Ah, the married life. It’s a wonderful adventure isn’t it? When I was younger I pictured myself meeting the man of my dreams (I did, he’s pretty hot). We’d fall in love, get married and have 2 kids (I’m not sure how we ended up with six, but the more the merrier). I dreamed of having the large family gatherings I watched on television. The one where all of our family members sit around a table laughing and joking. My dream was simple.
For what it’s worth, I’m sure Duchess Meghan had similar thoughts when she was planning to marry Prince Harry. The Sussexes have been getting a lot of press coverage lately since their big announcement. They are resigning as senior members of the Royal Family. We all dream of the happily ever after, but what cost are we willing to pay? What do you do when your dream turns into a family vs. family battle?
Reality can be harsh sometimes. The picture perfect family that I dreamed of, is not what I’ve been blessed with. Marrying my husband has been the best thing ever, being married into his family, not so much. There was a time, in the beginning of our marriage, where I spent a great deal of time trying to fit into his family, losing myself in the process. I was so caught up in trying to get along with everyone and making sure that everyone liked me, that I never noticed that that same courtesy wasn’t extended to me. My desire to fit in was more important than the ill treatment I was receiving. I wanted desperately to make my husband proud, even if I was shrinking.
In my desperation to fit in I found myself accepting things, and being treated in ways that I normally wouldn’t accept. My reasoning? They were family. Unlike Meghan, I didn’t have the British tabloids following my every move and dissecting every word I said. I worried constantly about saying the right things, and not being reactionary when someone said something I thought was completely out of line. If there was a problem, I never spoke up. I relayed my issues only to my husband. It was an extremely lonely time. Much like Meghan, I had to learn to bite my tongue, smile, and take the mistreatment.
After years of hurt and disappointment, my husband and I made a serious change. I was miserable. I wasn’t happy. Every family gathering turned into a source of anxiety for me. We needed a change. Like we had done before, we turned to our Bibles for the answer. We came across Genesis 2:24: “So a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will become one body.”
The word was clear, it was time to focus on the family that God blessed us with. When we were married we became one with each other in every way possible, the family we were creating together had to be our first priority. Like many newly married couples before us, we came to the conclusion that it was time to separate ourselves.
We knew in the beginning it was going to be hard to separate ourselves. We also knew that not everyone would understand. But again, we had to do what was best for the health of our marriage and family. Here’s the thing, when you have a large family like we have, traveling anywhere becomes an adventure. Getting six kids in the car and traveling for family gatherings proved to be more of a hassle than a time of fun and relaxation (imagine a traveling circus). There was some backlash, I’ll admit. It wasn’t pretty. Our decision to step aside somehow became an us vs. them situation. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. As much as we loved our extended families, we had to love our family more.
As new parents, we wanted the freedom to raise our children, just as our parents were allowed to raise us. We wanted to make decisions that worked for our family, even if it didn’t work for others. We’ll always run into someone who has an opinion on how we should raise our children, or how to act as a family. Honestly, when it comes down to it, you have to do what’s best for your family. The Sussexes are doing what every new family has done before them, they are figuring out what works best for their family. The difference between them and other new families, is their royalty status. I wouldn’t trade places with them at all.
Now, don’t get me wrong, if you have a great relationship with your extended family, don’t go and start acting crazy and cutting ties! Be appreciative, and be thankful for those relationships, you are blessed more than you know. We want our kids to know that they are loved, they are unique, they have gifts, they are safe, and they are valuable. We tell them this every night before bed. Our choice to put our family first wasn’t an easy decision. I’m sure The Sussexes didn’t come to their decision easily either.
Choosing to step away from toxic familial relationships takes a lot of guts. If this is the route you choose to take, know that there are others who have been in similar situations. Change is hard, but fighting for your family will be a decision you’ll never regret. We took a giant step, to create a healthy family environment. We have no regrets.