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When I drove away from my parent’s house on January 1st having spent three weekends with the youngest to oldest members of my family celebrating Christmas and New Years my heart was happy and content. I am thankful for that peace as so many singles feel disappointment during the holidays over a lack of their own family. However, while driving home I began to think how will the holidays change if I have a husband and if we have children? Will we be able to blend our families and traditions while also establishing our own family and traditions? Ideally I want to have the perfect blend of our families and enjoy any occasion throughout the year with both of our families.
As I observe married couples who are blending families I notice that is often easier said than done and establishing relationships and routines can prove challenging in a marriage. Families are unique; each member with their own life and expectations of “how things will be” after a couple says “I do”. Having been a sister-in-law and as an Aunt I have seen these dynamics in my own family, sometimes seamless and at other times busting the seams.
Ephesians 5:31 is often quoted in the marriage ceremony: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh.”
Two becoming one might seem the simpler of these commands compared to leaving father and mother, especially if either or both of you are from a family you cherish and spend time with. “Leaving” in this context is not just the physical move into a home shared with a spouse, but also severing the former relationships of authority and responsibility. Establishing a family as a married couple has to be a priority while engaged and continue once married. Together a couple must work to understand each other’s expectations, goals for interaction with extended families and building relationships with in-laws while protecting the new family established at the marriage.
Upon leaving, the spouses must then cleave to one another. “Cleave” is to be glued or cemented together. When I think of cement, a new slab of concrete comes to mind and the opportunity to put handprints, names or initials with dates to mark the timeline of the new creation that will be built upon the slab. When leaving father and mother and cleaving to each other, a permanent bond is created like a cement slab upon which the family is built, creating even a stronger bond than the one previously held between parent and child. Understanding the intention of marriage and the new bond created between husband and wife will continue to solidify when establishing the new family while managing expectations with extended families.
Finally, “the two shall become one”, an unbreakable bond that is meant for remainder of life. “Shall become” translates as to exist/to be present. Even when marriage might dull and seems to become a state of existing, the spouses are still to be present together as one. Being present is often hard and when family expectations are not met a spouse can pull away from the marriage and back to the familiar relationship and dependency of father and mother. However, the wedding ceremony is the establishment of “one” and an anniversary date and wedding ring are reminders of the commitment the priority your spouse has above anyone else; the “handprints” in the new slab of “Our Family”.
I love my family, love spending time with them and being at home where I grew up is one of my favorite places to be. However, I desire to be married, and with my husband I will gain extended family. I want to love being in their home(s), spending time with them, getting to know them, living life together just as much as I do with my own family. Not only do I want this for myself, but also for my husband with his new extended family.
Having a realistic view of what it means to leave my father and mother and cleave to my husband and for him to do the same gives me a better understanding of the requirement to establish “Our Family” upon a firm foundation and manage our families together allowing for compromise and fulfillment in the extended family relationships. I’ve always been one to pray for my future husband, but I have also prayed for my future extended family. Ultimately, they raised the man who I will love and call my husband. I want to love them well just as my own family and respect my husband’s relationship with his family.