Those Left Behind

For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife. Genesis 2:24

When we teach our class to prepare couples for marriage, some of these couples have suggested that we teach a lesson for their parents from this verse.

The Mother-in-Law Dance: Can Two Women Love the Same Man and Still Get Along?Many jokes are made about in-laws. Mark Twain said, "Adam was the luckiest man; he had no mother-in-law." Some refer to them as the "outlaws." Annie Chapman wrote a book about mother-in-laws learning how to  get along with their daughter-in-laws.

God is teaching us to leave the family in which we grew up (our family of origin). Then, we form a new family unit when we marry. Following God's direction to leave your family is essential to being able to bond together as a couple for oneness in a long term relationship. If either the husband or the wife hold on to the family of origin, they never really form a new family.

The new family (the husband and wife) is the new priority. The new spouse comes before the mother. father, or siblings in their priorities and loyalty. This transition is difficult for many young people, especially if they have never lived on their own or have they have always relied on their parents for physical, financial, and/or emotional support. However, parents can either make it easier or they can make it even more difficult for their children to leave.

 For those left behind (family of origin), they are to release their child to a new family. They are to encourage their child in oneness in their new marriage, not coming between or interfering with the new husband and wife.

We have seen parents who hold onto their children and we have seen the ones who encourage them to be independent. I have seen couples who were in conflict or unhappy early in their marriage. When the child goes to his parents, godly parents send them home and say "work it out." Or when the child complains about his spouse, the parent will defend the spouse rather than taking sides with their own child.

Godly parents will not rescue their married children in marriage conflict or in financial difficulties, but direct them to the Lord.

We have also seen parents that insisted on giving their married children advise whether they want it or not. Sometimes, they have unreasonable expectations on how much time they spend together or what they expect their grown child to do for them. Most in-law conflicts come in the area or advise given/received and in time spent together.

We try to encourage couples not to go to parents or siblings when they have marital difficulties. It is very hard for the parent or sibling to be objective or detached. It also causes emotional distress for them, many times over minor issues. We encourage them to seek an objective third party for advice or guidance.

For the parents left behind - the best thing that you can do for your married children is to pray for them and not interfere with their marriage.

For more information:
Parents - Past and Present

WEDDING SEASON

BEFORE THE WEDDING
The royal wedding of William and Kate is center-stage.

Publicity is rampant.

Every bride’s dream looks miniscule compared to the royal wedding. Estimates for the cost of the wedding start around $30 million. The average U.S. wedding costs $24,000 now.

When looking at wedding websites, the recommendation is to begin planning at least one year ahead, with checklists that include at least 50 items.

Of those 50 items, somewhere in the list is “decide on the officiant” (who is going to perform the ceremony). Then, you find out the officiant’s requirements.That item is the only one that refers to preparing for the actual marriage.

We often tell couples the wedding is a one-day event, the marriage lasts a life-time (we hope!).

The cost and preparation for the wedding far exceeds the preparation for the marriage for most couples.

Yet, research shows that couples who go through marital preparation are glad that they did and are more successful in their marriages.

In a research study for the Catholic Church (they have far exceeded other churches in requiring significant premarital preparation), they found:
  1. The vast majority of individuals who have participated in marriage preparation programs view the experience as valuable early in their marriage.
  2. Marriage preparation is perceived as most valuable when it is administered by a team.
  3. The correlation of the intensity of marriage preparation and its perceived value increases with the number of sessions up to 8-9 sessions and then falls off again, suggesting that an intensity of 8-9 sessions might be ideal.
In Oklahoma, even though the state offers a $45 discount on a marriage license if the couple has premarital preparation, the majority of couples still do not do anythingt to prepare for marriage.

How can we be more effective at getting couples prepared? Churches can require it. Parents can insist on it. We can provide it. (We do couple-to-couple premarital counseling and also do premarital classes, see more info about classes).

THE ODDS FOR THE COUPLE 

The Royal Couple chose a path before their marriage that greatly decreases their odds of making the marriage work—they have lived together for several years. Cohabitation increases the risk for divorce.

Other risk factors include:
  • Having a personality tendency to react strongly or defensively to problems and disappointments
  • Being previously divorced, yourself or your partner
  • Having children from a previous marriage/relationship
  • Having different religious backgrounds
  • Marrying at a very young age (example, at the ages of 18- 19).
  • Knowing each other only for a short time before marriage
  • Having financial hardship  
What else leads to success?
  • Communicating well, eliminating negative patterns
  • Working as a team, even in disagreements.
  • Realistic beliefs about marriage
  • Having the same values for important things
  • Commitment, protecting your relationship, viewing your marriage as a long-term investment
  • Involvement in a faith group regularly
  • Having fun together
For more information on preparing for marriage, see:

Resources:

Preparing for Marriage: Discover God's Plan for a Lifetime of Love   Before You Plan Your Wedding...Plan Your Marriage   
Going All the Way: Preparing for a Marriage That Goes the Distance   Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts: Seven Questions to Ask Before and After You Marry 
Before "I Do": Preparing for the Full Marriage Experience  10 Great Dates Before You Say "I Do"
101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged   Before You Say "I Do"® Devotional: Building a Spiritual Foundation for Your Life Together

The Word on our Words ...

