Robert Willett, MCT
Cut the apron strings once you get married
- Article by: McClatchy News Service
- October 8, 2013 - 3:09 PM
Apron strings. Umbilical cord.
Whatever the ties that bind you to your parents may also bind your future spouse as well.
And he or she may not appreciate it.
You like talking to your mom several times a day, but your fiancé may find that annoying. Your dad might be in the habit of popping by — unannounced. Your future spouse may fail to see the charm.
Marriage means starting a new family together. While that doesn’t mean you have to leave your parents by the wayside, some adjustments to your old family dynamic are inevitable — even essential — to the health of your marriage.
We are all bound to our parents in complex ways that can be beautiful, confounding and infuriating. But the ties that bind us to our parents should never be used to oppress our spouses. As you plan for a new life with your partner, be sure you establish healthy boundaries with parents — boundaries that allow your new marriage to thrive.
Here are some ways to cut the cord without cutting off a lifeline:
Accept the change. Your fiancé may never be as fond of your parents as you are. Hopefully, he or she will grow to love and respect your parents, or at least get along with them. But expecting your fiancé to embrace your parents the way you do isn’t realistic.
Respect your partner’s need for privacy. If you need to process private details of your relationship with someone other than your partner, try a friend, rather than a family member. For some of us, having our parents-in-law know our intimate business is just plain icky.
Set good boundaries. Defining boundaries with parents early on can spare you grief later in your marriage. Determine how much time you will spend with your parents, where you will spend it and how much you will share about your marriage with them. Deciding how you will handle competing holiday demands is especially critical.
Shield your future spouse. Maybe you still like having brunch every weekend with your parents, but your fiancé is less than enthused. Strike a compromise: Maybe brunch once a month is enough. Or offer to keep the tradition limited to just the three of you. Your parents might like the time alone with you.
Establish domains. When you’re in your mother’s house, play by her rules. When she’s in your house, though, she needs to respect yours. When it comes to managing your house or managing your children, your parents need to respect your decisions. If your parents overstep their authority, you need to respectively assert your independence.
Don’t gang up on your spouse. It’s nice to have an ally when you encounter marital tensions, but never gang up on your partner by enlisting your parents against your spouse. You are an adult and you need to fight your own fights. Your parents are likely highly protective of you and sharing even minor offenses committed by your fiancé may be remembered by your parents for years to come. As much as you’d like your future spouse to like your parents, you probably want your parents to like your spouse, too. Recounting all the petty dirt on your partner can quickly and unfairly deteriorate your parents’ opinion of your future spouse.
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