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Your Parents’ Marital Problems Do Not Have to Become Yours Too

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Have you ever realized that the most impactful influence on your children’s marriage—whether they are two years old and barely able to say “da-da” or twenty-two and about to walk down the aisle—is your marriage? Yes, you!  Your marriage to their mom or dad teaches them both directly and indirectly how a married couple works together.

This certainly includes the way you love and respect each other. Your kids may not yet have learned the biblical emphasis on love and respect or even be old enough to know what “respect” means, but they are learning all about it nonetheless . . . from you!

I hope realizing the impact you have on your children’s marriage motivates and encourages you to continue growing as a loving and respectful spouse yourself, but I bet it also terrifies you, at least a little. Because you know all your flaws. You can remember all the times you have come up way short in loving and respecting their mom or dad the way you wish you had.

But there is good news! Your parents came up short too! No one is perfect, after all, and so of course that means no marriage is perfect either. Believe me, of all people, I should know. My parents lived a life of almost constant conflict during my childhood, to the point of my mom leaving him for several years.

But even though mom and dad have such a gigantic impact on their children’s future relationships, nothing is set in stone. We are not predestined by our family of origin. Praise the Lord, we can make better choices than our parents made! Just as one wife who recently wrote me has done:

My past reminds me of what complacency does, and how wrong decisions affect everyone. My parents have taught me much—how not to be—mostly. My dad never abandoned me or our siblings—though quite human—needing grace. He showed me that you never give up . . . period!

My mother, well—she was different. I was her rock as a child of seven and on. At ten years old, I was cleaning the house and taking care of my siblings to keep my family together amidst her first divorce to my dad. As a teen, I was her rock emotionally—helping her with mediation with my dad and other issues—not your normal teen.

My childhood ended around seven years old. She had left my dad after I was molested. She was told that if she stayed, we would be taken from her. The molestation was from a cousin. My dad struggled with anger issues and was a veteran of the Vietnam War, and with his unbelief toward the cousin's actions—she chose to leave to protect us.

She struggled with a rough past life, and God gave me eyes to see with wisdom as a young adult. She remarried my dad when I was twelve years old. At thirteen years old, I saw how people disrespected her (she was very emotional, had a spirit of fear, and double-minded)—and started asking God for wisdom. I did not want to repeat the same bad choices. He opened my heart and mind with His truth and wisdom. Because of God's wisdom, my heart sought and found why relationships have their seasons, reasons for it being there, and to never give up on a person.

My mom was emotionally unstable, and had pushed all of us kids out of her life for a time. Since then, she had apologized to all of us (four children)—but with much damage to the trust she once had. God has helped me forgive her, and understand why she did this—all the while knowing that in spite of the pain—God never leaves us or forsakes us. We are to follow His example—not man's.

So, knowing her instability and her past—I had to be careful and wise with her. She has recently graduated to be with Jesus for a little over a year now. That is sometimes hard to believe. Because, in my life—and my own family's—there was more peace without her in it (somewhere around twenty years old or so). Sad, but true. Regardless of her life's battles and past (she divorced my dad twice, abandoned us for a few years, etc.), we know that her faith was in Jesus. Now, she doesn't have to struggle with balance in this life. That is comforting!

God has shown me that He is and always will be my Rock, and the Source of balance with His wisdom. Thankfully, my life is different than how I grew up. It is all due to God's faithfulness to me. He is so good! All that to say, I know Who my trust is in—God! And, that if I am not diligent and discerning, I can make unwise decisions. In prayer I must stay always—drawing my strength from the Vine! God provides godly counsel—and I want to seek that to keep a good thing strong—my marriage!

Wow! Would anyone blame this wife for having an unhealthy marriage, knowing all that she went through because of her parents’ choices? Probably not. But she knew the book was not yet written for her relationships. As she said, “God never leaves us or forsakes us. We are to follow His example—not man's.”

Later, while reflecting back on the childhood that she said ended when she was seven, she saw how Jesus was both protecting her and using her for His glory: “God uses our testimony—as His Word says that ". . . they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony." God has healed me emotionally, and physically! I have experienced Jesus in my life. Today, without Him, I would be a very bitter person—angry at the world!”

You cannot control your parents’ relationship or go back in time and fix even the most minor of conflicts they may have had. But that has no bearing on the choices you can make in your marriage!

You can choose to follow God’s faithful example. You can choose to apply love and respect daily to your relationship with your spouse. And indirectly, you can have a much more positive impact on your children’s future relationships than your parents had on yours!

-Dr. E

Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

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