FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Pre-Wedding Conversations You Can’t Afford to Skip: David & Meg Robbins

with David and Meg Robbins | March 5, 2024
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You're getting married soon....or your new to this marriage thing. David and Meg Robbins give pointers on diving into those must-have conversations about money, sex, in-laws and more. Helping you get ready for more than the wedding day—a lifetime of marriage. Pick up their book "Preparing for Marriage" to ensure you're prepared for your big day!

  • 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.

About to say “I do”–or new to this marriage thing? Skittish after a recent fight? David & Meg Robbins cover the must-have pre-marriage talks like money, sex and in-laws!

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Pre-Wedding Conversations You Can’t Afford to Skip: David & Meg Robbins

With David and Meg Robbins
March 05, 2024
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Shelby: We’ll get to the program in just a second, but first, I’m Shelby Abbott, and 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.

Well, we celebrate the resurrection. It’s the most important event in the history of all humanity, of all 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 are celebrating when it comes to Easter.

It’s 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 that 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 800-358-6329. The number is 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.

Meg: There are always going to be things that he is not going to know unless I tell him. I will never forget when we were getting married, and my brother said to me, “You just need to know that if you want his help with something, you have to tell him.” And it was really good for me to hear that, because I do think there are times, even still, when I will have a tendency to think, “Is this not obvious? Can’t you see that I need help with this?’


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: It’s not every day you get to have one of your favorite couples walk in the studio.

Ann: It’s true. It’s a good day, isn’t it?

Dave: Yes. We’ve got Paul McCartney sitting in here with us today. [Laughter]

David: I’m about to break out in a song. This is great.

Dave: Could you sing “Hey, Jude” for us?

David: You do not want me to. [Laughter] I’ll leave the questionable singing to you, Dave.

Dave: Alight! Our listeners think they know that voice. We’ve got David and Meg Robbins, the President of FamilyLife in the FamilyLife studio today. Welcome back to FamilyLife Today.

David: It’s great to be here guys. We love it.

Meg: Yes.

Dave: FamilyLife has a brand-new resource that’s really an older resource that’s been revised. It’s called Preparing for Marriage.

David: Yes.

Dave: That you two are the editors of—

David: That’s right. The team has been so great. We are privileged to be a part of this resource, because this is one of the first interactions we ever had with FamilyLife; Preparing for Marriage. Our pastor, who took us through our premarital counseling, used FamilyLife’s Preparing for Marriage. It was so significant in our lives that we’ve used it in dozens of couples’ lives.

Ann: So have we. I think everybody has gone through that; so many churches. It’s been great, but it also needed to be updated.

David: That’s right. We are so excited to be able to bring this resource to people today.

Dave: If there is a listener wondering, “What is Preparing for Marriage?” how would you describe it?

David: If you were to boil it down to its basics, it would be, “What does God have to say about this beautiful institution of marriage that He created, that’s meant to reflect His love for His bride, the church?” Each one of our marriages gets that opportunity to reflect it.

Then, it also leads you through very practical conversations. The magic of this resource is actually getting the couple—guiding the couple—through different worksheets where they talk to one another about things that they may not know they need to be talking about as they prepare for marriage. That was the magic for us—

Ann: —sure.

David: —how it made us look each other in the eye and realize some things. It’s been revamped into not just a few worksheets, but five conversations every couple needs to have before they get married.

Dave: Let me ask you this: you remember going through this as a couple before you were married; did it help?

Meg: Definitely. I think there were things that came up in the questions asking you about your expectations. You don’t know that you have an expectation usually until it’s unmet. It was great for us to think about some super simple things like, “Who’s going to do the laundry most of the time? Who’s going to take out the trash most of the time?”

Then some other really big things like, “What kind of house do you see yourself living in? Urban living? Or in a rural area?” Some things like that or even, “How many kids do you think you’re going to have?”

Ann: Or even, “How are you going to spend Christmas, and where will you spend Christmas?”

Meg: Yes; whose family? How much time will you spend with your family and your in-laws? What’s realistic and what does it mean to really leave and cleave? Things that you know need to happen, but you haven’t thought about the specifics of it. So, for us, it was super helpful. It made a huge impact.

Obviously, you can't talk about every little thing that is going to come up in your life, but there were so many things that I think we figured, “Oh, we’ll just sail through this.” And as we were working through those things and talking about it, I think we laughed a lot, realizing, “Wow! We see more things differently than we thought we did.”

