What should you tell your daughter before she walks down the aisle?
We talk a lot about how to talk to your kids about sex or puberty or dating in high school–but what about when your daughter is about to be married? I got a question the other day from a reader who pointed out that we haven’t talked about that as much on this blog. Here’s what she said:
I thought I’d let my eldest daughter, Rebecca, handle this one! She got married almost two years ago now, so she’s got a fresh perspective on this one!
What things do you need to tell your daughter to set her marriage up for success?
Something that will always continue to amaze me is how few mother-daughter pairs actually talk about marriage before the daughter says “I do.” Sure, they give some pat-answer advice about, “Just make sure you communicate” or “remember to always respect him, dear,” but there’s no real cold, hard, practical advice.
My mom and I don’t really have that problem. We likely have the opposite–we talk too much. Plus, with me working for her now on this website, there’s really nothing that’s off-limits. So when I was looking back on everything we’ve talked about over my relationship with Connor and even into marriage, I compiled the 10 most helpful pieces of advice that I’ve been given about marriage, that I think all daughters should hear from their moms before they walk down the aisle.
Now, a short disclaimer, everything in this list is assuming that there are no major character flaws with the man your daughter is marrying. If your daughter is marrying a man you are really worried about, it’s time to have a different conversation. But if you’re looking for some tips to help your daughter prepare for marriage to a wonderful man, read on!
1. Don’t worry too much about the wedding.
What your daughter needs to know is that if the day is wonderful, if the day is terrible, if the day doesn’t end up happening at all, you have her back. Try to make the wedding-planning as stress-free as possible (that’s an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one), even if it means just forcing her to go out for ice cream without bringing along her wedding binder once in a while.
Your relationship is about so much more than the wedding, but I’ve seen so many friends’ relationships with their parents fall apart over the wedding because everyone was just so stressed. So do both of you a favour and put things in perspective. Does it really matter if she doesn’t invite those friends of yours from 30 years ago? Does it really matter if she doesn’t get the “right” centerpieces? Don’t cause unnecessary stress about the big day if you want her to be receptive to your advice or your questions about the relationship. By being more laid-back about these things, or just trying to make them fun, you’ll remind her that this day doesn’t need to be as stressful as it could be.
2. You’re saying “I do” to his past.
Make sure that your daughter has had a real talk with her fiance about his sexual history. Does he have one? Has he watched porn? Has he slept with other women? If so, has he been tested for STDs? Most importantly, has he repented and is seeking healing? Not the greatest conversation to have, I know. But if you haven’t had it yet, now’s the time. Of course, this is a two-way street. If your daughter hasn’t disclosed about her past, now’s the time to talk about that. Don’t wait any longer.
But even more than that, make sure she understands that having a past doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get married. We live under grace, and that grace extends to every ounce of our being–no matter what. So if they have had those conversations, and they’ve decided to get married, communicate the importance of allowing the past to stay in the past. At some point, you just have to decide to not think about the fact that he’s been with other women, or trust that he’s not watching porn if he’s truly recovered from a porn addiction. Quite frankly, if she isn’t ready to be able to not bring it up as a weapon, I would question whether or not she is ready to get married.
Your relationship is about so much more than the wedding – and 9 other to tell your daughter before she walks down the aisle!
3. The honeymoon stage is a myth for many.
About 5 couples in my friends group got married within 1 year of Connor and me. Only 1 had a real “honeymoon stage.” Only one!
The other four of us, on the other hand, had at least one spouse in the mix who was extremely anxious that they were never going to be truly happy. If we weren’t happy that early into our marriage, when everything is lovely and wonderful, how could it ever get better?
Well it turns out that for many of us, the beginning of marriage isn’t that lovely and wonderful. It’s stressful. It’s complicated. There’s a lot of paperwork and moving and organizing and housekeeping and long fights and, yes, sex, but for the most part it’s just really hard. Reassure your daughter that if she doesn’t have that “honeymoon stage” there’s nothing wrong with her. It’ll likely just take a few months to kick in, after she’s had some time to adjust. I didn’t enter the honeymoon stage until we had been married for 6 months (and haven’t left it yet!).
Are you ready for the honeymoon you always dreamed of?
The Honeymoon Course is here to help you plan the perfect honeymoon and start your marriage (and your sex life!) off with laughter, joy and fun!
Don’t make the same mistakes other couples have–get it right from the beginning!
4. Treat your in-laws the way you want us to be treated.
Many daughters have wonderful relationships with their mothers. That’s fantastic. But if she’s coming to you complaining about her future in-laws, or generally being disrespectful of them, that needs to be stopped. It’s one thing if she has a major problem with her in-laws and is coming to you for a different perspective, but if you’re allowing her to belittle or act with contempt towards her in-laws, you are enabling sin.
