FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Important Topics to Discuss During Engagement

with Dennis Rainey, Various | May 14, 2010
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You've discussed rings, invitations and wedding guests. Now it's on to the really important discussions. Dennis Rainey covers some of the topics engaged couples need to discuss, like how to handle conflict, money, and the past.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • You've discussed rings, invitations and wedding guests. Now it's on to the really important discussions. Dennis Rainey covers some of the topics engaged couples need to discuss, like how to handle conflict, money, and the past.

  • 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.

You’ve discussed rings, invitations and wedding guests.

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Important Topics to Discuss During Engagement

With Dennis Rainey, Various
May 14, 2010
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(Creative piece)

Leslie:  Brad I need to talk to you about something.

Brad:  Hmm, what's up?

Leslie:  Well it's about the attic.  I mean this stuff in the attic, my stuff.

Brad:  Okay.

Leslie:  Come here.  I don’t want to tell you about this but I good if you are going to by my husband well it won't be right not to tell you.  Sometimes I try to get up here and clean it out but I usually don’t even make it up the stairs.  It's pretty scary when you are by yourself.  And the bad thing about it is you are kind of inheriting this junk.  When we get married this won't be just my mess anymore.

Brad:  I guess that’s true.

Leslie:  You are not mad at me, are you?

Brad:  No, Leslie, I love you.  You are going to be my wife.  Sure, this attic’s a mess but we will clean it up together.  I will help you no matter how bad it is.

Leslie:  Oh Brad!

Brad:  Who knows, maybe you can help me clean up some of my old junk.

Leslie:  You mean?

Brad:  Yeah.



Bob:  And welcome to FamilyLife Today and thanks for joining us on the Friday edition, Friday, May 14th.  You had some stuff you brought in the marriage, right?

Dennis:  Right.

Bob:  Everybody does, don’t they?

Dennis:  There was an attic, that’s right, it had some junk up there and yes in fact it takes, I don’t know, two or three decades of kind of working through the stuff.  I know some of the engaged people or singles who are listening to our broadcast are going, “What?  It takes that long to unpack your bags or clean out the attic?”  Well you know what? Marriage is hard work and you just don’t realize how much stuff you bring into a relationship called marriage.

Bob:  The good news is if you do some work ahead of the time it can make the attic cleaning easier after you get married and that’s what we have been encouraging folks with all this week is some of that premarital preparation.  More than a decade ago our team put together a workbook called Preparing for Marriage; that workbook has been used by tens of thousands of couples over the last decade plus.  It's just been revised and updated and with lots of folks getting ready to get married this summer or into the fall we thought it is time to revisit some classic material to help couples get ready not just for a wedding but for the marriage that follows the wedding.

Dennis:  Yes.  And there are a couple of things I would recommend to single people and engaged people to do before they get married.  One is go through this Preparing for Marriage workbook together with the person you are about to spend the rest of your life with. 

And secondly make sure you go to a Weekend to Remember.  I mean the combination of that workbook and the weekend to remember in my opinion it is a one-two punch that will really help your marriage go the distance and it will give you a foundation and strengthen your relationship for the long haul.

Bob:  In fact as we start here today we are going to hear from one of our speakers at the FamilyLifeWeekend to Remember Ann Wilson, who remembers the adjustment that she and her husband Dave had to make in the early months of their marriage because it was different than they expected it was going to be.

Ann Wilson:  Seventeen years ago I sat in a room like this and in two weeks we are about to be married.  I will tell you what we sat in here and we became so excited because we had never heard of God’s blueprint for marriage.  And it gave us so much hope, it gave us so much to look forward to and our expectations of what we could have rose significantly. 

Well six months later we moved to Nebraska.  And as those six months were rolling along we were amazed at just how different we were.  We were amazed at how shattered our dreams had become.  And on the drive from Finley, Ohio to Nebraska we got in one of the greatest fights we had ever been in.  I turned to Dave and I looked at him and said you know what it was a mistake that we ever got married.  And he turned to me and said you are absolutely right. 

You know my thought was, “What have we done?  What were we thinking?”  I was 18 when we met and now I am 19.  I was young, had sexual abuse in my past, it was affecting us right now.  Dave came from a divorced family with two alcoholic parents. We had so much garbage and the tendency for me was to think it was a huge mistake. This was not God’s will.  This was not God’s plan we should just split. 

How can you go six months prior to that of having these great hopes and expectations for this godly marriage and six months later say words like that to one another?  That pierced my heart and hopelessness just descended and the walls just started building up.

