“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
A leading reason people need marital counseling is difficulty with in-laws. Sometimes a wife compares everything her husband does to what her father did and is quick to express disappointment and criticism when her husband does not meet expectations. Sometimes a husband is more loyal to his mother than he is to his wife.
Ever seen one of those difficult marital situations where the husband has never cut the apron strings from his mother? Ever witnessed the pain resulting from a wife idolizing her hero-daddy to the neglect of her husband? Both situations spell trouble. How can this be prevented, especially when the parents in these situations are often emotionally and spiritually needy to the point where they are dependent on the unhealthy attachment to their married son or daughter? Let me share a story with you.
I have a godly friend named Flo who is the mother of four boys. All four of her sons are Christians. All four are married to Christians. All four couples are raising their children in church faith-communities. Flo has devoted her life to her family, having been a full-time, stay-at-home Mom during her child-raising years. She was involved with each of her boys and supportive of their various activities and areas of involvement. As her boys grew older, she developed healthy adult friendships with them.
Flo once shared with me some advice she shared with each of her sons before they married. Her words went something like this: “Son, you have to love her more than you love me. You have to choose her over me. If you are not ready to do that, you are not ready to be married. She has to come first.” Even though Flo loved her boys and had a good relationship with them, she knew that her boys needed to “leave father and mother” so that they could be united with their wives.
These words of wisdom helped shape her sons’ devotion to their wives. In situations when she felt like interfering, she would remind herself of that advice she had shared with her sons. And so these words also helped prevent Flo from speaking words that might have been hurtful to her sons’ marriages.
In an age of helicopter parents who hover over and interfere in their children’s lives, even if they are married adults, I appreciate the wisdom Flo shared with her sons. In an age where mothers and fathers are so emotionally and spiritually needy they cannot bear to “cut the apron strings,” I admire a woman who is emotionally and spiritually healthy enough to release her sons so they may be fully devoted to their wives.
“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (Proverbs 14:1).