Remind your daughter that her in-laws are her fiance’s parents. Many girls get up in arms when their boyfriends talk badly about their families but are more than willing to say horrible things to their boyfriend about his family without batting an eye. This double-standard is toxic in a marriage.
Instead of enabling unhelpful complaining, teach her ways to bring up issues with her fiance in a more helpful way. And then stop talking to her about it, and if she brings it up tell her to talk to her fiance.
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5. You must always choose your husband over us.
Connor and I have a weird dynamic with family–his family is all the way across the country in BC, and my family is just 2 hours away. I’m also part of an extremely over-involved family. I FaceTime with mom every day, practically–even more, now that I work for her.
So a year into our marriage, Connor sat me down and told me, “I just want to make sure that I am your priority before they are.” It wasn’t the most fun conversation, but it was an important one. We set some boundaries about communication with my family, such as I always tell him exciting news first, and as soon as Connor comes home I sign off so we can touch base. Since my family is really close, it took me a while to actually “leave and cleave.” But it’s very important–my family will always be my family, but Connor is my family first.
6. Problems don’t go away when you’re married.
No they definitely do not. Instead, they settle in, take off their shoes, and then invite all their friends over to join the party. Have your daughter and her fiance truly talked about the hard issues? Have they found a mentor couple or accountability group they can go to as these problems rear their ugly heads again? It’s easy to get caught up in “happily ever after” dreamland, but important to remember that you are signing on for “ever after”–sort out these problems now.
7. Talk talk talk about sex.
Many girls are too shy to talk to their husbands about sex. They’re too shy to talk to anyone about sex, really. I would advise, as a mother, not to be the one your daughter relies on for information about sex. Give her The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex (I’m biased, but it really is a great book). But what you should talk to her about is the importance of communication in a marriage. Make sure she knows that it’s perfectly OK to tell her husband what she wants. To discuss what works and what doesn’t in the bedroom. You saying “It’s good to talk about this” can give her that boost of confidence she needs later when she’s married and sex is new.
Start marriage off well!
I wrote this book to help women understand how God designed sex in marriage, while giving some practical tips to make it feel great for both of you. For a down-to-earth, Christian approach to sex in marriage, check it out!
8. “The key to a happy marriage is low expectations.”
My mother-in-law actually told me that one, and although it sounds a bit tongue-in-cheek, it’s actually quite true. Nine times out of ten, when Connor and I fight it’s because one of us has imposed undue expectations on the other. Remind her that she’s marrying a flawed human, and if you expect very little, you’ll be blown away by the little things.
Connor’s not all that much of a romantic. He’s done his fair share of grand gestures, but he doesn’t often bring flowers home “just because,” he doesn’t write me love notes to leave around the house. He’s not an “instagram boyfriend.” But he’ll make me breakfast without me asking, and he’ll fold laundry for me when he knows I’m having a bad day. And he looks at me like I’m the most beautiful and interesting person he’s ever seen.
If I expected flowers and love notes, I wouldn’t notice the little things. But our marriage got a lot happier when I started noticing all the sweet little things that he does on a daily basis and stopped focusing on all the relationships my instagram feed.
9. I think you’re ready.
Getting married is scary. Let your daughter know that you think she’s ready. If you’re married, explain why. Tell her about your marriage journey–the ups, the downs, how you got through it. If you are a single mom, tell her why you think she’s ready–how you’ve seen her grow, your experiences with relationships and why you know that this is going to be a good thing for her. She wants your assurance, and to know that you’re not just saying it because you’re her mom.
10. I’m proud of you, and I’m proud of him.
She wants to know that you are not only happy that she’s getting married, but proud of who she is as a person. Marriage is about so much more than the wedding day–it’s the joining of two lives. Giving her that gift of knowing that you think highly not only of her, but also the man she is choosing to marry is one of the biggest blessings she could receive. So remind her that he is a good man, and that she is a good person, too. Let her know why you are proud of her, and the good qualities you see in him.
What are some things you are grateful your mom told you before you got married? Let me know in the comments below!
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- Why I Didn't Rebel. Ever wondered why some kids rebel and some don't? Or do you believe rebellion is inevitable? Rebecca interviewed 25 young adults and dove into psychology research to find out: what makes some kids rebel, and some stay on the straight-and-narrow?
- The Whole Story: Not-So-Scary Talks about Sex, Puberty, and Growing Up. Scared to talk to your daughter about puberty? Rebecca and her sister Katie want to do the hard part for you. This course is designed to start conversations to bring you closer together and strengthen your mother-daughter bond while giving your daughter all the information she needs as she becomes a woman.
Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.