#1 WORD ON WORDS
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29(NIV)

This verse may be the most important on our words. God’s Word on our words is very clear. DO NOT speak words that are harmful! The word translated unwholesome in this verse means literally “rotten, putrefied,” such as rotten fruit. Other translations use the words “foul, dirty, abusive, corrupt.”

In contrast, we are to say words that will encourage and help others. The verse is not saying to falsely flatter a person, but to be kind and truthful in a way that will strengthen them.

We want to strengthen others according to what their real needs are, not just what they think they need. Real needs would include knowing God’s love for them, knowing His care and concern for them, knowing someone on this earth values them and believes in them.

When we speak in those ways, people WILL listen to our words and they will WANT to listen to what we say.

Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving. Dale Carnegie

Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another. Napoleon Hill

#2 WORD ON WORDS
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)

If we could put into practice this verse along with Ephesians 4:29 (see above), we could take care of most marriage and relationship problems.

Very simple, but not easy!

Three concepts:
  1. Kindness
  2. Compassion
  3. Forgiveness
KINDNESS
We often challenge couples to be as kind to each other as they are to the clerk at the store. Most people use a civil tone, without anger or hurtful words to strangers.

How ‘bout we start treating those we love that way too?

People who work in the retail world can tell you that not everyone treats them with kindness. Most of us will find that we will get much better service and cooperation when we are intentional about speaking kindly, even complimenting those workers.

Kind words produce their own image in men's souls; and a beautiful image it is. They soothe and quiet and comfort the hearer. They shame him out of his sour, morose, unkind feelings. We have not yet begun to use kind words in such abundance as they ought to be used. Blaise Pascal

Kindness is the only service that will stand the storm of life and not wash out. Abraham Lincoln

COMPASSION
What does compassion really mean?

From the dictionary: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

When we think about our Lord, compassion is one of the first and foremost attributes.

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. Psalm 103:8

The word compassion or compassionate is used over 100 times in the Bible (NAS) and most instances are in reference to God’s character. The more we understand His compassion for us, the easier it is for us to be compassionate towards others.

As we experience life’s hardships, the easier it is to identify with others’ hardship … and to be compassionate.

The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another. Thomas Merton

FORGIVENESS
A key part of the verse in exhorting us to forgive is “just as in Christ God forgave you.”

We are to forgive in the same way God forgives us. When we receive Christ, God forgave us for everything we have ever done in the past or will do in the future.

We don’t forgive sins; we forgive the hurt. In the same way, that someone (Christ) had to pay for our sin, someone else pays for the hurt. The one who forgives pays the price. We no longer try to make the other person pay when we forgive. Paradoxically, the one who forgives derives the benefit of the forgiveness.

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. Lewis B. Smedes
The Art of Forgiving

Tongue of Fire

A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. (James 3:5-6, The Message)

Communication: Key to Your Marriage: A Practical Guide to Creating a Happy, Fulfilling RelationshipWords are powerful!                        

This verse uses the analogy of a spark starting a forest fire to the power of our words to hurt or destroy. At this time of a drought year in Oklahoma, we are well aware of how easily wildfires can start. One cigarette or ember from a fire in the dry ground, fanned by the high winds, spreads a small flame into a disastrous fire. The fire destroys acres of land, burns house, and anything in its path. Our words can be just as destructive.

We should never underestimate the power of our words to hurt or heal! And yet, we speak without thinking, without contemplating the effect of what we have said. Many communication problems originate with careless words.

Mark Twain aptly said: Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.

Wisdom says to think before you speak. Often the words rush out before we think. We wrongly think that we just need to have more self-control.

THE HEART
But the step before thinking is the condition of our heart towards another person. If we have animosity in our heart, we will speak hurtful words. If we have love in our heart, we speak loving and kind words. "For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." Luke 6:45

Even in times of disagreement, we must be careful of our heart and our tone of voice.

HEAL OR HURT

Quarrels end, but words once spoken never die. (African proverb)

Amazingly enough, a person can remember hurtful words years after they are spoken. Often the incident that spurned the words are forgotten, but not the words. The words stick with us.

The words of some men are thrown forcibly against you and adhere like burrs. (Henry David Thoreau) "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." (Proverbs 12:18)

We have a choice - words that hurt or words that heal. Wise and encouraging words can change the course of a person’s life.

Kind words are short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless. (Mother Teresa) "An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up." (Proverbs 12:25) Kind, encouraging words can do wonders for others who are weighted down with the worries of this world.


If we could really grab hold of the idea that our words can bring hope and healing, we would invest more time and energy into speaking and writing words of affirmation and love to the world around us.

Try it, see what happens!