The 7 Steps to Happily Ever After
Step 3: Choose each other as your first family.
For years, you were primarily a member of one family: the one in which you
grew up. Then you got married, and suddenly you became the foundation of a new
family, one in which husband and wife are the A-team. It can be tough to shift
your identity like this, but it's also an important part of building your
self-image as a duo (and maybe, eventually, as three or four or...).
For me, making this transition meant stopping the incessant bitching to my mom
when I was mad at my husband — my behavior was disloyal, and I had to learn to
talk to Jonathan, not about him. My friend Lynn tells the story of her
mother's reaction to a trip to the Middle East she and her then-boyfriend (now
husband) had planned. Her mother hit the roof, calling incessantly to urge Lynn
not to go. Eventually, Lynn's boyfriend got on the phone with Mom and explained
why they were excited to share this experience. "It was clear then that
we were the team," Lynn says now. "Not teaming up against
my mother, but teaming up together to deal with her issues."
Whatever your challenges — an overprotective mom? an overly critical
father-in-law? — you have to outline together the boundaries between you
and all of the families connected to you. Not only will you feel stronger as a
united front but when you stick to your shared rules, all that family baggage
will weigh on you a lot less.