Ask Team Practical: My Parents Don’t Approve Of My Partner

Ask Team Practical: My Parents Dont Approve Of My Partner | A Practical WeddingMy mom and I have never been very close—we are very different people, and she hasn’t agreed with a lot of the choices I have made. My boyfriend proposed to me recently, and we have had an outpouring of love and support from his family, my extended family, and all of our friends and coworkers. The people that aren’t happy for me? Are my own parents. You see, my parents think I’m “setting myself up for disappointment.”  To make a long story short, my fiancé is twelve years older than me and has a child. (I am 24, my fiancé is 36, and his son is 18. My fiancé had his son his senior year of high school.) I understand that my fiancé does have a lot of “baggage,” so to speak, but I love him dearly and accept his past as a part of him.  He is a good man and a better man for what he has been through, and we want to spend the rest of our lives together and make our own family.  I am an only child and my parents are ultra-conservative, and they basically think that this man is not fit to marry me. 

I am so happy and in love, and the fact that I don’t have my mom’s support detracts from feeling the full joy of the moment.  She specifically said “you still have the chance to say no,” and that thought has never even crossed my mind. Her comment really hurt me, and I know she doesn’t want to help me plan the wedding.

-Hoping Understanding Reigns Triumphant

Dear HURT,

Oh, mamadrama, our old friend. We joke, but it is a very real and painful place to be. HURT, know you’re not alone. (Seriously, the comments will blow up on this, guaranteed.) And even though it’s hard, you will have to do the only thing you can do—plan your wedding and your future with your partner.

There is one basic truth about parents: You will always be their child no matter how old you get (with some exceptions for total estrangement, granted). The other truth is, they will often be just slightly irrational when it comes to you making your own life decisions. Even the most understanding ones will feel a definite twinge when you do something that they believe is not in your best interest. It happens because parents are human, too.

Fortunately, there is another basic truth—only you know what’s best for you. You know the issues and problems that you and your partner are both bringing to the table and you know how much you both can handle. As long as there is no abuse in your relationship, no one else gets to have a say in whether you get married or not. The sucky flipside to that coin is that you also don’t get to have a say in whom your mother likes or not. Yes, she must be civilized and polite, but she can not be at peace with your relationship until her dying day if she feels like it. Now, we all hope and pray and wish upon wish for that to not be the case. But realizing that you cannot change her opinion can be a little liberating, too.

You might want think about whether you saw this coming. Has she been supportive up until the point of your engagement, or has there been tension from the beginning? Looking back, could you imagine this kind of reaction, or did you hope that the magical word “wedding” would turn your disapproving mother into a joyful mother of the bride? Meg said it best when she said, “Weddings have a way of bringing ‘the way we wish things were’ into conflict with ‘the way things are.’” And that always hurts, and hurts a lot. But that’s just how it is. And maybe knowing that this isn’t an out of the blue situation can ease the pain a little.

Talk to your mother if you can, and keep as calm as you can. Let her know that you love her dearly, but you also love your partner and you will be marrying him. End of story. Whatever her reaction, keep planning and keep your mother as in the loop on the process as you want her to be. Hopefully, she will eventually realize that she can hold on to her opinions, or she can support her daughter and join in on the whole wedding planning experience. And while you’re talking, definitely talk to your friends and family about the situation and how they can help you. As Meg suggests in her book, “People want to support you, because they know you are dealing with a loss, and because it is your wedding day, damn it. But you need to tell them when you need help, and tell them exactly what you need. People can’t guess what your needs are before you figure them out yourself, but you’re allowed to tell them how to help, I swear to it.”

You cannot control your mother, but you can definitely control your own behavior (which, you know, life advice y’all). Stay focused on the reality of your situation; you have a great partner and a support system besides your mother that will help you out. Also, try to seek some counseling for you and your partner. It can take a toll on a relationship when family does not support you both, and there is no shame in having a professional sort those feelings out for you. The absolute last thing you want is for this to drive a wedge between you two, counseling can help put a stop to it before it starts.

In the end, it may not turn out how you hope. But don’t let someone else steal your joy. If your mother doesn’t become as wholly supportive as the rest of your friends and family, it is okay to mourn that. But don’t let the mourning keep you from enjoying this time with your whole heart.


Alright, Team Practical, let’s help HURT out. What was your experience with disapproving relative? How did it affect the wedding? Also, we want to hear from you disapprovers out there. How did you resolve your feelings with the couple’s wedding?

Photo  from the APW Flickr stream by Lauren McGlynn Photography.

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Alyssa at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though we prefer if you make up a totally ridiculous sign-off like conflicted and rageful but deeply in love in Detroit (CARBDILID, duh). Seriously. We love sign-offs. Make your editors happy.

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  • my honest answer

    I agree with your basic advice – that HURT has to go ahead and enjoy her engagement and plan her wedding regardless of her parents thoughts on the matter. Congratulations! And sorry they are being this way.

    But I disagree with, “Fortunately, there is another basic truth—only you know what’s best for you”. Sadly, I don’t think this is the truth. Often an outsider CAN see things differently, and can recognise when someone isn’t doing the best thing for them. Just think of how many times you’ve seen a friend talk themselves into an average relationship, for example.

    I’m not suggesting that this is the case here, or that people should intervene when they can see someone doing something that’s not in the their long-term interests. I think we should all be allowed to make our own mistakes. But that doesn’t change the fact that sometimes, other people do know what’s best for us. In my opinon, at least.

    • lara

      I think you’re right, sometimes an outsider or objective party can see things differently. Like you said, we’ve all had friends in poor relationships thinking they are wonderful. But I think that changes greatly according to each situation. And in this one, where everyone seems happy other than the parents, it’s likely that it’s something going on specifically between the bride and groom and her parents that is causing the dismay with the relationship.

      My suggestion would be for HURT, if able, to voice her mother’s concerns (every bit, warts and all) to a close friend or someone who can be most objective and try to determine whether her parent’s concerns are valid or if they stem from something personal issue the parents have. Not that the opinions of others should determine her life choices, but it might console her a smidge.

