Leave and Cleave – Some people have trouble “leaving and cleaving”—that is, they have difficulty adjusting to making their NEW family with their spouse as the primary family. What was that transition like for you? And how did your family of origin handle it?
Thank you to Miss Snapdragon for the question!
This is a great question because it is something that we talk about all the time! For the Hermit Crabs, we started this process during our engagement. Once we realized the tensions that an engagement could bring up with various family members, Mr. HC and I agreed that we would always present a united front outward. We may have many discussions about it between us, but when we talked to family members, we would always be unit first. This was one of the first steps for us. Second, living far from both of our families for three years, we started making our own traditions around the holidays, another step that started this process long before the wedding. And finally, now that we are married, we are working with our families to show that though unfortunately we cannot always be everywhere for all the holidays or our free time (wouldn’t that be nice!), we are going to have to make choices, and our priority is now for us to be together, and split up for these occasions. Honestly, sometimes this has been very tough for us, and sometimes our families have been very supportive of us. Although we are in our first year of marriage, we have been on this road for many years now, and it is definitely a process for everyone! We always try to remind ourselves of what our families are experiencing as well, so that we can have more sensitivity for their perspective in addition to our own.
Hmm, this comes up a lot in our household. We’ve pretty much got the “leaving and cleaving” thing down pat. Going into this marriage, I have accepted Mr. R as my new family and he has accepted me as his, and it’s the one that comes first and foremost. Period.
Leaving and cleaving from my family has really been a non-issue. Our biggest issue is with his family. They’ve done and said some questionable things, and as such, I don’t get along with them. Fortunately, Mr. Rainbow and I are on the same page as far as keeping our distance from them without completely shunning them. Unfortunately, sometimes my MIL can act a little…needy. I think she’s the one that is having a hard time with the leave and cleave issue, and the boundaries of her relationship with him are a little odd—wanting him to come over and console her after a break-up is one that comes to mind. I’ve never heard of a parent discussing their relationship issues with their child; usually it’s the other way around.
That said, the best thing we’ve done is to present a united front at all times and to set limits as to what is and isn’t an appropriate parent/child relationship now that the two of us are married.
This was not a big issue for us! We’re blessed in that our families happen to live 20 minutes apart, so we’re able to see everyone on major holidays. The important thing, as some of the other girls have mentioned, is that we’re now a social unit. We go places together, and present a united front if any issues come up.
Of course, I will always love my family. They’ll always be there for me. But Mr. Powder Puff and I are both learning, as we approach our second anniversary, that we’re now our own little family of two. And our little family comes first, no matter what.
I don’t really see this as an issue, for me or Mr. MJ. We’re both very independent and have been since we moved out of our family homes to go to college. He is the oldest sibling in his family, and I’m an only child. (So I guess we were two strong-willed kids itching to get out in the world and show our parents that we knew everything!!…As if.)
As for the holidays, his family lives very close. Mine lives thousands of miles away. So it goes without saying that we see his family much more often than we see mine. We enjoy spending time with my family too, so when we do travel to see them we usually spend a week or more there. If that time falls on/over any major holiday, so be it! Both of our families are cool with celebrating a holiday late or on a different day, or without us, depending on the schedules of others. The important thing is that wherever the two of us go—especially over a holiday—we go together, because we *are* a family. The only thing that could make our situation better would be if everyone lived in the same area, but since that will never happen, we do the best we can!
When I told my parents that I wanted to marry Mr. Avo, I said that we might end up moving to Poland one day. This freaked them out so badly that my mom booked us tickets to Europe and we flew to visit Mr. Avo’s family, sans Mr. Avo, a few weeks later! I think I’ve had an easier time being away from my family (we currently live in Chicago, my family lives in Washington state) because I came into the marriage with realistic expectations about where we would live.
I don’t know where we will end up, but odds are high that it will be somewhere in Europe. I’m very grateful for modern technology that allows me to call, send pictures, and even video chat anywhere, at any time!
Eep. This one was and IS a hard one for me, but only when it comes to Christmas. I have spent every single Christmas day with my mom and sisters. I love my family (see? When I say “my family” I am referring to my mom, sisters, etc.) so much and insist on spending every Christmas with them in Ohio. This usually involves spending over 6 hours in the car on Christmas Day, but I have to do it. Mr. Quiche has been great about it, but I do remember him once saying, “I’m your family, too,” and it made me feel really bad. Perhaps things will change when we have kids, but I can’t imagine it will. I’ll want them to spend Christmas with their grandma, aunts, and cousins!
Baby steps. It is only in recent years that I’ve given up needing to wake up at my mom’s house every Christmas! It’s funny though, my mom would be sad if we didn’t spend Christmas with them, but she would totally understand and not be mad. She is the best!
