’s a growing trend of pornography going on in the marriage itself, both couples watching pornography together as a source of stimulation. In God’s Word—base everything back on God’s Word—because if you see that, it will say clearly, “No.” Make sure that you’re basing your relationship on what God says as well.

Also: “How do you keep the romance alive?” Be creative; have fun with this. I would say, too, don’t let yourself become so into the mundane of the everyday that it takes the spice out of your relationship. Be creative and plan some stuff; go places; do things.

For Dave and me, it’s an act of my will sometimes, because I’m so tired; but I try to be spontaneous. Dave, too—I have to tell you—of the things that he remembers/if we said, “What were the most romantic times for you?” they are times that I have done something special for him in some way. I’m like, “That was really good.” You know, maybe going out to dinner and slipping a hotel key over to his plate, saying, “I have a room for us upstairs”; and he’s gets so excited! [Laughter] Just things like that that are not huge things. Make him feel so good. Be creative, even after you have children.

Some of you, too, have been married before and you have children—be creative; it’s so important. These things apply to you that have been married before so significantly. I have to tell you, as well, that I just talked to someone, two weeks ago; and she said, “Ann”—she’s been married before; they’ve been married for a month—she said: “Please tell the women that have been married before that it takes time for the sexual relationship to really improve and to get better, because they have so much stuff they’re bringing in; but it’s okay. Don’t expect perfection all at once. It’s okay to take time, because you have a lifetime of being with one another.”

As far as being romantic with one another, I have to tell you—I was at a speakers’ conference, listening to a couple. They were both 74 years old, Howard and Jeanne Hendricks—you know, it was amazing to me. They were fielding questions from the audience and talking. One of the things that came up—Howard was talking, he’s 74; now, imagine 74. These guys are getting older, and they’ve been through a lot—he said, “Our sex life today is better than it’s ever been.” [Laughter]

Dave and I are kind of looking at each other, like, “Whoa!” He kept talking about what made it so good now. He said, “You know, the first ten years, we are so focused on the externals; but now,”—he says—“now, it’s a union of two people, who love each other and who are committed to one another, coming together; and it’s a holy act.” You know, I looked at them and I thought, “Man, I want that,” because of their relationship with God/their commitment to one another—and having the very best that God wants them to have.

I hope/I pray that you will settle for nothing less than that, because God has so much for you. He wants you to have the best marriage that you can have. Will you pay a price for that?—absolutely. If you want the best, you have to pay for it. It begins today, while you’re engaged, of pouring into the cup: of learning about one another, learning to communicate, being committed, and having the very best that God wants for you. He will bless you abundantly. There will be a day, where your children will rise up and say, “My parents had an incredible marriage.” I hope you won’t settle for anything less than that.


Bob: Well, again, we’ve been listening to Ann Wilson talking to engaged women at a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway in 1997. I think what’s interesting is—you listen to that and you’d say, “I’d pretty much say all of that today, just the same.”

Ann: I would. Yes, I would.

Bob: Because this wasn’t an opinion you had in ’97; this is what the Bible teaches.

Ann: Yes; God’s principles never change. Yes, I would say the same thing.

Dave: Your voice would just be lower.

Ann: I know! Does it seem like my voice was higher?

Dave: Yes; it’s higher, because our oldest was ten or eleven at the time; and we were yelling all the time, as parents, in our home! [Laughter]

Ann: You know, my thought was, “I wonder what has happened to those women in that room?” They’ve been married 22 years.

Bob: Yes; yes.

Ann: “How many of them made it?” I think that, boy, the principles of God’s Word never run dry.

Bob: Right.

Ann: They’re always bringing life.

Bob: Yes; those people, who are surrendered to God and to His Word—those are the ones who make it; and don’t just make it with their teeth gritted, but make it with joy and go, “This is what I got married for.”

That’s what we try to unpack for couples at a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. In fact, I just want to remind you—today is the last day for me to tell you about the special offer we’re making for FamilyLife Today listeners. You sign up today for a getaway, and you and your spouse save 50 percent off the regular registration fee; or you and your fiancé, if you’re coming as an engaged couple; or if you’re not yet engaged—you’re still single—but you just want to start thinking seriously about the marriage relationship. You can save 50 percent off the regular registration fee, as long as you sign up today.

Go to for more information or to register online, or call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY. We can answer any questions you have or get you registered over the phone. Again, it’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Make plans now. Join us this fall at a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. It’s the best thing you can do to help strengthen your marriage relationship.

With that, we have to wrap things up for this week. Thanks for being with us. I hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend; and then join us on Monday, when we’re going to talk about being parents of adult kids. Your kids are grown; they have a life of their own. What should your relationship with them look like? How do you get along with them? How do you make sure you’re not interfering too much?—all of that—we’re going to unpack that with Jim Burns starting Monday. I hope you can be with us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.


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