Q&A: Establishing ourselves as a distinct family unit

Q: My fiancé and I are going to be married next month. His family is extremely close – relationally and geographically. And though I’m sure that their presence and influence will be positive for our marriage, I’m concerned we may struggle to establish ourselves as a distinct family unit. Am I worrying needlessly? 

A: We commend you for recognising that your husband’s family situation can be a wonderful blessing, as well as a challenge that needs to be approached wisely. In fact, most couples wish they’d had the benefit of your insight when they were newlyweds.  

One couple whom we know had been married only a few weeks when they took a three-week trip abroad with the husband’s family. What might have been a dream vacation in another circumstance turned out to be an absolute disaster. The problem: once abroad, the husband reverted to behaving like a son instead of a husband. It was an awkward situation that they weren’t equipped to deal with. Looking back, they realised that they needed more time to become comfortable with their new roles and to form their identity as a couple.

As such, we’ve recommended that newlyweds take a “leave of absence” from other areas of life for a time and give priority to each other. This not only includes time-consuming hobbies, but your families of origin and friendships as well.

To avoid misunderstanding, explain to your loved ones your reasons for temporarily pulling away. You’re simply giving yourselves a chance to establish strong roots at one of the most crucial points in your relationship. When you emerge from this time, you’ll be better able to interact with others as a husband or wife, instead of settling into the familiar roles of your past. By doing so, you’ll give your marriage its best chance to flourish for years to come.

© 2018 Focus on the Family.  All rights reserved.  Used by permission.

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