Bob:  What Ann Wilson has outlined for us is all too common scenario for young couples who may have heard God’s plan for marriage but have not found out how to implement it in their marriage. 

Dennis:  The Apostle James said this, “What causes fights and quarrels among you,” now just wait a second, think about that question. 

Bob:  It’s a good question. 

Dennis:  That’s a great question.  Well you know what the Spirit of God answers it.  “Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?  You want something but don't get it.  You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.  You quarrel and fight.  You do not have because you do not ask God.  When you ask you don’t receive, because you ask with wrong motives.  It even tells us what the motives are here, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

Bob:  Do I keep hearing the theme selfishness kind of reemerging in that verse?

Dennis:  If I had young couple in the studio right now and I was mentoring them, encouraging them, and preparing them for their marriage I would make sure they understand the A, B, Cs of conflict resolution. 

Bob:  You know Dr. Scott Stanley from the University of Denver did research with couples over a 20-year period. 


Dr. Scott Stanley:  A lot of people think varieties of things lead to marriages succeeding or failing which of course is true but sometimes not looking at the most crucial thing or constellation of things of how couples handle their differences and their conflicts, and their disagreements; because every couple has disagreements, every couple has differences, every couple has problems in life. 

One thing I would like to tell couples is nobody gets a free ride.  You get married and it's just not happily ever after all the time.


Dennis:  So you say the predictor of whether a marriage will succeed or fail is based upon how we manage conflict in our marriage relationships.

Dr. Scott Stanley:  When those tensions come up, when those disagreements come up, and it’s very clear and a number of different researchers find this kind of data not only we at the University of Denver but other researchers around the country now can look at variables in the relationship of a couple before they even get married and correctly classify with about 90% accuracy following the couples over time which ones are going to do well and which ones won't.  That means for the average couple walking down aisle the seeds of the divorce is there before they even get to the altar to say “I do.”

Dennis:  Really?

Dr. Scott Stanley:  Now that doesn’t mean that you can take a given couple and predict with just that certainty you are not going to make it but you can take a given couple and say now you get a lot of the kind of patterns that put a couple at great risk and you better think about how you are going to lower these risks.

Dennis:  That doesn’t surprise me at all because it's been my understanding from our own marriage in our family that human relationships will result in conflict and that’s why these three steps in resolving conflict the A, B, Cs of resolving conflict are so important. 

First of all know that resolving conflict requires an understanding of anger.  The Bible is trying to help us know how to understand our anger and how we properly express it.  You know the Bible makes it clear; don’t let the sun go down on your anger.  When you do relationships end up getting poisoned and polluted by that anger. 

B would be resolving conflict requires loving confrontation.  Ephesians 4:15 Speaking the truth in love we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.  At the heart of growing up I believe is how you resolve conflict.

Bob:  We can't avoid confrontation in marriage.  We have got to get to a place where we can sit down across the table from one another and be honest even if we disagree. 

Dennis:  We got to know how to handle anger.  Secondly we got to know how to speak the truth in love, and third resolving conflict requires forgiveness.  Ephesians 4:32 “And be kind to one another,” that’s a command.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, how—just as God in Christ has forgiven you. 

My dad and mom lived a very modest lifestyle.  We lived in a neighborhood that was also very modest.  I don’t remember ever lacking much, nor do I ever remember wanting much.  We were not surrounded by wealth and so here’s this young man coming from Southwest Missouri, marrying a young lady who grew up near Chicago.  Her dad was a executive with US Steel, member of a Country Club, not wealthy but enjoyed golf and some of the things of life that Ozark, Missouri didn’t have. 

Bob:  Upper middle class background.

Dennis:  Probably toward the end of things but as we approached our marriage.  It was interesting.  Barbara called me on the phone and told me to go check out our good silver and our good china.  Well Bob I didn’t know where good china was, I had heard about Red China on the map but I didn’t where it was. 

So I had to drive to Denver.  I was living in Boulder at that time and I went to a place I think it was called May Company in Denver, Colorado.  I remember walking into this huge department store and I know I am sounding like a hick at this point Bob but I wasn’t totally a hick, just partial, but I didn’t know what was going on.  Barbara has really helped me here.

Bob:  She has clued you in a little bit.

Dennis:  She has clued me in.  So I walked into this department store into this section where they have the bridal registry and all the china and stuff and found a lady and I don’t know but there is a certain personality or used to a number of years ago that works in that department. 

She looked at me and she could tell I didn’t know what I was doing.  I asked her where the sterling silver was that Barbara was picking out and the good china.  She showed me and I looked up at the silverware and I said oh, $59.95 for an eight place setting of sliver that’s not bad.  And she kind of pushed her glasses back up on her bony nose and said sir that’s for one place setting, not eight. 

