Who did you really marry? At the altar, the real question might be “ Do you take this woman, her parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, friends and co-workers”?. What this points out then when we marry, our background and family of origin can play a significant role in the forming of the family unit. As a married couple we are called to leave our families and “become one with each other” but this is not always so easy to do.
We really are who we are. We are made up of many things that have taken place in our lives. The same is true for our wives. We are all part of our family of origin, and we bring that family of origin into our marriage and we perceive married life.
What was it like in my family growing up? Were my parents together, or divorced? Did one of my parents stay home and be the full time care giver? Did my mother work out of the house? How much time was spent with my family and was I involved or on the sidelines? Look at parenting styles, and how much they affect you and how you are raising your children. Look also at your parent’s relationships and how you may or may not mirror the interactions your parents as spouses had. The Church calls us to be exclusively for each other, but is rather silent on how this is accomplished.
Now think, your wife has the same issues. Both your wife’s and your family of origin influence you even as an adult today. How your parents and your in-laws interacted with each other, greatly affects how you and your wife also interact. For some, going back is a pleasant experience, for others, perhaps not necessarily so.
As a husband, you have married your in-laws to a certain extent. How your wife models her parents, and how she interacted with her siblings certainly will have a great impact on her relationship with you and your family. It is also important to remember that your wife has also married your parents, siblings etc. It is a two way street.
In the Bible readings and in the excerpts from the Catholic Catechism, we can see that as a married couple, we called to leave those we knew and lived with behind and move forward to creating our own family unit.
1. Genesis 24
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body
2. Matthew 19:4-6
He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate
3. 1 Corinthians 7: 3-5
The husband should fulfill his duty toward his wife, and likewise the wife toward her husband. A wife does not have authority over her own body, but rather her husband, and similarly a husband does not have authority over his own body, but rather his wife. Do not deprive each other, except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, to be free for prayer, but then return to one another,
4. Ephesians 5: 21-33
Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husband as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife, just as Christ is head of the church, himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So (also) husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh, but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.
“For this reason, a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh”
This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church. In any case, each should love his wife as himself and the wife should respect her husband.
1. Paragraph 372
Man and woman were made “for each other” – not that God left them half-made and incomplete: he created them to be a communion of persons, in which each can be “helpmate” to the other, for they are equal as persons (“bone of my bones. . .”) and complementary as masculine and feminine. In marriage God unites them in such a way that, by forming “one flesh”,245 they can transmit human life: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.”246 By transmitting human life to their descendants, man and woman as spouses and parents cooperate in a unique way in the Creator’s work.247
2. Paragraph 2333
Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out.
3. Paragraph 2202
A man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children, form a family. This institution is prior to any recognition by public authority, which has an obligation to recognize it. It should be considered the normal reference point by which the different forms of family relationship are to be evaluated.
4. Paragraph 2364
The married couple forms “the intimate partnership of life and love established by the Creator and governed by his laws; it is rooted in the conjugal covenant, that is, in their irrevocable personal consent.”147 Both give themselves definitively and totally to one another. They are no longer two; from now on they form one flesh. The covenant they freely contracted imposes on the spouses the obligation to preserve it as unique and indissoluble.148 “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”149
Small Group Questions
- Which of us has had the most difficulty separating from our family and friends?
- What values and traditions in your and your wife’s family do you most enjoy and most dislike?
- In what ways do friends and family challenge our unity as a married couple and a family unit?
- Where am I in the birth order in my family and where was my wife?
- How is your family life the same as your family growing up and how is it different?
- Do you discipline the same as you were disciplined growing up?
- When you have troubles or questions about your marriage, who do you turn to?
- Fighting for your Marriage, Markham, Stanley, and Blumberg, 1994
- Marriage Preparation, Archdiocese of Cincinnati, used with permission
- Marriage is a lot like a ski race. You are asked to race down a hill, curving and turning between the boundaries of the poles. It takes discipline and skill to navigate the course. You simply cannot spontaneously or without preparation navigate the course. Together you are creating a new pattern of poles and ski path. It is unique to your own special blending of family and personality. When it is done well and with forethought, it is exhilarating and fulfilling.
The term “Family of Origin” refers to the family that you grew up in – your parents and siblings. It may also include a grandparent, other relative, or divorced …