Sixty years ago my father married my mother and the Weber family became conjoined with the McKenna family. My 4 siblings and I enjoyed many good times and have scores of memories with Aunts, Uncles, and 35 first cousins. Today with many of these cousins having married, having kids and grandkids, the direct family members number well over 100 and probably closer to 200. That is quite an accumulation of family stemming from a single wedding 60 years ago.
Thirty-one years ago, my older sister Eileen married Gary and the Cota-Weber union was formed. This past weekend their oldest of four children, my nephew Eric, married Kara. The cycle starts anew. The Cota-Hornak era has officially begun.
The events of this weekend got me thinking that marriage is much more than a ceremony joining a man and woman. It’s much greater than a Wedding Day on the calendar when 2 people commit to each other for a lifetime. Marriage is the joining of families. Weber-McKenna, Cota-Weber, and now Cota-Hornak. The decision of 2 individuals in love unites entire families forever.
I count myself fortunate as the vast majority of my family members genuinely like each other … especially impressive in an era where families divorce, blend and re-invent themselves continuously.
I believe that my siblings, their families, and I still all still love and enjoy seeing each other because we have followed a few basic principles that are based on respect.
Does your extended family observe a tradition of respect for their newlyweds?
Remember that these suggestions are not focused specifically toward the bride and groom; rather, they are intended for the extended family of siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. After all, you will be seeing each other at special events and get-togethers for the next 30, 40 or 50 years.
- Embrace independence. Just because Eric and Kara (or any other newly married couple) are young and new at marriage, let’s not get any ideas of control or influence. They are adults and as such will be both responsible and accountable for their choices. Let’s all remain focused on keeping our own houses clean and let them choose whatever degree of cleanliness they desire.
- Learn their culture. Each family has its own traditions, cultures and peculiarities. Pay attention and learn them. Once learned, accept them. Don’t try to change them. Remember they will be learning your cultures, traditions and peculiarities. Invite them and make them feel welcome in your culture.
- Communicate. The best way to communicate with new family members is to listen (see #2). They will eventually tire of talking (hopefully) and ask you a question or two. Notice how they probably won’t listen to your answer. That is OK. You’ll know more about them and have a basis for the next conversation. Two ears …one mouth. Try to listen at least twice as much as you talk.
- Give unconditional love freely … be stingy with advice. It’s easy to want to help those that we love with suggestions and advice. Remember that you didn’t like others intrusive suggestions when you were first starting out … or even the unsolicited advice you received last week. We all like to do things our own way, and we learn best from our experiences and mistakes. Rather than advice to the new family members … why not just give unconditional love?
As Eric and Kara begin their new life together, we should recognize that the Cotas and Hornaks are now united in the same way that their parents united 31 years ago and 1 set of grandparents united 60 years ago. Families are brought together once again; families that will hopefully love unconditionally, communicate well, and respect each other’s independence and cultures.
To Eric and Kara I say this: I was honored to be at your wedding and I’m proud to be part of the legacy that I know the two of you have started and will still create over the next 50 or 60 years.
I welcome and embrace the Hornaks as the newest branch of my family … unconditionally.
Next Blog Title: The Elements of a Relationship
Next Blog Date: September 2, 2010