Question: How Did You Learn to Be Married?

I have a question.marriage2.jpg

I talk with a lot of people about marriage. Some of these people would like to be married one day but don’t have anyone in mind. Others in these conversations are engaged. I also talk about marriage with people who are married.

What is difficult for many, many people is that they have never seen a healthy marriage up close. They may have grown up in a single parent home. Or, they may have grown up in a home where their parents were married and then divorced at some point while they were still in elementary school, middle school, or high school. Others have never seen a healthy marriage up close even though their parents were married throughout their growing up years.

I mention this because it is often difficult for a young guy or a young woman to imagine themselves being married when they aren’t quite sure what that looks like or feels like. Some of these people ask questions like these:

  • What do people do everyday when they are married? (Remember if you have never seen this up close, it may not be that obvious.)
  • Are there marriages out there that really do work?
  • What do I do in order to contribute to a healthy marriage?


How did you learn to be married?

I am particularly interested in hearing from you if you never saw a healthy marriage up close while you were growing up, and yet you married. What helped you? Whom did you learn from? What suggestions would you give others?

I am also interested in hearing from you if you did witness a healthy marriage. What did you observe? What do you hope to put into practice in your own marriage? I am interested in hearing your response to this whether you are single or already married.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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23 thoughts on “Question: How Did You Learn to Be Married?

  1. Hey Jim! I was blessed to see a healthy marriage growing up in my parents. They were very respectful of each other. I never saw any cuts or low-blows between them. They enjoyed being together and always made time for each other and us. They were always a team, we never divided them. They didn’t invest in a lot of things that took them away from each other. My mom has jokingly said that coffee time every morning (without fail) is one thing that has made them so close. Just connecting for 10 minutes each morning can make a huge difference.

    • Lauren, what a tribute to your parents. Thanks so much for what you have written. A model such as what you describe has to help in your own marriage. Thank you very much.

  2. Now THAT’S a funny typo! Second sentence, describing what people want to be someday 🙂 LOLOL

    Seriously, though, I get to repay the favor with something oddly funny. I learned what I know about how to be married from three couples. My parents taught me what not to do. Yeah, I was in one of those families. I learned what TO do from The Huxtables. And finally, I saw healthy loving marriage modeled by my ex-fiancee’s parents.

    • Nick, of all times to have that as a typo! 🙂 How wonderful that you had the opportunity to see a loving marriage by your ex-fiancee’s parents. I wonder how many other people would echo your words regarding The Huxtables. Thanks Nick.

  3. My parents got divorced when I was 14. I got married when I was 22 and am happy to say that I am still married to the same woman 27 years later. We have two grown children and recently our first grand child. I think we have a good marriage because we decided that divorce was not an option. With that in mind, we work through the difficulties together and it draws us closer together.

    • Steve, thanks for sharing a part of your story here. While your parents experience divorce when you were a teenager, you have experienced 27 years of marriage. Wonderful!

  4. My parent’s marriage was rocky from the beginning. I know this in part stems from traumatic events my mother went through as a child, and my father’s accident only a few years into the marriage (he suffered electrocution, losing some fingers and was never quite the same afterward). Anyway, my father had a severe anger problem, and was verbally and physically abusive toward my mother. They divorced when I was 12, and I spent a lot of time recovering as I had picked up some of these same habits (I had to go to therapy for anger problems till I was 15). I swore I would never marry, and my mother pretty much drilled into me that men were evil (although she had been married twice before my father, and married again after they divorced). I am now 23, I got married after I graduated college and have been married for two years. I know that’s not a tremendous amount of time, but my husband has been the most wonderful influence on my life. He is patient, slow to anger, and understanding that sometimes I have trouble communicating and helps me through it. I won’t say we never disagree or argue, but it has been rare. I think part of it is from knowing that you are in a partnership, like a business, and everything must be shared. My parents were not good communicators. Since my husband is foreign, we also had to work harder since we come from separate cultures where certain things are not always treated in the same way.
    People who knew me growing up tease me about being married when I swore off marriage, but they always say positive things on what they observe of our marriage. Right now has been hard with the economy and unemployment, but we are working through it and trusting God.
    Compromise, communication and showing love through your actions are the biggest things that have helped me.

  5. Lauren, thank you so much for your comment. You experienced some very, very tough times as a child. You have quite a story and one that many people can relate to.

    Now, here you are married to a wonderful guy. Good for you! Lauren, you have a lot going for you. From your comment, let me mention a few. First, you have self-awareness. You are aware of what you experienced in your home as a child and how it impacted you (your comment regarding anger at 15). Consequently, you aren’t just living out of the hurt from the past but you are aware of what uncontrolled anger does, etc.

