Some people consider marriage to be the holiest of all sacraments. To Catholics, it is a sacred trust.
To non-Catholic Christians, marriage is a union created before God.
No matter how you view the act of marriage, all couples reach a crossroad in life on their wedding day: to be loyal and faithful to one another.
The wedding itself is a symbolic event that represents two adult individuals saying goodbye to the comforts of childhood and their unity with mom and dad.
They ‘leave and cleave’ and become their soulmate’s forever person.
In a ceremony or sometimes with only one or two witnesses present, as husband and wife, they commit to one another and welcome a journey of unknown territory — marriage.
A wedding day is certainly the most special day of all for a couple. Champagne flows like a soft river on a picture perfect day. Every person in attendance beams at the bride and groom as they exchange, “I dos”.
The families celebrate with food and dance. Dad gives away the bride. The groom dances with his mother.
At the end of the wedding, everyone cheers the newly married couple with glittered sparklers as they walk hand in hand at the end of this glorious event and enter a car with a big sign that says, “Just married: Mr. & Mrs.”
The vows are never really forgotten, even though they only took a few moments to speak. Ask any married couple who has ever uttered, “Until death do us part”.
It’s a moment that they remember for their entire lifetime. It was special, heartfelt and truly wanted.
The marriage license, with or without an official ceremony grants a husband and wife to a special privileges both legal and sometimes, cultural.
There’s a blending of a new culture, family, traditions, and beliefs. It’s suppose to be happy times, and everyone things that marriage can fix things because it’s born out of love.
It’s all exciting, but neither realizes what this all means, or how to maneuver marriage when it gets rough. (And trust me, it does.)
Happy smiles are long gone when the first marital fight breaks out.
Waves of emotion hit hard.
The mind reels, an urge tugs the heart to run to a familiar place. Somewhere safe. But where? What’s the first that comes to mind?
They both may decide that they want to go ‘home’. Their union doesn’t feel like family.
So, home isn’t the marriage, their shared house of residence. Instead, the wife wants to go home to her mother or father.
The husband wants to go home to his parent’s house, too.
Their family of origin is a safe nest. In that moment of anger, fear and weakness, the mind of a newly wedded couple yearns for the old life where they felt cared for, cherished and loved unconditionally.
Marriage life is hard. Being a newly wedded couple feels foreign, and sometimes impossible to do! They start to doubt that love really is enough.
So the bride commonly runs home to her mother and sister crying. “I made a mistake. He’s impossible to live with. I don’t know what to do.”
Her mother strokes her hair, “It will all work out. You are here, safe.” Your room is right down the hall. It’s waiting for you.”
All the bride ever wanted was to feel safe, the way that her husband made her feel when she accepted his proposal, and the way she felt when she was a child living in her own home. Her childhood home.
Often, the husband will also run to his family. If he was close to his mother, he will want to return to her, his safety net.
She blasts her new daughter in-law, “Immature spoiled princess, that’s what she is. She needs to learn a thing or two about who we are. Her family isn’t like us. It was just a matter of time you’d see the light.”
He doesn’t know what to say, he is torn between his mother and wife. His first love was his mother, he doesn’t want to upset her. But he loves his wife. He has to live with her now.
As you can see, families mean well, but their perspective can throw the wedded bliss over a cliff.
Commonly, when a married couple returns to their family of origin the following can happen making it it hard for a couple to find their identity as a single unit apart from their parents.
1. Each familial camp spins a web of fear, guilt, and blame, to protect their family and “their child.”
A childhood home once a safe haven no longer, but a battleground of family drama. Couples are confused where their loyalty stands. We are taught to love and honor our mother and father.
2. Instead encouraging unity, there’s a message of division.
Newly wed couples are are rarely taught that vows of marriage are clear to love, honor and cherish each other for life.
3. Couples and families do not understand that this is a process, and sometimes it looks like war.
The fear of losing all we have ever known drowns us. It’s confusing for newly married couples when their back is against the wall between the parents and the spouse.
4. Couples feel they dishonor of thy mother and father if defend their spouse, but what happens to the marriage?
Marriages don’t work when individuals continue cling to the warmth of the womb. Even though it’s a familiar safe place and what is known.
5. Newly married couples tread through uncharted waters, and never cut the family of origin cord.
This cord hangs like a noose around the couple’s neck, suffocating their happiness when trouble brews and when they run home to mom and dad with their marital strain.
6. The risk of divorce increases.
Running back home to mom and dad may feel good in the moment but it can wound the marriage for life.
It can take years to repair because the intimate bond of trust is broken. A vicious cycle starts to form of fighting with each other, and turning to mom and dad, then friends and sometimes later a new lover.
The husband and wife no longer see each other as ‘one’ and until death do us part because a fear that they can’t survive or ever be happy again with one another.
At this point, the marriage has no chance when family takes sides.
What should happen in successful marriages?
1. The family of origin needs to step back.
The overall health of the marriage is at stake, and the breaks of trust need time to heal.
2. A healthy marriage consists of leaving behind the old, and building a new life.
Weaving a strong bond that never breaks or divide no matter what. To always have each other’s back in a time of troubles and need.
3. Couples must obey the law of marriage: To leave their childhood behind and cleave to their new home with one another.
Even if the couple isn’t necessarily religious, the concept of ‘leave and cleave’ is familiar to those who do and don’t read the Bible.
It’s good advice for a married a man and woman to become ‘one’. Some call it soulmates. Others call it their person.
However you want to view it, leave and cleave simply means the couple will maintain their own individuality, and unique personalities, but they form a new identity together as a couple.
A merger of the old life as a new one takes shape in the kiln of the individual and emerges from the ashes in the shape of the couple.
A symbolic death of the old childhood behaviors, beliefs, and thoughts takes place the moment you are joined as one.
4. Shape a new life with new customs and traditions.
Surviving marital rifts when they take place and building a stronger foundation of trust, they shift from parental honor to spousal honor. It’s a new form of childhood that needs to take place.
As husband and wife they are growing up, adulting, and bonding together.
Of course, the nuclear family will always have a place in our heart, mind, and soul, but eventually, that family has to become the extended, and when two people get married, they become each others ‘new family’.
Marriage is a journey that is sacred. As two people explore all the good and bad life has to offer, remember out with the old and in with the new.
Marybeth Hrim, LCSW, MBA is a writer who covers marriage and family topics.