    • Annie

      I agree that sometimes outsiders can see real problems. This is especially true if everyone you know and love tells you there’s a serious problem, like cheating or any kind of abuse. It doesn’t sound like that’s the case for HURT, but I think it’s good to remember that sometimes we don’t know what’s best for us.

    • HURT

      I agree with you! I do appreciate my mom voicing her concerns honestly, as she has done since we began dating 4 years ago. I know that in the past people from the outside looking in can see things more clearly than the person who is actually inside the situation. BUT her concerns revolve around him being “unfit” because he has been married before and has a child… about him being “weird” because he is marrying someone 12 years younger…. Which boggles my mind. Not everyone is a perfect Catholic with an unscathed past like my mother, and she just can’t accept those who are not as unflawed as she is.

      I have been with my fiance for four years and have never felt so happy, secure, respected, and loved. My aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, and dad are all thrilled we are getting married. It’s ONLY my mom that isn’t.

      So I DO agree with you that outsiders can see things that we cannot see, but I also know that every other outsider in my life knows that my fiance and I are going to live a long and happy life… I just wish my mom could get on board!

      • Class of 1980

        The only consolation is that once you are married and they see what a great husband he is, they will get over it.

        Right now, their fears are about what they’re afraid will happen.

    • Alyssa

      I definitely don’t want to lessen the importance of friends and family, but I still think that ultimately in the end, you still know what is best for you. Your family may see things that you don’t, but until YOU see it and decide what is best, it doesn’t matter. Unfortunately, that happens too often in abusive or toxic relationships, but luckily it also happens in relationships like this when opinions are under the influence of something other than the couple’s best interest.

      But YES, intervening is important. But once they’ve had their say, they have to step back and let you decide what to do with that information.

    • Maggie

      I agree that outside perspectives can be useful, but also that we, as individuals, are the experts in our own lives. Even if someone is entering a relationship that you don’t understand, having the power of autonomy is essential. Let a friend/family member know options (“You sound like you’re feeling some doubt – you know, you CAN pull out if you want to.”), or express concerns (“I have to say, I really thought that when he called you stupid in front of everybody, it was really disrespectful. You didn’t deserve that, no matter what you said or did. Does he do that a lot?”), but if someone wants to get married to someone (of entirely their own volition, of course – this goes out the window if someone is being coerced into marriage), that should be respected and supported.

      I know this was kind of a serious response to a maybe not-so-seriously-intended comment, but as someone who both works with domestic violence survivors, as well as someone who had family members question her choice of partner (My fiance, while having no children or previous marriages, is 18 years older than me, HURT, so I feel you – my sister is the one who said the most hurtful things to me after the engagement), autonomy is a really big deal. And, if your concerns (as the outsider) are correct, and they realize that they made a mistake down the road, I promise you, the person who berated them for making the decision in the first place is not going to be the one they seek for help. So, if you’re really concerned, express your concerns (about specific incidences, not general beliefs), support your friend, and be ready for her if something happens down the road. And, if you were wrong, all the better.

      • Maggie P.

        Um, so I recognize this is an old post (don’t know how I didn’t notice this before), and you probably won’t see this, but if you do – um – can we be friends? We have the same name and similar situations (sizable age gap, but he’s never been married/had kids before).
        Like I said, you probably won’t see this, but if you do, please reply and I’ll send you my email address. ‘Cause, seriously, it’s kind of uncanny.

  • TheQueerBird

    Oh, this sounds very similar to my situation. My wife is 11 years older than I am, and once my parents learned that (when we first started dating), they were less than welcoming. They were definitely not excited about the engagement, but as the wedding planning marched on, my mom slowly got on board. The wedding itself really was a coming together of our families – it marked the moment when my wife became my family, but also the moment when my family started to truly accept and embrace her. After the wedding, my wife and my dad got close, too. It definitely didn’t happen all at once, and it was hard, but it did happen. The wedding made it all more real for them, I think, and my saying to them (and saying outright, not beating around the bush), “I love her, she is important, she is my family, and I need you to give her a chance,” can’t have hurt either.

    If you know you’re making the right decision, then you are, and they will see that. All my best to you both!

  • Sophi

    My mother, about two weeks before the wedding, decided that my fiance was at risk of becoming an alcoholic and should not marry me UNLESS he abstained from drinking alcohol at the wedding. She told me very clearly that if he was going to be drinking alcohol it would be hard for her to watch, so she just wouldn’t come to the wedding. My own mother! She generally said lots of other hurtful things as well (“You can still have the ceremony and the party, just don’t send in the papers!”) and made the last week of wedding planning miserable for us. My husband said “I never knew how badly she thought of me til we decided to get married.” I felt like she was going to drive a wedge between us and cast a shadow of doom and gloom over the whole thing! It was awful.

    In the end, she came to the wedding, everyone enjoyed the beer and hard cider we had bought, no one got raging/embarrassingly drunk (which apparently she anticipated? what?) and we all had a fantastic wedding. It was totally irrational, but I think it was just her way of coping with the fact that her baby was growing up and getting married and she needed to freak out about it a little. C’est la vie.

    Looking back, it’s hard to know if I could have handled the situation any better. Just know that when you get through it, and you will, the wedding will be tons of fun and your mom will be super happy for you. Even if she has not a clue how to show it at first!

    • HURT

      At the end of the day, it’s not about the wedding, anyway – it’s about the marriage. But, it’s hard to plan a wedding without my mom.

      Thanks :)

  • Jessie

    My mother reacted very poorly to my engagement news. She was silent when I told her and my dad, and ascent giving her some space and asking her if he had anything to say, she basically said that she thought he was pressuring me into marrying him… Which struck me as ludicrous for many reasons.

