“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” – Genesis 2:24
You may or may not have heard the common saying, “When you marry someone, you also marry their family.” Both fortunately and unfortunately, this is a pretty true statement for both partners in a marriage.
In many ways, this can be a blessing. For example, our parents are the people that raised us, and typically are always there to support us when we need it. They’ve also been through trials and tribulations over the years that may give them more wisdom and insight on an issue that we may be facing. Of course, this can also be a curse if the parent is overbearing or displays other negative traits that can not only hurt your relationship with them but also hurt your marriage as well.
There are seven issues that seem to be the most common problems in dealing with overbearing parents and in-laws. Let’s take a look at each of them:
Maybe you’ve dealt with it– a family member, typically a parent, coming over to your home completely unannounced. For some families, this may not be an issue, but many couples, especially newlyweds, cherish their privacy and unexpected arrivals can often be rather uncomfortable and upsetting.
Other parents are ‘kind enough’ to call ahead, but come over very frequently for visits- still leaving the couple wanting for privacy or time together with their own children. For some budding families, this is a difficult obstacle to overcome because neither wishes to be rude to the parents and hurt their feelings, and they also may feel a small sense of comfort at having their parent or parents show up frequently (like a baby’s pacifier or blanket).
The Bible has told us: Jesus answered,
“Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate. -Matthew 19:4-6
God’s will is pretty clear-cut on this. Leave your blanket at home and become one with your spouse. To truly follow God’s will in this way, sit down and discuss with your spouse the best way to handle the intrusive parents, asking for his opinion and praying together over the issue. This is especially important if the intrusive parents are his family because, like a mother is protective of their child, children (even adult ones) tend to also be protective of their parents– saying something to your in-laws about popping in at random times might cause a problem between you and your husband if you do not first discuss it.
Everyone has an opinion on the right way to parent.
If you’re a parent, you’ve already discovered this– even before the birth of your baby. Actually, people even have opinions on how you should get pregnant if you and your spouse have decided to have a baby. Surprisingly, our parents are no different.
Most parents or relatives don’t particularly mean any harm when they suggest a certain change in your typical parenting procedures. Their mind is set upon the belief that they have successfully raised you and any siblings you may have, and thus have a boundless amount of knowledge to share with you on the subject. This is always such a funny thought process because, while the basic issues like dealing with fever, teething, bathing, clothing, etc., never changes, the child itself does- God has made us all unique.
You alone created my inner being. You knitted me together inside my mother. I will give thanks to you because I have been so amazingly and miraculously made. Your works are miraculous, and my soul is fully aware of this. -Psalm 139:13-14
You are a child of your mother and father, and while you may share traits with your parents, ultimately, you are a child of God. You will like things that your parents do not like. You will do things that your parents did not do.
God did not create you to do what your parents did. Your child is in the exact same place that you are– he or she is a completely unique person. Therefore, the tips your mother gave you on potty-training (based on how it worked with you) may completely fail for you. This is a small example, as many parents, in-laws or relatives push their opinion on much larger issues, but the idea remains.
Whether it is your parents pushing their parenting beliefs or your spouse’s parents, you must openly address that God has made your child completely unique and that you are doing what you feel is best for your child and may not want to solicit ‘advice.’
Family Traditions & Identity
From the moment a man and woman begin to date, they begin building memories together. If their dating leads to marriage, even more memories and opportunity for memories are made. Fond memories are what we build traditions on.
The problem is, we’ve also got traditions with our family as well. If the family tradition has been going on for even just a few years or even if you all know it’s boring, there’s nothing really exciting and happening, this can really step on some toes.
While you both cherish the traditions of your respective families, and you understand why your parents want to hold on to them, you may also want to establish traditions of your own for your little family unit. And boy, is that hard to do when you’re sprinting from one parent’s house to the next. You can suck it up for awhile, and even manage to get over your frustrations, mainly by avoiding the emotional blackmail or guilt. But you’ll realize that with each passing year, you will grow more and more frustrated with the extended family setup.
As with the problem with intrusiveness, it’s an issue that needs to be addressed. Pray diligently on the subject and then break it to your (or his) parents that you need to have space to create your own traditions for your family just like you created traditions with them.
Also explain that it doesn’t mean that you don’t still love the memories that you made with your family, and request, if you believe it necessary, for your parents to consider having discussions with your siblings about the subject as well.
“You’re really not coming to the family reunion?! I can’t believe you wouldn’t show up to see your family!”
Some may agree that not going to a family reunion is worth getting chewed out by a parent, but then again, others may believe that it’s rather uncomfortable to be shamed into attending an event filled with ‘family’ or even family friends they do not recognize and that makes no attempt whatsoever to contact them outside of the reunion.
After all, it’s one thing to see a cousin that you grew up with and were close to after a couple of years of separation, but being in a group of people who claim the last time they saw you was when you were a baby is quite uncomfortable for most. Let’s be honest here and imagine how your husband would feel in such a situation.
Family reunions and other similar events aren’t always so uncomfortable and can often be lots of fun, but if you know know ahead of time what the event will be like, it’s usually wiser to try to avoid it if possible.
Explain to parents that you’re uncomfortable in the situation and that it also makes your spouse uncomfortable as well. This may leave room for your parents or his to criticize you or your spouse, but it is best to be firm, explain your reasoning for not going and follow through with your decision. Once your parents realize that you’re not giving into the emotional blackmail, they will see that the results are not what they wanted and will stop.
Click HERE for Part 2. We’ll tackle:
Favoritism, Criticism, and Financial Assistance.