In the bliss of a newly-wedded life, Margaret and John were unprepared for the dormant roots biding time within her heart. When two years later they sprouted green with life, husband and wife were rocked in ways they'd never anticipated. "Poor John—he didn't realize he was marrying my mom and dad, too," Margaret told me. "And even though there are some good things from my life, somehow it's the hard stuff, the struggles and issues, that carry over." She laughs with rue. "Why is that? Why do we have to be so human? It's taken a long time to get back on track—God's helped a lot, but there are still many things we're going through, that if I'd only known about before I got married, would eliminate some of the struggles we have. You see, I left home, but my mind, my emotions, ideas, everything else about me—they stayed behind."
My parents always said, "You marry a man, you marry his family." In many ways, this is very true. And sometimes, he marries yours. What Margaret shares is experienced by many young wives adjusting to the realities of a new home environment. It doesn't mean marriage loses its luster, but that unexpected dynamics may arise and create unique trials largely unaddressed within traditional counseling and lay resources.
My husband, one of two, still laughs remembering the first time he met mine. "I'd never even heard of someone having that many kids," he admits. I took this psychology major to a family picnic for his inauguration to conservatism. The older ones surged to meet him with grins and hugs and jokes about the Name Test coming later. The younger ones stared. "Hillary's boyfriend," they whispered, mouths gaped and eyes wide. But it didn't take long for reticence to flee and soon they were sneaking up, poking and prodding like he was from outer space, then running off in a cloud of giggles.
It was new for them, too.
"John is so patient with me," says Margaret. "But he couldn't understand how I'd read the Bible and hear my dad's voice in my head. My father was a pastor and all I could hear was the Word thundering down from the pulpit or at the dinner table. Thou shalt not . . . thou shalt not . . . it followed me everywhere, over every little thing I did. And sometimes it was hard to hear what John was saying, because my family was so ingrained in the core of my being. Even though I tried to listen to my husband, sometimes my dad would drown him out in my own head. But I didn't mean for it to be that way."
Margaret illustrates one of the practical problems of codependency, or enmeshment, within an unhealthy or dysfunctional family.
How do you leave home emotionally?
Names and identifying details have been changed to preserve anonymity.
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