Today, in our third of ten weeks of Marriage Prep 101, we’re discussing connection to family.
Photo : Sourced from Marriage&Family Website
In marrying another person, you are also marrying their family, and it’s good to know something about that family before you enter into a lifelong partnership. Like how much of a part of your life do they want to be—and how involved (or uninvolved) do both of you want them to be? Before you tie the knot, it’s important to lay your expectations out up front.
Will Christmas Eve this year be spent with your family and Christmas day with your partner’s? This question is going to come up year after year and can be a very touchy subject. Thankfully for me, my husband’s family lives in Iceland and we discussed a plan long ago – to rotate countries each year, one Christmas here in Vancouver, the other there in Reykjavik, Iceland – it just made sense to us to have it that simple.
Even if it doesn’t seem important now, when you’re in the same city, or close enough to divide the days of the holiday up between both families it can become a source of conflict, especially when everyone doesn’t feel like they are getting a fair share of your time. You may be very close with your family, and you may have never spent the holidays apart, but you also have to accept the importance of your partner’s relationship with his family, and vice versa. It is no longer “I” but “we”; marriage is a partnership, and learning how to manage and keep both extended families happy is a real challenge.
Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages says, “Before you get married, spend some time with his mother and dad and her mother and dad. Even if they’re separated, spend time with them, because one of the factors is you’re going to have to relate to these people. It’s either going to be a good relationship or a poor relationship, but you do have to relate to them. So expose yourself to how they treat each other. What are the dynamics in that marriage? Because those dynamics also influenced your spouse.”
Setting boundaries are also important. How much time will you spend with your in-laws? And how can you respect them, but also have your own unique relationship?
According to Prepare/Enrich, the two main things to consider and talk about with your future spouse are closeness and flexibility. Closeness referring to how emotionally connected you feel to your partner and your family, and flexibility referring to how open couples and family are to change.
Use the questions below to discuss the differences and similarities between your families:
1/ What are family gatherings during a holiday like?
2/ How does your family usually celebrate a birthdays or anniversaries?
3/ Is your family an affectionate one?
4/ What is it like at dinner time/meal time and what are their traditions or customs that are followed?
5/ How is your family at adjusting to a stressful change (i.e. a move, job transition, illness, death)?
6/ How did your parents handle discipline and parenting responsibilities?
7/ If your parents have set a poor example in any area, are you destined to repeat it?
8/ What do you admire about your parents? How do you want to be like them in marriage? How do you want to be different?
9/ Describe the closeness in your parent’s marriage.
10/ Describe the flexibility in your parent’s marriage.
Now compare both of your answers:
1/ How similar or different were your families in terms of closeness and flexibility?
2/ How might the similarities or differences impact your current relationship?
3/ What values do you want to bring from your family and parent’s relationship into your marriage?
4/ What from your family and parent’s relationship would you not like bring into your marriage?
5/ How satisfied are you with the current level of closeness and flexibility in your couple relationship?
6/ Consider ways you might increase or decrease closeness and flexibility?
For some more tips, read this article from The Gloss, it’s a modern girl’s take on the age old thing we do – marriage!