When Adam and I prepared for marriage, we talked a lot about what we wanted our future home to be like. We knew we wanted it to be loving, and also generous—a place where we could extend hospitality to others, especially family.
Our resolve to be generous with others was tested when Adam’s 22-year-old brother moved into our basement. We’ve all been told family comes first, but what does that look like?
It was sudden and unexpected, and to be honest, it made me a bit nervous. How would his living with us change our family dynamic? How would it change our marriage? Would we still have time, and the space, for just us?
Yet, we also felt a sense of duty. After all, his brother was family, and he needed us. He didn’t have a penny to his name. He used our vehicles, ate our food, and even relied on our phones for a month before he found work and was able to get his own.
While many of my early concerns have vanished, it’s not just because of the way things have turned out. It’s because Adam and I were proactive in discussing the challenges a housemate posed to our relationship. We agreed that as generous as we wanted to be with his brother, it couldn’t take precedence over the needs of our relationship.
We couldn’t just “wait and see how it goes.” If we weren’t on the same page, that could easily cause future problems.
We took our thoughts and concerns to Stephen. We discussed our need for alone time and our expectations of him as a member of our household. We also discussed his needs and concerns, trying to accommodate him where we could, but also never compromising our marriage. Thankfully, Adam’s brother completely understood. He also wanted to know his boundaries and responsibilities so that his stay could be as enjoyable as possible.
It hasn’t always been easy, but because all of us understood that Adam and I needed to put our marriage first, Stephen has been an enjoyable addition to our home.
But, it’s something we all work at. Sure, Adam and I discussed it a lot before Stephen moved in and we had our initial conversation with Stephen. But since then we’ve also had “meetings” to discuss how things are going.
Over the past two months I’ve come to see how much more we’ve gained from his presence than we’ve given to him. He watches our kids and helps around the house, which gives Adam and I more time together than we otherwise would have. Sitting here in September, it’s almost sad to think he will only be here four more months (we originally thought it would be much longer). When he leaves, it will probably feel like something is missing for a while.
Family is important, yes, but our marriage needed to come first. We made a vow to each other—not to our other family members—to love and honor each other until the day we die. That doesn’t mean we should not be generous. But you must prioritize what’s best for you and your spouse.