    Things have gotten better though. I gave her about a week after the engagement
    and approached her again, saying that it was clear to me that she was less than thrilled. I said, “if you have concerns that he is hurting me or that this is a toxic relationship, you need to come out and tell me so explicitly, because you’re my mother. If, however, you just don’t think he’s good enough for me, or he’s not who would choose, then I need you to deal with that yourself, now, because you’re my mother.”. I asked again other was anything I needed to know about her concerns, and then left it. I think giving her space to talk, and reminding her that I would listen if she truly thought I wast seeing something dangerous, helped a lot. She’s been much more on board, and kind to him since. I also asked her to come wedding dress shopping and have asked her to take on several wedding jobs. It’s hard because she keeps calling me ‘non-traditional’ at every turn like its code for something, but she seems much happier.

    I have no idea if a similar convo would help HURT, but I so wry much emphathize, and echo the advice to seek counselling (even for self without partner) to deal with this. Its hard to share this info with your partner without making them feel like crap. Hugs to you!

    • Jessie

      Holy typo batman! No more iPhone posting on the subway for me!

      • Kate W.

        From now on, whenever I make a typo. That.

    • HURT

      I think I need to say something similar to “you need to deal with this yourself”… My friends and other family members keep telling me “Remember, at the end of the day: YOU are not responsible for your mothers happiness. She is. You are only responsible for your own happiness. You need to stop carrying the burden of making her happy.”

      My whole life, that has been my constant mission. Please my mom. Now, at 24 I’m chosing to please myself. She needs to find her own way to be “ok” with it. Or not. But I can’t keep letting her zap my own joy.

      • Fawmo

        I just want to give big twinkle fingers to this.

        Moms are hard. Know that you’re strong, you will get through this and it sounds like you have a good network of support to lean on. You mentioned that your dad is on board. Are they still together? Can you recruit him to help as a positive, supportive model for your mom?

    • Remy

      I said, “if you have concerns that he is hurting me or that this is a toxic relationship, you need to come out and tell me so explicitly, because you’re my mother. If, however, you just don’t think he’s good enough for me, or he’s not who would choose, then I need you to deal with that yourself, now, because you’re my mother.”.

      This? EXCELLENT.

  • Annie

    This reminds me a little of my friend’s wedding three years ago. She started dating someone and got engaged pretty quickly–even after lots of mamadrama. Other friends and I were all worried she was moving too fast, but we didn’t say anything. My friend and her husband are still together today and have two kids. I have no idea how the drama worked out for them, but so far it seems like they’ve made it work. Obstacles like a partner having a lot of baggage aren’t necessarily the end of a relationship.

  • Rachel

    I’m on the other side of HURT — my parents *love* my domestic partner (I posted the other day about how my dad told him he was a “de facto” son-in-law); but his parents are dead set against us as a couple.

    My advice to HURT is: make sure you tell your partner over and over that this doesn’t affect how you feel or what you want. From the other side I can tell you that I sometimes get sucked into the voice in my head whispering “maybe he will give in to what his parents want…, maybe this whole thing is going to fall apart.” I hate when I do that to myself, but it all goes away when he tells me (again) how solid we are together and how it doesn’t matter.

    So just keep telling him – even if you think he knows.

    • HURT

      Thanks for giving me some perspective on the “other side” – I will be sure to do this!

  • PA

    When Alyssa quoted Meg as saying, “Weddings have a way of bringing ‘the way we wish things were’ into conflict with ‘the way things are,’” my mind circled back around to the first sentences of HURT’s email:

    “My mother and I have never been very close – we’re very different people, and she hasn’t agreed with a lot of the choices I have made.”

    I think there are two sets of expectations here: first, your mother’s expectation that you would choose someone of whom she would wholeheartedly approve (even though, as you’ve stated, the two of you are very different people); and, second, your hope that you and your mother would be in harmony during the wedding process (mother-daughter bonding experience, and all that; and again, you’ve stated that the two of you are very different people).

    If you think about it, they’re flip-sides of the same – VERY same – issue. You both have an idea of how you want this process to go, and you love each other, and you want to be on the same page with things. It doesn’t help at ALL that as you prepare for the wedding, you’re being bombarded with the idea that this should be the most harmonious time ever for the whole family, no one will get stressed or fight, all of that. And the whole thing HURTS like anything.

    Speaking as one only child to another, I think your mother (and father) would be under a fair amount of stress even if you were marrying their “dream man.” You’re their only child, and you’re getting married – they would be going through significant turmoil in any case. So I think some of that turmoil, because it’s very amorphous, is getting pinned on, “well, we just don’t approve of him,” when in fact it may be, “Oh god, it seems like yesterday that I was teaching her to walk and now she’s getting married OH MY GOD.”

    You know your mother far better than I do, and you know yourself far better than I do – but might it help to sit down and be very honest about your emotions: “Listen. I love you, and I want you to keep being a part of my life. It is very difficult for me to hear you speak badly of _____, because I know him to be such a wonderful man and I love him so much. I’m hurt that I feel like you can’t celebrate with me, and I’m scared that this wedding will drive us apart.”

    That may not even be how you feel, and it may be entirely the wrong thing for you and your mother. (Caveat: she’ll also tell you how she feels, which may be difficult to listen to.) But sometimes admitting to hurt and fear can really help other people open up, too.

    Anyway, my two cents. I definitely suggest a cup of tea and a piece of chocolate, though. And maybe some escapism time with your favorite book. I wish you the best of luck!


      My husband is 13 years older than me and has been married once before. My parents have known him for a while (since before we started dating) and when I told my mother we were dating she was horrified. She did try to be polite about it, but she essentially said that she didn’t think he was good enough for me (and cited some of the things she perceived to be flaws). It was hard, and awkward, and not what I wanted to hear since we’re a very close family and I really believe that while I know what’s best for me, they often do too.

      But there were two things that really turned the situation around:

      (1) Getting to know him better over time: spending time together (slowly at first) allowed her to dispel some of the misconceptions she had and see what a wonderful man he had become.

      (2) Seeing how happy I was: as we spent time together, she came to realize that he makes me deliriously happy and that he actually makes me a stronger, better person. And I think, for a mother, this realization was ground-breaking (once she was ready for it).

