Saturday, February 25, 2012

Leaving and Cleaving

One thing I've heard a fair bit about lately - from various (married) sources - is the idea that one's "home" is where one grew up or where one's parents live.  

While I almost envy folks who have a good relationship with their parents, I think I would draw the line at the thought of having one's homing signal beeping out from smack dab in a parental home.  I'm talking mostly about the loyalty factor but also about the idea that it's okay to live with "Mum and Dad" after starting a conjugal relationship with someone else.

I understand that for some, this is the only solution financially.  But having lived with a parent after marriage (either in the parent's home or having the parent live in mine) I can say from experience that it can be (and very often IS) problematic to share control over a household in that manner.  Nobody knows who is in charge or has the final say, especially if there is (gifted or loaned) money involved.  Styles of household management differ.  Methods of parenting are very often a topic of friction.  And then there's the uncomfortable dynamic of parents taking the side of one or the other of the adult children who are living under the same roof, during an argument.  Not to mention the temptation some parents have to criticize everything the daughter in law or the son in law does and yet not lift a finger to help.  Or to do everything for the child and in so doing, "take over" and not let their child be independent.  But I shan't go there today.  

The model of multi-generational households has been around for a long time. The Jews in Jesus' day, for example, helped their children get a good start in their marriage by the son being allowed to build on to his parents' home or build a house on his parents' property, and set up housekeeping.  But it was never meant to be reason for one generation to meddle in the affairs of the other.  

The natural order of things is for the children to grow up, move out, and start their own family unit.  Jesus quoted Genesis 1 (ahem, that was BEFORE the Fall of mankind!) when He said that the original intent was for a man to leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife.  The same could be said of the woman - that she would leave her father and mother and cleave to her husband.  That means that "home" is now with each other. It is NOT in the parental house. It's in the wedding vows by the way... "...forsaking all others..." could just as easily apply to the birth family as to previous boyfriends/girlfriends.  

Source:  (from Google Images)
 Even if not living with "Mum and Dad," the parent-child (or the in-law) relationship can wreak havoc - as can the idea that the person's locus of identity is not in the nuclear family (i.e., with the spouse and children) but with the birth family.  

Many people DO have good relationships with their parents and in-laws, and their siblings and their spouses for that matter. Congratulations if you are one of them!! But I've seen it happen:  the fastest way to wreck an intimate spousal relationship is to have too close of a relationship with the parents.  The kind where - for emotional support - one turns to the parent rather than the spouse, the kind that complains about the spouse to the parent,  ... a friend of mine calls this "up your nose" relationship "spousing" (an interesting and descriptive term which I've found useful.) This can be done with parents, friends, relatives, children, even co-workers ... and it is always unhealthy. I've even known people to practice "spousing" at church.  In fact, one husband yelled - as he threw a Bible across the room in a fit of temper - "Why don't you just take a bed and LIVE up there?"

How long has it been, I wonder, since I've gone to my husband FIRST and asked HIS opinion on something I was thinking about?  Since I've taken HIS side in a discussion?  Since I've chosen time with HIM over time with another family member - or time with 'the girls'?  Since I've gone where HE wanted to go?  Since I've told him that my home is with HIM and not somewhere else?  Since I've expressed to him how very much I love HIM? 

It's well worth thinking about.

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