Why It Matters
The family your mate comes from says a lot about the person they are. The character, demeanor, habits, and beliefs get passed down one way or another and affect the way they relate to you. What’s important (or unimportant) in their family? What kind of values did they establish? What kinds of family traditions did they have (or not have). How much influence do your (potential) in-laws they have over your mate? What type of relationship do they have?
Our Story: Tug-of-War
When Jono and I started dating, one of the things that kept coming back up was the issue of my family. At the time, my parents had just gotten divorced, and things were rough in our household. There was a lot of tension between my dad and I because of the circumstances of the divorce. I felt like I had to compensate for the loss of my father by stepping in and doing everything I could do to make sure my mom was happy. That meant me conforming to her wishes most of the time. I wanted to be a dutiful daughter, but sometimes I went too far and allowed my mom’s influence to be the deciding factor in my decisions.
When I started dating Jono, my mom was completely against it. In her mind, he wasn’t husband material. I already had my bachelor’s degree and was on my way to applying to medical school. He was still trying to figure out his college major, and credit-wise was barely a freshman.
My mom’s opinion held a lot of weight. I didn’t like going against her wishes. So when I told her Jono and I were dating, there was a lot of tension between us. From then on, everything he did was under the microscope. And she made me feel guilty for simple things like going to church with him instead of at the church where I grew up.
It was a tough time in our relationship, but it forced me to re-examine my relationship with my mom and my family in general. I realized that I couldn’t live my life simply doing what my mom wanted me to do. I had to live my own life. Trying to please my parents AND live my own life at the same time never worked out. I had to start doing the things that were important to me.
My parents had valid concerns. They wanted me to be with a man who was serious about where he was headed in life, someone who would be able to take care of me. But instead of trusting the upbringing they gave me to give me wisdom in my decision-making, they tried to force me to do what they wanted. And that’s never good, good intentions or not.
It put me in a position where I had to constantly choose between them and my relationship with Jono. And it also put Jono in a very uncomfortable position because everything he did was overly-scrutinized and sometimes, misinterpreted.
Dealing with my family helped Jono see the good and bad sides of a close-knit family. Having been raised by his grandmother and abandoned by his own mother, he didn’t have a chance to grow up with his siblings. It was awkward at times for him being around my siblings and I because we would argue and the next day be talking again. He had to learn to understood how important it was to me to have certain family traditions and a close bond with my siblings and parents.
The flip side of that experience was that at times it was hard for me to draw the line between doing my duty to my family and being true to what I felt God was calling me to do with my life. That put a lot of tension in my relationship with Jono at times. Being in a serious relationship and considering marriage, meant that I had to make my own decisions and start putting my relationship with Jono as a priority that was on the SAME level as my relationship with my family.
It was a huge adjustment for the both of us. But understanding one another’s family backgrounds, and embracing one another’s differences instead of trying to change each other, made us stronger as a couple.
So dig deep into your partner’s family background. Understand who your (potential) in-laws are and why. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. Once you understand the dynamic of your partner’s family, you guys need to have a long talk about what traditions and habits you want to continue, and which ones you guys want to replace. Remember, if you’re considering marriage, you want to establish clear boundaries and expectations about what you guys want for the family that you’re starting.
Tune in next week for my new topic: Why Won’t My Boyfriend Open Up To Me?
I hope you learned a lot from this series. I really enjoyed writing it!
Till next time!
Check out the previous posts in my Are We Ready For Marriage Series here
P.S. Download your FREE copy of “Love Me This Way” where I share all the tea on the lessons I learned about REAL love my first few years of marriage. It’s an eye-opener!