    Second, I appreciate your sentence regarding the economy, unemployment, and “…working through it and trusting God.” Lauren, I have found problems in marriage, in life, etc. can be dealt with by a husband/wife if they are just willing to work through it together. Sure that is difficult but anything so valuable as marriage is going to be difficult at times. At the same time you are working through it, you are trusting God.

    Thank you for this comment. Congratulations on a good start in your marriage!

    Hope you will comment more on this blog. You have much to say that is worth hearing.

  6. Jim, I’m encouraged by the comments I’ve read here. My wife and I have been married eleven years with two children, 5.5 and 4, one we got the old fashion way and one we adopted. We participated in pre-marriage counseling for a few months leading up to our marriage. This was valuable because it caused us to have directed conversations about things that would be important to us after we were married that we might not have ever had unless someone asked. The money conversation, children, roles are all great conversations to figure out before you say “I do.”

    We had friends who had dated, were engaged and married in our church that we learned from. We have continued to cultivate friends who we can talk to together and separately about our marriage with the goal of keeping it healthy. My parents are an exceptional example of a married couple and parents. Knowing this has made me feel responsible to let people know the things I’ve observed from them. I know I have been given much with their example. A few things I think are essential to know as a new or existing couple.

    1. You’re Normal: No one has it easy. The best marriages are filled with compromise. The ideal spouse does dozens of things that are on the spectrum of annoying to intolerable. The knowledge that other people deal with these things behind closed doors and in their heads helps. Other people say unloving selfish things to their spouse. Other people argue over the same things you do. It’s empowering not to be alone.
    2. Close the back door on divorce: I know many marriages that limp for longs seasons because the divorce back door is left ajar. Interjecting that concept undermines any progress or encouragement.
    3. Love is Commitment: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times” could truthfully be said about marriage at many intervals. Because someone knows the back way to your heart, they can encourage you in a special way or hurt you like no other. This is why commitment, expressed, reaffirmed and mutually agreed to, is like a force field against all the things in life that assaults our marriages.
    4. Forgiveness and Grace: This may be most important. Forgiveness is no longer holding on to the option of retribution for something done against you. I sin against my wife more than anyone else based on the closeness we have. Without forgiveness, we’re stuck holding on to the option of hurting them back. A formula I think all couples should have is specifically apologizing for what they did wrong and the offended spouse saying “I forgive you.” Grace is undeserved favor. This is essential because someone must choose to be humble and say I’m sorry first, even when the other person is wrong. This is one I think husband should pay careful attention to follow. The scriptures, in Ephesians 5, tell husbands to love our wives like Christ loved the church and lay down our lives for them. I think about this most often when I don’t feel like saying I’m sorry. No matter who steps forward first, in my experience, humility breeds humility.

    I’m glad to see you asking these questions, Jim. Your thoughts got me thinking about my convictions on this topic. I will probably write on a similar topic on “Bone Fire!”, the blog I’ve begun, in the coming weeks. Take care.

    • Lannie, I somehow missed your comment when it came earlier in the month. You have an outstanding list here. I really like these four points that you made in your comment. These are very good. In particular, I like number 4 — forgiveness and grace. Thanks Lannie.

  7. I just hope that people will never loose idealism when it comes to marriage as it is so nice to grow old with someone you truly cares about. Instead of perceiving it negatively, a child growing on a single parent home should even be motivated to make the difference and be better.

    Posting this can really inspire many. Cheers!

    • Mark, thank you very much. I appreciate what you are saying. While I do think a person should be aware that marriage is difficult, I don’t think that it helps to be cynical regarding marriage. Far better to remember what marriage really is and the way it was meant to be.

  8. My parents divorced when I was 2. My father had an affair and left both of us, and I really didn’t see him much growing up. I was really lonely as a kid, and very insecure.

    I was desperate to be married because of it. I just so needed someone to love me. I knew God loved me; but I needed someone else to tell me I was loveable, too. Through various circumstances God had it out with me and showed me that only He was big enough to love me enough to fill the hole in my heart, which I’m grateful for. But I’m also grateful that He did let me marry at 21 to a great guy! We had a rocky start, but I never ever thought about divorce, probably partly because my parents were split up. I so wanted to do things absolutely the opposite way.

