Guest Contributor, Sheila Wray Gregoire, To Love Honor and Vacuum
Most of you are still recovering from Thanksgiving, and Christmas is just around the corner. While the turkey may be delicious, though, often these holidays add tremendous stress to our marriages, because extended family members play center stage. And while Grandmas and Grandpas can be so helpful with baby-sitting, in too many families they also can be quite trying—criticizing one’s housekeeping or parenting skills, or demanding loyalty.
So let me ask you a question: Have you truly “left” your family?
Remember the biblical injunction:
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
Before we can really form a close relationship with our spouse, we have to leave our parents. But what does that mean?
It doesn’t just mean that we leave their house. It means that they are no longer our primary source for emotional support or advice. When we need to make decisions, we don’t consider their needs first; we consider our husband’s. When we need to decide how to spend our limited time, we aren’t primarily concerned with our parents; we worry about our husbands.
Let me tell you about a woman we’ll call Sandra. Sandra was very in love with David, and David with her. Sandra’s mother, however, did not approve of the match. Sandra had grown up in a Christian home, and David had not. David was not exactly the ideal Christian husband, but he was the one whom Sandra chose. Yet Sandra’s mom called Sandra everyday, grilling her about how her husband was treating her.
When children came along, Sandra’s mom baby-sat, because she was afraid Sandra was overwhelmed. “He never helps you, honey,” her mom would say. “You need to rest or you’ll burn out.”
And so Sandra got the message, loud and clear: my husband treats me badly. And because her mother was willing to talk about this, she began confiding in her mom whenever she and David had marriage problems.
I was hardly surprised when, eight years into the marriage, Sandra announced she was leaving. “I’m moving back home,” she told me, because home was still where her mother was.
Never, ever, let your home be anywhere other than with your husband.
Yes, God wants us to honour our parents, but we must do so in the context of leaving them. Here’s how you can make that a God-honoring reality this year:
Leave Your Family
Often we aren’t aware how much we rely on our own biological family. When I was first married, I felt my family were the sane and together ones, and his family was completely dysfunctional. It wasn’t very long into our marriage until I almost flipped that assessment. But be aware that we often don’t see the flaws in our own families.
The best test of whether or not you have left is to honestly ask your husband if your parents are too much in your marriage–and then trust what he says. Men know if a mom is interfering too much, but often we don’t want to hear it. Believe him.
If you talk to your mom about everyday things on a daily basis, that’s fine. But if your mother is your main source of emotional support and the one you run to first, you may need to re-evaluate that relationship and make sure it’s not getting in the way of your marriage. Sit down and ask your husband honestly, and listen.
Love His Mom
Paul wrote, in Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
That especially applies to mother-in-laws! Your husband wants you to get along with his mom. You don’t have to be her best friend. You don’t have to be her kindred spirit. But you should be kind and considerate.
Sometimes we don’t get along because we expect too much: she should love me, accept me, and encourage me. Then when she doesn’t, we reject her right back. Put away those expectations, and just love her, even if that love isn’t reciprocated. Smile at her. Listen to her. Phone her every now and then just to say hi.
When you’re in her house, compliment her, help her, and let the things she says that bother you slide right off your back. You can choose not to take them to heart.
Cleave to Your Own Husband
After God spoke about leaving, He spoke about cleaving. We’re supposed to leave our families and cling to our spouses. What does that look like during the holidays?
Talk and dream with your husband about what you want Christmas to be like. If you’re both passionate about being home to wake up on Christmas morning with the kids, you might decide not to drive to Grandma’s the night before. Tell her that you will be available Christmas evening or Boxing Day.
Decide together what Christmas traditions you want, and then have that conversation with your parents. It may be hard to let them know you won’t be joining them Christmas Eve, but if that’s what you both feel is best, it really is okay. Your primary relationship in this life is now with each other. Pray and talk and dream of what that’s going to look like.
Your challenge this holiday season, then, is to leave your mom, love your mother-in-law, and cleave to your husband first. That’s God’s model, and with His help, you can do it!
About the Author:
Sheila Wray Gregoire is the author of five marriage and parenting books, including The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, out with Zondervan in January.
She blogs daily about living a godly life in our homes at:
To Love Honor and Vacuum
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