New Identity as a family unit

Excerpted from "Making Healthy Families" Copyright © by Shadow and Light Publications (2000) and used with permission.

We have already seen how marriage is the coming together of two different family cultures. Family backgrounds differ and conflicting patterns and expectations are inevitable obstacles to work through. The couple must come up with their own new family form. Realignment of relationships to include new parenting and grandparenting roles, as well as adjustment in the marital relationship cries out for new order at the time of the birth of a child.

In addition to the development of parental identities, the couple bond is also stressed by the necessary forging of new family boundaries. Partners must sort through alliances with their childhood families, making sure that these alliances are secondary to, and supportive of, the decisions they make together as a couple. New families need both appropriate boundaries and, ideally, appropriate support from the extended family network. Pitfalls can arise when husbands or wives have difficulty setting limits with intrusive or judgmental in-laws, due to feelings of disloyalty. Everything from differentiating their own parenting style, the values by which they raise their child, to what holiday traditions they will build into their own family structure can cause stress. This stress is healthy fuel for alignment of the new family identity that must emerge.

A new family culture must be forged between husband and wife. The couple's task is to develop a shared sense of child-rearing values. This can be difficult if in-laws are critical instead of supportive when the couple's actions reflect a difference in values or parenting styles from that of the extended family. It is important during this period of adjustment that the couple's bond is strengthened and not divided by the extended family network. Maturation involves differentiating yourself from your family-of-origin, and taking your place in alignment to your spouse in working through these family concerns. The following question and answer illustrates the need to maintain the couple's boundaries in the creation of your own family unit.

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