Sometimes the elders had a lesson really surprised me. When I asked them about their advice for selecting a future spouse, I didn’t expect to hear this one: Take your partner’s family into consideration!
They point out that looking at potential future in-laws carefully can be an important safeguard against making the wrong choice. And the time to ponder this issue is before the wedding.
For Bonnie, 73, incompatibility with her husband’s family was a serious source of unhappiness.
I married someone whose family just never accepted me, and this also applied to some of the other relatives that came into the family as in-laws. I was interested in meeting all kinds of people growing up and I didn’t grow up in a big household, so I thought this relationship with his extended family was eventually going to be very workable. But it really wasn’t. Once I was in the marriage, that didn’t really work out that well, and there was no way I could leave. I think I would have been consumed by guilt at the time. So I stayed in the marriage.
For Gloria, 77, her future husband’s family was a plus.
I liked my in laws. And I think it’s a very simple thing but I would say to somebody contemplating marriage, if there are any frictions between you and the others in the family, look at it really hard because you’re going to be together for a long time. Your children are going to intermingle and when there’s cross words, it breaks the family apart. And I learned this from him and his family. He was very considerate of them, he went to see them every Sunday afternoon for a couple of hours. And then on Wednesday night we would all meet and we would have dinner together, and I think having meals not only with your spouse when you get married is important, you need to go back and have it with other members of your family.
Phyllis, 84, supported the view that observing a future partner’s family is diagnostic of their own behavior:
I think don’t make fast decisions. Make sure that you get to know the other person’s family because there may be some values there that you don’t realize when you’re just meeting the person. But when you meet the family, you think oh, now is that going to be an issue? Also, you get to observe that person with their family and how they get along with their family. If they don’t get along with their family and they’re miserable to their family, how will they be to you? Make sure that you get to know the person in a variety of situations. Perhaps some of my perspective is based on of my kids, who I don’t think is married particularly well, but that was her choice. And the family, there, is part of the problem.