But it was super helpful to think through, “Okay, there are things that weren’t on our radar that we need to think about and make plans for, and those might need adjusting along the way.” It helped set us both at the same perspective going in, expectation wise.

Dave: In some ways, it digs into the things couples need to know before they get married. And we've all been married for a while; so, I thought it could be sort of fun— we were talking about this—to talk about the two things you wish you knew before you were married.

Now, we don’t have time to do all of us, so let’s make today the wives edition.

Meg: Okay.

David: Nice; alright.

Dave: We’ll have Meg and Ann share two things. Now, you guys haven’t talked about this.

Ann and Meg: No, we haven’t.

Dave: It could be similar; it could be totally different. Who wants to go first?

Ann: Meg.

Dave: What do you wish you would have known? Do yours first and then Ann can do one.

Meg: Okay, that’s good.

I think what comes to my mind first is that David will never be able to read my mind. That may be super obvious, and you’d think that I would know that. I think, obviously, I know he won’t be able to read my mind, but there are always going to be things that he's not going to know unless I tell him.

I will never forget when we were getting married (and, actually, we were going through this workbook) and my brother, who had been married probably about seven years at the time, said to me, “You just need to know that if you want his help with something, you have to tell him. If you are standing at the sink, and your thinking—you might start fuming and thinking—“Why isn’t he coming over here and helping me with the dishes? I’ve been working on these dishes for thirty minutes.” He was like, we’re not very smart.

Dave: —"I’m going to bang them a little louder.” [Laughter]

Meg: Yes, exactly.

Ann: Oh, yes. I do that.

Meg: He was saying, “It took us a long time to realize that, a lot of times”—and he was just throwing himself and men under the bus (and this is not true for all men), but he just said: “We don’t know; we don’t pick up on it. You just have to say, ‘Hey! Can you come over here and help me with these dishes? I just made the whole entire meal, and I’m tired’.” It was really good for me to hear that, because I do think there are times, even still, where I will have a tendency to think, “Is this not obvious? Can’t you see that I need help with this?”

Ann: I’m thinking, “It’s been forty years!” [Laughter] “It’s been forty years. Do I still have to ask?”

Meg: Right.

Ann: I think a lot of women think, “Alright, come on! This is just ridiculous, because we’ve been married a long time.” I ask the same thing all the time.

Meg: Right.

Dave: I just have to say, you’re saying that with a lot of emotion. [Laughter] A little more emotion than I’m comfortable with.

Meg: Oh, funny!

Dave: It sounds like it happened last night.

Ann: No.

Dave: It probably did.

Ann: You were amazing. You did all the dishes last night because I wasn’t feeling well.

Dave: It was really tough, because there are two of us. [Laughter] There’s no kids and no mess.

Ann: But Meg, you’re right. You become resentful.

Meg: You do.

Ann: And they don’t even know that you’re resentful, and they have no idea why because we haven’t communicated.

Meg: Totally. And it can be things much bigger than the dishes, you know?

Ann: Yes.

Meg: I think that’s exactly what happens. Without realizing it, there are things that I might think, “I should just take one for the team and do this.” But over time, that’s taxing, and that’s me not even letting him into an area that I might truly need help. I might truly be at the point of, “Okay, I am really tired, and I just need a minute.” But it could be something really different that has to do with my heart, and how I’m doing, and he’s not going to know unless I tell him.

There are certain things—yes, he is going to learn [about] me, and he’s been a student of me for twenty years; there are things—he picks up on, for sure, and he can ask and dig in, but there are also going to be things that he just isn’t going to know until I tell him.

As much as I might like for him to be able to read my mind, I think—maybe that wouldn’t be a good thing. [Laughter]

Ann: I think it is important, too, for us as women to recognize when we have the martyr complex going on. I’ve done that in my head: “I do everything around here. Look at–he’s watching the game. He doesn’t even know I’m in here doing this.”

Dave: That was going to be my question: did this ever cause a real rift? When I hear that, this was more than just: “I need to tell Dave what I need.”  She was really hurt—

Meg: —yes.

Dave: —that I wasn’t helping; that I wasn’t stepping in.

And, I’m putting words in her mouth; maybe it’s worse than I’m saying. It was pretty bad for a while, because she would tell me and then a week or a day or two later, I still wasn’t doing it.

Meg: Right.

Dave: She’d already told me, and I’m still just sitting there not helping or meeting her needs or talking or listening (whatever it was). It wasn’t just little, “Oh, cute little Dave’s not—.” It caused a rift.