Well I can multiply and I immediately saw that was over $450 including tax of silver and I thought we don’t even have a table to eat on and we are buying forks that are $20?  I mean you know it didn’t make a lot of sense and by the way Bob the prices are a little higher today.  They probably would have had to have called their coronary care unit at this point. 

So I called Barbara back up on the phone and you know that’s a phone call I wish we had on tape to play back for our listeners because it had to go something like this,  ”Sweetheart.  Sweetheart $59.95—do you realize how many plastic knives, forks, and spoons that we would buy?  You can eat off paper plates forever for that.”  I remember there was probably some quietness over the phone that took place and kind of this thought of who am I marrying here?  You know that’s always the issue when it comes to money, what are you marrying at this point?

Bob:  There are a lot of adjustments young couples needs to make in the area of finances after they get married.  Before he went home to be with Lord in 2003 we had the opportunity to talk with Christian financial expert Larry Burkett.  We asked him a variety of questions that engaged couples need to think through before they get married, things like whether it's right to have a separate checking accounts.

Larry Burkett:  In the area of separate checking accounts let me tell you this if you are separating your accounts you are planning to get separated.  I mean there is no other reason for doing it.  You may say well that person is too irresponsible I am not going to commit my funds to them, well then don’t commit your life there, for goodness sake.    But if you have to separate your accounts generally speaking it’s because you are keeping things separate in the event that it doesn’t work out, and when you do that it will not work out. 

Dennis:  What would you exhort, challenge, plead single people to do who are about to get married, what are the top three most important things you think they need to know or do as it relates to finances? 

Larry Burkett:  Well as I think about it I would say the number one has got to be, you need to be able to talk to communicate together openly.  You need to have some method of determining what the value system is of the person that you are about to commit your life to. 

Number two then you need to sit down together before you get married and work out a budget that includes both of you in this process. And you need to talk about everything. How do you feel about you merging your money with mine?  In another words we are going to have one checking account.  How do you feel about each area of the budget? 

And then third I would say you need accountability.  First accountability is to each other and to God.  That means whatever the decisions is you are going to make it according to God’s plan no matter what anybody else says.  And then second you need to make yourself accountable to another person, an older person. 

I’d say those three things.  If you learn to talk together, learn to sit down and write out a written budget together, and three make yourselves accountable to each other and to somebody else those are the most important things you can do for your marriage.  Again it would be far better to prevent a problem to face it right now before you get married than it is to try to correct a problem after you are married. 

(Creative piece)

Leslie:  I got to worn you, cleaning out this attic is not going to be easy. 

Brad:  Hey, how does that line go?  I take you to be my wife as long as the attic is always neat and picked up. 

Leslie:  Yeah right, and every box has only good memories. 

Brad:  What's in this one? 

Leslie:  That one is going to be kind of hard to open. 

Brad:  Oh, well we don’t have it. 

Leslie: No, it's okay.  You need to know about the fun stuff, and the not so fun stuff.


Dennis:  One of the most important areas that couples need help in, they don’t know what to do with their past.  If you overlook the attic, if you forget about the relics that are up there, and you gloss over it and say it doesn’t matter.  I want to tell you something it will bite you. 

It’s the wise couple who takes on this subject with the fear of God and with some godly counsel because this can be the undoing of a relationship.  It can build mistrust rather than trust if it's not handled appropriately.  It can also result in vain imaginations later on in the marriage relationship when the past is thrown up at the other person.  So this is something we have to be very careful with Bob and need to have some wise counsel. 

Bob:  So you are saying that even if there are issues from the past that you are ashamed of, you are embarrassed by or maybe you are even afraid that bringing this out in the open will threaten your present relationship with your future spouse?

Dennis:  That’s exactly right.

Bob:  You are saying you get to dig into those. 

Dennis:  You get to dig into them because marriage is built on commitment and trust.  There is also the important matter prior to a marriage starting here that if the truth becomes known later after you are married it can cause the deepest of betrayals, the feeling of deception of deceit. 

For instance, what if you have a sexually transmitted disease and you have never shared that with your spouse.  And she doesn’t know that you are immoral prior to the marriage relationship and yet as the time grows closer and closer to your marriage you don’t tell her, you get married and she finds out later that now she has a sexually transmitted disease.

