I grew up in a close-knit family. My childhood was filled with warm holiday gatherings, family vacations, after-dinner devotions, heart-to-heart talks, snowball fights and lots of laughter. And we didn't just love each other; we genuinely liked each other. We really were a family of friends.
As I watched my sisters get married to men who seemed to slip right into my family, I started thinking it was important that I marry someone who would easily fit in. But as it turned out, when Matt asked me to marry him, I was attending college 2,000 miles away from my family. And when I accepted his proposal, my parents hadn't even met him. It didn't occur to me that this might cause a problem later on.
The thing is, Matt didn't fit in naturally with my family. Sure, they liked him and were happy for me, but his personality was different from the rest of the family. Matt was a serious thinker and wasn't prone to spontaneous and zany behavior. He made me laugh, but that came after getting to know him.
After we got married, there was tension whenever we went to visit my side of the family. I wanted Matt to act "just right," and I got embarrassed when he didn't fit in. It got to the point where I was coaching him on what to say and what not to say. And my coaching only produced more tension between us.
When I was growing up, my family supported me even when we didn't agree, but we were never what you would call a close-knit group. We ate dinner together, but there were no devotions or family games afterward. We reported on how our days went, but there were no heart-to-heart talks.1