Ann: Right, yes.

Dave: I’m just asking if you felt that.

Ann: I just have to say this is so funny, because—

Dave: —what?

Ann: —I was so frustrated. It was as simple as, “Hey, could you take out the trash?” And he would say, “Yes, absolutely.” And it would never happen. And so—

Dave: It wasn't never.

Meg: —well—

Dave: —it wouldn’t happen for a half hour.

David: “We don’t use always and never,” Ann. [Laughter]

Meg: Well, you’re thinking—

Ann: We’ll add that at the Weekend to Remember.

Dave: “Never say always; never say never.”

Ann: Wait, so here’s what I did: I said, “Jesus, how can I communicate this”—

Dave: —you’re praying about me taking the trash out? [Laughter]—

Ann: —“How can I communicate this in a way that he’ll hear it?” We’re having dinner this one night, and I said, “You know, as a quarterback,” —because Dave played quarterback—and Dave said, “Oh, yeah.”

“So, as a quarterback, what was the most frustrating—”

Dave: She really did this. I’m telling you, I remember this.

Meg: Good! [Laughter]

David: It got through.

Ann: “What was the most frustrating thing as a quarterback, that you would say,
‘By far, this is the most frustrating’?”

He said, “Oh, without doubt, when I would tell the receiver, ‘Here’s the route,’ and then he’d run a different route, or he wouldn’t even run it right’.”

And I asked, “Did that frustrate you?” And he said, “Yes. and it made me so mad.”

Dave: You’d throw interceptions, and they’d think it's your fault, and it’s really the receiver’s fault.

Ann: And I said, “That’s how I feel when I say, ‘Hey, could you take out the trash?’ and you say, whatever it is, ‘Sure, I’ll do that,’ and then it never happens.

He says, “That’s how it feels?” [Laughter] It was awesome!

Meg: The light came on!

Dave: It worked!

Ann: Yes.

Meg: Well, I think sometimes when we communicate something, we’re thinking, “I’m asking you this for an ongoing thing, not just, ‘Will you take out the trash out tonight?’ but “I need your help in this area’.” Sometimes, for us, it takes time to realize that we need to have a bigger conversation than me just asking one time.

Ann: Right.

Meg: I think the biggest time that we felt that, or I can remember feeling that, was when we had little kids. David was coming home from work, and he would say, “I’ll be home at six.”

Ann: Yes—

Meg: —and then, when six o’clock came around, and he wasn’t pulling in the driveway, that was like my limit.

Ann: Me, too.

Meg: I felt like I had reached the moment when I thought I would have some relief and some help, and if he wasn’t there, I would start fuming.

David: Each minute had extra weight.

Meg: Every minute.

David: Yes.

Meg: It’s totally true! I was definitely letting resentment build, and I would say (the next day), “So, what time are you going to be home?” And then the little comments; you know, little digs: “Are you really going to be home then?”

Eventually, we realized: “It would actually be better if you would say seven and show up at 6:15 than to tell me 6:00 and come at 6:15,” or whatever. I had to learn to show grace, but I think he also got to the place where, “Okay; how do I make the norm being accurate with my prediction—”

Dave: —yes.

Meg: —”just for my own sanity?”

David: Well, I’m such an optimist that it was really hard for me.

Ann: Oh!

David: I genuinely thought I was giving a real time, but yet, my behavior kept shifting and not being true, as I would stick around. It really was creating real resentment and tension. You declaring a need: “Look, I would rather you—”

Meg: —overshoot—

David:  —"overshoot, because I’m making it to that line, and I need you. The reinforcements need to come in, as I’m surviving until that moment.”

It was a character shift I needed to make: “Okay, optimism is good ,but it is kind of naive and idyllic. I need to get rooted in a little more of reality, especially for how this is affecting Meg.”

In declaring need; I think two times, recently, you have lived this out well. We don’t live this out well all the time, and it creates tension fairly often, but yet we keep going to this place in two ways. Last night, I walked in the door and within a good ten minutes you phrased it, “Hey, we need to have a folding clothes party.”

Ann: That was wise.

David: All the clean clothes were piled up. I needed her to declare that specific need, because I’d woken up at five, prepared for something that I needed to pull off by the skin of my teeth yesterday afternoon. I was exhausted.

