I’m noticing a trending annoyance I have regarding the posture some parents assume when it comes to the marriages of their adult children. To be honest, annoyance, might be too soft a word for the outright frustration I feel when I hear that parents are siding with their own son or daughter who simply ‘does not want to be married any longer.’
To be clear, I am not referring to an abusive marriage or one where trust has been shattered by the discovery of an affair. In those cases, I can understand a desire to quit. But no! I am talking about parents who feel they have an obligation to support the decision of their married adult child because they ‘might have made a mistake’ or simply ‘fell out of love.’
Obligation? When I hear that, it takes all of my professional training not to stand up and scream!
From my perspective, it’s a parent’s obligation to demonstrate the importance of a commitment; to be people of their word. When an adult child is married, the parent’s assume a new obligation to the words they spoke on the couple’s wedding day, welcoming the new son or daughter into their family. A parent’s words of welcome are an obligation to love, protect and embrace the new son or daughter just as they would their own child……….even in times of conflict.
Working through conflict is what makes a marriage healthy. If a young couple can stay committed through the storms of life, they emerge on the other side with greater love, insight and appreciation for one another. (Anyone in a happy marriage knows that.) Parents have an obligation to stand for the marriage and in doing so the destructive character traits of selfishness and immaturity are worked out of the adult child. As a parent reminds the couple of their love, vows and why they chose each other in the first place, they help to strengthen the couple’s resolve to work through the struggle.
This summer I attended the wedding of a friend’s daughter. In his speech, the grooms’ father made a surprising charge to the guests. ‘You are not here to simply enjoy a good party’ he said. ‘There will be times when my son and new daughter will not be happy. They will fight and question their decision today. But let me tell you, if either one ends up on your couch refusing to be married any longer, you have an obligation to kick their sorry butt home and tell them to work it out.’
That parent offered his newly married children the best wedding gift ever and I must admit, it took all of my professional training not to stand up and cheer!