When two people are starting a life together there are many factors to consider. One of those things should be what are the family values of your partner? How could the way your partner was raised influence your relationship and your life together? You might say you are marrying your partner and not your partner’s family, but I can tell you from experience that at least some of the environment and beliefs of the family will influence your partner.
My husband and I had dated for two years so you would think I would understand the family dynamics and foresee any possible issues, but I didn’t know what questions to ask. I made a lot of assumptions about my husband's wants and beliefs, and those assumptions caused a few bumps in the road for us.
One of the first ones was how we viewed holidays and birthdays. My family loves a party because it’s a chance to gather, laugh, talk, and eat good food. Christmas is our favorite. My mom was a master at making Christmas special. She built the anticipation about gifts to a fevered pitch, going to midnight mass was magical, and she had great traditions for Christmas morning. I never noticed a difference in how John’s family celebrated because he spent most of the day with us. Our first Christmas as a married couple was a disaster. We lived two states away from family and could not go home because John had to work the next day. Instead of the Christmas I was used to, we spent it like any other day. I was determined that the next year would be different. The next year, John said to me that his sister had called and said they had decided not to celebrate Christmas that year. My first reaction was, “You’re canceling Christmas? What?!” My next reaction was to say, “Um, I don’t think so.” I told him that Christmas was important to me, and I was going to honor it the way my family had taught me. I never thought that would be a battle I would have to fight.
Birthdays were the next surprise. My family believes a birthday is a celebration of a person’s life. It doesn’t matter if you cannot afford a gift, the important thing was to show the person you appreciated him or her. John’s family believes it’s just another day. They don’t send cards or even call each other. It was a huge difference from what I was used to doing.
The biggest difference came after our daughter was born. I asked John who he thought her godparents should be when she was baptized. He told me that he didn’t want her baptized and she didn’t need godparents. I was very surprised because he knew I was Catholic, and that my parents would expect us to baptize the baby. Again, it wasn’t a question I thought to ask. I’m thankful that Kate and Jess both decided to be baptized when they were older.
I don’t mean to say that one of our families was doing things better than the other. I only wanted to point out that there are different family dynamics and it helps to realize that before marriage instead of navigating the differences after the fact.