Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 19, 2004
Family love cements a marriage
A couple's in-laws must support, not interfere with them
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
A newly-minted couple often tussle with unexpected demands and expectations imposed by their marriage.
But loving and supportive extended families can ease this essential transformation.
"The in-laws should let the relationship evolve and if necessary, learn to bite their tongues at times," said Dr. Dennis Brown. A chartered psychologist and approved supervisor with the American Association of Marriage and Family, Brown advises in-laws "must learn to be supportive without being too helpful, and be consultants rather than parents."
Chad and Peggy Zallas both agree the support and lack of interference from their extended families not only made them feel welcomed and accepted, but instilled a desire to thrive.
"Peggy was the first girl I'd really brought home to meet my parents," Chad said. "My dad was pretty happy. He gave her a big hug. I told them Peggy is a gift from God."
Peggy smiled as she said, "My parents told me they'll trade me for Chad. They said if he wasn't their son-in-law, they'd adopt him."
A chance meeting at a live theatre production soon led to dating for the young couple and ultimately to the point 'where do we go from here?'
Trip to Rome
Chad was to attend a six-week course in Rome that helps form Catholic men in the faith. They thought of ending the relationship before he left, but the bonds between them had become too strong.
"The first time I really talked to Chad's family was when he was in Rome," Peggy said. "His dad invited me to a football game with Chad's brothers. I think that was the clincher for the males in the family."
Soon after Chad returned from Rome, the couple became engaged, a point where their spirituality together really began to take shape. They attended World Youth Day in Toronto together after having helped raise funds for their youth group from Fort Saskatchewan.
For Peggy, the experience confirmed what she believed in and reinforced her Catholicity. "It definitely strengthened our relationship. We learned more about prayer together."
Peggy spent three or four months reading everything she could get her hands on about Catholicism. She believes God gave her a bit of grace because he helped her to understand quickly.
"We became more spiritually connected. We grew together in our faith," Chad said. "I think we became more aware of the magnitude of what we were entering with marriage. The sacraments were pretty significant."
Parental approval sustained the young people as they worked on their relationship.
"Almost from the beginning I've felt I was part of Chad's family," said Peggy. "The first day I met his dad he asked me if I like fish and I said 'I do now.' And now, Chad's mother and I share recipes so I know all of Chad's favourite dishes."
Brown underlined that supportive in-laws can help to make a relationship work, where unsupportive in-laws add a great deal of stress to a marriage.
"The whole process of welcoming someone in is a time-honoured ritual when you consider marriages were once arrangements between warring factions to generate peace and alliance," said the psychologist. "But in modern culture with individual choice, there is so much that new couples have to learn in terms of the role of being a new couple and then moving into the phase of family."
Brown has seen instances where the couple is trying to establish their own identity and one side accepts that but the other thinks they must continue to stay a part of them.
Give them space
Chad's parents, Dorothy and Lorne Zallas let Chad and Peggy develop their relationship on their own. "They are both adults, so we let them make their own decisions," said Dorothy."
They guided the young couple to pray and talk together, advising them God is first, then your spouse and then you.
Peggy's parents, Pat and Louise Rose, had no idea Peggy would hook up with a man involved in the Catholic Church.
"Chad is a very level-headed guy and we were very pleased to see he was an active member in the Catholic community," Pat Rose said. "It was a fluke that his parents happened to live right near us when he was younger. We didn't know the Zallas family at that time but we were all part of the same parish in Spruce Grove. Actually, Chad's mother is Father John Adamyk's sister and Father John was our priest in Spruce Grove."
If Pat needed somebody to help him do a task, Chad would volunteer. "Welcoming him into the family wasn't done like a coming out party. As he became part of Peggy's life, we accepted him into that role. It was a gradual progression."
Chad and Peggy have been married since October 2002 and are now blessed with three-month-old daughter Arianna.
Chad, 24, is a pipe fitter by trade. He installs sprinkler systems in buildings. Peggy, 25, has a degree in psychology from Concordia University and is at home with Arianna.
Content with her new life, Peggy mused, "I look at Chad now and I think God must love me a lot."