PODCAST: Can Parents Make it Harder for Their Kids to Marry Well?

by | Jul 18, 2019 | Parenting Young Kids | 23 comments

Check out the podcast where we talk about how the way we talk about dating can make it HARDER for our kids to find great spouses, and also tips for communicating with adult children who just don't want to talk!

It’s time for a new episode of the Bare Marriage podcast!

I hope you all will listen, but if you don’t have time, I’ll have some links and rabbit trails below so you can read all you want as well!

And consider this podcast “extras”. If you want to go deeper into what I talked about in the podcast, here are some more things to help you.

But first, here’s the podcast:

Main Segment: Can Parents Accidentally Make It Harder for Their Kids to Get Married?

Before we start, here’s a huge caveat:

I by no means believe everyone needs to get married or should get married. Of those who do get married, there is no “right” time to get married. Some will get married at 20, some at 50. There is nothing “wrong” with not finding your right person young!

That being said, there are so many Christian parents out there who desperately want their kids to get married to wonderful Christian people–someday far in the future. And they actively encourage their kids to avoid dating in their early adulthood, saying that they can always date when they’re done school, or when they’ve got a career, or a myriad of other reasons.

But the question I have is this: can well-intentioned parents inadvertently make it less likely that their child will end up with someone in their attempts to make sure they get married the “right” way?

If you’re interested in this topic, here are some other posts I’ve written about finding a good spouse:


Reader Question: How can I communicate with my college-age daughter? 

This is our reader question and millennial segment tied up into one today! Rebecca and Joanna, two former stressed-out students, tackle this question from a bewildered mom with a ticked-off daughter:


My issue is my college age daughter. She is confused about her major but other than that she is a responsible child and is doing well at school and was able to do a one-year study abroad program. The problem we have is our relationship. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong but everything seems to tick her off (everything I say, everything I do). She doesn’t like talking about anything with me (relationships, sex, feelings, religion, politics). Almost everything seems to be off limits – even a repeat question about something I need an answer to. I am open to discussing any topic. She would just walk away if she comes ticked off. So, basically, how can I communicate better with a child that doesn’t want to communicate?

Joanna and Rebecca came at this from the perspective of the daughter, and want to encourage parents that even when your kid seems angry at you all the time, odds are there is something happening outside of you that is causing all this stress. You are likely the safe place for them to blow up, unfortunately. It’s not excusable, but it’s understandable during this incredibly, incredibly stressful period of life.

In a nutshell, here’s what they want parents to know:

  1. College is REALLY stressful. And your kid may be experiencing a lot of guilt or shame if, somehow, they feel like they’re not doing “enough.” Talking to your parents when you go through this can be tough, even if the parents are doing everything right.
  2. Focus less on getting your kid to talk and more on lowering the tension level in the relationship. Avoid bringing up hot-button topics, but instead find light-hearted things through which you can connect.
  3. Remember to have grace for the awkwardness that comes with entering your adult years. That doesn’t mean you need to put up with inappropriate behaviour, but patience and understanding can go a long way when it comes to those first few adult years when all of life just seems a bit overwhelming and new!

If you are interested in learning more about mental health and college, here’s an article explaining anxiety in college and what students can do to help themselves adjust and learn better coping mechanisms. It’s a great place to start a conversation with a kid you think may be experiencing stress!

What do you think about the topics we covered in today’s podcast? Do you agree? Have anything to add? Let us know in the comments! 

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Sheila Wray Gregoire


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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Arwen

    I have a question for Sheila and Rebecca.

    If there are not enough Christian men to go around then what are Christian women to do? In other circumstances when you have a limited option you expand your pool, but in Christianity you can’t expand your pool. I don’t think God saves women more than men (He’s not a respecter of persons after all) so either there are a lot of fake “Christian” women attending Sunday gatherings for social reasons or Church has become an unwelcoming place for men.

    I know God is capable of bring two genuine believers together regardless of the circumstances, all things are possible with Him. Saying there are not enough Christian men to go around is not only scary but hopeless. Because that’s implying that there are more female believers than male believers. And that just doesn’t sit well with my soul. What are you thoughts?

    • Hanna

      Hey, I would also really like for this to be discussed. I have the same thoughts sometimes and while I want to be realistic I also want to trust God and not lose hope. However, it sure does seem like the the bleak reality is that there aren’t enough guys, even when taking into consideration that a guy absolutely can be godly without going to church or talking about Jesus all the time.

