Healthy Family? Never Saw One
Struggling couples often arrive at my office caught up in a cycle of defensiveness, criticism, shame, hurt, and anger. After some information gathering, I might ask the couple who they know with a marriage they want to emulate. Too many (way too many) say they have never seen a good marriage. They name couples they know and after each one list the problems: divorced, domestic violence, never talk anymore, had an affair, sleep in different parts of house…the list goes on. I am saddened each time. No one (don’t miss that phrase—NO ONE) has left them the legacy of a healthy marriage. I hear similar responses when I ask parents about the adults who parented them, responses like verbally abusive, physically abusive, molested me, left me, never knew them, always yelling at me, hated me, etc. These responses break my heart.
Perhaps you are a person who would give similar answers, a person who has no legacy of healthy family passed on to you. What can you do when raising your own family? You can start anew. You can redeem your family. I tell the couples and parents I meet that they have a wonderful opportunity to start a new chapter in their family life, to point the trajectory of their family toward a new and healthier horizon. You can do the same. You begin by forgiving. Accept that your family hurt you and forgive them. Find a way to resolve that hurt for yourself. I know you have suffered loss and hurt, but take time to recognize what your family lost through these actions as well—the sadness that must have existed in their life and the joy they missed out on. Turn all the hurt over to God, your hurt and your family’s hurt. Pray for those who hurt you and let God, the one who judges righteously, take care of the rest.
Second, read some good books on marriage and parenting. If you don’t know what books to get, check out the ones on our website. Read a book a year and implement the ideas as you go along. You might even find another couple or family who would like to read the book with you. Make it a double date night to talk about and practice the skills you learn from the book.
Third, attend a marriage or parenting workshop. Churches and communities often hold parenting and marriage workshops. You can learn so much and have a great experience by attending one. Along the way, you might meet some people who have healthy marriages and take joy in parenting. You can become friends and begin to witness the joys and pleasures of healthy family through their lives.
Fourth, consider seeing a therapist. A therapist can help you develop a healthy vision of family. He or she can introduce you to healthy ways of interacting with your spouse and children. A therapist can also help you resolve past hurts that interfere with your marriage and parenting.
These four steps can set you on a path to a new family. You will even become an example of healthy family for your children and for those around you who have no healthy example. It all begins by forgiving the past, forgetting what lies behind, and moving on toward a new goal. When we do, we build a new family legacy for our children and our children’s children!