Cutting the Apron Strings (part 2)

This is a continuation of the Cutting the Apron Strings (part one).   In this article,  I will start with the parents.  Do you want to be a great inlaw?  You are in some good and bad company.  In the history of the Bible, there are some great and not so great inlaws.   How about Saul?  How would you rate him as a father in law?  I feel bad for his daughter, Michel.    She is given to David in marriage in hopes that David will be killed while trying to meet her dowry.   When this doesn’t happen, he constantly puts his daughter in the position of “you either side with Daddy or you side with your husband”.    I am sure in the beginning of my marriage, my own dad may have been that way.   Even though he always told me that his job was to raise me to give me away, he still  lost his little girl.    Let’s look at some good inlaws now.  How about Naomi?   When Ruth’s husband died, she was ready to give up her relationship with her daughter in law.  She must have been a darn good one if Ruth wanted to stay with her!   Or how about Jethro?  What kind of father in law was he to Moses?

Parents, if you want to be able to have a good relationship with your child who is marrying and his/her spouse, you’ve got to let them leave.   It is something that I haven’t experienced from the parent angle yet, but as the child who’s parent is hanging on, it doesn’t make things easy at all.   Parents, you’ve got to cut the counseling strings.   If your daughter or son comes to you, spilling their guts out to you, don’t say a word.   Dr. Young suggests these things… back up…shut up… pray a lot… listen and encourage.   Don’t take sides.    In this way, you can be a parent to both your child AND your DIL/SIN (son in law…not sin!  LOL)   Cut the economic strings…you can give economic help, but leave no strings attached to it.   “Since I paid for your marriage, I expect you to take care of me in my old age”or “since I helped pay for all this baby stuff, I need to be the first grandparent called to babysit”…um, no.   You can make an arrangement that it be paid back, but do not put stipulations on it.   Let your kids leave you.  Let them spread their wings and fly.  I know you’ve BTDT, but you’ve got to let them learn how to do it on their own.   It will build a very strong marriage for your children.  It will help them learn to let their own children leave someday when it comes time for them.

Alright, if you are on the “child” side of the coin, here’s my advice for you.  To have a successful marriage, you need to also leave the following things…

1. leave your parents:  Sometimes we need to create boundaries with our parents. Sounds bad, doesn’t it? We need to let them know that we love them, and we are grateful for the love, support and training that they have given us, but once we marry, we have created a new family that needs to be able to spread its wings and fly. This does not dishonor your parents by any means…it can actually honor them by not placing them in the situation where they have to take sides.   And depending on the parent, they might take yours or they might take your SPOUSES!  This can be hard on a young couple in their 20’s, but it can be just as hard for those marrying later in life as well. It is wonderful when you can be bailed out by your family, but the longer you take to learn to bail yourself out, the harder it is on your marriage.

2. leave people/former relationships: your mate is #1.   You can’t keep your weekly pool matches with your drinking buddies.  My own shopping sprees with my mom and sister…I really needed to leave them behind.  Anything that takes a lot of your time, it takes away from your spouse.   Now I’m not saying that a once a month GNO is bad, sometimes we need it, but it needs to be that…once a month.   We should be dating our spouse more than our friends.   Leave your past relationships behind.   There is no reason to compare your spouse to someone from the past…or someone you wish you had married instead…your grass can be just as green as what’s on the other side of the fence if you properly water and care for it.   Leave those emotional attachments in the past.

3. leave problems behind:  when you carry baggage around with you, it affects communication, sex life, etc.   1 John 1:9  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” If there is something to confess about, confess it to God, confess to your spouse, and don’t forget to forgive yourself!

4. leave places, too:   don’t compare to past places.  The good old days are in the past.  You are in the present.  There are good times to come, too with your spouse.

I hope that I have learned enough about God’s plan for marriage that when my two children get married someday, that I can help them leave our home and create their own bond with their spouses without any interference from me. Our job is to raise God fearing children and prepare them to fly out of our nest to build their own.