      • Arwen

        It seems like it. When i was doing eHarmony for 6 months all the Christian men on there weren’t attending Church but claimed to be believers. Now i understand sitting in a pew doesn’t make one a believer as sitting in garage doesn’t make one a car. But at the same time we’re not to neglect the meeting of the saints. But their reasoning was that Church didn’t feel like a welcoming place for single men. And i understand their point of view. Heck, it’s not even a place for single women. It has mostly become a place for families. All activities are geared towards married people, children, single mothers, or teenagers. The single folks are kicked out.

        Someone once said, it’s because single people don’t bring the Church money. As a result the Church has pushed us aside because of greed. Singles make less money and as a result tend to tithe less than married folks who make twice the amount of money as singles, plus they get tax breaks that singles don’t, which gives them extra money to tithe. There is a lot of shift happening in the Church, i’m just observing what God has planned for His people.

        • Rebecca

          I haven’t really seen where single people make less money than families? They might make less than a couple without children, but add children into the mix and finances become a lot tighter. Especially if mum stays home with the children, but also if they have to pay for childcare while both parents work.

          I think it’s more about the numbers. There are often programs for youth, but once those youth reach marriageable age, most of them will marry (we had a spate of marriages in our church in the last 2 years in exactly that age group.)

          The number of people in their late 20s or older who are still is relatively low, compared to couples. They are in the minority. But my question is: are people going to church to get, or to give? We should all – married or single – be going to church with a giving mindset: to worship God and serve each other.ike Paul says somewhere: if you’re married you serve your husband, if you’re unmarried you are free to serve God.

          Unfortunately, a lot of churches run all sorts of programs rather than encouraging the body of believers to serve each other, no matter their life stage. We create artificial barriers between young and old, married and single.

        • Jane Eyre

          Married people without kids tend to pay a heavy tax penalty for being married, and married people with kids have massive childcare expenses. Marriage does bring financial benefits to a lot of people, but those are less than you are making them out to be.

          The real issue: churches never learned how to deal with long-term singles. For centuries, people would transition from childhood (with parents) to marriage with very little time in between. There was no need for programming for single adults, as they didn’t exist in large numbers. But now many people are single for many, many, many years (gulp, that was me), and the church has little idea of what to do with them.

          The best advice I have, for men and women, is to try to be someone who would be considered a great catch by the kind of person you want to marry. If it’s really important for you to marry a devout Christian, then be on fire for your faith. You might find the right man for you; if not, you at least spent your life publicly loving God.

          • Becky

            I agree 100% with you on the church not knowing how to deal with long-term singleness, Jane. I am married now (though I didn’t meet my husband until I was almost 31), and my 20s were such a struggle with that. After I graduated college and no longer had the campus Christian ministry that I was involved in, plus recovering from a bad dating relationship that I ended early in my senior year, it was like I had nowhere to go. I spent years often being the only single person in any smaller community group, and while my married friends were wonderful people, they didn’t know any single guys to even introduce me to. One of my best friends and I struggled for about a year to get a singles ministry going at our church, with the goals of just giving people like us a way to build community and find ways to serve. But we just couldn’t seem to find the support we needed to keep it going. And on the occasions that I tried online dating, there just didn’t seem to be any guys that had genuine faith, let alone clicked with my own weirdness. (I loved that, Rebecca!) When I did meet my husband, it was on a random visit to a different church with my sister in law, and he later admitted that he’d been considering leaving because he never was able to feel connected there. I also have single, Christian female friends and cousins who are still struggling through the scene, and there’s just no easy answers.

            Arwen, I hope it works out for you!

    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Honestly, it is just a really tough situation. And there isn’t really an easy answer, unfortunately, because the numbers are just the numbers. But the reality is that God does give us free will–and right now it seems that more women are accepting him than men are.

      I think all we can really do in terms of finding a mate is just being sure to do as much as one can to be available to meet as many great Christian men as possible. Because then women will put themselves in the best possible situation to meet a great guy and get married. Because even if the pool of Christian men is smaller than the pool of Christian women, there are still a LOT of Christian men out there. So changing churches if necessary, getting involved in volunteer or outreach groups, and getting heavily invested in serving at a church to get really plugged into a community can all help connect women with the Christian men in their area.

      I also don’t think that it’s that there is necessarily fake women in church–I do think that there is something about the church that makes it less welcoming for men than for women. And I think that’s an important conversation that churches need to engage in more often–especially when looking at young people’s groups on campus, for example, it’s often filled with far more women than men. Can we be doing better for the young men out there who are searching?

      But yeah, I agree that it’s not great to say there are more women than men in the church. I wish it wasn’t so. But that’s just the reality right now and I don’t really know how else to say it without lying. :/ So I guess the answer is just to figure out, “Within this reality, what can I do about it?” and then try to make an emphasis to encourage the men in our congregations to be strong in their faith and to minister to the other men around them who don’t know Jesus yet. Thoughts?