      We’ve been really lucky because she now loves him probably more than she loves me. Seriously. And all that “baggage”? Well, hey. I never thought to myself, “one day I’m going to marry this wonderful man who’s tons older and divorced”. BUT, when you do meet someone who is loving, supporting, and makes you deliriously happy, I think the baggage just sort of falls by the wayside. Sure, it’s there, lurking around in the background sometimes, but it just doesn’t matter to me like I thought it would. I love this man with every fiber in my body, and I think that’s what really counts.

      Follow your instincts and listen to those around you. And wail about it to those who support you whenever you need to. It helps. I promise! ;)

      • PA

        Agreed! There are some things that really just take time, and you have to grit your teeth and smile through the rough patches between now and then.

        And I sympathize especially with, “we’re a very close family and I really believe that while I know what’s best for me, they often do too.” It can be so difficult to hear people you really love and respect, with whom you’re usually on the same page, disagree on something so important!

        Glad it worked out!

      • Sheryl

        In my experience parents can be particularly concerned about age differences and partners coming from different places in life. I know my mother was very cautious when I first told her I was seeing my (11 years older) fiance … even though she’s super close with his parents.

        I think it’s important to talk to your mom and hear her concerns, so that she at least knows that you’ve listened to her and know where her feelings are coming from. You might find that there are some concerns of hers that you can alleviate (in my case, my mother thought I was “selling out” on my career aspirations and giving things up for him, when I was making thought out decisions about how I wanted to spend my life that reflect who I am now rather than what I wanted when I was 12).

        Of course, you may NOT be able to do anything to change her mind or make her more open to your fiance. I’ve seen that with friend’s parents on very different situations. Unless you have a conversation though, you’ll never know if there was something that you could have cleared up or worked towards clearing up.

        I’d suggest asking specifc questions about their concerns … is it the age difference? his son? does she know what you love about him?

        • ANON

          When I was dating my now-fiance, my mom definitely took the rude road and would barely answer any question I asked about why she was treating my then-boyfriend that way. It took over three years of hurt to get to the point where I finally got her to sit down with me and I asked her things like “do you know anything about him? his birthday? his siblings’ names? what he likes and doesn’t like? how he treats me? how happy he makes me?” and when she couldn’t answer much more than surface-level things, I said something like “then how on earth can you pass judgment on him?” It wasn’t the turning point, but it was a start.

          Her main issue was that she thought I was giving up on a career I’d always dreamed of… but it turned out that as I started to enter that industry, I found that it wasn’t what I anticipated and likely wasn’t what I wanted. She didn’t know that about me either- she had stopped asking me questions when she assumed I wouldn’t listen to her concerns about the person I was dating. She also assumed that because my previous relationships had ended, this one would, too- so she’d rather not actively fight me on it- she just figured she’d wait it out (albeit in a hurtful way). I suppose we both had to mature and realize that even though I was her youngest child, I wasn’t so young that I couldn’t make my own, thought-out decisions, and at the same time- I wasn’t so young that I shouldn’t hear her concerns.

          It’s been almost six years, and we are now engaged and there are still rough patches- in that one of my siblings is still cold and rude to both my partner and me, and my parents won’t do a damn thing about it. Nothing I can say or do changes the behavior. I’ve had to repeatedly tell myself (and listen to others who tell me) that this is on my sibling- she gets to choose how she’s going to behave, and all I can do is be me (like you- she is the one person who is against our union in our super large family/community). It’s hard. And it hurts like hell- WAY more than you ever think it could or should. And as someone who was always very close to her family, this has been an extremely hard journey, though of course the relationship I have with my partner is better for it.

          I suppose all this to say- regardless of how hopeless the prospect of a relationship with your mother looks, people can surprise you. You may never have the warm-fuzzy-friendly-bliss that your friends do with their moms, but if you can open your heart to the relationship that your mom is capable of, it may be rewarding in its own right.

          I wish you love, and lots and lots of cyber hugs. What you’re going through is lousy- let it strengthen your connection to your partner and be a part of the foundation of your baby family. Your relationship will be that much stronger for it. Good luck!

      • HURT

        Yes, my mom is mostly concerned about the age difference. Constant questions and comments like “why would he be interested in you? you are in a different stage of life! do you even have anything in common? what can you possibly chat about? did you know he is going to die and leave you alone?”

        Well, we have been functioning quite well for four years despite the age gap. So, I think we will be just fine.

        I appreciate/respect my mom’s concern. But I can’t understand it. I am hoping in time that she will see we will be ok.

        • Remy

          Having dated significantly older people, I’ve heard a lot of that. It helps to have concrete answers — “We both like Dixieland jazz, roller derby, and flying kites at the beach, and we met while volunteering at the local candidate’s office” is hard to argue with. And some of the concern behind a parent’s hurtful questions may be well-founded — that is, every couple should talk about what their wishes and decisions are in the event of an emergency or medical surprise. But if you’ve had those Important Conversations, then you know what’s what… and your mom will have to come around to the fact that you’re an adult out on your own.

    • HURT

      My mom and I haven’t been close since I was a toddler, but do love her. I think I have always sort of wished we’d be closer (lots of my girlfriends are SUPERCLOSE with their moms), and maybe I have gotten caught up in the “OMG this is my wedding we all need to hold hands and plan together”… Maybe that’s just not how it’s going to be for my mom and I. But I do need to tell her that her reaction is hurting me. Tea and chocolate, isn’t that life’s recipe for success? Thanks!

      • PA

        Tea and chocolate are so central!

        To be serious for a moment, there is a very real grieving process going on, and no amount of good words will make it go away (although I am so glad if they helped!) – Meg was very eloquent about it in the APW book, about expectations of relationships during the wedding planning process.

        I hope, if you decide to open up with your mother, that it sparks some good dialogue and moves you closer to a good resolution. In the meantime, you have e-hugs!

