Marriage Advice From A Christian Perspective

The Danger in Comparing Your Spouse to Their Parent

  • Linda Gilden Contributing Writer
  • 2022 10 Mar
The Danger in Comparing Your Spouse to Their Parent

Margaret rinsed the last dish in the sink and turned off the water. Her husband, Josh, came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. “I enjoyed my supper,” he said. “I like meatloaf.”

“Good,” Margaret said.

“It didn’t taste like Mama’s, but it was good.”

“It didn’t taste like your Mama’s meatloaf?” The tone of Margaret’s voice began to rise.

“No, but I said it was good.”

“Right after you said it didn’t taste like your mother’s.”

Margaret closed the dishwasher a little more loudly than she should have. She had his mother’s recipe in her handwriting. She had worked hard most of the afternoon and thought she had followed it perfectly. Where did she go wrong? Needless to say, Margaret and Josh didn’t have meatloaf again any time soon. 

But was this discussion really about meatloaf? Just this short conversation evoked many emotions for Margaret.


One of the deepest desires of newlyweds is to care for and love their spouses properly. For whoever positions themselves as the cook in the house, the preparation and serving of the food are paramount. So when your spouse expresses anything that could even be construed as negative, it makes feelings of inadequacy surface. And when a spouse is compared to the parent of the other spouse, those feelings of inadequacy multiply and grow into feeling he or she will never be enough.

Hurt feelings. 

After spending her afternoon carefully following her mother-in-law’s recipes, cooking her husband’s favorite dish, and deciding what would be the perfect compliments, hearing that her efforts were not as successful as she had hoped hurt Margaret’s feelings. She had poured every bit of love she had for her husband into the meal and felt she had failed.


At first, Margaret felt angry that she would spend so much time preparing a special meal for her husband, and his reaction was so harsh and judgmental. Or was it really? Josh probably didn’t give a thought to how it sounded to Margaret for him to compare her meatloaf to his mother’s. It never occurred to him that as they made this transition of leaving and cleaving, it was important not to make comments that made his beautiful bride feel as though he regretted the leaving. True, Josh never said anything like that or felt it. But in the middle of a situation where Margaret was already feeling insecure, it may make her feel that way.

When a man and a woman marry, each brings their traditions and family customs. These include holiday traditions, vacation traditions, relationship communications, and food. So when one is served a favorite dish that is not prepared in their favorite manner, it sometimes comes as a shock.

Holiday traditions often open up areas of very strong feelings wrapped in long-standing family practices. Try to incorporate something from each of your family’s traditions and create new traditions for your family. Things that you do the same way year after year can become traditions even before realizing it. Proximity to your extended families will also make a difference in how you can celebrate from year to year. If there is a lot of travel involved, you may have to alternate years with each family or take turns doing the traveling. Whatever your family decides about traditions, it will be the foundation for your new family and give your children an anchor on which to hold for life. Keep in mind that as you blend families, you create a new family ordained by God. This is not a difficult task because so much love is involved. But it does mean there will be things to work through that either need to be adjusted or amended to work for your new family.

Josh never meant to hurt Margaret’s feelings. Meatloaf is a small thing. But if we are not careful in our marriages to always approach our spouses with love, even in the little things, someday a big thing will come along that will be much harder to overcome. If we practice showing and growing our love for each other in the little things, it will be easier to speak that love into the bigger things. Peter reminded us just how important it is to grow our love for others (and spouses should be at the top of the list!). First Peter 4:8 says, “Most important of all, continue to show deep love to each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.”

Expressing your opinion about a supper dish is not sinning. However, we should make such comments with special attention to how they may be received. It won’t take a long time in marriage to learn the things your spouse is sensitive to that may be perceived as a negative comment or action. Trying to live up to your expectations because of your upbringing or because your mother or father did something a certain way is an area that can easily open up the door for hurt and other negative feelings. You don’t want your spouse to be exactly like one of your parents. Give them the freedom to be themselves.

Several weeks later, Josh had just finished trimming all the hedges by the gate when he saw Margaret coming down the road. “Whew, perfect timing!” He took a step back and turned to wave at Margaret. She had asked for several weeks to have the bushes by the gate trimmed so they wouldn’t look so straggly. Josh was still beaming when she rolled down the window. “What in the world happened to the bushes?” Margaret’s expression was far from equal to the proud smile that fell from Josh’s face.

“What do you mean? Don’t they look good?”

“Good? They look like the top of the kitchen table.”

“I guess it may not be perfect, but I thought I did a pretty good job. My dad used to use his leveler to make sure our bushes were perfect.”

“Your dad? Well, these aren’t your dad’s bushes.” Margaret’s voice calmed down a bit. “Bushes should be round, like bushes. Not level on the top. Do you think we might try that?”

“I guess I didn’t think about it much. Yes, I think round bushes would be nice. I’ll let these grow a bit and then try to round them out. Maybe you could find a picture in a magazine or somewhere and show me how you like them.”

“Great idea.” Margaret slowly let the car roll forward up the hill toward the house. She waved again. “Love you. Thanks for cutting the bushes.”

What a difference it made for Josh to want to do something to please Margaret and for Margaret to receive it without getting her feelings hurt or becoming angry. It seems they had learned from the meatloaf incident a little more about kindness and meshing the two families into one. Best of all, they had taken the wisdom of Ephesians 4:32. “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes

Linda Gilden is an award-winning writer, speaker, editor, certified writing and speaking coach, and personality consultant. Her passion is helping others discover the joy of writing and learn to use their writing to make a difference. Linda recently released Articles, Articles, Articles! and is the author of over a thousand magazine articles and 19 books including the new Quick Guides for Personalities. She loves every opportunity to share her testimony, especially through her writing. Linda’s favorite activity (other than eating folded potato chips) is floating in a pool with a good book surrounded by splashing grandchildren—a great source of writing material!

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