      • Arwen

        Rebecca, your reply was amazingly wonderful. I agree with everything you’re saying, 100%!! I’ll just have to trust in God that if He really wants you to get married then the gates of hell can’t stop Him. Thank you!

      • Hanna

        That’s really thoughtful! Thank you. For me, I think the root of the issue is this general thought: “if there is not enough for everyone, why would God choose to bless me specifically? If he has to choose between giving to me and giving to someone else, he’s obviously not going to choose me.” And that’s not an issue with romantic relationships, it’s an issue with my relationship with God that manifests in the romantic relationships area.

  2. Melisa S

    A couple of things I would add to the mother-daughter thing.

    When going off to college, we have a newfound independence and that just feels good. I had some issues like that with my mom when I was away. I would go for a long time not calling or texting, not because I didn’t want to but because I knew mom would want to talk for a long while and all I had was two minutes in between class or something. And then if we did talk I lived in a very thin walled dorm room, so sometimes I didn’t want to talk because others could hear me. Sometimes my dad would angry text me, CALL YOUR MOTHER! Haha! I was never mad at them or intentionally wanted to push them away, but I was finding out how to be my own person while at the same time learning to deal with the stress of school.

    Another thing is that there is this weird transition that happens for us kids when we become adult children. I know this was especially hard for me. Mom all of a sudden saw me as her new best friend and wanted to talk about anything and everything! I was so overwhelmed, and honestly there were some things I really wished she wouldn’t talk with me about in great detail (for example relationship bumps with my dad – in her defense it was never too bad, she was just looking for someone to listen who wouldn’t be too harsh on dad or her – and well I know both of them really well so, yeah – all to say it was overwhelming for me to be thrown into a roll I never asked for). So the problem was she wanted to talk about it all and know all my opinions, while I was still learning what opinions I even had and was not sure mom was the one I wanted to share them with first (in my mind my parents would have been more judgmental about my differing opinions than my friends would have been – especially when my opinions were still being formed). Now I know this second thing was not entirely true as my parents would have been a safe place for me to explore my thoughts and beliefs, but collage-aged me could not see that. I only see that in retrospect. I’ve come a long way since, but there are still moments when being an adult daughter catch me off guard.

    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      SUCH good points, Melisa. It’s really a weird transition for everyone, and this is a great example of some of the awkwardness that can ensue as you’re trying to find your new normal! Thanks for sharing that–it’s really helpful.

  3. Bethany

    I really enjoyed this episode, thanks guys! Here is my own story of dating.

    My husband was the first guy I dated, and we met when I was 25. I had gone out on some dates before then, but nothing boyfriend wise. I was awkward and shy, and had trouble having friends really until college (despite my parents doing a really good job of keeping kids around as you suggest, I think I might have needed more explicit instruction on how to interact with other human beings.

    I mostly invested in my female friendships in college, and I really don’t regret that. I knew a few men, but largely spent that time building close relationships with four women. It was incredibly helpful and rewarding personal growth-wise, spiritually, academically, etc. to spend that time with those people. I also spent a semester abroad.

    After college, I lived at home for a year and then went to graduate school, during which I spent a year in Germany. I made a lot of friends and got myself out there in ways I hadn’t before, and it was really fun, I had a huge crush on a guy who figured it out and directly told me he wasn’t interested (which was embarrassing but as a friend back home pointed out, at least I was being outgoing enough for someone to notice).

    When I headed back home, I decided to change churches from my (dear, wonderful, tiny Anglican church) to a church closer to my new apartment that had actual single men at it. The first church I ended up trying out was one in walking distance, as I didn’t have a car, and the first Sunday there, a small group leader (almost literally) grabbed me and told me I was going to go to her small group that week.

    I did, and that’s where I met my husband. At the wedding a couple years later, she and her husband told us they were pretty sure I was the person for him and they really intentionally encouraged the relationship (he’s definitely a weird one, so I must be too 😀 ). We’ve been married seven years, and we’ve worked hard but it has been so good and happy and fun.

    I think it is really good to be open to relationships and to prioritize what you want, but I also think that I was a kinda late bloomer, and I’m glad I didn’t get married right out of college and had some time to work on things on my own a bit. I’m also glad my parents never made me feel less-than for being kind of awkward. So I think all that is important.

    As a parent now, I want to encourage my kids to think about and prioritize what they want, and not put it off. I also want to help them develop really good social and emotional skills, so maybe they will not be quite as lost as I was at times.

