Staying United When Your Parents’ Demands Threaten to Tear You Apart

On our wedding day, our pastor pronounced us husband and wife and we instantly became one. Sort of.

While it’s true that “the two become one,”living out that unity is also a learning process. It takes time, practice, and making mistakes. For my husband and I, the “leaving and cleaving,” exiting our own families of origin and forming our own family, was tougher than we anticipated.

We had faced our fair share of strife and frustration with family during our engagement. But we naively believed that once we were married and living three states away our issues with extended family would be solved. That was not the case. While my parents’ intrusions on our relationship weren’t as dramatic as they were during our engagement, they still found ways to try to control my relationship with my husband.

Dealing with extended family issues was rough those first couple of years. My parents put pressure on us to come back to my hometown for family events, they told how often they expected us to call home. They’d even wait for my husband to be gone from the house before cornering me with questions about our personal life—questions I didn’t want to answer without my husband there.

My husband and I constantly talked and talked and talked about which requests were unreasonable and which ones we were pushing back on “just because” we wanted to prove a point. We didn’t want to be unreasonable ourselves and so we were constantly trying to determine where we truly needed to give a little.

I wish I could say we instantly stood our ground, refusing to give into my family’s unrealistic and belittling demands. We’d give ourselves pep talks and I would practice the words I would say “next time.” But next time would always catch us off-guard, making me feel cornered. So in the first couple years of marriage I’d often give in to my parents, not knowing how else to handle the situation. I felt I could handle saying “no,” but dealing with the fall out terrified me.

As time went on, my husband and I became more confident in our “oneness” and we learned a lot from handling those earlier situations poorly. My husband and I have also become a lot more comfortable in voicing (and knowing) what’s best for our family. Though at times it felt like my parents’ demands would pull us apart (at times they stretched us), we always came back to our need to be unified and to be rooted in doing what’s best for our family.

Now, almost five years in, my parents have let up a little, recognizing and respecting the family we’ve become. Even when our familys’ actions are done out of love, they might not be good for us. As a couple my husband and I need to do everything we can to protect our marriage from what could threaten it. On our wedding day we made vows to each other, not to our parents or siblings or friends. 

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