Your Spouse Doesn’t Move in With You Alone. They pack their family in their suitcases.
“When you marry someone, you marry their whole family.” — Unknown
If you are planning on marrying someone, you may be thinking ‘yeah, right’, that statement won’t be true in our case. I wish I could back you up and agree with you, but the reality is that those family connections are rarely easy to ignore. In fact, they can be so strong that both of you will need to be willing to embrace the good, the bad, the ugly and the crazy heritage your spouse comes from. If you’ve already got married, you know the truth of that statement.
Many couples naively imagine that they will let nothing and no-one come between them only to discover that it might not be that simple.
Families can’t just be ignored and stuffed in a drawer like a family album.
Many of the issues that you will face as a married couple will be in connection with the wider family.
“People say I’m crazy, if they met the rest of my family they would understand” — Unknown.
So who is your family?
The dictionary defines family as a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household. That’s a nice cosy definition, it is containable. Yet, if you ask someone about their family, you can usually tell a lot about who they consider family members to be.
Their family might be more extensive than you might think. That’s because, for each culture, the word family means something different. Think ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ and immediately you will see that families can be huge, noisy, interfering, disagreeable, loveable, caring, confusing and a little crazy.
‘Family’ has become even more complex as the dynamics of blended families have impacted the definition. Let’s face it, families can be complicated.
How important is family to you?
Your family line or your genealogy may feel very important to you, or it may seem insignificant. It’s definitely something that can be taken for granted until it’s not there. Family is what gives you a sense of belonging. Where you come from is more than a geographical location, a country, a city or a village. Family is who you come from.
Whether you like it or not, in-laws are your family too, they’re your ‘adopted’ family. This means you have to find a way to get along, which might be challenging! All families take work, even the kindest ones. Just as you have had to work at your relationship with your immediate family, you’ll need to invest time and energy into your relationship with your in-laws.
If you’re unfortunate enough to have toxic in-laws I’m not ignoring that scenario. Putting healthy boundaries in place is the first step in reframing your relationship. With toxic families, your boundaries are going to have to be rock solid and you’ll need to be in agreement with your partner.
The most crucial relationship though is the one between you and your spouse. Your relationship with your parents and their relationship with their parents should never supersede your marriage.
Too many people underestimate the importance of the ‘in-law’ relationship and as a result, miss out on what can be a true ‘blessing’. Yes, there is room for the words ‘in-laws’ and ‘blessing’ to co-exist in the same sentence, your relationship with your in-laws does not have to be a curse.
Here are a few questions you might want to consider:
- Who do you come from?
- What do you already know about your family tree?
- What words would you use to describe your family?
- How would you describe your partner’s family?
- Do you view them as a blessing or a curse?
- Do you have healthy boundaries?