What's true is that I fell asleep putting our five-year-old down [Laughter]; in the bed with him! So, my sixth grader came and woke me up, and I realized, “Alright, I got what I needed to reboot. Let’s go fold. It’s a folding party. Here we go!”

Ann: I love that added the party aspect to it. That’s smart.

Meg: I had gotten a lot of laundry clean—

Dave: —there was a lot cleaned—

Meg: —but not much folded.

Dave: But then also, recently, in these recent months, you’ve really pushed me in a healthy way, that could have been resentment: “Come on, you’re not doing enough.” But you’ve encouraged me to get more intentional about our oldest boy.

You’ve said, “I know you. You want more than this!” And, you know, “The rhythms we’ve gotten into with the grind of school—you’re not doing what you want to do, and you're able to do.” It was really belief that you spoke into me. I know there was frustration in it, but yet, you really called me up, declaring need of: “He needs you right now.”

Ann: Meg, that was masterful, how you said that because, as women—and I’ve done this poorly with Dave, when we come to our husbands and say, “Hey! You’re not doing this.” It feels like—for Dave, it felt like—disrespect, and it makes him not want to do it: “I’m failing. I’ll probably keep failing.”

But you spoke life, identity, and “this is who you are.” That’s identity. “I know that you want this. I know you’re good at this.” It’s a reminder.

Meg: I think that came from not saying it right several times and realizing, “Okay, there’s a way for me to encourage him to do this, rather than to come in saying, ‘You aren’t doing the thing you said you were going to do—trying to grab breakfast with him before school a couple times a month.’ It was [saying], “Okay, how can I help make this happen? What can I do with the other kids?”

Ann: It’s like offering grace before we go to condemnation.

Meg: Right, right. That does not come naturally to me, so I’m learning that the hard way.

Ann: Well, that goes to mine. This is one of the things I wish I would have known before I got married.

Dave: Oh boy, I can’t wait to hear this.

Ann: It was kind of along this whole line: I didn’t know and realize the power and influence I would have over Dave. I just thought, “He is one of the most confident, self-assured people that I’ve ever met in my life. Surely, he doesn't need me speaking that into him, because he already has it.” I had no idea the insecurity or the doubts that you had because you don’t show it.

So, as a result, I think my words were harsh. I think this is a natural tendency for some women—I don’t know if it is for men, but as women, it can be a natural tendency—

when we take our eyes off of Jesus, we put them on our husband. We expect—it’s that word “expectations;” we have these expectations—that they will make us happy, and that they will meet our needs.

I had no idea, one, that you guys carry so much. I’m putting a whole bunch of stuff in this, as you can see. I didn’t realize that I’m an influencer. Just as you said, Meg, the way you said it, was influencing David and motivating him to want to spend time with your kids.

So, that’s the thing that I would say. I have a tendency, when I’m not surrendered to Jesus, [to] become incredibly controlling. I try to control the situations; I try to control Dave; and I’m controlling him by speaking negatively.

And it never won! I wondered, “Why isn’t this working?” [Laughter] What did that make you feel, Dave, when I did that?

Dave: Exactly what you said. I felt controlled. There’s something in me that was rebellious: “Oh, that’s how it’s going to go? I’m going to do the opposite!” Which is terrible; that’s the sin nature in me, that I rejected it.

We wrote about it in our book, Vertical Marriage. It was decades!

Ann: Yes.

Dave: It wasn’t just a couple weeks or months—

Ann: —no, I think it was fifteen years.

Dave: It might have been. I’m not saying that I didn’t do the same thing. We’re not just talking about one thing. I was demotivated. Part of me would look at her—I probably didn’t say it—thinking, “You think this is working? Just look at the results. It’s not working. Maybe a different tactic would work.”

Not knowing, Ann, what you just said: it’s so easy. And we can do it as men, too. We take our eyes off the Savior and put it on our spouse to be our Savior, and then we’re disappointed.

Meg: Right.

Dave: And we don’t ever say, “Duh! They weren’t made to be.”

Yet, I think every couple—you know, as a pastor, when I stand in front of couples officiating their wedding, I want to say it in the wedding, but I’m going to ruin the wedding if I say it. You’re almost smiling, thinking, “You’re going to find this out. You’re trying to find life from her, and she’s thinking you’re going to give her life; and when it doesn’t happen, you’re going to think you married the wrong person. Hopefully, you’re going to remember you’re looking in the wrong place.” That’s what you were saying.

Here’s the thing: David and Meg, did you experience that in your own marriage? Did you do that?

