Marriage Monday – mi familia es su familia edition

Early last evening found S. and me in the kitchen  – him preparing a rosemary and garlic stuffed pork loin while I played around on my ipad, trying to look like I was contributing to dinner in some fashion. “What do you think my marriage Monday blog post should be about tomorrow?” I asked him as he stirred the risotto and I flipped through my pins on pinterest.

“Best in-law visit ever,” he said without hesitation. My initial reaction was to reject his response but then I gave it a couple seconds of thought.

“That’s a good idea – great idea,” I said. “Although I’m not entirely certain it was the very best time we’ve had with my parents. We have had several great visits.”

“Best grandparents visit ever, then,” Sam amended, drizzling tomatoes from our garden with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

“Fair enough,” I said. “Fair enough.”

Indeed, we are coming off a very successful parental visit, and I think part of its success was its brevity.  My parents drove to Pittsburgh to babysit Evangeline for an evening so S. and I could attend a fancy-dress up event.  They arrived the day before the event and left two days after, obstensibly because they didn’t want to interrupt our day-to-day routine but more likely because bird hunting season began this weekend and I know my dad heard the clarion call of the autumn woods in Northern Michigan. Another reason the visit was successful, I think, was because Evangeline immediately recognized my mom and dad this go-around and knew she could get them to take her for walks and play with her endlessly.

Perhaps what is most important here, though, is that the visit was enjoyable from S.’s point of view. Negotiating family politics is one of the trickiest problems we tackle together as a couple – in fact, I think it is possibly the most difficult since we tend to agree on our finances (a notoriously sore point with some couples, from my understanding). It’s not that we don’t get along well with each other’s family – quite the opposite, in fact. But even with solid and enjoyable family relations there are still disagreements, disgruntled moments, frustration at how very differently each other’s family behaves.

One of the hardest parts of being a newlywed, I think, is the expectation that you must immediately assume one another’s family as your own. Your mother-in-law wants you to call her mom, your father-in-law insists you sit for a family portrait the first year of your marriage. You are expected to feel for your new family the same way you feel for the one you were raised in, except, because the relationship is relatively newer it feels more precarious – as though it needs great care (and it does). You defer to your new mom on issues you would never keep quiet about in the home you were raised in – you choke down your father in law’sbeef stew even if cooked carrots give you the heebie-jeebies. 

I’ve been blessed when it comes to my in-laws, particularly when it comes to my sisters-in-law, whom I’ve loved fiercely and protectively since well before my marriage made us official relatives, but I get along tremendously well with S.’s parents, too. It hasn’t been until recently, though, that I’ve truly felt like a part of his family, in a way similar to how I feel about my own. I gain strength and confidence from S.’s family much in the same way I do my own, and witnessing the family’s growth and achievements is an incredible feeling. I tend to speak up more, now, than I ever did before but I do try to save my concerns or challenges for issues that *really* matter instead of arguing every point or decision. Year after year, my love for this extension of my family grows and strengthens, but the feelings of family weren’t immediate, and in many ways I resented the expectation (demand, really) of such immediate, intimate feelings.

When did the family you married into really begin to feel like your own?

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5 Responses to Marriage Monday – mi familia es su familia edition

  1. katy says:

    I knew I had to marry C the first time I traveled with his family and they all agreed they wanted to go to a bookstore. PLUS, since they all had different agendas, we all set our watches, picked a meetup time, and then went our merry way. We encountered one another periodically in the store, but were just browsing. “My GOD,” I remember thinking, “these are my people.” So I’ve always felt this way about his family.

    Which gives me full freedom to be fully bothered by many of the ways they are so different from me! I felt so brave the first time I teased C’s dad about his habit of leaving newspapers scattered throughout the house.

    Also?? I freaking hate this idea that I’ll call someone other than my mother “mom.” His mom has never asked that of me, but some of his relatives refer to his mom as my mom and it skeeves me out.

  2. smithereens says:

    I feel very very lucky with my inlaws. From the first day on I always felt welcomed, but the key moment when I stopped being a guest at their home and became a family member is when my m.i.l bought me slippers for whenever we come (we live 200 miles away so we have to plan and stay the night).

  3. Like Katy, I’m also totally weirded out by the idea of referring to anyone other than my actual mother as “mom.” I am so glad that never came up with my mother-in-law. I love Kyle’s family dearly and happily spend many weekends with them, but I don’t know that I’ll ever feel as comfortable with any other set of people as I do in my own family.

    So I guess my answer to your question is two-fold: I felt comfortable as a part of his family pretty early on (probably at some point between becoming engaged and actually getting hitched), but I don’t think his family even now feels exactly like my own. Of course, this is early on in our married lives — that could change down the road 😉

  4. Katy – I felt the same way about S.’s family when I first met them – these are my PEOPLE! That feeling has never left, although it has been tested on occasion…

    Smithereens – wow, they bought you slippers? That is lovely!

    Carrie – it will be so interesting to see how your family dynamics play out when the little one arrives!

  5. litlove says:

    Umm, never? I think this is perhaps one Marriage Monday topic I should leave firmly alone! But, I loved Richard Russo’s take on it in That Old Cape Magic. That was a fantastic novel, I thought.

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