Our two oldest sons are both married, one for eighteen months, the other a year longer. It has been nothing short of fascinating to observe them in their respective marriages. Watching them work through issues, grow closer together, and establish goals and dreams for their relationships. It’s been equally interesting noting what behaviors from our thirty plus year marriage that they have chosen to replicate, and those that they have chosen to ignore. Of course, we’re not the only influence they have, they also see and hear advice and training from their wife’s family.
We have been very open with our sons and daughter-in-laws on marriage discussions and have openly asked them what things from us they appreciate (other than money), and what annoys them. As we have stepped back from all of this, it has taught us some pretty valuable lessons.
- Every Marriage is Unique – Scripture tells us that when two people come together in marriage they “become one”. It then makes perfect sense that if no two people are identical, then no two marriages can be either. Recognizing that is HUGE. Our kids will not (cannot) have the same relationship that my wife and I have, because the very DNA of their marriage is different. For us to assume otherwise is foolishness, and will lead to great frustration on all parties. What works for my wife and I is not guaranteed to work for them and we should not expect it to. Instead, we need to encourage them to find the right “formula” that works for them. It’s not easy, and it’s not discovered overnight but it is something they should continually strive for.
- You are Modeling Marriage – While we can’t push behaviors and expectations onto our kids’ marriages it is important to note that we continue to provide models for them. While your marriage may have been taken for granted during their single years, you will now find yourselves under a microscope as they actively seek patterns to follow. Your adult child (and their spouse) have and will continue to see the “real you”. Maybe you can put on a believable front for the casual guest, but your married son or daughter knows the real scoop. They see first hand what works and doesn’t work. And they have two families to observe and inevitably compare. Their relationship will become a melting pot of behaviors from both partners’ parents and a unique blend they concoct themselves. Ideally, they will seek out and imitate practices that are effective, and they will avoid those that they see issue with. Unfortunately, many bad habits are learned and incorporated as well. It’s a sad truth that children that come from divorced parents are far more likely to get divorced themselves.
- Let Go – Marriage is a time to “leave and cleave”, to separate from the parents household and to create a new one. It is critical that as parents we recognize that our married son or daughter is an adult and a part of a new family. It’s no longer our job to try to scold them, correct them or make them feel guilty for decisions they are making. If our relationship is strong, they will seek us out for advice and counsel as they see the need. From what I’ve seen and experienced, the surest way to strain the relationship between you and them is to try to continue to parent them as they try to create their own household.
We have been blessed in that we have added two new daughters into our family (and a new granddaughter too!). But we continue to focus on our marriage even now. It’s good for us to do that. But it’s good for those that may be modeling after us as well.