We often think that marriage is all about us getting together because of love. But what about what God wants out of our marriage? And what about children that we may have after we marry? There could be family issues you had earlier in life, which will impact your future family. These are issues it is good to look into so you are approaching life together “on the same page.”
“When two actors go out on stage, we take it for granted that they both are going to be working from the same script,” said Dr Carlfred Broaderick.
“By the same token, when two people marry they put down their money in a similar hope that they can take a particular script for granted. Unfortunately, the scripts from which each member of a couple plays her and his marital scenes are sometimes very different. Often our scripts are based on our parents’ marriages.”
Family Issues that Influence
Author Lavonne Neff says at the time of her marriage, her parents had been married for thirty-five years and her husband’s for twenty-five. Both marriages were solid. But, she says:
“We had instinctively learned patterns of behavior that had worked well for our parents. So we didn’t think twice about applying them to themselves.
“And that was the problem. David was treating me just as his father treats his mother, and I was responding just as my mother responds to my father. The trouble was that his father was not married to my mother!”
If you took a video of marriages around the world, many pictures would emerge. You would see some in which the husband fathers both wife and children. There would be others in which the wife supports the family and dominates and controls both husband and children. In a few cultures, the picture might emerge of a husband with several wives who are responsible not only to him, but also to his relatives.
God’s Family Plan
God’s plan for the family is an equilateral triangle with God at the top. At the base are equal partners who are best friends, committed to God and to each other. This is the kind of marriage in which trust, friendship, commitment, joy and union thrive.
If you are engaged to be married, ask these questions of yourself and your spouse-to-be to avoid misunderstandings in the future or solve them in the present. We suggest the two of you take an hour or two for several weeks and explore the following.
1. What were the responsibilities and chores of each member of your family as you were growing up? How were these accepted by each member? (For example, did they accept them as routine, resent them, gripe about them? Or did they try to get out of them?)
2. In your opinion, how should chores for the home, car, lawn, garden, etc., be handled? Who should decide who does what?
3. What holidays did your family celebrate and how? What, of their traditions, do you want to continue in our family? Do you want to add any? How important is this to you? Was Christmas of special importance in your home? How much was spent on gifts?
4. Were table manners and manners in general taught in your home? How diligently? What manners are most important to you? (For example, is chewing with one’s mouth closed important? Using a knife and fork properly? Opening doors for women? Being helped on with your coat? Not interrupting someone who’s speaking?)
5. What was your parents’ educational background? Was good English used in your home? How important is the proper use of grammar to you? Is this something you want our family to work on?
6. In what events did your family participate together? Which meals did you eat together as a family? What recreation did you all participate in? Work projects? Did you worship together? Have family devotions? Other? What did you like about this? Dislike? What would you like our family to do together regularly?
7. What was the general atmosphere around your home? Was there much quarreling or was it mostly pleasant? Which member of your family did you enjoy being with the most? The least?
Additionally Discuss Together:
8. How important in your home were reunions and get-togethers with relatives? How important is your extended family to you? And how often would you like to see them?
9. How did your family spend vacations? If your family had $200 to spend on a vacation but the house needed painting, would your father have wanted to use that money to paint the house during vacation or go somewhere inexpensive? What about your mother? What would you want to do? Also, what is your ideal vacation, given unlimited funds? Given very limited funds?
10. What was each member of your family’s attitude about God? About church? About spiritual things in general? Which ones were Christians? Which ones were hostile about spiritual matters? Did you go to church regularly as a family? How committed was your family to that? What is your own feeling concerning God, Christ, the Christian life? How do you feel about regular church attendance and what does “regular” mean to you? What were your families’ views concerning Sunday as the Lord’s Day?
11. What value was held in highest esteem by your father (for example, honesty, integrity, faithfulness, love, kindness)? Your mother? What other values were important and how was that demonstrated? What values are most important to you and how would you like to see them worked out in our home?
12. What was the pattern of your family’s social life? Were they involved in a country club, sports events, big parties, small dinners, games, etc.? What would you like to continue that you enjoyed? What kinds of things do you dislike?
13. To what extent did your father and mother show an interest in what you were doing? Did they get involved in school activities? Come to events in which you were participating? See that you had your homework done?
14. What were the rules of conduct in your home? Did you have strict deadlines when you had to be home in the evenings? Rules about dating? Did your parents insist on knowing where you were most of the time? Did each member of the family keep the others informed of their whereabouts?
15. What was the attitude of your family concerning privacy? Did you walk in and out of bedrooms and bathrooms without knocking? What would you like to do in your home concerning this?
16. Was your family conservative or liberal in their thinking? About politics? Religion? What were your families’ views on: Abortion? Alcohol? Cigarettes? Drugs? Racial issues?
17. Did your parents teach you about sex? At what age? Was their view of sex healthy? Would you want your children to be raised as you were in this regard? If you didn’t learn about sex from your parents where and what did you learn about it?
18. What kinds of attitudes did your father and mother have concerning money? Were they liberal spenders? Givers? Savers? Did your family operate on a budget? Were they in debt much of the time? If so, from whom did they borrow? Would they be more likely to spend money on new cars, clothes, entertainment, insurance, or other? What were their priorities as far as money was concerned? Which of their values would you want to emulate? What would you want to avoid?
19. How well do you feel your parents related to one another? To each member of the family? What would you like to carry over from them or avoid?
20. What did your family read? And what programs did they watch on television? What kind of movies did they enjoy?
21. What kinds of humor did your family enjoy? Were there Practical jokes? Puns? Slapstick?
22. What kinds of pets did your family own? Were they treated as members of the family or kept outside? How do you feel about animals?
23. Did an older relative ever live with your family? What was your parents’ attitude toward the widowed or sick and their responsibility toward them?
24. How did your family respond to illness (with sympathy, over-concern, ignored it and went on working, etc.)? When you were ill, how did your family treat you? How would you like to be treated?
Re-writing Your Script for Your Family
That’s quite a list. And it isn’t even comprehensive. But it is a beginning of rewriting part of your script in order to approach the drama of marriage with understanding.
Lastly, someone has said, “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” That’s true. Part of the process of falling in love —and staying in love-demands a knowledge and understanding of the background of our partner. This awareness comes through hard work, communication, compromise, adjusting —and a giant helping of God’s grace.
This article is edited from the terrific book OPPOSITES ATTACK, by Jack and Carole Mayhall, published by NavPress. Unfortunately this book is no longer being printed. If you are able to obtain this book somehow, its aimed at turning your differences into opportunities and helping polar opposites turn into the best of friends. As they often say, “different doesn’t mean wrong —it just means different in the way you approach life.”
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