Josiah and I grew up in families that have as many differences as similarities.
Pigfords cleaned every day. Multiple times a day. In 15 minutes or less. Clean = Tidy. Trumpowers cleaned less often, but it was a major event when it happened. Clean = Disinfected.
Pigfords love the road trip more than the destination. The Trumpower I’m married to loves the vacation. The trip getting there is a necessary evil.
The longest-standing tradition for Pigfords is that we reinvent traditions every year! Trumpowers have an annual Thanksgiving menu inspired by previous generations.
When Josiah and I married, the intermingling of our lives was the nexus of a larger intermingling. Our family cultures were different but built on the same foundation: Follow God. Love each other. Have fun. We knew our two halves could and should create a new extended whole.
To achieve this, we did some things intentionally as a couple:
1. Use the right words.
We call both sets of parents Mom and Dad. I love the precedent this sets.
Starting this can feel awkward since you likely called your boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s parents something else while dating. My advice: Just do it! The longer you wait after the wedding, the harder it will be.
I planned my switch ahead of time. As soon as the rehearsal dinner started, his parents were officially Mom & Dad. It felt right to me. Symbolically, it was the first official meal as a permanent extended-family unit. Plus, there were people my in-laws didn’t know, so I had lots of practice using their new names during introductions!
2. Be careful with “your mother.”
Generally, I try to avoid the phrase “your mother” unless we’re having a logistical conversation. Maybe I’m overly sensitive, but “your mother wants us to do this” sounds like I’m making her an enemy. Families should never be enemies. We can disagree. We can have passionately polarized opinions. But we’re not enemies.
Including “your” also feels like unnecessary confrontation against my spouse. Like it’s suddenly his fault this person is his mother. If I want to discuss something a Trumpower parent said, I prefer to say, “I’m not sure what Mom meant by…” instead of “Your mom asked us to ______.”
3. Have an attitude of unity.
Both sides need to have good attitudes about spending time together.
Look, I get it. I’m lucky. Everybody in my family legitimately loves spending time with everybody in his. I see you snorting, “Well. Good for you!”
If there is disunity among your people, consider: How many times has your bad attitude made things better? Does dragging your feet and sulking when your spouse wants to visit family improve things? Or does it harm the relationships more?
Even under the best of circumstances, no one is perfect in this area. Including me. But the mandate to live in harmony with our brothers and sisters in Christ isn’t something suggested by Hallmark. It’s an actual instruction from God’s Word. (2 Corinthians 13:11 is only one example.) We might as well get crackin’.
Start small! Pick one person to talk with next time you are together. Learn how they’re related to your spouse, what they do for a living, one hobby they enjoy. Relational bridges are built slowly. Also: shared activities help!