  • Kelley

    I have a slightly different perspective…my family really didn’t like my first husband and were all against the wedding. However, none of them had the guts to tell me that or why they thought the marriage wouldn’t work. I’m not saying that was a major reason that we divorced, but when you’re going through that process, the last thing you want to hear is “oh, well, we figured this day would come,” or “I never liked him, I’m glad this is over.” I was dumbfounded. I knew my fam wasn’t all warm and cozy with him, but my dad actually said he was “furious” about our wedding. These are the sort of things that are helpful to know in advance.

    So I am so sorry that your mother isn’t as supportive as you’d like her to be. I hope that she’ll come around or that you’ll at least be able to hear her clear reasoning for her objections. I know it’s hard to hear, but hopefully their honesty from the start means that you can get past what’s holding them back from a full relationship with your fiance. I know for sure that you can’t get past what is never acknowledged to begin with.

    Best of luck.

    • HURT

      I do appreciate her honestly. I’d rather her be upfront with me than hold in her disappointment. I just can’t make her see shades of grey. She only sees black and white: doing things the RIGHT way and marrying a perfect man with no scars from his past or doing things the WRONG way. She doesn’t understand that people are not perfect.

      • MARBELLA

        It makes me sad, that your mum as a Catholic can’t see that her faith teaches her to forgive, be open to loving those who are ‘flawed’ and that it is not for her to judge. Perhaps if you appeal to that side of her?

      • ActsofBeauty

        Having had a child with someone else doesn’t mean someone is imperfect. In actual fact families with step-mothers and fathers fill the world and there’s nothing wrong with them – they can be wonderful!
        Imperfections, baggage, scars from the past, we all have them, every single one of us. It’s what makes us human.

        I know you already know all this, but I just wanted to respond to the terminology that’s being used. I’m sorry your mother thinks like this, but for your own sake let these words go.

        I wish you all the best, and hope you can find a way to feel all that joy – you deserve to!

        • DKR

          KELLEY writes:
          “I have a slightly different perspective…my family really didn’t like my first husband and were all against the wedding. However, none of them had the guts to tell me that or why they thought the marriage wouldn’t work.”

          Same here – I was engaged to my high-school sweetheart several years ago, and my family seemed to like him. My dad, bless him, saw a few things he wasn’t happy with (I was SUPERCLOSE with my dad) and said so, after I told him that I needed all the information available to make the best decisions. After I gave him the ring back, then my mom and brothers were cheering as well, and telling me they never liked him and that I could do better. Really? To this day, if mention of my ex-fiance comes up, that’s what they tell me, in a “you-should-have-known-better” sort of tone. /sigh

          This go-around, they love my partner (except my dad, who died less than a year before I met my fiance) and are excited for our wedding in December. And the “baggage” he has, that I’m pretty sure said mom and brothers wouldn’t like? We haven’t told them – we worked through it, and we’re square.

          I think a lot of the comments about talking with the parental units is spot-on – I know my mom’s got a bit of that “my baby girl’s growing up” going on. Maybe your mom’s resistance to your fiance stems from a similar place – the “OMG she’s growing up!” and this is how she’s dealing with it. Like PA said so eloquently: “So I think some of that turmoil, because it’s very amorphous, is getting pinned on, “well, we just don’t approve of him,” when in fact it may be, “Oh god, it seems like yesterday that I was teaching her to walk and now she’s getting married OH MY GOD.” ” Hugs to you, lady.

    • Laura

      @Kelley, I’m so sorry that happened to you. It happened to a friend of mine as well; it turns out that so many of her friends had reservations about her husband before their wedding, and nobody said anything to her until she left him and then there were just these explosions of “He was such a jerk! I always hated him!” She was just so bewildered as to why nobody had ever said anything. It made me rethink things. I always thought it wasn’t my place to say something in that situation, and it’s true that most of the time it’s best to mind one’s own business. But in a scenario when you genuinely fear for your friend’s welfare, it’s best to speak up. I’m just sorry that she had to learn that lesson in that way, because now that they’re getting divorced she’s having a lot of trouble trusting her own judgement about anything. :(

  • Robin

    Oh, age differences, A TRUE DELIGHT.

    My parents also had some concerns, because my partner is a full 24 years older than I am. They were a bit awkward when first meeting him, but got over it (at least visibly, if not mentally, which helped all of us hang out) until the proposal. At which point they unleashed All Of Their Fears, such as “But what if you both CHANGE YOUR MINDS ABOUT KIDS AND HE DIES EARLY?” and “But what if he DIES TOMORROW or DIES LATER WHEN YOU ARE STILL YOUNG?” and “what if he ends up really ill and YOU MUST CHANGE HIS DIAPERS AND GIVE HIM MEDICINES WHEN YOU COULD BE SEXING A HANDSOME YOUNGER MAN? AND THEN HE DIES?????” and yes, frankly, many of their concerns involved him dying and me being distraught and alone.

    Thanks, guys. Proposal bliss zapped for a few days.

    They did ultimately pull it together enough to enjoy the wedding without seeing death in every corner. And while sometimes they still make accidentally shocked faces when I tell them something he’s said, or we show up to visit and he’s all *sexy sixty* with his dapper new glasses and eye-smiling-wrinkles…. and while they’re always going to be more comfortable and more loving with my siblings’ partners (who are closer to my siblings’ ages than my parents’ ages!)… it’s cool.

    My expectations from all parties have been respect and compassion, not affection or love. It’s worked for me. While I can’t say your parents will act similarly, or that my strategy is a perfect one, I think when you started with “we’ve never been very close,” you do know what a realistic and safe relationship with your mom can be. Keep that bar steady. Tell her you’re holding her to the established line. Stick to it yourself, for sanity, if that appeals to you. Love your partner, and rock on.