    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      And that’s exactly why it’s important to emphasize that there isn’t a “right” way to get married, Bethany! 🙂

      I love what you said at the end there, about how it’s a good idea to be open to relationships but you’re also grateful for the journey you had. I think that’s exactly it–we need to allow our children to be open to what comes along but then also not pressure them to get married by 21. We can’t predict when a great person will come along–so be ready at any time, but also be willing to wait if it’s just not happening for a while.

      Thanks for sharing!

  4. EM

    I’ve got a thought for the reader question. I think she should examine their conversations and see if she’s giving a lot of opinions and advice when she talks to her daughter. Sex, religion & politics are very charged topics! Young adults want to figure things out for themselves and just know that you’re there for them if they need you. My mom is super wise and I really respect her opinion. She does a great job of listening, and only giving advice if I specifically ask. Which I do, because I trust her and I know she won’t force her opinions on me. I would suggest just listening for a while and see if that helps!

    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Good point, EM. Often we can feel like the conversation is a pleasant and happy one but it can actually feel quite charged and emotional to the recipient if you’re offering unsolicited advice or opinions on hot-button topics.

    • Madeline

      That’s a really good suggestion, EM! I think that parents (and older people in general) get used to being in the teaching/informing role and then don’t realize how they sound to young adults. My Dad is actually really good about wanting to hear my thoughts on religion/politics/etc and having genuine conversation where we both share what we think and listen to the other. I’ve avoided similar discussions with certain other older adults in my family because the conversation felt one-sided like I was just being lectured, but I never have avoided these with my Dad.

  5. Rebecca Lindenbach

    Yes, that is definitely important, Karen! And in those situations, I think it’s more than reasonable to just set deadlines. Like “You need to get me this by Friday or else you don’t have car insurance anymore.” That’s just adult life.

    But also, those conversations become a lot easier if they’re not peppered into a 3-hour long talk about sex, religion and politics. 🙂 Focusing on making the relationship a low-stress experience can make those little check-in updates that are necessary to talk about much lower stress and much easier for everyone.

  6. Madeline

    Wow, I really wish more parents of young adult (or ‘baby adult’ ha!) children could hear the reader question segment of this podcast! Thankfully most of my friends and I are out of that awkward stage now, but those years were pretty stressful for both parents and children! I wish more parents could understand that oftentimes, it isn’t personal to you, but your adult child just needs to explore his or her own worldview…without too much feedback from you. Not to sound harsh, but your child already knows what you think. It doesn’t make you a bad or controlling parent if your adult child craves more space. It also doesn’t mean that you don’t still play a VERY special role in their life if you stay away from intense discussion topics for a while! It is totally okay to just chat about the work you’ve been doing in the yard or you tried adding kale to your smoothie or whatever harmless subjects, especially while the young adult is transitioning into fully-fledged adulthood.

  7. Natalie

    FANTASTIC episode, ladies!

    I was taught by my mother that there was a special man out there hand-picked for me by God, and that I’d meet him in God’s timing. I do still believe in God’s timing. But looking back at my teens and 20s (since I’ll be 30 later this year), I really wish Sheila’s message above had been stressed to me instead of the “there’s one guy out there for you” message I got. It not only added unnecessary stress to my dating life (or lack there of since only 2 guys in my life have asked me out on dates), but once I was married, also made me question if I’d actually found and married the right “one” or if I’d jumped the gun and not married the man God had preordained for me. Add into the mix that my husband wasn’t officially a follower of Jesus for 3 1/2 of the 5 years we dated (though he was “religious”) before getting married, and my questioning becomes even greater. (Yes, I “missionary dated” because I wasn’t happy with the selection of Christian guys in my circles. Also, none of them had asked me out and I never asked them out because that would’ve broken the Christian dating/relationship gender roles I was taught). I find those questioning thoughts creeping back into my mind frequently when my husband and I are in disagreement or having a tiff, even though I don’t believe the whole “there’s one man for you” philosophy any more.

    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      I think that doubt and fear creeping in during marriage makes so much sense when you believe in the one-man-for-you dating mentality! I hope that reminding yourself of a different message, that you were allowed to make a choice and you had options and you chose your husband and so now he IS your “one-and-only”, can help when the fears creep back in, because that can be so difficult!

  8. Liesl

    Our church has recently started a “Young professionals” ministry, in addition to the youth ministry that has existed for years. The idea is to get young working people together and the term is defined as if you feel you are a young professional you are welcome to join. There is a surprising number of single young professionals in our church.

  9. Gina Chambers

    Can you tell me the name of the author and book title mentioned in the reader question portion of the podcast? Great podcast as always, thank you!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I don’t remember what we were talking about precisely, but I think it was Rebecca Lindenbach’s book Why I Didn’t Rebel!


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