I would like for you to share your experiences below and any advice you may have for our readers who are engaged or newly married…lessons you have learned from your own experience. But remember this from the Gospel of Matthew “ “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matt 19:4-6) Do not let anything separate you from (1) God and (2) your spouse….including attachments to your “old home”.

18 Comments

  1. I really like rule #2. My husband and I love to ‘hang out’ together. I would rather spend time with him. I was beginning to feel that this was strange. Society tells us that we should be going out with friends regularly. I know we are new to our marriage but he is my best friend.

    When he works an early shift we like to go out to eat with my son. (Nothing fancy) We really have fun as a family.

    Two nights a week we go to bible study together, unless he is working late then my son and I go by ourselves. I love my Church family and we get to interact with like minded Christians.

    His daughters visit every other weekend whether he is working or not and my son and I get to spend a lot of time with them.

    Beyond that I don’t feel the need to spend time with other people. It’s time I would be taking away from my marriage.

    Maybe this will change, but for now it’s enough for me. Does anyone else feel this way?

  2. I’ve been married two years and I’m still struggling some with this. Thank you for addressing a needed topic! 🙂

  3. My parents cut the apron strings to me (us). All my growing up years my Dad regularly said that I was his responsibility until I married. Then I was the responsibility of my husband. After we were married, they let us know that they were there for us if needed. That meant AFTER we had tried our best to solve whatever situation was at hand. They did not want to come between us and made a point of not offering advice or criticisms. They warned us though, that if they saw anything particularly destructive, to either of us or our children, THEN and only then, they would verbally intervene.

    My husbands parents were not that way though. They wanted to be intimitly involved in our marriage and were continually upset when we would not allow them in. We finally moved 2 hours away and they still tried interferring in our lives. Multiple daily phone calls, “advice” that we should be doing this or that, insisting that we come “home” every weekend, etc. In general, not understanding that we were starting our own family, had our own friends at our new home, that I had a very sick (and dying) mother who truly needed our assistance, and such. Our marriage came very, very close to not surviving because my husband did not know how to say no to his parents and repeatedly would place them before me and our children. Eventually, we had to shut them out of lives completely. For about 2 years we had virtually no contact with them. This caused oodles of hurt feelings, but it was the only way we knew to break the very unhealthy bonds that were there. Since then, we have witnessed both of DH brothers go through divorce and watch the close involvement of his parents in his sister’s marriage. All we can do is pray for them that they would have the courage to create boundaries, and enforce. them.

    Thanks for these 2 articles. They were well written.

  4. We went to a counselor that helped us set boundaries. What was hard for us is that my DH’s mom said we weren’t being godly and that we weren’t obeying God because of what we were doing. The counselor reminded us that what she wanted was unhealthy and ungodly. That we were suppose to honor our parents but that just because our parents didn’t feel “honored” didn’t mean that were wrong in our actions.

    My husband then took a trip to see them & to sit down with his parents and talk out these boundaries (this was after some pretty bad behavior on his mom’s part). Things aren’t perfect but much better.

  5. I can relate to this soooo much! One my Mom and I are very close, still are but now I don’t tell her every time we have an argument ect. We do hang out with family all the time but we are together and we both enjoy it. When we had our first child she was 2 months premature weighed only 2lbs 2oz while she never had any major problems (other than size) she was in Neo Natal ICU for over 3 months and when she came home we had to be very careful about bacteria and germs so we set alot of restricitons on everyone that came over so that she wouldn’t get sick. All the while my husbands Mom (who still to this day doesnt much care for me and the feeling is mutual beleive me) wanted to tell us how to do it all and she always wanted to watch her but her house wasn’t as clean as we wanted it to be for our daughter to stay there and she would get so mad over that! Not to mention the time my husbands ex showed up (long story) and his Mother told her she thought she should try and get back together with my husband!!!!! Over the last 9 years his mom has put our relationship through alot of unnecissary hardship but I think now after 9 years she’s realized we will always prevail!!!! Even though she still trys in little ways to pull him away it doesn’t work anymore! I am so glad we were able to get through everything because I wouldn’t trade what we have now for the world!