    • HURT

      YES! The death thing is a constant concern of hers. I get it, I do. I am her only daughter, and she doesn’t want to think of me losing my spouse at 60 and having to live years by myself. But I? Choose not to live my life in fear of what *could* be. I fell in love with a man. He isn’t perfect and he is older and he might die before me but… I’m ok with that. Because I never imagined I’d find someone that so perfectly fits my personality and is so completely GOOD to me. If I could choose a partner from thin air, would I choose someone with a child and an ex wife etc? No, I wouldn’t. But, you can’t help who you falin love with. I fell in love with this man, and to me – he is perfect as he is! Baggage & all!

      I appreciate your comment. I suppose I will just have to be at peace with “respect” and not “joy”.

      • Class of 1980

        I have a friend who is the same age as me. Both of us are 53.

        She got married at 27 to a man who was 20 years older and had been married three times prior! Her parents didn’t object to the age difference or the past marriages … because she didn’t TELL them about his past marriages until she’d been happily married to him for years. ;)

        Now that they are 53 and 73, his age has become more evident in that they’ve gone through his prostate cancer and heart surgery. He is doing great, but she knows that at some point, she is likely to be alone sooner than if she’d married someone her own age.

        HOWEVER, the prospect of being alone sooner doesn’t mean she regrets anything. She has had over 25 years of what anyone would call a successful happy marriage. She calls him her “rock”.

        And since he was more established than guys her age, she also had financial security much earlier, the opportunity to change to a more fulfilling career without worrying about paying her bills, and the time to get involved with charities. His connections have also given her some really fun experiences along the way.

        So, for every loss, there was a gain.

        More importantly, he has always treated her with the utmost love and respect, and it has given her a foundation that makes her unstoppable in anything she does. She’s one of the happiest people I know.

        • Paula


          A have a relative that married a man 30 years older than she was who had children older than her. They had more than three happy decades together before he passed away. As for company now, she has her step-”children” and their families. I know she would make the same choice all over again.

      • Sarah

        My father was 12 years older than my mother, and she was in her early sixties when he died two years ago. But I know women whose husbands were the same age as them and who were widowed in their forties. Anything might happen in the future, so we shouldn’t base our decisions too much on what ifs. And anyhow, the decision was made when you fell in love. Now, just like any other couple, you have to see wait and see what’s in store.

        And as for baggage, everyone has it if you ask me, it’s just that in some cases it’s more obvious than others.

  • Helen

    My wife was raised by her (single) mom and her grandmother, and as a result, her grandmother is more like a second parent than anything else. When her very Catholic grandmother found out my wife was dating me, she told us we weren’t allowed at her house anymore and that she couldn’t bear to look at us anymore. We stuck it out. We waited a little while, then started going to her house for dinner with the rest of the family, and it took a heartbreakingly long time for her grandmother to look at me again, let alone speak to me.

    During that time, we got engaged and then married. My wife’s grandmother didn’t acknowledge our engagement and didn’t come to the wedding. It was so difficult for my wife (and me, by proxy) to suffer the weight of that disapproval and her absence from such an important event, but our wedding day was so full of joy and love that it helped quite a bit.

    We’ve been married for nearly two years now, and things have actually gotten so much better. Her grandmother doesn’t often openly acknowledge our relationship, but she treats me like one of her grandkids now- and I spent Christmas at her house this year. She told another family member recently that she regretted not being at our wedding, but at the time, it was something she just didn’t know how to handle yet.

    So! All this is to say: I agree with Alyssa. Only you know everything about your relationship with your partner, and you need to talk this over with your mom and be honest about how you feel. And if she still isn’t okay with it? Try to acknowledge how that affects you, and own whatever those feelings are, but don’t let it stop you from making it a joyful and amazing day. And hopefully, she will eventually change her mind, if she sees how happy you are with your partner.

    • HURT

      This is really helpful and nice to hear. I’m glad your wife’s grandma has been able to come around, and I can only say a little prayer that my mom will be able to do so as well.

      • Helen

        I hope so too. Hang in there! :)

  • Jessamarie

    I had similar problems with my fiance from the moment we started dating. He got to see my family so rarely over the years (we were not in the same city), that he felt a huge need to impress when he did see them. This was compounded by the fact that my family would tell me they didn’t like him and eventually I had a breakdown and told him about it. Knowing my family didn’t approve made things even worse. W felt pressured and uncomfortable whenever he did get to spend time with them, and never felt like he could relax and be himself. It created this whole terrible self-perpetuating loop.

    Eventually it all hit a tipping point. I was having regular breakdowns about the whole thing, especially because I had a feeling an engagement was approaching. At breakfast with my mom one day I finally told her, “I appreciate your advice, and I respect it. I want to know what you think about things, but at some point you’re just going to have to shut up and be happy for me.” Later that visit, with my dad I told them “I have a feeling we’re going to be getting engaged pretty soon, and I have the awful fear that I’m going to call you to tell you and you won’t be happy for me.” Taking those stands led to some really great conversations about how me marrying W meant losing their little girl, and was the final nail in the coffin for their hope that I would eventually move back to my home town.

    Since we got engaged things have been much better. W now knows that I will stand up for him to my parents, which makes him feel more comfortable being himself around them. They may still disapprove of small things, but the door to tell me every little worry and fear has been closed. The rule we have set for wedding planning has been, “If I ask you a question, or for advice or your opinion, I really want to hear it, tell me everything. Once I make a decision though, I need you to trust that I am a very analytical person and I have thought the decision though. If I tell you I have made a decision I need you to be supportive.”

    • HURT

      This is really helpful, and I’m happy to hear things have gotten better for you and your fiance! It gives me hope!

      We set our date for Aug 2013, so we are hoping that a long engagement will give my mom the TIME she needs to come around.

      • Lisa

        Yes! My mom is less than thrilled about my engagement, but we decided to put our wedding off until Oct 2013 (for a variety of reasons), so I’m hoping that will give her enough time to come around and be happy for us.

      • Remy

        That’s sort of what my fiancee and I are hoping, in regards to her family. When we visited her parents the week after she proposed to me, her mother wouldn’t acknowledge that I was even in the room, and that HURT. But, y’know, we just keep on doing what we’d be doing anyway, and last I heard, her sister was interested in wedding plans and ticked that MY sister was helping us… so maybe they’ll come around by October.

