National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Surviving the Family Reunion

Family Matters

BY George and Lisette De Los Reyes

July 22 - 28, 2001 Issue | Posted 7/22/01 at 2:00 PM


Q I'm dreading our vacation—it's my husband's yearly family reunion. This is a major source of tension. His well-meaning family members offer “opinions” and “suggestions” but I feel outnumbered. How can I get my husband on my side?

A George: Coming from a very close family, your question hits home. Family members often feel comfortable offering their opinions on almost any topic under the sun. And sometimes their comments don't exactly go down like honey. Sometimes they get you downright mad.

One thing I've learned to do is to pick my battles. In other words, I try to determine if it would be helpful to respond to a particular comment, or to let it go.

Lisette, on the other hand, jumps right in and sets the record straight. On occasion our different approaches have caused a rift between us.

Realizing this, Lisette and I have made a pact to always try to honor and respect each other during these situations. We never gang up on the other when some family member is making critical remarks.

I also find it helpful to remember that although I love my parents and siblings dearly, my relationship with my wife comes first. Therefore, unity and peace between us is paramount.

That doesn't mean I abandon my father and mother, brother and sister. Quite the opposite, I have wonderful relationships with all of them. But Lisette and George Alexander are at the top of my list, and they get the lion's share of my love and attention.

Another idea: avoid certain conversations. We've learned that certain subjects among our family members are, let's just say, volatile. If we can, we simply avoid those topics.

Lisette: Looming behind your husband's head is a cloud that says, “Honor your father and mother.” The cloud over your head might read, “The man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife.”

It seems like the difficulty is knowing how to put those two ideas together.

We've found it helpful to pray together for God's help and to discuss some questions beforehand:

E What concerns do we both have? What obstacles to our unity are we likely to encounter?

E In those hard situations, how can we honor each other and our parents at the same time?

E Can we find some time alone together during our visit?

We've also made some practical promises to each other. For example:

E I promise to always honor you in front of others in speech and facial expressions.

E I promise not to pit my family against you.

E I promise not to be on the lookout for your family's failures.

E I promise to listen to your family politely.

After that, hopefully we're ready to go and enjoy ourselves and our families!

George and Lisette de los Reyes host

The Two Shall Be One on EWTN.