  6. It looks like MILs clinging relentlessly to their sons is not an uncommon problem. My FH’s mother texts him all the time, but even if she has a question that pertains to me, not him, she refuses to talk to me about it, even when he suggests that she should! And there are so many other insulting and manipulative things she does… Of course, my DFH doesn’t see the problem in any of this! We are getting married this weekend, and If she texts us on our honeymoon… I will not be happy! :/

  7. Let family know you will NOT be answering the phone or texts. If they say they need to be able to get to you if there is an emergency, you can direct everyone to a designated person (the best man is a good bet). HE can have access to you if ABSOLUTELY necessary.

    If texts/e-mails etc… come in, ummmm. You shouldn’t even know. Don’t check.

  8. Good comment Tiger girl 🙂
    I undertand all the MIL problems, but remember this is your DH mother/family and no matter how difficult it might be we should all strive to love and respect them. As a christian I am required to love, even those who don’t always deserve it 🙂
    This is not a holier than thou comment, just my christian beliefs.
    I think your husband will be more impressed and respect you more as a person if you can truley be “christ like” when dealing with his family.

  9. My MIL passed away 6 years ago, and she was only occasionally difficult to deal with. I loved her despite her failings as a mother to my husband and his sister, and tried to show her the forgiveness she deserved after she turned her life around. Now, my MIL is essentially my (younger) sister in law. We have had less contact with her in the past year or so (he talks to her briefly on the phone every couple of weeks, and I only speak with her maybe once a month; in person visits are once a month at the most), and that seems to be the best solution. For the most part, the problem lies with her judgmental and know it all disposition, which is generally controlled but when it flares up, it flares up badly…and until we limited contact, it took a horrible toll on our marriage for a good 5 years. We’re talking screaming fights between me and my husband that went on for hours. I didn’t believe him – frankly, I still don’t – when he said that he confronted her about it, and that hurts him…but it’s because of the I stood there and watched him just take it and expect me to as well (and then later try to convince me that the problems were “all in my head”). I was close to leaving just to get through to him about this; when was the last time you heard of a sister in law breaking up a marriage?! But since we limited contact, things have been so much better. I have learned, though, that a too-long visit or a shared car ride with her is still not a good idea. If anyone else has a SIL without kids who thinks she’s a parenting expert or who verbalizes her unsolicited opinions on aspects of your Christian beliefs…please, share your story so I know I’m not alone! Thank you for specifying in the article that apron strings don’t always apply to parents…it can be friends, and certainly siblings, as well.

  10. Cocco,

    You are certainly not alone, while we have all those problems with my MIL we also have those problems with my BIL his GF and pretty much everyone in his family. When reading your post it was like reading my own experiance with my husbands family. We too have had to limit contact with all of them and make sure we dont reveal any personal information to any of them. They tend to take the extremely harsh route and when they don’t like something (like me or what I do) they proceed to put down my husband and me to try and make us feel bad, they have even told him that if I weren’t in the picture all his family problems would not exsist, even though his problems with his mother stem to his childhood and have nothing to do with me. But I just wanted to let you know that you are definatly not alone there are many people that have the same issue!

  11. Thank you Jen…very comforting to know I’m not alone, but I will pray for your situation!

  12. Great article!

    My husband and I have been married for just under a year, and this has been a hard area for us. We live several hours away from my parents, and ten minutes from his. We both have a fantastic relationship with my in-laws, especially my mother-in-law. I cannot imagine having married into a more wonderful family. And yet, there’s pressure to stay here for the rest of our lives.

    We’ve been talking about making a long-distance move, and it’s pretty tough subject. My father-in-law can be a pretty domineering man, and my husband has always been around to be the peace keeper and run interference for his mom. It’s very, very hard for him to not feel guilt over the fact that that’s not his place anymore; maybe it never should have been. He also has two younger brothers who haven’t come to know Christ, and he feels responsible for sticking around and guiding them.

