We often think of humanity as a lot of random individuals. We might picture thick crowds randomly rubbing shoulders in big, soulless cities.
But that is not how God sees us. Yes, there certainly is an individual aspect to our faith in Christ. In both the Old and New Testaments, however, we are often called “God’s people.” The Bible refers to us as “ a royal priesthood,” “a holy nation,” and a “household of faith,” to name a few (1 Peter 2:9) (Deuteronomy 14:2).
This means that in a very real sense, our identity stems from our families, the Church, and the societies to which we belong. But the most significant influence comes from our family of origin (the family in which we grew up). Our assumptions about the world, our beliefs, and our loyalties are hardwired by our family of origin, even if it’s been decades since we left home.
Our opinions about anything from men’s and women’s roles to the “correct” way of loading a dishwasher mainly originate from our upbringing. And… we carry all of these opinions into marriage. When two people marry, it might be more accurate to say that two families are marrying.
And it can be a problem. In a UCLA study, researchers discovered that in-law/extended family relationship dynamics ranked as a top cause of conflict for the couples surveyed.
Whether or not you intend to, you will carry your family into your marriage. There are two primary ways married couples usually err when it comes to their family of origin:
- FAILURE TO “LEAVE” AND “CLEAVE”:
Once you are married, it is crucial to separate from your parents. God says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, KJV).
Leaving can be especially difficult for younger couples. Particularly if you come from a strong or dominant family or enjoy a close relationship with your parents.
God asks us to cut ourselves off from our parents in one sense. You are leaving one family and creating a brand new family. It doesn’t necessitate an absolute break, of course. Consulting your parents can still be helpful, for example, but making your own decisions as a new family is essential.
This plays out in five primary areas:
Sit down with your spouse and review the above list to ensure that you are respecting the boundaries between you and your parents in each of these areas.
- FAILURE TO HONOR YOUR PARENTS:
Other couples have the opposite problem. Maybe you can’t wait to escape your family of origin. If you had a complicated or unhealthy relationship with your parents or a dysfunctional or abusive upbringing, “leaving and cleaving” will seem easy.
Additionally, some parents need help letting their children go and often overstep the boundaries. God says, “Honor your father and mother so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). Yes, even if they are difficult.
If this seems impossible, you might want to seek counsel or help in this area. It is worth mentioning that the same principle applies here as does in the principle of forgivingness. If your parents wronged you in a major way, remember that forgiving and honoring them is not a gift you are giving them but a gift that God is giving you! God offers you freedom from bitterness, for example.
So, how can you leave and cleave while still honoring and respecting your parents?
Creating a healthy marriage is hard work. More importantly, it is a spiritual work. Meaning it cannot be done apart from God’s grace.
One of your highest priorities is to pray as a couple. That is why we started this series with an article on prayer. God knew marriage would be hard when He created it–He specifically wants us to ask for help!
Want to Dive Deeper?
How can you apply these principles in your marriage? How can you create healthy communication and healthy habits when dealing with your family of origin?
If you are interested in learning more about prayer and how to pray together as a married couple, please join us for our weekly DREAMarriage classes. Visit our website to find more information or to sign up to participate. We can’t wait to meet you!