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Make a Marriage Great Again (Part One)

Updated: Jan 10, 2023

Marriage is the opportunity to inherit an additional dysfunctional family, just in case the one you have wasn’t enough! (Pinterest)

I was going to call this post “WTF (Part One)” but shied away from the controversy. I figured the hinted reference to our commander-in-chief might be less contentious than the allusion to a curse word. You have both to think about now and I might just have your attention. (I hope you know this is all in fun and to put a smile on your face.)

Back to WTF. My husband and I have been marriage mentors for many years and have met with countless couples who are getting or newly married. We love it, not only because we love the people who we come to know, but also because it’s been so good for our own marriage.

We have discovered, mostly because of making our own mistakes, walking through the mentoring curriculum ourselves and getting very wise counsel from a professional, ten F’s (hence the reference, WTF), that couples need to navigate to have the marriage they long for, where they are fully known and fully loved.

The first “F” is FAMILY: Family of Origin (FOO) and Future Family (FF).

We all have a FOO, and they are all completely different. There are as many types of families as there are people. Our FOOs create expectations of what we believe is normal, even right. It’s no wonder that our FOOs collide when we come together to create an FF.

When we first meet our partner’s FOO, we probably have two things in mind: I hope they like me. They look pretty good/or not (in other words, “how good will my partner look in 25 years?”). As we get to know them a little better, we might have two other things in mind: We are not doing THAT (fill in the blank) when we have a family. I am not spending all of the holidays with her side. (and other such kind thoughts)

Most husbands and wives fall into patterns of behavior and thought from their FOOs. After all, we believe them to be what’s normal and our expectations follow suit. Even in the healthiest of families, however, many couples find certain aspects of their FOO that they don’t want to repeat.

When Allen and I married more than 26 years ago, we had absolutely no clue about this. We were young and in love and thought it would just magically play out. Then we began to live together. I grew up in a family that was loud, emotional and nothing was “off limits” in our conversations. We talked about the taboo things: religion, politics, you-name-it. We talked about them passionately.

Allen, on the other hand grew up in a “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all” FOO. Controversial topics were never spoken of. To this day, Allen’s mom does not know who his dad voted for in any election (maybe that’s why they get along so well). I’m sure you can picture our first argument and even our argument just yesterday. Esther: loud, passionate, emotional. Allen: quiet, reserved and logical. Perfect for each other (insert snarky tone of voice).

This isn’t something that is our faults. It’s just what’s true. And what’s true will set you free (the book of John). As we slowly and carefully unravel what we have brought to the marriage with us from our FOOs (without the damaging partners of blame and shame), we will begin to experience the grace and love we so desperately want and need, providing the way for our FF.

Allen and I are still navigating this, sometimes more carefully than others. We continue to see patterns from our FOOs that have an effect on our F (which for us, isn’t so future anymore). We keep working hard with wise counsel to see ourselves and each other more clearly, and give understanding and compassion. I wish we were perfect at it. We are not. But one thing we are: we are passionate about doing whatever it takes to be fully known and fully loved, FOO issues and all.

We have now produced a FOO for our children, just like many of you. Others of you are at the beginning of your FF like our daughter Sarah (who just wrote an amazing post on new marriage). No matter where you are on your journey, it’s never too late or too soon to take a look back and uncover what you might have brought into your F or your FF from your FOO. The good news is that some of the things might just be wonderful. After all, the best gift your partner received from your FOO is YOU!

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