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Archive for September, 2009

Read Part One.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”

Genesis 2:24

One of the keys to blissful marriage is promise, dedication and obligation to your spouse, but that does not mean you need to abandon everyone around you. It does mean commitment to your spouse obtains priority above all other commitments (save your faithfulness to God).

A proper prioritization of commitments not only allows for a beautiful marriage, it also strengthens our relationships with our friends, coworkers — everyone we come in contact with.

Kristin’s Story:

I grew up in a formal atmosphere. My family’s love for each other was a quiet comfort — like a warm blanket fresh from the laundry. We respected each other’s privacy and did not intrude unless invited.

Eric’s family, on the other hand, was like an alien culture to me.

  • Where my family was quiet, Eric’s was loud.
  • Where mine was private, Eric’s was embarrassingly open.
  • Where mine was small (I grew up with two siblings), Eric’s (with seven children, and more aunts, uncles, and cousins than I care to count) was enormous.
  • Where mine was a warm blanket, Eric’s was a day at the carnival.

Upon engagement, my in-laws were ecstatic and took me in as if they were gaining a new daughter.

I confess their joy was a bit overwhelming.

Due to their exuberance, I felt intruded upon simply because their boundaries differed from those I grew up with. I used my formal politeness as a shield to keep them out. I was often uneasy inside.

Eric was a great help during all of this. I think he “left” his family before we met, so when we became engaged, he was ready to cling to me.

He patiently encouraged me to spend time with his family while being a buffer when I found interactions uncomfortable.

After seven years now, I have opened myself up to my in-laws. I have shed most of the formalness and am more casual with them (as they are interacting with one another).

Kristin’s Analysis:

Eric’s family had their priorities straight, so leaving them was a simple affair.

Commitment HandsThey supported us in becoming a family, and they created an atmosphere where I felt comfortable to go to them for advice, but I could also ignore them and focus on Eric without offending them.

I feel the biggest difference between the way my family reacted to my engagement and the way Eric’s did is that my family was not prepared to see me leave, where Eric’s had already let go.

Eric’s Story:

While going through my rebellious teenage years (and I rebelled against my parents to the point it shames me), I terrorized my mother.

After fighting with her over something I can’t remember, my father came to me and said in his you-need-to-pay-attention voice, “I better not ever hear you talk to your mom like that again. I love her, and if I have to protect her from you, I will.”

Eric’s Analysis:

My father’s statement taught me a lesson: Your wife needs to be the most important person in you life. By prioritizing his commitments, my father was able to courageously stand up with conviction and tell me I was wrong.

One of the fundamental principles in any happy marriage is commitment to your spouse. In certain circumstances, commitment needs to be to the exclusion of others. In other situations, it needn’t be so drastic.

A shift in commitment — from the family you grew up in to the family you start — is what it means to leave your old family in order to begin a new one. If you aren’t committed, your family will suffer.

Where do your commitments lie? What are your obligations? Are any of them greater than the one to your family? Could you leave them all behind if your family needed you to?

Spend some time thinking about this. Talk it over with your loved ones. Prioritize who and what is most important to you. Here’s a little hint: A “who” that you love should always come before a “what.”

Image: ©iStockphoto.com/khilagan

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For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

Genesis 2:24

When you marry you have to leave your old family behind in order to create a new one. When you marry, you make sacred vows with your spouse, God, and nobody else. When you marry, you start a new family.

This holds true whether or not you get along with your old family. (We will talk about family you get along with in the next article.)

Kris and I have attended numerous weddings of friends and family. We’ve heard promises of love and fidelity, honor and cherishing, doing right before God, so on and so forth.

We’ve never heard, “I swear to hold the beliefs of my family dearer than your beliefs,” or anything even comparable to that statement.

When Kristin accepted my marriage proposal, a suspicious thing happened — her family abruptly went frigid. Over phone calls, they consistently delivered assumption after assumption about my character, attempting to dissuade Kristin from matrimony.

Kristin’s View:

There’s no gentle way to tell this story because there’s little gentleness about it.

A horrible thing happened. My family turned on me. At first they were concerned that I was making a hasty decision in getting married, but their unease became an excuse to throw daggers at Eric’s personality.

Girl Crying on PhoneMy heart broke, and the grief in losing my family’s trust became a living creature swallowing up all the tender, newfound joy I had in being engaged. Every phone conversation ended in heart-wrenching sorrow as I staggered under the attacks of a man they chose not to know.

Malicious gossip began spreading from and through my own family members. I heard my beautiful future plans as a wife twisted into an unrecognizable distortion. My pristine reputation was slandered. I was savagely ripped apart. I couldn’t breathe.

Intimate pieces of me were brutally torn and I couldn’t hold my wounds tight enough together to stop the bleeding. These were wounds I wasn’t sure I would survive.

Eric’s View:

As the friction between Kris and her family escalated, her conflict nurtured my own. The vigilant-protector side of me wanted to scream and fight, while the compassionate-family-man side of me wanted to see us all together, working cohesively.

I felt I could be the vigilant-protector in this situation, but I could not be the compassionate-family-man — I couldn’t force Kristin’s family to accept me, but I could fight against them.

All of us working together was ideal; fighting was pragmatic. What can you do when your choices are either impossible or undesirable?

I’m ashamed to admit that I did fight against them for a time. I convinced myself they had no right to pass judgment on Kristin’s choice; she was an adult and could decide for herself. Aggression only breeds aggression and I saw first-hand how aggression caused Kristin’s suffering.

Kristin’s Analysis:

In the end I had to make a decision, to remain a daughter and sister to my family by not getting married or to leave them and cleave to Eric; therein building a family of my own. I chose Eric, because I truly believed that he was (and still is) the perfect match for me as a husband.

Having my childhood family ties cut so severely blessed me by having Eric as my sole support for the road ahead. It gave us a jumpstart on learning how to talk to one another when things didn’t go as expected or when incorrect assumptions were acted upon. God truly can turn every bad thing to His glory.

Eric’s Analysis:

We faced a problem. Initially, we thought it was Kristin’s family didn’t like her choice in a husband. But that wasn’t the real problem. Then we thought it was Kristin had to choose either me or her family, and I had to choose either the impossible ideal or the upsetting pragmatic. Again, wrong.

Our problem was the solutions we’d come up with — where no matter what choice we made someone ended up hurt. How did we solve it? We dropped the ball. That isn’t to say we accidentally let the ball slip from our hands. It is to say we didn’t like the way the game was being scored, so we stopped.

We intentionally quit playing their game and started our own. Our new game was called “Eric and Kristin Build a Life Together,” and Kristin’s family was invited to join but no longer make the rules.

To put it simply, we stopped looking at Kristin’s family as the problem (which it never was), and started looking at how we were handling our circumstance. We gripped the problem with our oun hands; thus giving us the control.

How would Kris and I ever be able to develop a loving family together if we constantly focused on the turmoil around us? Turmoil, mind you, neither of us had any control over.

We know our friends and family love us, but in spite of all they’ve done and said, they don’t know what is best for us. God knows, and thankfully we listen to Him.

You should too.

P.S. Today marks the first day of our seventh year of marriage, and we are happier, our relationship is hardier, and our love is more heartfelt than ever before.

Image: ©iStockphoto.com/sdominik

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