Mother Polka is back again today, on the subject of families, creating a family unit and working out all the emotions that go with it! We call this series of posts, by my wonderful mother (a veteran of marriage of over 35 years) “Mother Polka’s Musings“. You can read more of her musings here.
When you enter into a marriage your allegiance needs to subtly shift from your childhood family to your partner. Oops – this may sound a little harsh at first! But bear with me!
In the excitement of ‘getting married’ we can overlook the fact that ‘being married’ means the final separation from the family unit we grew up in, to a new family unit we are in the infancy of creating. If we stop to think about it, there may be a lot of sadness in this – finally leaving behind our childhood and all that entails. But a new chapter of your life has begun and that can be scary and exciting all rolled up together!
In practical terms, what does this mean? Firstly it does not mean a cutting of ties with your family of origin (if your partner wants you to do that, it is ‘possessing’ not ‘creating’). It does not mean overtly rejecting their values, or not respecting where they are in their lives.
It does mean, that to create a unit of your own, running parallel to your original family units, will entail some give and take, some finding out what is comfortable for everyone and some compromise.
What will your family unit look like? What are the things that matter to you and your partner? What are the ‘rules’ you will live by? I believe every family has ‘rules’ even when they think they don’t – about what is acceptable to each member, what is outside their ‘comfort zone’. You might consciously or unconsciously carry on habits you felt comfortable with from your family home, or create new ones that sit well with both of you.
What are the things that are ‘not negotiable’ to you as a couple? Agreeing on these things allows you to present a united front when people try to test your resolve.
‘Non negotiables’ that you might need to ponder might include these. Your husband’s mother or your mother is interfering in your lives, criticising what you do or giving ‘helpful hints’ – how do you handle it as a united front? Will you confide in your mother about personal issues – how does your husband feel about this? Your parents are given a key to your house. They keep accessing your house without knocking at any time of day or night – how do you deal with this issue? Having celebrations that do not include your parents or siblings every time – how do you negotiate this? Creating your own family traditions – what is meaningful to you, what can you compromise on?
Re-negotiating family ‘rules’ will need grace, tact and loads of time. It means acceptance and tolerance on the part of parents and siblings to squeeze your new unit into the family circle. It means a sense of humour and a large dose of humility on both sides to negotiate this sometimes rocky path.
But standing firm is about believing that what you are doing is right for you as a couple – and that’s what is important here and now.