Leaving and Cleaving

Why is it so much more complicated than it seems?
Leaving and Cleaving

Carl and Sarah couldn't wait to get married. They started dating their junior year of college after meeting at a school function. They exchanged numbers, made it past the initial awkward first contacts, and went on a date. The first date went so well that they agreed to meet the next morning for breakfast and spend the day together. And that was it for both of them. They had never connected like that before with a member of the opposite sex, and for the rest of their college term, they were rarely apart.

Carl popped the question at their favorite picnic spot one warm spring afternoon of their senior year, and Sarah enthusiastically said, "Yes!" They had the support and blessing of their respective friends and families. Carl, however, was the first child from his family to get married, so neither Carl nor his parents ever had to navigate a leaving like this one. The leaving home for college marked a transition in life. The leaving home for marriage, however, marked an ending.

Many parents romanticize the marriage of their children in this way by seeing marriage as adding to an already existing family structure.

Sarah, by contrast, was the youngest child in her family, so her parents had been through this marriage business before. They chose to see marriage not as an ending but as an addition. Many parents romanticize the marriage of their children in this way by seeing marriage as adding to an already existing family structure. This perspective, while seemingly kind and accommodating, actually sets the new couple up to put off the necessary work of recognizing, naming, and leaving behind limiting and unhealthy family of origin patterns.

The family you grew up in is your family of origin. And from your family of origin you learn how to see yourself, others, and God. Your early experiences, daily routines, and unique family structure shape your relating patterns and beliefs about how life and relationships work. These formative early years shape and mold our answers to critical questions like: Is the world a safe place? Are people basically trustworthy? Am I loved for who I am or for what I do? Can I make a mistake and still experience being valued? Will someone be there for me when I call? These and many similar critical questions get answered by your family of origin. The answers to these questions then shape your personality, your view of relationships, your insecurities, how you experience love, and how you approach life.

In addition to shaping our relational landscape, your family of origin also created a role for you to play. The roles you played in your family of origin always show up and influence your relationships today—especially your marriage relationship. Your family of origin has a powerful influence on your development!

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May 25

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