We’ve had a bit of trouble with this, but it’s not coming from us, it comes from our families. My family is having a difficult time with this process, with a bunch of drama blowing up over the holidays. Mr. SD’s family is better about things since they kind of went through the process when he moved out and later went to college. We still run into issues though, on both sides. I think it’s going to be a drawn out process, but I’m confident that we’ll get there someday soon. I just hope I’m able to keep my sanity in the meantime.
Like Quiche, this one is really hard for me. I’m extremely close with my brother and sister (and my nieces) and I can’t imagine not spending a holiday, er…um…every few weeks with them. My family lives about three hours away from us, which has actually been good because it allows Mr. Fro Yo and me time to ourselves to develop our own little family. Thankfully, he’s been nothing but wonderful and understanding of this, and I know he realized before we married just how much my family means to me. So, it hasn’t been an issue for us really. I think things will get a little more complicated when we have kids, but we’ll figure it out. What we really need to work on is having a balance between seeing his family and seeing mine! Sorry to Mr. Fro Yo’s family!
This hasn’t been particularly difficult for us, though I imagine it would be a lot harder if our families’ living situations were a bit different. Our parents live very close to one another, and my grandparents and sister live very close to them as well. All of Mr. Cardigan’s family beyond his parents live at least four hours away (and his brother lives in Hawaii)!
Mr. Cardigan and I have seen ourselves as our own family unit for a while now, so we have been very unified on that front. We decided to spent Thanksgiving with his family and Christmas with mine – we’ve only done it one year so far but it worked out perfectly. Right now, we don’t spend a ton of time with either of our families since we live two hours away from anyone, but once we move back to Austin later this year I imagine that we’ll spend a LOT of time with my sister and her family, and we’ll spend about equal amounts of time with our parents. I wouldn’t say we are necessarily closer to either side of our family, but I would definitely say that we have become our own little family unit and that was an extremely natural transition for us!
I never really gave any thought to this pre-wedding. Mr. Spaniel is really close to his family, but not in an unhealthy or overbearing way. My family is all kinds of imposing, but without being able to articulate why, I just knew that it would end—or I would end it—after we got married. I knew that things were going to change, and I didn’t expect it to take any special effort on our parts. (I’d also never heard of “leaving and cleaving” before the wedding, so that might be why I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal.)
Although there have been a few growing pains (Mama Spaniel was really upset with me when she didn’t hear from us during our honeymoon… as if that would have happened!), for the most part I think it’s gone really well. I still talk to everyone in my immediate family at least once a week on the phone, but I don’t worry about it beyond that. Our parents no longer factor into our decisionmaking, and we don’t ask them for advice about every step we take like we used to. It wasn’t totally conscious… I just didn’t feel like being so much in touch, or sharing everything, anymore after the wedding. Our families have pretty much respected that, and in those rare instances when they haven’t, it’s been really easy to keep our boundaries: we are our primary families now.
This has been an ongoing discussion for us, and we’ve been married almost three years! We experienced so many changes right after getting married—new jobs, moving, leaving grad school—that it has taken us a long time to figure this piece out. Our work schedules leave us little time for each other, let alone other family members.
Travel to Ohio is always challenging, because we have so much family who wants to see us and a limited amount of time; most of the time, at least some part of the family ends up hurt that we didn’t spend the right amount of time with them. This year, we are working to recognize that our little 2-person family is our immediate family, and that parents/siblings are second. However, drawing boundaries and saying no are hard to do when you love your family and emotions run high…so any tips that people have are greatly appreciated!
I think timing is everything with this one. “Timing” being your age, the time of job-getting, school-finishing, money-having, location relative to your families, and all the other major life bits that come into play. Given my own marriage timing, it wasn’t difficult at all.
I was nearly 29 when I got married, so I was living away from my parents’ house for a while (I don’t have sibs, by the way). We dig our families enough, but we seemingly rely on them far less for all forms of support (moral included) than most of our friends do. I’m sure this is a function of age, but I’m sure it’s also a completely personal preference. Given this context, I feel like both sets of family already considered us a wacky little satellite in our own world. We are both very much “family on our own terms” kind of people, which seemed like a good first step in defining our new family unit as husband and wife.
This one was a cinch for Mr. Kiwi, as he’d already been so independent from his family that it was almost a blessing for THEM to have me marry him—so I’d force him to see them more! I badly wanted become part of their family, since my own was so fractured. Since we had moved in together three years before the wedding, I was his priority over anyone else, though, and he made that clear to them: if there was anything going on, I was coming no matter what, and if I wasn’t welcome, then too bad.
For me, it has been a lot harder. My dad is one of my best friends, and I talk to him every day, and see him almost every single day. When Piper does something new, I call him and my mom over anyone else (Mr. Kiwi is unavailable during the day) and we rejoice. For the first few years of our marriage, though, I’d feel badly that my dad was alone without friends or family (interesting situation I won’t go into) to rely on for companionship, (I didn’t worry about my mom since my mom left when I moved out, but has a ton of family and friends). To help myself feel better about my dad’s situation and the guilt I felt when I moved out, I invited him to do outings with Mr. Kiwi and me—mostly movies and various shows. Mr. Kiwi wasn’t too thrilled about sharing his new wife, because he felt our alone time is for US, with my dad having his place in our family, just not at every movie we see.
