Do you join your spouse’s family when you get married?

Ephesians 5:31 – “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 

Every time I talk about this and answer this question, all the young couples are like “That was great!” and the parents are like “We hate you!” So let me just say it again, because I hope this is helpful and clarifying, especially for newly married couples.

When you get married, you are not joining a family, you’re starting a new family. I got to officiate the weddings of both our oldest son and oldest daughter and, for instance, at my daughter’s wedding, I said “He’s not joining our family, she’s not joining his family, you’re starting your own family.” That means for vacations and holidays, the new family gets to decide what they’re going to do and my wife, Grace, and I and the kids remaining at home will decide what our family is going to do.

The way I want to have it operate is that our married kids are always welcome, but not expected, and I won’t take offense at that. If you want to join us at Thanksgiving, we’d love to see you. If you want to go out of town and do your own thing, that’s up to you. This is especially important as the new family grows and a new generation of little kids enter the equation, and it’s helpful to re-examine and re-think your plans annually. 

When Grace and I got married, her parents were good to us, and my parents were good to us. So, for Thanksgiving, guess how many Thanksgiving dinners we had? Two. Which is at least one too many. Then kids came along – five kids, two dinners, you’re not thankful at the end of Thanksgiving. So, then we started alternating, one side one year, the other side the next year. As kids started coming, we decided it was too much to load up all the kids into the car, so we started hosting Thanksgiving at our house. 

Ultimately, once a couple gets married, they’re a new family who gets to make their own decisions and their own rules for how they’ll operate as a family. I would encourage parents to bless and encourage their married, adult kids and make this process as smooth and enjoyable as possible for everyone so that you can continue to enjoy relationship with them in this new season of life. 

To the parents, if you cling too tightly to the way you want your kids and grandkids to live their life as adults, you will either choke the life out of the relationship, or your children will escape your clutches by drawing a hard boundary and removing you from much or all of their life. 

The opposite of control – which comes by giving gifts with strings attached, making rules and then punishing those who disobey them, or getting dramatic and emotional to manipulate others to surrender to your will – is influence. To influence someone requires that you love them, pursue them, have empathy and compassion for them, and do what is best for them at your own expense. The reason we love having a relationship with Jesus is because this how He treats us. We can trust Him, and so we do life with Him not because we have to, but because we want to. He makes us and our life better. A good parent who wants to have a Christ-like relationship with their child needs to take on this servant role and do the same.

How have you dealt with this as a newly married couple or as parents to adult children? 

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