With marriage feeling so ‘optional’ in our present day culture, how do we communicate its value and significance to our sons? In this article, Michele Morin shares 3 ways we can teach our sons the value of marriage and prepare them to launch into a promising future as a man of character with solid family values.
Remember when most households consisted of a married couple and their children? Friends my age who grew up in single parent homes back in the 60s and 70s have confided to me that they felt the weight of their uniqueness. By contrast, statistics reveal that today the proportion of households consisting of married couples is less than half!
With marriage feeling so ‘optional’ in our present culture, how do we communicate its value and significance to our sons? We may feel we are walking a semantic tightrope when we hold marriage up as the ideal context for raising children and building a home. We may fear that we might offend someone who has made different lifestyle choices or wound a friend who is living with the result of an unwanted divorce. In our world, ‘family’ means something different to everyone. How can we teach our sons to value marriage and to aspire to be a loving husband and involved father?
Parents communicate their own attitude toward marriage in subtle and surprising ways. And if it’s your goal to raise young men who will reverse the cultural trend toward fatherless homes, and if you want to parent emotionally healthy men, good husbands, and strong fathers, consider these three areas of growth in your life that communicate volumes to your growing boys.
1. DEAL WITH YOUR PAST
Begin by assessing your own childhood wounds. I am not a counselor or a therapist. But I grew up in a home characterized by mental illness and alcoholism. I am thankful to have processed that chapter of my life during the first half of my second decade—before I had even met my husband.
How would you describe the home where you were raised? Your history with men—particularly your relationship with your father—will weigh heavy on how you relate to your husband and even your son.
Was your relationship with your father positive and life-giving? If so, you already have a head start. You know the value of marriage and what it is to receive love from a man of character and to love him in return.
But maybe your own father was physically or emotionally absent. Or perhaps he was abusive during your childhood. As a result, it may be hard for you to trust the heart of your husband today. You may be carrying baggage about men that needs to be offloaded before you can relate to your husband in a way that is healthy for your son (and for you!).
Be Honest About Your Baggage
All of us like to picture our emotional baggage as a cute little carry on—maybe a fashionable tote bag with a handy shoulder strap. However if we’re honest, the weight of fatherlessness can feel more like a body bag or a steamer trunk. And it lands with a thud in your emotional life. Your layers of hurt and abandonment carried forward into adulthood shift and become unwieldy whenever conflict arises with your husband or son.
Jonetta Rose Baras has even invented a term for what you are experiencing. “Fatherless Woman Syndrome.” In “Whatever Happened to Daddy’s Little Girl?” she sounds the alarm about the heartache of fatherlessness that may affect as many as half the households in America.
Open your heart to God and ask for wisdom in moving forward. Professional counseling or a wise mentor can help you to navigate through the healing process. But this process must begin with forgiveness.
2. CHERISH (AND FORGIVE) HIS FATHER
The hurt you have experienced may have come from the man who is your son’s father. Maybe divorce or abandonment or absenteeism is part of your story. Let me acknowledge that you are walking a path I have not traveled. You are raising a son to be a man of character alone, to be what he has not seen. So I honor your unique job description and recognize the challenge of your situation.
Even so, you must be ready to forgive your son’s father. If you are a single mom or married to an unbelieving man, this may be a tall order. Even if your marriage is healthy, the push and pull of life can create friction, simply because you are a sinner living with another sinner.
Forgiveness is the lubricant that keeps a healthy marriage from becoming unhealthy. By forgiving your son’s father as a daily spiritual discipline, you are clearing the way for the Holy Spirit to cleanse your own wound. You are also demonstrating the biblical pattern for your son.
“Forgive us as we have been forgiven” embodies the gospel. And it is step one toward emotional health and release of the past. The power for this costly forgiveness flows from Christ’s resurrection. It’s the same healing stream from which you have experienced God’s forgiveness for your own faults and failures.
3. MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
If you have spent any time in front of a screen, your expectations for love, marriage, and intimacy may have been shaped by rom coms. They’re full of improbable plots where the dashing hero runs through an airport to declare his love before the heroine disappears into the TSA maze. Real life gets in the way of starry-eyed romance.
Even so, it’s okay to have expectations. And it’s illogical not to. After all, going into a relationship with no expectations is actually an expectation in itself, right? Allowing our expectations of others—especially in marriage and mothering—to be shaped by Scripture is the best protection against disappointment and conflict. God has spoken specifically about the value of marriage in four places. And wise women will take their cues from the sacred text.
1. Love Your husband and love your children (Titus 2:4-5).
God calls believing moms to a muscular sort of love. Not an over-protective, swooping-in-to-rescue kind of love that shields our sons from every calamity. The goal is to love our husbands and our sons with 1 Corinthians 13 fervor as we exercise patience and kindness. As we “bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things.” This verse from the love chapter gives wives and mums a great four-part checklist for analyzing the genuineness of our love.
2. Understand that submit is not a four-letter word (Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19).
Christ-followers have the example of His perfect submission to the will of the Father. Fully God, He set aside His divine prerogatives and became sin for us. Marriage requires a commitment to selflessness, mutual submission, mutual respect, and an effort to be the most loving partner in the marriage. Don’t get bogged down in the complementarian vs. egalitarian debate. And don’t wait for your husband to ‘deserve’ your love or for your children to ‘appreciate’ all you do. Go first, as God went first in loving you while you were still quite unlovely.
3. Demonstrate your respect for marriage and for your husband (1 Peter 3:1-7).
Sitcoms and movies are famous for the ‘dumb guy’ role. The slob who happens to be married to a resourceful wife who saves his bacon and enlivens the plot with artful zingers. We’ve all sat through husband-bashing sessions where friends or co-workers recite their long list of complaints about their mate. Showing respect for our husbands communicates a high view of marriage. It also reassures our boys that marriage is safe. They can expect to find a wife who will respect and revere them; not simply because they are male, but because they are striving to love their wife as Christ loved the Church.
A TRADITION OF PREPARATION FOR MARRIAGE
A generation or two ago, conscientious parents focused on the task of preparing their daughters for marriage and family and their sons for a career. The crosshairs of culture have turned with wisdom toward a broader hope for our girls. And I wonder—does the present crisis of fatherlessness make a strong case for an adjustment in how we train our boys?
Are we talking about the blessings of purity and the dangers of porn? Are we encouraging a desire for marriage and fatherhood. And are we fostering discernment so when it’s time to commit to a wife, they will have chosen wisely and well?
In partnership with our husbands, we are privileged to be the hopeful visionary, the marriage cheerleader who speaks blessing over our sons. We are preparing them to launch into a promising future as a man of character with solid family values.
How would you describe the home where you were raised? Was your relationship with your own father positive and life giving? Have you noticed the tendency for women to bash their husbands when socializing? What are some unrealistic expectations you had when entering into marriage?
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