Eventually I began phasing that ritual out, saving time for Mr. Kiwi and I just for us, and the time with my dad and my daughter is just time for US. This is working well for me, Mr. Kiwi gets out of doing some boring errands, and Piper gets to see her grandpa. My dad is a lot better about boundaries now that Piper is around, knowing Mr. Kiwi only sees her a few hours a day, but there is some definite competition going on between them of who she loves more, which is very irritating.
I’m trying hard to learn to let our newly formed family of three become my first priority over ANYTHING and ANYONE else. Slowly but surely, I’m coming around, although holidays make it impossible because everyone wants to see us, which means we have three days of “Christmas,” spending time with up to six different sides of our families. That part is quickly getting frustrating, as there aren’t enough hours in the day to see everyone we want, and speak to everyone we want, and to just RELAX.
The idea of leaving and cleaving has been instilled in me since I was a tot in Sunday School. One of the things we did that helped the most was that we spent our first holiday season alone with just our new family. We spent last Thanksgiving and will spend this Thanksgiving alone as a baby family. I know this has religious connotations that some won’t agree with, but the essence of “leaving and cleaving” is wrapped up in starting your own baby family. You can’t go on whining and complaining that you won’t be spending time with your family. You and your spouse ARE family. You are with family! I know it’s hard. I miss my family and all of their traditions. Yet, I have a family (my husband) and I have to put effort, time, and energy into building family (complete with traditions) with him. I think it’s an important paradigm shift to see this action as building a hopeful future, rather than an abandonment of previous identity with your family. You will have to mourn (I think that’s a normal and healthy part of the leaving process), but then you must go on. Get on with nurturing your baby family. CLEAVE. (Read more about this here.)
Since moving to Brooklyn in December, we did our own Christmas. It makes a difference to live away from both sets of parents, certainly easier than living near only one set, which resulted in a lot of weirdness for me at least. Before holidays were defaulted to my in laws because they lived close by, but when we did visit my family for a holiday, his parents would bristle at that. It was very strange and we’re glad to just divvy holidays up now or say that we’re not going anywhere this year.
Even though my in laws give us a bit more trouble about holidays and visits, I’m the one in the relationship that struggles the most with separating from family. I never thought I’d live this far from my parents, particularly my mom. I always eliminated locations because they were too far. For instance, I hate winters. Just loathe the entire season. I am absolutely obsessed with Southern California weather, but I always eliminated that as a possible place for us to live because “how would my parents get there?” Yes. I am crazy. But there are planes and phones and I’m slowly getting more used to that, despite having lived on the East Coast for 3.5 years. I’m getting more comfortable with carving out our own life in the way that works best for us.
This wasn’t an issue for me. I “left” at age 18 for college and didn’t look back. I’ve always been pretty independent. I moved in with the Dude three years before we got married, when I was 23, so marriage wasn’t really the trigger for us “cleaving,” or forming our own little family. My parents had no issues or feelings of getting “left” (as far as I know). And now that my dad is gone and my mom has moved to Austin near us, it’s a totally different dynamic than before I went away to college. Likewise, the Dude had already been on his own for many years before we met.
I technically left home at 17, but have always been very attached to my family and spent all holidays with them, etc. If you had asked me about “leaving and cleaving” up to about 6 months before we got engaged I probably would have burst into tears at the thought of the dynamics within my family changing when I got married. But a bit before we got engaged, something shifted inside me. I didn’t feel sad anymore at the thought of leaving my family; all I felt was excited and content with the idea that Mr E and I would get to create a new family unit together. When that attitude change occurred, I knew I was really ready to get married. I have remained very close to the family I came from, but Mr E and I are definitely seen as our own little unit now and everyone from my side is quite happy with that. On the other hand, his side handles the “new family” thing a but differently. We are still referred to as “the kids” and because Mr E is the youngest child in his family I dont think his mother has ever really accepted that he has left the nest. Ah well, you win some, you lose some. 🙂
The leave and cleave began when we first moved in together about three years before we got married. We use to live close to Mr. HW’s family, so we saw them all the time. The holidays naturally split themselves based on our vacation times. Now that we don’t live close to any family, it’s much more difficult to figure out whom to spend holidays with. Our first Christmas included us flying all over the country to spend time with both sets. It was really expensive. It’s going to have to change mostly because our “family” can’t afford this. My mom treats me differently now-. She asks about how I’m “taking care of my husband.” She’s funny. I love that both of our families are really respecting our union. We’re lucky.
What about you? How did the “leave and cleave” process go in your family?