One of the best gifts my Dad ever gave me

Early in marriage I remember my husband Charles and I trying to decide if we should buy some new furniture for our apartment in Chicago. We had been using an older couch and a pair of chairs that came second-hand from a family friend on the cheap. They were fairly functional but far from cool, unless you were in your seventies and liked to host bridge parties. [As proved by Charles’s Nana raving about them and saying she wanted a pair of similar chairs!]

So you can see why I was interested when I saw a local department store advertising a couch and two accompanying chairs for $1,000. A flood of questions came to my mind as I drove away from the store: Was this new furniture worth $1,000? Did I want taupe or sage? Was this a need or a want? Did we have $1,000 to spend? Was I being frivolous?

I got home, discussed the idea with Charles for a few minutes, and then picked up the phone to call my dad. I painted the situation out to my dad and asked him for advice, “So, do you think it would be a good decision to buy this furniture, Dad?”

There was a long pause before my dad answered, “What does Charles think?”

I kind of knew what Charles thought, but I wanted to know what my dad thought. It was his advice that had guided me through the previous 22 years of life. I wanted his approval for this purchase.

I explained that Charles thought it was likely a good idea. My dad said, “Well, I think Charles and you make really good decisions.” That was it. I realized I was going to get nowhere.

I hung up the phone slightly frustrated. Fifteen years later, though, I think my dad’s answer was one of the best gifts he could give me and our marriage. My dad was doing the best he could to help me transfer my allegiance and loyalty to my husband.

I often share this story in pre-marital counseling, because it can be such a hard thing for many girls (and guys) to do. A key component of a good marriage is the ability for both spouses to detach from their family of origin and attach to their new partner.^ The Bible’s foundational teaching on marriage describes it as leaving your parents and cleaving to your spouse (Gen 2:24). This often doesn’t happen easily, for many reasons, and that is why it was so helpful to me when my dad prompted and encouraged me to do this early on in marriage.

Not having kids at marriage-age yet, I cannot speak from experience, but I can imagine it is hard to encourage your children, after years of helping and assisting them in decision-making, to think less of you and more of their spouse—but it is such a great gift to give them and their spouse. I know Charles is profoundly grateful to my dad for encouraging this loyalty and trust in him—both in how it plays out in my view of him and also knowing my parents trust him with making decisions for and alongside their daughter. I hope I will be able to do the same in the future.

 

^ Obviously, it is not bad to still solicit opinions and advice from your parents post-marriage, but I think it is appropriate that your first point of communication be with your spoue.

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