    Add in the subtle reminders that some day we’ll be having grandchildren, and wouldn’t it be awful if they didn’t grow up near any grandparents, and wouldn’t it be awful if their grandparents didn’t get to bask in the joy of their grandkids from a close proximity…it can be very hard to establish boundaries, especially when we do have a wonderful relationship.

    Thank you for this. 🙂 I printed it off for my husband read through it as well, and I think it was very helpful to him, too. God’s design is not necessarily that we honor our parents by making all the decisions they want us to make. It’s that we honor them by honoring Him.

  13. These articles have been so helpful to me!! Thank you!! My fiance and i are getting married in 2 weeks (!) and because he’s military, i’ll be moving across the country right after our honeymoon. I’ve always been close with his family (halleluyah!) so in-laws aren’t really an issue! My family, on the other hand, are the ones who are getting to me >_< my mom consantly insists on my taking her "advice", except my parents marriage is not the example of Christ-seeking partnership that my fiance and i want to emulate. My mom and i have always been close, and this is the first time i've ever had to disagree with her, which is very difficult. My fiance is such an encouragement to me and, between him and Jesus, i've found the "hutzbah" to stand up to her 😛 But it isn't easy. This site is such an encouragement and i THANK YOU wonderful ladies for being so transparent and honest and creating this wonderful site! ❤

  14. Congrats to you! I know exactly what you’re going through. My husband’s Navy, and the day after our wedding, we drove from West Coast to East Coast.

    It’s tough for me to have to tell my parents to let me go in regards to advice, but I still take the time to let them know I love ’em and respect them for raising me the best way they knew how.

    Praying for ya!

  15. I don’t even know where to begin with this subject. We are getting married in about 3 weeks and his mother likes to be in the middle of things controlling our day to day activities and our future plans. One of the problems is my fiance and I had discussed kids and then casually told her and other family members that we probably wouldn’t have kids for 4-6 years because of our age. She took it as a definite plan. 6 years. No sooner. Now every time I mention kids she says not for 6 years. Its like we can’t change our minds. She likes to control everything and I don’t know how to broach the subject with her. Or if I disagree with her on something she will go to her son, hash it out with him and then he comes to me and eventually it changes my mind. I know for a fact that this is wrong, my dad and step mom are getting really frustrated with it and I have yet to bring that subject up to my fiance. I’m quite a coward at conflict and I pray for Gods strength. I’m at a loss of what to do. 😦

  16. You really need to discuss this with your fiance. The two of you need to be of one accord on this. He needs to take a firm stand with his mother, not only as a man but also because he is the blood relative in this situation (because people don’t get as angry at blood relatives as the do at in-laws when it comes to this sort of thing). He needs to establish clear boundaries with her, and make it abundantly clear that the two of you are going to chart your life together, with God’s help. If he isn’t willing to do that, you’re going to have a constant problem on your hands. Once she knows where the two of you stand on this, my general approach would be to ignore her attempts to meddle. I wouldn’t discuss my plans with her, and I wouldn’t argue with her. In other words, I wouldn’t play her game. If arguments need to occur, your husband needs to handle them.

  17. little_dove, it is very important that you speak to your fiancee’ about this subject and the both of you come to a mutual agreement on how you will handle both sets of parents. It may be a good time to stop sharing plans with both families (yours and his) Their opinions are always nice to have, but in the end, you and your fiance’ need to have the last word and make the decisions on your own. It may be hard for him to leave his mom. She may have done a lot for him when he was growing up. Be sympathetic, but maybe seek out marriage counseling or talk to the pastor who will marry you and get him to broach you as a couple on this topic of how you would handle it. In the end, in order for your marriage to get off on the right foot, he’s going to have to choose you and become a family unit with you. Praying that God will help you through this struggle and that you have a very blessed wedding and marriage!

  18. I agree. My husband and I don’t share the ins and outs of what goes on in our marriage with either set of parents. If there’s trouble, I just ask for prayer and encouragement. Don’t get me wrong. I love both my parents and my in-laws, but they can’t tell us how to live our marriage, and they understand that :).


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