Q: My husband and I are struggling with my mother's behavior. My parents' marriage recently ended in divorce because Mom had an affair; now she's moved in with the other man and plans to marry him very soon. Should we readily accept her new husband?
Jim: It's completely understandable to be conflicted between two opposing elements. You'll always love your mom. But that doesn't mean you are obligated to approve of her choices and actions, especially when they cause hurt and damage to the rest of the family.
The bottom line is your mother is responsible for creating this awkward situation by choosing to disregard her marriage vows. She needs to understand the real-life consequences of her choices. I'd say it's both unfair and insensitive of her to demand that the family embrace her new boyfriend with open arms. Your mom needs to accept responsibility for what she's done and realize that her actions have had a profoundly negative impact on the people who love her most.
So, I'd suggest that you draw a very definite line in the sand. Strong boundaries are healthy; normalizing brokenness is not. For example, tell your mom that you're willing to welcome her at family gatherings so long as she's willing to respect your standards and values, and to honor them when she's in your home. Remind her that she has deeply hurt everyone in the family by deciding to become involved with another man. Say something like, "I love you and care about you, but I don't approve of this relationship."
From there, you and your husband can decide together how to proceed going forward. As your mother's son-in-law, rather than her own flesh-and-blood child, he might be able to say some things for you.
If you'd like to discuss this situation further with our staff counselors, I invite you to call 855-771-HELP (4357).
Q: Approaching our first anniversary, I'm surprised that the main area of tension for my husband and me -- really the only area -- centers on little chores around the house. Is this normal?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Marriage & Family Formation: You're not alone! When couples are asked about stress points in marriage, things like finances and kids usually come up first. But multiple studies rank household chores third on that list.
Honestly, it's easy to understand how something as simple as housework can fuel conflict in a marriage. Life gets busy for couples. Soon they're each focused on the tasks they care about while perhaps forgetting the burdens their spouse is carrying. Before long there's an unintended power struggle over who does more and who works harder.
I encourage you to try to change your mindset. Start by acknowledging you're on the same team -- so housework should benefit your relationship, not tear it down. In fact, instead of arguing over who does more, what could happen if you each tried to "out-serve" one another? You love each other; one tangible way to express that every day is to extend yourselves doing things that benefit all concerned (like washing the dishes or dumping the garbage).
There are also practical ways to manage tensions. If a particular chore is your spouse's responsibility, don't dictate how and when they do it just because that's when you think it ought to be done. Leave some room for individual preferences. For example, you might prefer the bed be made each morning, but is that really an issue important enough to come between you?
Just like every other area of your marriage, sorting out the housework is all about communication and connection. So, prioritize honoring one another and finding common ground. For more tips, see FocusOnTheFamily.com/Marriage.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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