Because today’s topic is No More Perfect Marriages, I thought I’d share an excerpt from the chapter in No More Perfect Moms by the same title:
The first challenge every marriage faces is the merging of two families of origin. From the start, a new couple is blending the deeply embedded family patterns and traditions from two separate families. Maybe one family handled conflict by pretending it didn’t exist. Conversely, the spouse’s family handled conflict by yelling and screaming. One family handled parenting by giving lots of freedom to the children. The spouse’s family ran a tight ship with lots of rules and boundaries in place. One family made a big deal of birthdays with lots of gifts and celebrations, while the other family just honored the birthday person with words of encouragement but little festivity. One family went to church every Sunday, while the other family attended only on Easter and Christmas.
Mark and I ran into this within one month of saying, “I do.” It was Mark’s twenty-third birthday, and I planned a celebration the way my family celebrated birthdays: a homemade cake, a homemade meal, and a house full of relatives. I found out very quickly that wasn’t how birthdays were celebrated in Mark’s family. According to Mark, we were supposed to go out to eat, have a store bought cake with little candy letters on it that spelled out HAPPY BIRTHDAY, and friends and family were supposed to be invited. How was I supposed to know that all these years my family had been wrong?
Birthdays were just the beginning. There were differences in summer vacations, Christmas, and Easter. According to each of us, there was a “right” way to grill, to make chili, to manage money, and to clean a bathroom. There was even a “right” way to put the toilet paper roll on the toilet roll dispenser. Of course, we rarely agreed on what the right way was because our “rights” were completely different from each other’s!
Not only did habits and traditions collide, but suddenly there were more than two people in this new relationship. He brought his family into our new union and I brought my family into this relationship, too. 1 + 1 did not equal 2. It appeared to equal more than a dozen people! Is this what is meant by for better or for worse?
Every marriage faces the challenge of blending two families. Without realizing it, we both come into marriage with expectations that this new family we will be forming will do things the same way the family we came from did things. Ah! That expectation word gets us in trouble every time, doesn’t it?
If you’ve found yourself disagreeing with your spouse about communication, parenting, sex, money, or which way the toilet paper roll goes on the toilet paper dispenser, you are not alone. Those are common challenges in marriage. It’s hard work to blend two lives, two perspectives, two sets of experiences, and, of course, two sets of expectations!
If you’ve ever found yourself disillusioned with the real stuff of marriage, dealing with baggage from the seemingly incompatible families you came from, you are among friends. Most of us have experienced that feeling. It doesn’t mean it’s time to throw in the towel. It doesn’t mean you aren’t compatible. It doesn’t mean you haven’t found your soul mate. It simply means you’re normal—absolutely normal.