  • Anna

    Before we got engaged, my fiance and my mom did not see eye to eye. My mom has always been of the opinion that no man I ever dated was “good enough” for me, which I just took to be typical mother behavior. But in this case, the conflict seemed to be a bit more serious.

    What helped in our case was a lot of me mediating between my fiance and my mom. But also, my fiance put a lot of effort in improving and developing his relationship with my mom, like talking to her about her life and his life, and our plans for the future, and occasionally calling her just because. It really made a huge difference, and my mom is now much more accepting of him.

    Also, a little happy story: when my grandparents first started dating, my grandma’s mom was very much against my grandfather for various reasons that all turned out to be ridiculous later on. But, they eloped and got married, and over time, my great-grandmother came around and really accepted my grandpa into the family. Well, my grandparents have been happily married for 56 years, and they are clearly still in love with each other.

    • HURT

      Thank you for the happy story, it’s nice to hear. My fiance has been trying to ease things with my mom, it’s just hard when she is SO resistant to him.

  • Nicole

    Famdramz! So awesome. And by awesome I mean, cause-of-the-worst-six-months-of-my-life-and-my-partner’s-life-thus-far. I’ve already written on this for APW from the lgbt perspective, so I’m not going to rehash too much. But I do have a few things to add.

    I think, actually, the most important line in the above email from HURT is this: “My mom and I have never been very close—we are very different people, and she hasn’t agreed with a lot of the choices I have made.”

    In my opinion, how seriously any person should take disapproval from close relatives (like parents, grandparents, siblings) should be heavily dependent on your prior relationship with that relative. If you have been super close with your whole family, they’ve been supportive of your adult choices thus far in life, you trust their opinions in other contexts…and they react poorly to your engagement? That is a warning sign of some kind. Whether it’s about your relationship with your relative(s) or your relationship with your partner.

    But if you aren’t close with the relative(s), don’t respect the choices they’ve made, and have had other issues with them as you’ve come into adulthood? That’s when I think it’s perfectly appropriate to distance yourself from their opinions emotionally and remember to listen to your gut.

    Either way, this SUCKS, royally, I’ve been there and we’re slowly starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel as our wedding actually approaches. But until then I wish you good communication with your partner and many margaritas.

    • HURT

      Yes, I have finally started to just accept the fact that my fiance is my NEW family. I will stay close with my family members that are supportive of me (my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and father) but if my mom can’t come around? The distance just might get larger.

      I think I have always dreamed of being close to my mom. And this is the final turning point that is starting to make it clear that it’s never going to happen.

      • Abby J. (formerly C.)

        And that’s an aspect of the situation that might be worth talking about with your mother. If the engagement and her relationship with your fiance are starting to become a tipping point downward in your relationship with your mother, I’d be willing to bet it’s something she wants to know too. It may be the wake-up call she needs to try and improve her relationship with you.

        My mother ran a criminal background check on my fiance when we first told my parents we were talking about marriage. He’s divorced, but there is not a large age gap, nor are their children from his first marriage, so my situation is not exactly like yours, but it still hurt that she tried to dig up dirt from his past that, frankly, was none of her business.

        My mother did eventually come around, after a long and VERY firm talk about how far she overstepped her boundaries, and how unacceptable it was. I let her know that I not only expected her to be civil and welcoming to my fiance, I did expect her to be happy for me. She eventually told me that I had made the right choice, and that he was the right match for me.

        Even after that point, though, the wedding planning journey with my mother was still rocky, and she and I historically have been very close. There were some things regarding the wedding that I compromised on during the planning process in order to make her more comfortable. Today I wish I had really held my ground on them (specifically choice of officiant) even if it had meant a huge blowout fight.

        In the end, I think wedding planning is just life, really. It’s not ever going to be perfect, but the difficult times do offer opportunities for growth. I do hope that your mother comes around, and that perhaps this may offer both of you the opportunity to grow a little closer.

  • Class of 1980

    I’m kind of at a loss here.

    On one hand, the time and experience it’s taken to get to my age has made me all too aware of how many of our life circumstances will hinge on who we marry. Not to mention what kind of life we’re preparing for any future children! So, I understand now why parents would put up roadblocks if they think their child is marrying someone who will negatively impact their future.

    On the other hand, I don’t see how the fiance having been married or having a child is grounds for disqualification. How could he be disqualified unless he behaves horribly to his ex or neglects his child?

    All you have to do is look at his behavior to know if he is a decent man. If he is a decent man, then this marriage is cause for celebration.

    • Alyssa

      VERY good point. If the child has been taken care of and is on his way to being a well-adjusted adult, wouldn’t that be a PLUS?

      • Class of 1980

        Yeah, because unlike most new marriages, you actually have proof your new spouse is capable!

        Perhaps this could be pointed out to mom?

        • Class of 1980

          And btw … my mother recently told me that her own parents never told her not to marry my father, but she definitely sensed they didn’t want her to.

          As the child of that marriage, I WISH they would have said something because my father was an unmitigated DISASTER. The older I get, the more I see how far the damage went. The whole family takes a hit, including the in-laws. No one goes unscathed.

          But my father didn’t have an existing ex or child, so my grandparents were going on their intuitions, which were correct. If he had already had an ex and a child, the cat would have been out of the bag because his behavior would have betrayed him.

    • HURT

      My mom is ultra-catholic & conservative. She doesn’t want me to marry somoene that’s ALREADY been married and ALREADY had a kid. She wants me to go through that with someone for the first time. I get it, I do. But the thing is? He is a great man. His marriage failed, but he has a wonderful son that adores him, and my fiance treats me like gold. Literally like gold. I think the fact that his first marriage was not ideal has really let him appreciate our relationship even more.

      • Class of 1980

        Ask your mom what is wrong with being a successful experienced father?

        The fact that his child adores him means that you don’t have to wonder what kind of father he will be.

