It can be a fine line when deciding how much space we need between our marriage and our families of origin. Often a couple will think that they are marrying just their future spouse and that they can ignore the family of origin. Very seldom does it work that way.
Most of us come into marriage with a car full of family and we have to decide how to deal with all those people in the car. Don’t get me wrong. We need family. We need the people in our lives that love us. What we don’t need is unhealthy family that bleeds over into our marriage. That is where the whole space thing comes in. How much space do you need from your families while at the same time still honoring them? I wish I could give you a checklist, but I cannot. Try asking yourself these questions:
Does my family place unreasonable demands on me and my marriage?
Are there unhealthy patterns in my family that I don’t want to bring into my marriage?
Does my family cause fights in my marriage?
Do I wish I lived with my spouse on the other side of the world?
As a couple, you have to decide what is healthy and unhealthy for your marriage when it comes to your families. Once you do that, you can talk about the space or the boundaries that need to be in place. Then you will need to lovingly communicate these boundaries together to your families. You also will need to put the consequences on the table. For example, if you have a parent or parents that regularly drop by your home and walk right in, your boundary will be that they need to call and check with you before they come and when they arrive they need to knock before entering. If they honor the new boundary, great. If not, what is the consequence? It could be something like, “we are not letting you in if you have not called ahead.”
That may seem harsh but in most cases, that one time will be all it takes to get your point across. Depending on your family, the boundaries you set may get tested and you have to be ready when they do. Boundaries need to be communicated. Getting space does not. It may just involve saying “no” more. The bottom line is that your marriage is more important than your family of origin and you must do whatever it takes to protect and grow your marriage.