Ever hear of “The Wedding Song”? Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul, and Mary wrote and first sang this song at bandmate Peter Yarrow’s wedding back in 1969. My sisters and I sang this song at weddings for many years, including our own.
One of the lines that stays with me is “A man shall leave his mother and a woman leave her home, they shall travel on to where the two shall be as one.” This is based on the Scripture, That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh, in Genesis 2:24.
I’ve learned through my own marriage that separating from our families of origin and creating a new family is a critical component of a solid marriage.<=Click to Tweet
After all, marriage is between one man and one woman, not between one man, his mother, and a woman. And not between one woman, her best friend sister, and a man.
On Day 2 of This Journey Called Marriage, I talked about my husband wanting to straighten a few things out on our marriage prep weekend. One of the things Chris was concerned about was my very tight relationships with my family, in particular my sisters, and my oldest sister especially. I was crushed by Chris’ view of these sacred relationships. How could he want me to change these relationships? But it wasn’t that he didn’t love my sisters. Or that he wanted to hinder my relationships with them. It was just a little too much.
The problem really was me (well not, entirely, the fact that my sister was the first of the entire next generation and was adored by my relatives, treated like a goddess, particularly by my childless aunt who literally wanted to adopt her, may have had something to do with my feelings of self-worth!). I am a second child. And I have had to overcome a lot of the traits that go along with that role – comparison, envy, lack of self-esteem, never quite feeling good enough, easily offended, and often feeling left out.
As a result of my feelings of inadequacy, I looked to my sister as THE standard. I too felt the sun rose and set upon her. She could do no wrong. Everything my sister did and had was better – her job, her plans, her social life, her house, her marriage.<=Click to Tweet
I was not really aware of my viewpoint. But Chris could see it, very clearly. There were a few incidents that really pointed to my position in the family vs. my sister’s. And my husband was having none of it.
I remember one evening my father and his wife were having a dinner party with many of his work associates. Candles flickered throughout their beautiful home, the warmth of chatter and laughter filled the air. Just lovely. My sister was married and pregnant with their first child. It was an exciting time. However, my father went a little too far in his enthusiasm when he literally proudly paraded my sister and her hubby around the party and asked my then-fiance and I to please take peoples coats. While I kind of noticed this, it didn’t really affect me until Chris expressed his shock. “Wait…what?? We’re taking coats while he introduces your sister and her husband?” Oh he was so offended. I had a glimpse of what Chris saw.
Because my sister was older by only a couple of years, we shared many good times together and plenty of mutual friendships. We really were best friends. She had the upper hand and I was okay with that. So when she had an idea of a fun activity or event, I was all in. When, for example, she rented a home on a lake in New Hampshire, I wanted to do the same.
Chris wanted us to establish our own traditions and develop our family culture. I wasn’t outright opposed. It was just very natural to me to do what big sis was doing. And frankly I resisted my husband’s desires. What was the big deal? My sister had awesome plans and fun ideas, why couldn’t we just go along?
It took a while and it was painful for me to let go of wanting all of us, my family and my sister’s family, to be one big happy family. Chris, however, felt strongly about developing our family. It definitely caused some friction between us. Letting go is not my strong suit; I hold on pretty tight to the way things are. Eventually, however, I came to a place of understanding and Chris and I began to forge our own path.
I had to go on my own journey of self-acceptance of who I was. That helped Chris and I to determine what was most important to us within the context of our new family. I had to separate to some degree from my sister. And Chris and I had to determine our own set of values, carve out our own boundaries, make the relationship between us the primary one. We had to figure out who we were as a couple and a family apart from anyone else.
In time and with intention, Chris and I did work this out. It was part of our marriage journey of becoming “us.” And, thankfully, while my husband and our family comes first, my sister remains my best friend.
How about you? Is your marriage between you and your spouse? Is there a friend or family member(s) who may have a little too much influence on you and your marriage?
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