I am involved in a courtship in which we have begun discussing engagement. We've been very intentional, and thanks to Boundless, we've been able to wisely move through this relationship.
We met through a ministry in which we are both leaders: Deaf Teen Quest. Think Young Life or Youth for Christ for deaf teenagers (this ministry is actually under YFC). One of us will have to move, and we've both begun exploring job opportunities in the other's area.
Anyway, before I get too far off the beaten path — I noticed on one of Lisa's recent blog posts, she mentioned John Thomas was interviewed regarding making a geographical move (boomerang living). Is there any way I could get John to address this in print, since I am unable to listen to the podcast?
I'm not sure that what Lisa and I discussed gets to the heart of your question, but I'll summarize our discussion and try to help you with some specific advice.
My wife and I started out our marriage near both sets of parents, but about midway through our first year God led us to another region of the country. We packed a little rental truck and moved from Arkansas to Denver, a thousand miles away from home and family.
We moved primarily so that I could attend seminary, but we also thought it would be a great opportunity for us to have some new experiences in a geographical location we both loved.
We really didn't think much about how far away we were from our parents until we began thinking about starting a family of our own. When that time came, we had a decision to make: move closer to home so our children could more easily connect with their family, especially their grandparents; or stay where our children might have a broader cultural experience but a more distant relationship with extended family.
Now, let me interrupt this story with this important detail: Sometimes we don't have a choice about this. Careers, callings, military service and a number of other things might prevent us from having this luxury. My wife and I happened to be in a place in our life where we had a choice about where to live. That's not to say that it would be easy to make that choice, or easy to find jobs or easy to live on a smaller wage or easy to manage all the new boundaries that would need to be drawn as we moved closer to extended family. It simply means we didn't have to live a thousand miles away from family.
We decided it was a high value of ours to have our children live in close proximity to their extended family, if possible. We didn't want our children to merely "visit" their family once or twice a year when we could afford a trip. Their extended family is part of who they are, and we wanted them to understand and appreciate the "family stream" from which they came. So we said our tearful goodbyes to Denver and moved closer to home.
Nine years, three children and lots of family drama later, we know beyond any doubt that this was the right decision for us.
What we learned:
As you think about where you will live, don't merely think about jobs. Jobs are very important, but there is more to life than a job. Think about what pleases God. Think about the experiences you want to add to your lives. Think about what is best in the long run for your marriage and family. Think about leaving and cleaving. Think about what life will look like when you start having children (my wife really appreciates being in close physical proximity to her mom when it comes to help with childcare!). Realize that the geographical cement stays wet for a while in the early years of your marriage, but begins to harden quickly when children come along and start to grow up.
If you decide at some point to live near one or both sets of parents, the most important (and most difficult) thing to do is establish firm, clear boundaries that reflect your new roles. You are now first a husband and a wife to each other, secondly a mom and dad to your own children (Lord willing), and thirdly a son and daughter to your parents. This is part of leaving and cleaving and comes up virtually every holiday and birthday and any other special occasion.
And most importantly, remember that this is a decision that you and your fiancé make together about what God wants for your marriage — what pleases Him. Not what makes her parents happiest. Not what makes your parents happiest. And not what makes either of you individually happiest. It's about what is best for a God-glorifying marriage. Keep that as your target, and you'll be amazed at how clearer the picture becomes.
Copyright 2009 John Thomas. All rights reserved.