Dysfunctional families? There’s hope in marriage!

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For better or worse, I’ve recently been receiving The Daily Mash emails. I find the humour a fitting antidote to the sadness, confusion and terror in the ‘real’ news – and, like all good satire, much of it is masking some important, but uncomfortable, truths about our culture.

One such headline this week was “My family not nearly as f****d up as theirs, says Meghan Markle”.

Apologies to any who might be offended by asterisks, but there’s so much we can learn from secular humour, that I couldn’t let this one go without sharing my thoughts.

Absolutely, you could say Meghan has come from a dysfunctional family. Absolutely, you could say that Harry has also come from one.

And absolutely, you could say that we’ve all come from dysfunctional families. Because however loving or supportive our families were and are, none of them are perfect: they’re all dysfunctional in some way.

We all like to speculate on the problematic family lives of the rich and famous whose lives are constantly on show, lacking the privilege most of us have of being able to hide a few more embarrassing family details from the world. Everything is on display, everything is up for grabs.

But I guess what this shows us is that neither money nor fame nor popularity nor success can deal with the human condition some of us call sin. Relationships break down in the royal family – and they break down on council estates. Deception is found within Hollywood families, and within families living on the poverty line.

Communication struggles, lack of empathy, self-centredness, hoarding, over-busyness – these problems exist everywhere, because humans exist everywhere. And where humans exist, there exists sin.

With such a depressing outlook, why should any of us bother to get married? Isn’t it inevitable that we will let our partner down? Let our children down, by bringing them into a relationship and a world that is far from perfect?

After nearly 16 years of marriage, and a heck of a lot of observation of other people’s marriages, I firmly believe that marriage brings hope.

Yes, it’s uncomfortable and sometimes painful: my experience of marriage has been like a mirror, held up to show me more clearly my failings and inadequacies, not only as a wife but as a friend, mentor, worker, daughter, sister and mum. As wonderful as my parents are, I am a product of their own struggles and difficulties – and my own children will bear the scars of mine.

And yet: there is hope. There is hope that two failed people can come together and make something which is beautiful, something which blesses the community of which it is a part, something which offers a haven and support to others, something which provides a secure base for children to develop.

We do it through listening, through laughing, through sharing our thoughts and feelings, through being willing to compromise, through learning from each other and from those around us. And hope comes.

It is this hope that delights me when I consider our own marriage, attend the weddings of friends, and look forward to Harry and Meghan’s big day tomorrow. Hope that we can be shaped by our families, but not defined by them.

As Harry and Meghan commit their lives to each other tomorrow, it is my prayer that they will know this truth: that they are not defined by their parents’ problems, but that they have every chance of success in their marriage and family life as they learn to listen, laugh, forgive and grow together.

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