Or what if you have had an abortion and you don’t want to tell him that you had an abortion but somehow through some odd set of circumstances that comes to light in that marriage relationship.   I am telling you, whether it's the inability to have children, whether it's a problem with credit cards, money, debt, alcohol all of those issues must test the commitment prior to the marriage.  I believe Bob, to the best of our ability we need to bring those out in the light because to hide it now means that later on after we are married we may hide something even bigger from them then.

Bob:  If a marriage is going to be built on trust you are saying we have got to begin with a foundation of trust that allows us to be open. 

Dennis:  Here is the thing, marriage is tough.  Psalm 127:1 says unless the Lord builds the house they labor in vain.  I am telling you with the Lord helping you build it marriage is still at best two selfish people hammering out a covenant together.  It's hard.  It's a challenge. 

It will at points press your commitment to the core. If you don’t know what you are fighting against, if you don’t know what those past mistakes are, if you don’t know what’s in the attic screaming at the other person or if you have not shared what’s screaming at you with your spouse then you may be 10 years in your marriage before you realized the boxes that never got unpacked that have frankly been in your marriage bed.  They have been in your relationship and you have been trying to build trust and commitment and communication and you didn’t know what the phantom was that you were attempting to battle and to defeat. 

You wondered why this thing called marriage was so difficult at times.  And the reason was it was an issue of the past a mistake you made perhaps or mistake somebody else made who damaged you, but you know that’s where the gospel of Jesus Christ works.  I mean what’s Christianity all about but forgiving one another and that leads us to the next point ask for forgiveness and grant forgiveness. 

Don’t do it flippantly.  Don’t do it lightly but give it abundantly.  Then as you continue to process with one another the impact the past has had on you your fears, the shame, the guilt, all of its ugly impact on you as a person and frankly for the first time you begin to see sin for what it is.  Go back and take a look at Philippians Chapter 3.  Paul says “I forget what lies behind and I press forward to what lies ahead—the goal of the call of God in Christ Jesus.”

I will tell you Bob, in my own life, having had this discussion with Barbara and she with me, the ability of two imperfect sinners to turn to one another and express God’s love, God’s compassion, God’s forgiveness to one another and to do that in a way that builds the other person up that sanctifies them, that edifies them that let’s them know their love.  I mean that’s a beautiful thing.  That’s what Christian marriage is all about. 

If you do that prior to your marriage you are going to find yourself doing it over and over and over again after you get married because marriage is between two imperfect people.—Two selfish human beings who are going to hurt each other.  They are going to disappoint each other.  You have got to be big on forgiveness. 

Bob:  Yeah, and if your conflict resolution skills are not good before you get married don’t expect that to change after you get married unless you sit down and really focus on what the Bible teaches and address the fact that you have not been doing it right.  That you haven’t been forgiving or speaking the truth in love, that you haven’t been overlooking some issues or that sinful anger has emerged in your relationship. 

That’s why we encourage couples to attend a Weekend to Remember marriage conference before they get married and to go through the Preparing for Marriage workbook because these are the kinds of issues that need to be brought to the table and talked about ahead of the altar. 

Over the last 15 years, we have had tens of thousands of couples who have gone through their Preparing for Marriage workbook.  We just had it revised and updated, it's even easier to use now and great for a mentor couple to take a younger couple through as they get ready for not just a wedding but for the marriage that’s going to come when the wedding is all over.

You can go to our website for more information about the Preparing for Marriage workbook and about the Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference.  Again go online or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. That’s 1-800-358-6329 or you can go online at to get more information about the Preparing for Marriage workbook and you can order online if you would like or call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY.

Well, we have been encouraged this month, we are about halfway through the month and we have heard from many of our listeners who have either gone online at or called 1-800-FL-TODAY and made a contribution.  They are aware of the matching gift funds that has been established and the pledge is that have been made toward fund and they want us to be able to take advantage of the now more than $300,000 that has been pledged to that fund and we so appreciate those of you who have gone and made a $20 or $50 or $100 or $500 donation in support of the ministry knowing that donation is going to be doubled on a dollar for dollar basis as long as the pledges in that fund remain.  So thanks for your donations.

We still have a long way to go if you want to take full advantage of this matching gift opportunity so can we encourage you today, go online at or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.  Help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today keep us on this station and our network of stations all across the country and just know that your donation today will be doubled dollar for dollar as you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today and we appreciate your partnership with us.

We hope you have a great weekend.  Hope you and you family are able to worship together this weekend and we hope you can join us back on Monday when we are going to talk about the middle school years and what moms and dads can do to be right in the middle of things as your children go through those sometimes tumultuous years.  I hope you are going to be with us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host Dennis Rainey; 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.

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