Wednesday, July 8, 2015
part 2 - Respectfully Leaving Your parents by Dennis and Barbara Rainey
Sometimes without realizing it, we may allow our parents to reestablish the severed connections.
When parents want to reattach
It could occur during a Christmas visit. It might happen during a phone call when the child mentions to the parent some disappointment or failure experienced in the marriage relationship.
I remember how, early in our marriage, I shared a weakness about Barbara with my mother. Now my mom was a great mother, but I was astounded at how she rushed to my side, like a mother hen coming to aid her wounded little chick. Her response startled me. I told Barbara about it and apologized. I promised I would not again discuss negative things about her with my mom.
You must not allow parents to innocently (or not so innocently) drive a wedge between you and your spouse. Some parents may seek to manipulate and control their child. For example, a father won't stop telling his "little girl" what to do. The husband may need to step in and explain to his wife how destructive this is to the health of the marriage. Boundaries limiting the amount of communication between father and daughter may need to be installed for the long or short term.
Or a mother may be trying to call the shots with her son. The wife needs to explain carefully to her husband what she is observing. If the situation doesn't improve, there may need to be a cooling-off period where the husband minimizes contact with his mother and directs his attention toward his wife.
These showdowns may be intimidating for either spouse, but boundaries need clarification. You may need to call on an older mentor for advice before you take action, but your allegiance must first and foremost be to your spouse.
At this point, I want to encourage you husbands to be the man and protect your wife. Sometimes you may need to graciously but firmly step in and shield her from a manipulative parent. I implore you to gently guard your wife's heart and your marriage from a dad or mom whose intentions may be good but counterproductive.
If you are having trouble maintaining a clean break as a couple, you may decide to spend less time at home for out-of-town visits. Instead of a week, perhaps the stay should be shortened to two or three days. Or skip a holiday altogether, just as a way of clarifying where your primary commitment lies.
A way to forestall some misunderstandings and help with decision making is to determine your family's values early in the marriage. For instance, one value may be establishing your own family's Christmas traditions as your children leave infancy. It will make it easier to explain your choices to your parents if you have a clear idea of what you are doing and why you are doing it.
As your parents grow older, they may need your assistance. Again, approach this issue prayerfully as a team. Take as much time as you can to make decisions, especially those with long-term ramifications. Some choices will be very difficult, but in most cases, the health of the marriage must take precedence. Although you must consider the financial implications, a parent may need to live at a retirement center instead of with you, if the parent's presence will adversely affect your marriage.
One final thing to keep in mind: Leaving is not a one-time event or limited to the early years of marriage. The temptation to reconnect some of the old bonding lines will continue as long as parents are alive. For example, when grandchildren come along, most parents want to share from their vast stores of experience on how to raise kids.Both parents and their children need to remain on guard so that leaving remains just that—a healthy, God-ordained realignment of the parent-child relationship.
Adapted from Starting Your Marriage Right,© 2000 by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
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