Gary Chapman: Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married

Last updated: March 23, 2022

“Why do you have to work on a marriage? If you love each other, isn’t that all that matters?”

This book is about learning the skills to work together as teammates in an intimate relationship. It posits that being in love is not a sufficient foundation on which to build a successful marriage.

Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Got Married by Gary Chapman book cover
Book cover, credit Wardah Books in Singapore

Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married is written by Gary Chapman. He’s the author of The 5 Love Languages.

My Random Notes From The Book

  • “Nobody gets married planning on getting divorced.”
  • Most people spend more time planning their wedding than they do planning their marriage.
  • End of chapter action items: I really like how the author included bullet points and to-do lists at the end of each chapter.
  • The chapter in the Appendix on “Developing a Healthy Dating Relationship” is a must-read for anyone in a serious dating relationship now.
  • There were a lot of Christian overtones that I hadn’t anticipated, especially in Chapter 11. I live a rather secular life, so it was surprising to me to read so many Bible quotes.
  • Activity: make list of tasks or chores or household duties (like taking out the trash), and which partner you think will do each one after you get married.
  • Argument that some couples use for why not to read this book: “It’s too early to do these types of activities in our relationship.” Counter-argument: But making the space for these types of conversations NOW is better and easier, as opposed to later and saying, “Is there a problem?? Why now??” Start preparing long beforehand.

Book Club with Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Got Married book cover on iPad
L to R: Derek Halpern, Steve Kamb, me (Nick Gray), Ramit Sethi, and Wayne Mulligan

Questions For Our Book Club

  • What questions would you add to this list? What did Gary leave out?
  • Apology language: Did anything here come up for you?
  • Charity and charitable giving: The author recommends giving away 10% of your post-tax income to charity. How much do you give as a percentage of your annual income?
  • Have you shared your goals with your partners? What personal accomplishments and personal failures have you talked about?

Selected Highlights

“Being in love is not a sufficient foundation on which to build a successful marriage.”

The first foundational stone in developing a financial plan is to agree that after marriage, it will no longer be “my money” and “your money” but “our money.”

page 85

People do not get married planning to divorce. Divorce is the result of a lack of preparation for marriage and the failure to learn the skills of working together as teammates in an intimate relationship.

page 10

Memorize this question and use it the next time you have a conflict: “How can we resolve this conflict so that both of us feel loved and appreciated?”

page 48

Book Club Feedback on Gary Chapman and the book

Here are some of my notes and take-aways from our book club discussion.

  • You can agree on things beforehand, like who will take out the trash or who will wake up in the middle of the night to feed the baby, but when the time comes, things change. Your agreements that you might make after reading this book will change. They might not be fair, or your life situations change — but things change. Don’t assume that you will set agreements with your partner that will be set in stone five years later.
  • Napoleon quote: “Even the best laid battle plans go out the window the minute battle starts.” Or: Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
  • One thing the book NAILED perfectly: What did your parents do? Regarding things like household chores and taking out the trash. It is very likely that you and your partner will assume the same domestic roles that played out in your family.
  • ACTIVITY WE SHOULD ALL DO: What are my parents love languages? Ask parents to take the test.
  • The framework of Gary’s other book, The 5 Love Languages, especially how he easily shared them in this book: really helpful.
  • Building a habit of constant change, and constant improvement. This was something we all said was important to us in our relationships.
  • “Society will tell us that we’re different and we’re weird for reading a book like this or having weekly check-in meetings with our spouses. Making that normal, and having the courage to be who we’re meant to be, is important.”
  • Biggest question that the author left out, per Ramit and book club: “What type of lifestyle do we want to live?” Or from my girlfriend: “What do you want a typical day to look like?”

Book Club Logistical Info

We met in a nice cozy Breather space in Manhattan on West 19th Street.

Blue sofa and rug underneath with table and chair nearby
Photo from the Breather app of the space we rented for this book club. Thanks to my company, Museum Hack, for helping with the space rental!

Since it was over two months from our last meeting, we took a long time to catch up.

Each person went around the circle to share some big personal and professional wins. This took us about 70 minutes.

Brick wall inside an office with table and chairs
A summer Sunday morning sitting around this table with your best friends, talking about books. What could be better?


Then we took a short break and moved from the sofas to the meeting table to begin our book club discussion. We talked about the book for two hours.

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