Holidays and The In-laws, Part 1
I love a party! So November 1st is officially the beginning of the Holiday Season in our home. Things are abuzz and we immediately transition into “Guess who’s coming to Dinner” mode. Guest lists and menus are being planned. All of my holiday décor is slowly making its way out of storage units. (Yes, storage units… did I mention that I love a party!). The excitement builds as we anticipate having our loved-ones around us, celebrating the countless reasons we all have to be thankful, including one another! However, despite the joy the holidays are supposed to bring, they can also be very stressful and even take a toll on your marriage and family dynamic.
Take notice of my choice words in the previous paragraph… “loved-ones”. This term is not limited to just family, but also encompasses friends and acquaintances. Basically anyone you, your husband and children enjoy being around. I use this term deliberately because I want you to understand that extended family (anyone outside of your spouse and children - including your own parents) is not entitled to your attendance during the holidays. The pressure of tradition and culture seems to almost dictate that you spend holiday time with extended family. And if your family is like most, brimming with tension and drama, then this time of year can put your stomach in knots!
My husband and I have counseled many couples with this dilemma. “Whose home should we visit? Who should we invite to our home? “His parents? Mine? Both? Neither?” No matter how many different scenarios you run through in your mind, it seems as if there will always be someone who is disappointed. And if you do oblige, you and your family usually end up frustrated, exhausted and waiting for the holidays to just end!
It often saddens me to know that biological families can be territorial and selfish. They can even be indifferent towards the strife and division they may create in their adult children’s home with their expectations of attendance. They expect each holiday to be just like it was when “we” were growing up... Well, it’s not like it was when you were growing up. Everything has a season and a time. Children grow up and move on to create their own families and traditions. The scripture says that “… a man should leave his mother and father and cleave unto his wife.” (Gen 2:24). Even though we all know this scripture, it is often ignored. Even Christian in-laws put extreme pressure on their child to “come home”. This is not from God! In fact, this is an act of manipulation and guilt-baiting, under the guise of “family.”
Well, whom The Son sets free is free indeed! So let’s apply The Word and alleviate this anxiety to set you free from the in-law pressure with these 6 scripturally-based reasons why you should NOT feel obligated to “come home” for holiday dinner. And for these reasons, neither should you be forced to attend your in-laws’ event!
6 Scriptures to Release the Grip of Parental/In-law Expectations of the Holidays
1. Leave and Cleave! Ephesians 5:31 “For this reason a man should leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife, and the two shall become one.”
Once you marry, you are no longer the “property” of your parents. You belong to your spouse, as much as he belongs to you. So resist the temptation and do not be swayed by any guilt or condemnation. Do not be controlled or allow your parents or in-laws to create strife within your home. Common sense here… if both of you tie yourselves to these improper parental obligations, division and strife in your home is inevitable. You will resent each other’s weakness and unwillingness to stand up for one another. Get a backbone and for the sake of your marriage, leave and cleave already!
2. Out With the Old! Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time and a season for every purpose under the Heavens.”
Here, among many “seasons”, God is telling us that our parents had a chance to enjoy us during our childhood while we were in their home. Beyond that, they are not to put pressure on us to continue traditions that were a part of our childhood. The word “season” assumes change and forward movement. So your parents must move forward and allow you to do so as well. There will be other times during the year to visit, if you feel so inclined. So throw out those old wineskins! Now is the time for you to establish your own traditions.
3. Sync Up! Amos 3:3 “How can two walk together unless they agree?”
Forcing a spouse to attend a family holiday dinner creates division in the heart and mind. Your spouse may resent going. They may feel that you callously put them in an awkward and possibly hostile environment. Often, family has a way of knowing when to say mean-spirited things while appearing sweet and loving. Your spouse may quietly take this abuse just to keep the peace, but the volcanic eruption is bound to happen sooner or later. Typically, men will defend their family’s behavior. Especially a mother who is nice-nasty. It usually sounds something like “Baby, you’re getting thin!” She’s insinuating that you don’t cook for your husband. And in reality, you do cook, just not with a stick of butter for every meal! This issue won’t go away; it only festers until you and your husband decide to establish boundaries for extended family. Get in agreement with what you won’t tolerate and stick to it!
4. Sought and Found! Proverbs 18:2 “He who finds a wife, finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.”
A man determines who his wife is and therefore she is his “good thing”. This should not be done by a committee of family members. The family cannot rightfully decide if she is good for him. Only he can. While the couple is dating, the family is free to express their opinion. However, at the wedding ceremony after the vows, the couple is announced as “Husband and Wife”. In God’s eyes this constitutes a new family. No one should tamper with that union. If your extended family should ever decide to undermine your choice of spouse, be sure to remind them that your marriage is forever! And to change the subject! (While walking in love, of course).
5. Take Off the Training Wheels! Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Emphasis on “child!” Parental training has to take place prior to a son or daughter marrying. When we were young and living in our parent’s households we were to be trained on choosing friends and ultimately our mate. Once we leave the home, training is over! Parents should not try to continue training once the child has left the home, started their lives and chosen a mate. It is too late. Respectfully instruct your parents to withhold their opinions, reminding them that you are an adult. As a parent, they completed their job. Either the job was done poorly, or it was done well. But it is done! They are no longer responsible for you and should release you from their watch. Instead, they ought be quiet and pray God’s best for you.
6. Got to Give it Up! I Corinthians 13: 4-7 “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
When you promised to “love” your spouse, this word encompassed more than just sexual intimacy. Most people get this confused, which later becomes an issue. But that’s another topic for another post. In the Bible, “love” is defined as being selfless and serving towards others. Love does not “seek its own…”, meaning you do what’s best for the other, not for yourself. This type of love should prevent a spouse from subjecting his or her mate to forced annual holiday dinners with in-laws. If the in-laws are not genuinely warm, loving, kind and engaging towards your mate, and you still drag them to dinner, then you have sought your own. You want it your own way. Whether it be pleasing your parents, spending time with your blood relatives, or just mama’s sweet potato pie. By putting your spouse in that situation, you are not demonstrating biblical love, but in fact, it is a display of self-love. So, give up the pie and give love to your spouse!
Take the time between now and the Thanksgiving to talk these points over with your spouse. Examine your choice of holiday company and make sure you are not putting one another in a tight spot. Now that we’ve exposed the truth on this false sense of obligation, in Part 2 of this post, I will give you 8 things you can do to avoid being asked (and in some cases, mandated) to “come home” for dinner every year. Instead, these tips will help you and your spouse enjoy the holidays, right there in your very own home – without mama’s sweet potato pie!
With Prayers & Love,
First Lady Lynda