    Now it’s 20 years later and my husband and I speak at marriage conferences (we’re doing one in Ottawa next week). But I think one of the reasons I’m so committed to marriage, and one of the reasons I don’t take it for granted, is because I know what it does to kids when their parents’ marriage splits up. So sometimes even if you don’t have a positive view of marriage, God can turn that around for good and make you appreciate His way even more! It’s similar to a column that I wrote this week (I write a parenting column in a bunch of papers), and here’s Ending Marriage’s Bad Rap.

    • Sheila,
      What a wonderful comment. So very encouraging to hear that in spite of your parents divorce and in spite of the insecurity that you felt, God has been faithful through it all. I really like your words, Sheila, regarding God’s love. You speak for many when you say that you knew God loved you but you needed someone else to tell you that you were lovable. God in turn filled the emptiness in your heart.

      Now it is so glad to hear about the ministry that you and your husband have speaking at marriage conferences. I would love to hear you speak. (I read your article “Ending Marriage’s Bad Rap” and it is very good.

  9. I learned through studying biblical principles on marriage. Also, I honestly learned from my parent’s marriage as a NON-example of what I wanted mine to be like one day. Sometimes that contributes to a person wanting and fighting for a stronger marriage later on down the road – they don’t want to end up how their parents did. My grandparents also had an amazing marriage, and always look to them as an example of how I want my marriage with my husband to be.

    • Meagan, how wonderful that you have used the negative example of your parents as an example (and motivation) of how not to be married. Their marriage must have been such a contrast next to your grandparents. I’m glad that you had them as a positive example.

  10. My parents divorced, and my older sister had divorced, all my aunts and uncles were divorced at least once. But I married a man whose parents had been married for more than 60 years. And all his brothers & sisters were still married (as well as some nieces). When we got married, he very pointedly told me, “There is no divorce in my family.” And over the years, when things got tough, he said, “I’m not giving you a divorce.” Do we have a “healthy” relationship? Well, I don’t know if we’re doing it “right,” but we’re still married 17 years later and it’s for one reason only: because we decided to stay together no matter what. There’s still no divorce in his family, and I’ll be darned if I’M gonna be the one!

    • Kalisa, I really like your story. Here you grow up seeing divorce in a wide variety of relatives. Then you marry a man who comes from a completely different kind of family. I like what you say regarding the decision to stay together no matter what. Far too many couples keep divorce as a live option. I am not sure how wise it is to be going through the difficulties and struggles of marriage with divorce as real possibility and option. Thank you Kalisa.

  11. My parents divorced when I was 6, in 1974. My dad married again twice, my mom once. In all of my extended family, there was not one example of a healthy marriage. Since I knew what it was like to be a child of divorce, and I knew that I would never, EVER put a child through that pain and difficulty, I decided as a young adult not to marry.

    I met Dan in the spring of 1988. We began dating a year later, then married in the summer of 1990. His parents are still married, but when we were beginning our life together, theirs seemed to be unravelling. We clearly knew what we didn’t want for our fledgling family, but the much more difficult question was what DID we want? I would have to say, 20 years later, the understanding, insight and relationship techniques we learned from the writings of Willard Harley, PhD, (His Needs, Her Needs and Love Busters, to name but two, and the information at have had the most positive affect on our marriage. The only thing that has impacted us more profoundly has been the Bible. I am blessed to be married to a wise, godly man who is willing to do the work of maintaining a fantastic marriage. We are absolutely crazy about each other, and about the 5 amazing children God has been pleased to entrust to us. We have mentored engaged and newly-married couples for over 10 years, and have seen the information and techniques in Dr. Harley’s materials used to put back together some badly wrecked marriages. By the grace of God, ours has not been one of them.

    • Dana, what a story! How wonderful that God used this hard beginning in your life to work for good. It is a very powerful testimony to your own resolve not to ever put one your children through divorce. It is also a powerful testimony to the power of God for you to build a healthy marriage in spite of not having seen one example of a healthy marriage in the earlier years. (Also glad to hear what Willard Hartley’s materials/books have meant to you.) Thanks Dana.

  12. I echo some of the earlier comments. My parents divorced when I was a toddler. Neither had successful relationships after. I have been married for 16 years & have 5 children. We don’t consider divorce an option, and we continue to court. Keep our friendship DON’T digress to “business” partners. We talk, communicate and communicate some more. We forgive and become a stronger couple.

    • Amy, I appreciate your words. Again, there is something to be said for not considering divorce as an option. Your words regarding your courtship and the continuation of your friendship are so important. Perhaps that helps you to continue to communicate as well and often as you do. Your last sentence is very important as well. There really is (as I think you suggest) a linkage between forgiveness and the strength of your bond.