Ann: Could you try to find your life through David?

Meg: Most definitely. And I think, even still, there are times when—if I feel that resentment building, or I feel frustrated or I’m not coming in a “trying to build you up” kind of way—

Ann: —yes—

Meg: —usually, that is a red flag for me to realize, “Why am I so frustrated that I am not getting this thing? Or [over] this unmet expectation?” Usually, it’s because I’m looking to him to fulfill something—

Ann: —me, too.

Meg: —that the Lord wants to give me. Whether it’s joy, or freedom or maybe confidence in [what] God has for me; the role he has me to fulfill and not looking to David to affirm me. Not that there isn't—like you said, we can speak life to each other, and there’s a beauty in that; but when we’re looking to that person to meet that need first, then we’re going to be disappointed.

Ann: It’s an idol.

Meg: Of course.

Ann: Our spouse becomes an idol, or our marriage becomes an idol, hoping, “They will fill me up. They will make me happy.”

Meg: Right.

Ann: And they do, but if that’s your source, it never makes it.

David: Right.

Meg: Yes, for sure.

David: Yes, there is really only one true Source, and that is Jesus Himself.

Ann: Exactly.

David: We each get to experience that and bring that strength to our marriages.

One thing you said, Meg, makes me think back to this resource of Preparing for Marriage. One of the things we do when we do pre-marriage counseling, that we had people ask us to do, is: while you are doing pre-marriage counseling, get as honest as you can.

Ann: Yes.

David: You are in the “rose-colored-glasses” phase. You’re consumed with the wedding—

Ann: —and it’s good; it’s okay.

David: It’s a good thing. There is a lot of hope. We are loving marriage. There are so many great things about it. And we love passing on how great marriage can be, yet when it comes to the conversation about family history, or the conversation about money, or sex, or communication, and all the things we come in with; when we aren’t honest with those idol moments we run to as a source—whether that’s security of money or whatever it could be—[we] really don’t prepare for marriage that well.

Ann: Yes.

David: So, I wish I would have gone back—and we were pretty honest, and it laid a foundation of continued honesty, but I wish we would have been even more honest about some of the idols in our life and how much we look to one another. It would have set even a stronger foundation, and couples can do that.

Ann: That’s good.

Dave: Well, David, you just went into what you wish you’d known before marriage, which is tomorrow. We get to talk about that—I thought we were going to get two from the ladies today, but we only got one [each]. But you know what? This is great stuff.

Ann: Okay, good.

Dave: Seriously. And like she said, it’s the kind of thing we talk about in Preparing for Marriage, [and] one of the other great things about Preparing for Marriage is that you don’t have to be a licensed counselor to use it with a couple. It’s a tool any couple can use to be a mentor to other couples. So, anyway, we’re going to talk about more tomorrow.

Shelby: I love the kind of conversations that happen like this, that are just really honest, to help us discover: “What’s essential when it comes to conversations? What’s important when it comes to communicating well and setting up the right resources to prepare a strong foundation as you are moving into the beginning stages of marriage?” David and Meg have done such a fantastic job with that today.

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

As you’re getting ready for putting on those rings and saying, “I do,” the journey of marriage doesn’t begin there. It really begins as you start to prepare before you get to that moment when you say, “I do.” And the Robbins’ Preparing for Marriage study helps you with everything from the romantic flares at the beginning, to focusing on finances, to making wise choices about what you’re going to do in the future as a couple.

We truly believe that this really is an incredible resource for engaged couples. It’s one of our best-selling products from the past and it’s totally revamped and refreshed with amazing wisdom that we feel will benefit anyone you know who is engaged and getting ready to say, “I do.”

You can get a copy of Preparing for Marriage at Just look for the Preparing for Marriage banner on the web page.

And if you are preparing to blend a family—if this is your second marriage, or you’re marrying someone who has kids and you’re about to become a blended family—we encourage you to check out Ron Deal’s book Preparing to Blend. It’s the Couples Guide to Becoming a Smart Stepfamily. You can find Ron’s book, Preparing to Blend, in the show notes today.

Tomorrow, David and Meg Robbins are back to talk about other elements of Preparing for Marriage including: how do you discuss your hopes and expectations for your future? What are the roles of mentors and counselors in your life? How do you actually have honest communication? How do you address that scary topic of conflict when it comes to entering into difficult conversations with your future spouse?

We’re going to handle all of that, including so much more, with David and Meg tomorrow. We hope you’ll 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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