It’s been said that when we married our Prince or Princess Charming, we actually inherited the King, the Queen, and the whole court. How does a marriage survive the pressures from family members and friends? ♦
Bob and Lesley – family patterns. Bob and Lesley were newlyweds in love and excited about their new apartment. Living now less than 5 miles from Bob’s parents, Lesley didn’t mind having dinner at her in-laws’ house on Sunday evenings. Lesley would bring part of the meal and they would stay well into the evening watching television. It only took a few months however before Lesley started to realize that she longed for their own private weekend time.
Jim and Nancy – friends night out. Jim and Nancy each had many friends prior to their wedding and continued to see them regularly – sometimes alone and often together as a couple. Into their second year of marriage Jim insisted that he be able to continue his weekly Wednesday night card game with his buddies as well as his weekend sports activities. Nancy pushed back with her own Girl’s Night Out but started to deeply resent Jim’s activities and friends.
Bill and Mary – mother knows best. Bill and Mary each grew up particularly close to their parents and siblings. Bill was a good son who often stopped by his mother’s house to check in on her. As a widow, his mother loved his visits and often injected herself, and her opinions, into all aspects of Bill and Mary’s growing young family life. Mary was gracious but was starting to wonder where to draw the line on her mother-in-law’s constant involvement in their lives.
The Bible and Marriage, Friends and Family
The Bible does not specifically break down the do’s and don’ts of healthy marriages and appropriate balance and interaction between friends and family. That would be too easy. Nevertheless, the Bible is very clear on a few issues that, when applied, bring striking clarity to the roles and boundaries of all parties involved.
Let’s address 3 clear-cut items:
- Cut the Ties with Parents – As harsh as that may sound, consider the Biblical mandate for marriage spelled out in Genesis 2, then again by Christ in the New Testament: Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves (adheres like glue) to his wife, and they become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9) Many marriages get into a bind or unhealthy patterns when the husband or wife do not completely “leave” Mom and Dad and “cleave” to each other. Sounds simple but it’s an easy trap. If either spouse continues to return to their parent(s) for advice, comfort, and emotional dependency, the development of the marital bond is not allowed to grow strong, tested and weathered.
- Practical Step: Sit down as a couple and honestly assess and identify the patterns with your parents and in-laws. Be in alignment first as a couple and then sit down with each of your parents and explain your love for them but your commitment to each other first as part of your marriage vows. Be honest with your objective to grow strong and independent as a couple and to be healthy in all of your relationships. NOTE: Financial support can fall into the category of dependency, but sometimes cannot be avoided. The issue of leaving and cleaving is primarily around emotional dependency at the expense of the marital relationship.
- Put Spouse Before Friends & Family – This is another tough one to swallow considering the closeness and deep-seated relationships with friends and family members. This is not a call to cut off other relationships, only an edict to set priorities. After God, your marriage rates highest. Ideally we’re to marry early in life, one man to one woman – “May your fountain be blessed and may you enjoy the wife of your youth.” (Proverbs 5:18) Your spouse should be a lifelong friend, and as such, should be cherished above all other old and new relationships, even that of your parents, who are to be honored. (Ephesians 6:2)
- Practical Step: Assess your circle of friends and close family members. As marriage is Biblical and serious, discuss strategies with your spouse on ways to maintain healthy relationship balance with those that are significant in your life after your own spouse. It’s fair to have time with friends, just be clear, deliberate and considerate. NOTE: Contrary to shallow research and commentary on the matter, marriage is not a human construct. God created marriage. He alone. Only in the Bible do we get the specifics on a marriage between only a man and a woman. Don’t depend on Wikipedia as your information source. And don’t let polygamy doctrines or Biblical men with multiple wives confuse you. This is not the natural law of God, but “pre-Law” living and/or cultural sin.
- Love Your Wife; Respect Your Husband – All marriages would be healthy if we followed this simple Biblical instruction: “…each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:33) Love for the woman, respect for the man – that’s the formula. Paul has it right in his profoundly practical Letter to the Ephesians that includes lofty theological affirmations but firm exhortations to Christians in their daily lives, in relation to each other, to the world, and in the family.
- Practical Step: When all else fails, men, default to this simple call to truly love your wife. And women, respecting your husband and all which that entails will change his life and his reaction to you. Try it! These are so fundamental and true that they are easily forgotten or lost in the shuffle. Stay on it and watch hearts melt. NOTE: More often than not it is me in our marriage relationship (even after 36 years) that gets blinded to this Godly truth. I need only repent to God and my wife and proactively demonstrate selfless love, then all is right in our world. Including an uptick in respect, which begets more acts of love, etc. Fortunately we have a forgiving God and I have a forgiving wife.
Bob and Lesley, Jim and Nancy, and Bill and Mary have some work to do. But if each took to heart the 3 key issues listed above, and lovingly and appropriately included their parents and friends into the discussion of their new resolve, they’d see their relationship take an exciting, healthy and tangible shift in the right direction.
How are you doing with your own marriage, friends and family?
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8