Did you come from a healthy home? A home where mom and dad loved you and truly invested blood, sweat, tears, and money into you as a child? Or did you come from a toxic home? A home that was somewhat distant emotionally and/or physically? Regardless of your upbringing, one of the most challenging conversations you will have as a husband and wife, will be about setting boundaries with your parents. When having this conversation, make sure your primary focus is on coming together as a couple.
How Your Background (and Parents) Affects Your Marriage
Because of a lack of boundaries initially, sometimes parents tend to overstep their bounds with their child’s new family. Overstepping oftentimes originates from a place of trying to be helpful. However, the issue is that their intentions may not fit into your family dynamics.
Your parents are truly influential to how you process things. With that in mind, you need to remember that your spouse was also influenced by their parents. They witnessed, through their own experience, how things were executed in their home. Yes, it is true that each of your parents did things a certain way, but you both need to figure out how to do it your way. Together.
Because of the influence of family and the attachment that many of us have with them, it will carry over into the marriage relationship if we let it. The difficulty here is that we do want to honor our parents and we don’t want to disappoint them. But the fact is that, other than God, your spouse is now your primary focus.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.Genesis 2:24
When reading this verse, we see the action to leave something, father and mother, and to pursue something, one flesh. This is not a picture of running away from something, but rather running to something. In this case you are running towards the act of becoming one flesh with your spouse.
How to Approach Setting Boundaries
We encourage setting boundaries together and communicating them with love. In doing this you are attempting to create a healthy environment where everyone is on the same page. When you are going through this process, make sure to be realistic. Sometimes in an effort to protect your new family, you end up pushing your parents away. Set boundaries that are healthy and realistic.
As you go through this process, a natural feeling of guilt may start kicking in. You do not need to feel guilty when you are working to create a healthy environment for your family. The last thing you want to do is feel so guilty that you end up avoiding your families.
In our material, “Two Becoming One”, we talk about God’s purpose for marriage. The very first purpose is to reflect the image of God. When we as a couple attempt to reflect the image of God, we are showing a united front. We may have disagreements, we may be discouraged at times, and the days of parenting our own children may get difficult. But, we are not running to others to fix our issues, or tell us what to do. We are running to God and each other. Along the way, seeking out advice is good, but looking to God and each other is what’s best.
As opposed to keeping things out, boundaries are set up to protect what is inside. They are for parents to know and understand that what you have in your union is so important and you want to protect it. You should view boundaries as creating a culture within your home that is going to reflect the image of God.
3 areas where you can begin setting boundaries with your parents:
- Decision-Making - The first conversation you have when making a decision has to be with your spouse. While you can invite parental advice, it needs to be understood that you may or may not take that advice. Request that your parents be willing to wait until advice is solicited.
- Conflict Resolution - Conflict in marriage is inevitable. How we handle that conflict can be a game changer. Determine ahead of time that you will not complain to your parents about your spouse. If you do want to solicit advice from your parents, wait until the conflict has cooled down. Talk about what you will share with your parents ahead of time with your spouse so there is no blindsiding.
- Parenting - This is one area where a united front is the most important. It will require you to determine your parenting style ahead of time so you can communicate effectively what your boundaries will be. Together you and your spouse will have to determine what role the grandparents will play in the lives of your kids.
Before going into the conversation of boundaries, it’s important to take a personal inventory of your heart. Humbly open up to your spouse about where you are at with the principle of leave and cleave. Share what has been good for your marriage and what you believe has been hurting your union. Above all, pray over the conversation. Prayer will bring clarity, peace, and the words that the Lord will give you as you seek to create boundaries with your parents.