Tied to Mom's apron strings
You have planned a romantic night in and the phone rings. As each ring echoes around the room your mind fills with dread, you know who it is and you know what they want ... your spouse!
In Genesis 2:24 we are given the instruction "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh."
A lot of couples struggle in their marriage because they have never truly ‘left' their parents. Leaving doesn't mean breaking off all relationship with them but it does mean a purposeful moving away. The word leave also means ‘loose' in other words it is time to untie those apron strings! Your spouse now becomes your first priority. That does not remove your responsibility towards your parents but it does mean that you are considerate of your spouse, their feelings and their needs.
God doesn't just tell us to leave our father and mother but He instructs us to cleave to our spouse. Cleave is not a word we use often so what does it mean? The strong's concordance defines it as "to adhere, especially firmly as if with glue, to be glued." In other words we are to stick so close together that it is as if we are glued together.
An illustration that is often used in the Married for Life class is taking a piece of blue paper (symbolizing the husband) and a piece of pink paper (symbolizing the wife) that have been glued together. This represents the closeness of the union that God wants us to have in our marriage relationship.
Different things tug on our marriage tearing us away from each other. When you tear the two pieces of paper apart then a mess is left. Some of the blue will still be attached to the pink and some of the paper will be torn. There is never such a thing as a clean divorce, there is always emotional damage!
Matthew 19:6 (Amplified version) "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What God has joined together, let man not put asunder (separate)." Have you allowed someone else to separate you? It is time to make it right!
How to untie those apron strings.
Recognize that the apron strings exist. Often we don't even recognize that there is a problem, we think our spouse is the problem because they don't recognize the needs of our parents. Listen to your spouse, they more than anyone will be able to identify if the apron strings exist.
Indicators that there is an unhealthy parent/child relationship.
- You value your parents' opinion above your spouse's.
- You drop everything and run if they ask for your help.
- When you are asked to do something and the timing is not right you are unable to say ‘not now'.
- You are unable to make decisions as a couple without running it by your parents first.
- If you have an argument with your spouse you ‘run home' instead of sorting it through with your spouse.
If you have identified that the ‘apron strings' exist in your relationship to your parents then you need to know how to ‘loose' them. Here are some practical steps to take.
- Identify boundaries you can all work with.
A phone call or visit every night of the week will probably be too much for your spouse to handle. Identify what is a reasonable amount of time to spend with your relatives and make sure you have enough time to spend with your spouse.
- Talk to your parents.
If they are struggling to let you go then you will need to help them see things from your perspective. Pray about how to approach them in wisdom and love and let them know the boundaries.
- Examine your habits.
If you have a habit of phoning your parents for advice and ignoring what your spouse has to say about the problem then you need to break that behavioral pattern. It is not wrong to get outside advice but it is possible to override your spouse's feelings in order to ‘please' your parents.
- Plan your time.
How and where to spend holidays often causes strife in a marriage. Planning ahead will allow you to show your parents you care and still have quality time on your own as a couple.
- Forgive each other.
Often bitterness and resentment enters a relationship as the result of ‘leaving and cleaving' not taking place, you need to forgive your spouse if this is the case. You also need to forgive if your spouse has become critical of you and your parents as a result. Forgiveness releases you both to love the way God intended.
Note to Parents.
The wedding ceremony in the West is symbolic of what needs to take place for a marriage to be successful. The father walks down the aisle with his daughter and stands at the front of the church with her. The minister asks ‘who gives this woman to be married to this man' and the father indicates that he does. The bride then moves to her bridegroom's side symbolizing that she has left her family to be united to her husband.
Giving your child to their spouse is often an extremely difficult thing to do. You love them, you care for them and you want to keep them were they will be safe. Giving though is an important part of releasing them into a successful marriage.
We attended one wedding where both the grooms parents and brides parents stood at the front of the church with their children. They released their children and prayed a blessing over the marriage. It was a very powerful ceremony because both sets of parents realized this new season in their child's life.
Release requires trust.
To release your child you need to trust their spouse. Your son's new bride may not be able to cook or clean as well as you but she hasn't had the years of practice you have had. Be supportive rather than critical. You may not approve of their taste in décor or the organization of their home but try to resist the temptation to interfere.
Father's often find it difficult to trust their sons-in-law to provide financially and physically for their daughter. The temptation to step in and take up that role again is very strong. You need to stop yourself from fulfilling that urge, allow them to find their feet. If you are asked for advice then by all means give it but check that they are coming into agreement together and encourage them as they work out solutions to their problems together.
As your children move into this next phase of life you become a coach rather than a decision maker. A coach encourages their children to be successful and that includes being successful in their marriage.
Encourage means to deposit courage, bravery, boldness and assertiveness. You have an incredible opportunity to bless your son or daughter in this important time of their life. If you haven't been an encourager then you need to repent. Ask God to forgive you, it may also be appropriate to ask your family to forgive you too.
Help your children untie the apron strings,
you are in a new phase of life now.
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