First, have two in your marriage, not six (her parents/his parents – or hers and hers/his and his). When you commit to your beloved, your relationship becomes your top priority, and you have to let go of having your parents guide you. This doesn’t mean you can’t talk to your parents, or even ask for advice now and then. But it does mean that your parents don’t guide or control your relationship. It means having your partner be your best friend, not your mom or dad. It means choosing your relationship over the pull of your families.
Don’t get me wrong – I am pro-family. I am just a little bit more pro-couple.
Not only did Santa share this tidbit of wisdom with me, I know it’s a huge problem for certain couples because I’ve heard so much about it in the therapy room. And I’ve seen it across cultures. In cultures where it is implicit that you are supposed to honor your elders, it can be more complicated to make the shift to your partner.
All of you were influenced by the family you grew up in – that’s just the way it is. You saw, listened, and noticed your parent’s marriage (and/or divorce), and that influence carries over into adult relationships. You need to do the work to understand your family system, and each others’ family system, and learn:
- What do you want to keep?
- What don’t you want to continue?
- Who is driving your relationship?
- What values and principles will you abide by in this marriage?
- How to deal with in-laws needs, requests, demands.
- Essentially, what works for BOTH of you?
Santa’s second tip is to spend time together doing things you both enjoy, and spend time apart doing things you each enjoy separately.
Be a whole person; come to your marriage as two whole people. Then, 1 + 1 = more than 2. Rather than being needy (although all of you need and deserve care, love, respect, etc.), being whole allows your relationship to be the frosting on the cake. Sweet. And when you need one another you are the top priority.
Thanks for talking, Santa.