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Putting Your Spouse Before Your Parents
Make your spouse your top priority—even over your parents—with a few simple steps.
You have probably heard the phrase "leave and cleave." Most of us agree that the cleaving part is pretty fun, but the process of leaving often presents a challenge. Becoming truly independent from our parents is one of the best gifts we can give our spouse. That doesn’t mean we should cut off contact with our parents or start being hateful toward them. It just means that pleasing our spouse should take priority over pleasing our parents.
Does your wife get upset when your parents drop by uninvited? Is your husband bothered by the fact that your mother calls constantly at all hours, day and night? Do you pressure your wife to spend vacations with your folks because that’s what they expect? Do you listen to your mom gossip about your mate? Do you accuse your wife of overreacting when she complains about something your parents said? Do you consistently turn to your father for advice instead of your husband?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then perhaps you feel like you are in the middle of a tug-of-war contest. You can’t figure out how to please your partner and your folks: they don’t get along with each other, someone is always angry with you, and you feel like moving to another planet.
The good news is that you don’t have to try to please everybody—ever again. Focus on making your spouse your first priority, even if it upsets your mom and dad. If your parents have healthy behavior, they will gracefully step aside and encourage you to make your spouse a top priority. They will value your needs as a couple and be respectful about their phone calls, visits, etc. If, however, your parents have destructive behavior, they will manipulate you with guilt to keep you in the role of an obedient child instead of allowing you to be a loyal spouse. They will feel entitled to call or visit whenever they want, and they will act offended whenever you try to draw healthy boundaries with them.
Here are four bad things to say (or imply) to your spouse:
* "I don’t have the courage to say 'no' to my parents, so I’m saying 'no' to you."
* "My parents’ behavior is perfectly fine; your behavior is the problem."
* "Let’s not do anything to upset my folks."
* "My parents’ needs are more important than yours."
Here are four great things to say to your spouse:
* "You are my first priority. Your needs are important to me."
* "I want to support you, but I’m not sure how to do that. Please tell me."
* "Let’s try to figure out a compromise we can both live with."
* "Can you help me figure out a tactful way to tell my parents what we’ve decided?"
When you choose to become a loyal husband or wife, you will have a stronger marriage and a more adult relationship with your parents. Your behavior will also help to improve the relationship between your spouse and parents. For example, once you make it clear to your mom that your wife comes first, they will probably get along better because you will have eliminated the need for them to compete over you. Once you remove the need for competition, your spouse will likely try harder to please you by becoming more reasonable about issues involving your parents.
In-law problems are among the top reasons for divorce. By uniting as a couple, you have the power to eliminate this threat to your marriage.
Jenna D. Barry is the author of "A Wife’s Guide to In-laws: How to Gain Your Husband’s Loyalty Without Killing His Parents." Find more at www.WifeGuide.org.
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