Many parents have been baffled over a son’s or daughter’s easily transferred loyalties from the original family to a new spouse. How can their young boy or girl so easily choose the new love over a long-established relationship? Here is the reason:
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)
When the Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” he answered and said to them:
Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. (Matthew 19:1-6)
To leave our fathers and mothers does not mean we must cut off all relationship to them. We should relate to them, and honor them all the days of our lives. However, when we marry, our relationship to them must change. From that point the primary communion of hearts that is designed to alleviate the loneliness must come from our mates, not our parents. Anything else other than that will be perversion of both relationships.
Stress that is related to in-laws is one of the main destructive elements in a marriage relationship. And one of the primary forces that keep married people from learning to cleave to one another is the interference of their parents or in-laws.
Many parents find it very hard to let go of their children and allow them to live their own lives as mature and independent adults. But it is not natural for a man or woman to continue cleaving to their parents when there are mature adults especially after they get married. If they do, destruction of both relationships is guaranteed, as well as the wounding of their own souls.
There is a point in everyman’s life when he must become the man of his own home. And there is point in every woman’s life when she must establish her own household. Fathers and mothers may always help their children with advice and wisdom when it is requested. However, after marriage, any parent attempting to control his/her children will be destructive to their lives.
The Lord created us to be free and make choices, and if children are mature enough to marry, they are mature enough to make the decisions and bear the responsibility of their choices. If parents don’t allow the children to develop responsibility, it will make it much more difficult to accomplish God’s purpose for their lives.
As parents, we must understand that anything we do to interfere in the relationship of our children with their spouses may save them from some short term mistakes, but will usually be very detrimental to them in the long run.
We have to let them grow in their relationship to each other, by facing all life choices together, and dealing with the consequences whether bad or good. If we don’t let them grow, and make mistakes, the consequences of these choices will hurt them more.
One of the easiest routes to a conflict in marriage is when a husband has to compete with the wife’s parents for priority of relationship. Likewise the same is true for a wife whose husband has trouble cutting ties. This is why the instruction of Scripture is so strong and specific that a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
The words “leave your father and mother” means, while still part of their larger family, the new couple will have to form a priority family unit that begins with their marriage. This of course suggests a temporary state. But the words “united or joined” to his wife indicates a permanent condition.
The Parent and Child Relationship
The parent/child relationship is established by birth or adoption, but the husband/wife relationship is established by covenant. Marriage is a covenant commitment established by God and sealed by the Holy Spirit, therefore it supersedes blood ties. As someone has well said, “Blood may be thicker than water but it is not thicker than promise.”
Parents, when your children marry, the leadership and decision making responsibilities should be transferred from their former homes to the new home they are building together. All leadership and responsibility now devolves on them. They are responsible for making their own decisions and this includes allowing parents to be involved in supporting them when in any sort of crisis.
There is no doubt that any well intentioned but inappropriate interference of family members into the daily affairs of the couple’s life and relationship will definitely cause problems.
If possible, the newly married couples are to move as far away from their parents as they can to prevent the wrong kind of interference. Listen to what happened in the early years of a well known couple, Mary Beth and Steven Curtis. Here is part of their story:
A baby bottle sterilizer had been left on their kitchen stove. The apartment didn’t burn to the ground, but most of their earthly possessions were ruined from fire, smoke, or water damage.
The youngest of three children, Mary Beth called her parents in hysterics to tell them about the fire. A few hours later, they arrived to help, filled with good intentions, paint buckets, and ladders. Mary Beth wanted to believe that Daddy would fix it all—that he could somehow make it all better.
At the time, Mary Beth was recovering from a C-section. And Steven was trying to break into the music business while learning where he fit into the extended family dynamics.
One Sunday afternoon, when Mary Beth’s parents were up to their knees in soot and laundry, Steven’s mother and grandmother arrived after a two-hour drive. Somehow tensions mounted that day, and conflict blew up into an unfortunate disagreement:
Mary Beth’s parents were on one side of the room, holding their daughter and saying that they may need to take their little girl back to Ohio. On the other side was Steven’s family, with his mom saying, “Well, I’m going to take my son back to Paducah.”
So much had happened to Steven and Mary Beth in such a short period of time. A new baby. A fire. Temporarily staying with friends. In-laws visiting, day after day.
Feeling desperate, Steven knew that only the Lord could resolve this situation. He remembers literally yelling to the devil, the enemy of relationships: “You’re not going to have this family! You will not have this home!”
With two much older siblings, Mary Beth admits that she’s always been a daddy’s girl. And now she found herself in the middle of a mess bigger than soot and ash. Would she give her loyalty to her young husband, or to her father?
As she heard Steven pray out loud for his family, she knew she should support him. After all, their marriage had been established on biblical principles. On her wedding day, hadn’t she had pledged her loyalty to Steven above her parents (Genesis 2:24)?
But at the same time, she recalls, “I didn’t have a place to live and had this newborn infant that I didn’t even know how to take care of yet.”
Despite her emotional turmoil she somehow made her choice: Steven had her heart. Together they made a home. She and the baby would remain with him.
So parents, for the sake of your children, when they marry, let them go. It may be painful for a little while but it is necessary in order to be obedient to God’s Word and worse still it can be much more painful later if not done.
When God created the human race He began with husband and wife, not a parent and child. Therefore every couple needs to establish their own household, and identity as a family.
To listen to Steven and Beth sharing the lessons learned from miscommunication between the in-laws and other challenges, and how the Lord got them through this season of their lives…. download the Transcript here
Image credit: Heavens Call