“Honey, I don’t know how to tell you this, but—I’m not your dad.”

Well. Duh.

And yet–that was my husband, within the past week. For the record, it’s been 14 years since we said “I do.”

But it seems I was still giving him reason to remind me who I married (and who I didn’t).

See, it’d been a whirlwind week, and my husband was getting ready to travel for the next five. We were looking for solid family time with great memories. I cooked up a big meal for us to savor around the table, with visions of newly-minted family memories curling up from our plates.

However, when faced with stress, my husband is a let’s-order-pizza-because-who-wants-the-cooking-and-dishes-circus-in-town kind of guy. Although he was certainly appreciative of my efforts and the food, when I pressed him further—my carefully concocted family dinner wasn’t speaking his language, so to speak. Both his mother and step-mother dreaded cooking, and when family meals come around, Chinet and Solo are still the welcome additions to any family party. They want to enjoy chatting it up with everyone else, and not around a steaming stove or sudsy sink.

So when guests at our wedding showers proclaimed, “When you marry someone, you marry their family”—it only gets more true as my marriage gets older.

“Our families are the most powerful group to which we will ever belong.”[1]

Peter Scazzero

Clearly, we’re talking more than Little Caesar’s and plasticware.

Our families have great potential to deal with how we fight, how we handle money, how we handle work, how we handle sex. To ignore their influence would be to usher in whatever we’re not willing to admit is there.

If that’s true—have you considered some of the most influential bedfellows, so to speak, in your marriage? Consider some questions to help you explore some of the ways your home of origin plays a weighty role in a relationship you might have thought was only about the two of you.

Take some time to talk about it.

Get the ball rolling: What were your separate families’ views, spoken and unspoken, on…

  • The roles of males and females?
  • Affection and how it’s displayed?
  • How to handle conflict?
  • Sexuality?
  • The handling of anger, sadness, and fear?
  • The role you played in your family?
  • Faith?
  • Rest, relaxation, and recreation?
  • Celebrations and milestones?
  • Parenting?
  • Work?
  • Time?
  • Money?

You also might consider…

  • Your family’s unique weaknesses and strengths
  • The top five traits your family would find valuable
  • The top five events in your family’s timeline that most changed or influenced your life
  • Your cultural and/or geographic influences (Did you live in a small town? Near the beach? Was your family of Italian ancestry? Hispanic? Etc.)
  • Your family’s socioeconomic status and its influence

Fortunately, Scazzero writes, though our family history lives inside all of us—especially those who attempt to bury it—the great news of Christianity is that our family of origin does not have to negatively determine our future.[2]

Your family history doesn’t have to shackle your marriage: It can set your marriage free.

[1] For more in-depth discussion on such an influential topic, the author recommends Scazzero, Peter. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Unleash a Revolution in Your Life in Christ. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson (2006). This quotation is from p. 95.

[2] Ibid, p. 96, 102.