Jun 162014 11 Responses

My Wife Before My Mother

Years ago we moved into a new house and my mom and grandparents moved in next door. During that first week we were having dinner at my house. At one point my grandmother, mom, wife, and daughter were all in the kitchen. As I was standing there, they all told me something I should do: get this, eat that, get more of this, get less of that, etc.

After listening, I jokingly said, “I love all four of you, but I’m only going to take orders from one of you.”

It was joke, but I was serious. (See: I Know Who Is In Charge of Your Family)

Living in close quarters (two in my house and two next door) to the four most important women in my life would be a tremendous blessing, but there was one great threat. If boundaries were not clearly drawn, confusion could exist.

While I loved all four women, my allegiance was not equally given to each of them. I loved them all, but my relationship with my wife trumped every other relationship.

In Matthew 19, Jesus quotes Genesis when speaking about marriage by saying, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.”

This verse reveals a key to marriage—especially for men. Both spouses have to “leave” their old family or a new family will not form.

To leave does not mean to disrespect or shun. It doesn’t diminish our love or call us to deny our past. (See: You Hurt My Feelings)

But it does mean life changes. Allegiances change. Responsibilities change. Priorities change.

When we say “I do” to our spouse, we are committing to put them above every other earthly relationship. We are drawing boundary lines upon which no one, including our families, can encroach.

When marriage occurs, parents and in-laws become friends and advisers, but they lose their authoritative roles.

When parents fail to realize this and spouses fail to demand this, trouble arises.

It’s a common story:

Kids get married but do not move toward financial independence from their parents.

Parents voice their opinions without being asked.

Disagreements within the marriage become debates within the family.

Kids air the dirty laundry of their spouses to their parents.

Parents become over-involved in deciding how grandchildren are raised.

All of this prevents a couple from forming their own marriage and leaves them enmeshed in their old families.

This is one reason living away from parents when a couple first gets married is a strength. It forces the couple to form their own identity apart from their parents.

Yet whether you are far away or next door, the process of leaving your family will require visible acts in which your new allegiance is displayed. (See: We Are Happy With Our Decision, Thank You)

No one ever misses Christmas at grandmas? Once you get married you might alternate which family gets to see you at Christmas.

Every baby boy of the family has the same name? That’s the case for your son if your wife agrees, but if she doesn’t, then another name will be chosen.

Your mother is “just that way?” She better not be “that way” to your wife or you will talk to her. (See: What Every Mother-in-law Should Know)

Your parents expect you to go to a certain church? Where you attend church is not their decision and they will be expected to respect your choices.

Lines must be drawn. Boundaries must be set. You are called to love your family, but you cannot allow them to sabotage your new family.

Since moving in next door, my grandparents have since died, but my mom still lives beside us. Many people have asked how that works and I always say, “It’s not for everybody, but it is great for us.” In my opinion, it is great for one reason—both my mom and wife are very boundary conscience. They know what is their responsibility and what isn’t.

By recognizing and respecting boundaries, we have been able to create a new family while still loving our old families.

I love the women in my life, but my responsibility to my wife trumps every other earthly relationship.

11 Responses to My Wife Before My Mother
  1. Damon Reply

    This was a boundary that I established with my adult children when I remarried 17 months ago. I pray that one day they will understand and accept it. Kevin, thanks for your insight into living an abundant life in a broken world!

  2. Bob Collins Reply

    Harder still is applying this to your children from a previous marriage. But your kids desperately need you to demonstrate that your wedding vows are top priority, even in a 2nd or 3rd marriage.

  3. Kathren Carter Reply

    Very interesting, I really like and enjoyed this post! !

  4. Victor Guzman Reply

    My wife and I are going through a separation and I see many keys that are affecting our marriage. I am hoping my spouse can realize this before it’s too late.

    Thank you Kevin!

  5. […] While there is no way for me to know if Wanda Durant is failing to respect the adulthood of her son,... kevinathompson.com/think-twice-before-marrying-kevin-durant
  6. Abi Reply

    hi Kevin.

    I love your posts, I have been doing through the same dilemma, my husband always puts his family before me and defends them even when they are wrong but both my husband and his family never accept their actions, they put all the blame on me and try to “act all Christian” about the situation – especially my mother-in-law.

    i moved out of my house last week and my husband never bothered to find out where i am or if i am okay but has been in contact with his mother all the time and been visiting them quite a bit.

    what do i do?

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Abi, why did you move out? I wouldn’t expect your husband to chase you if you moved out. I would quickly get both of you into counseling in order to figure out what is going on.

  7. Bambi Reply

    Sadly, I came a hairs width from divorce last fall just due to this and I’m still questioning whether I should go on with it. I love my husband, but my mother in law has control of my husband emotionally. We are in counseling and I pray that things get better. He is aware, but I don’t know that he has the strength to NOT be the way he always has been. I feel like I’ve taken my husband back after infidelity and he can’t let go of the other woman and she won’t let him by playing mind games. Thanks for the article.

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