        Ask your mom if she really thinks you should dump a man who has proven he’s a good father and treats you like gold, only to HOPE to find one as good.

        • Ms. Bunny

          If you are dealing with someone who thinks the world is black and white (as many Catholics do), reason is not going to help here.

          • Alyssa

            BUT, it can’t hurt to try. Black and white thinkers may not always be swayed, but burying that nugget of reason in their brain can sometimes help in the future.

        • DKR

          CLASS OF 1980 writes:
          “Ask your mom what is wrong with being a successful experienced father?”

          THIS. My fiance is divorced with a beautiful 12-year-old daughter, and the fact that he already has parenting experience I consider a plus – at least one of us knows what we’re doing! It’s reassuring because the only “kids” I have are my two cats, and I find the prospect of being a mom pretty scary, tho I do want kids (we’re planning to have kids in 3-4 years).

      • charmcityvixen

        I have a similar situation to yours, and it’s basically AMAZING how well my man treats me. LIKE GOLD (as you said!).

  • Sara

    I think your parents suck. But also they may be on to something. But that is yours to discover however you choose. Marriage isn’t just about being in love and having a partner with character. It’s about so much more, so make sure you are considering what your parents are saying at the very least. I know, I sound mean, but as a parent, I can’t imagine holding my tongue if I thought my kid was going to marry someone where it ultimately wouldn’t work out. Of course, like I said, your parents suck for being all d*ckish about the way they said it, and this is your life and choice. If you need to separate to be your “own family” then do it. Just make sure you’re ready to deal with all that comes with that choice. Best of luck, congratulations on the engagement and I truly hope things work out for the best for you. All my love <– for real, girl.

    PS. Only AFTER I called off my wedding did all my “supporting” friends and family come forward and say, yeah, that wasn’t gonna work and that he was wrong for me. Yikes! Thanks for not telling me soon, guys.

    • Alyssa

      I have also been the person who said something after the fact. But only once, because I realized that me saying something wouldn’t have changed her mind, but it would have made her feel better when she DID change her mind. Knowing someone supports you either way can make all the difference.
      Now I spread my opinion freely, but tactfully. And then I back the eff off, because it’s their life and marriage.

      And point of order, only the child is allowed to say that their parents suck. (and it’s just her mom.) We must all think it in our heads and say nicer things like, “I’m sorry she is being difficult.” Just to keep it polite. :-)

      • Sara

        That’s really smart, Alyssa. You’re right. I apologize.
        I’m all about support, but I tend to be brash and say things in a harsh way. I’ll work on my prickliness when commenting. :)

        • Alyssa

          Oh, we LOVE prickly. We’re just overprotective of the people we post about. No worries. :-)

    • HURT

      Thank you. I think the way my mom handled this sucks. I don’t think my mom sucks (I know you didn’t mean it that way, either). I love my mom and I respect her opinion. But her REASONING behind her disappointment is: a) he is too old and what could you have in common oh and he is going to die before you and leave you all alone, and b) you as a successful 24 year old lay should not marry someone who is divorced and has a kid becasue our family doesn’t do things like that. I can’t comprehend this. My fiance is the most loving, awesome man I know. And I feel blessed, EVERY DAY, to be with him. I just wish she could see that.

      • Sara

        I think I let my own mom issues direct my comment too much, Hurt. I do wish you the best and maybe a heart-to-heart with your mom will prove to be the answer. Wishing you tons of happiness!

        • DKR

          I see quite a flaw in reason (a), Hurt: Life and death aren’t certain things. My dad was *two months* older than my mom, and died of lung cancer at the ripe old age of 55. My mom married a man her own age and was still widowed young. Besides, one partner being several years older doesn’t preclude the younger partner from, say, getting killed in a car crash or some other thing-there’s no guarantee that the older partner will die first. Yes, I know, that’s a cheerful thought, but there it is.

          Truly, I wish you and your partner long, healthy, happy years together!

  • KateM

    I have been the one on disapproving side. My sister who is 14 months younger than I, and my closest friend, starting dating her now husband when we were all in college together and they were freshmen. I was not a fan, and her junior year I voiced my concerns, in retrospect, probably not in the most diplomatic way. We had HUGE blow out fight during which she told me I better get used to it, because she was going to marry him, which she did, a year after they graduated. I was still the maid of honor. My concerns were valid, to which she admits to now. But 7 years later, struggling through infertility, adoption and also one pregnancy, they have one of the relationships I most admire and hope to emulate. It took a while for us to get over the hurt feelings, but in the end she knew that I had said that out of love and concern, and that while they were vaild reasons, she knew that I was wrong. Once my concerns were acknowledged and validated by her, I was able to trust her judgement and let it go.
    Ironically, when I first started dating my FH (who, once again, is ironically like my brother-in-law) she had legitimate concerns which she voiced to our mother not to me. I was hurt that she did not trust me enough to know what I was doing and to trust my judgement or to tell me to my face. We did finally talk it out and she really likes him now. The rest of my family and friends love us together.
    I guess my point is that recognizing the difference in experience between you and your FH because of age and having a child is a valid concern for a parent. She has been through that process with your father and knows what it entails and wants you to experience it together with your husband in the same way. It doesn’t mean that she is right in your case, but as a parent it is an understandable concern, and in sitting down with her and saying “yes, I do understand why this worries you and you are right, he has been through a lot that I haven’t, but that has made him the man I love.” I am not super close to my mom, and it makes it hard for her to tell me things without them sounding condemning, when really she is just worried and doesn’t know how to express it well. It is her job as a parent to help you make the right choices, and as we become adults, and need them less, it becomes harder for them to positively communicate apprehension with out criticizing life choices. Remember when you talk to her (and you should sit down over tea or wine and talk to her) that this is coming from a place of love, even if she doesn’t express that well.

  • emily rose

    Oh wow, family drama! This sh*t literally caused our engagement to be the most difficult, awful, sad period of our relationship thus far. Every time it seemed like things couldn’t possibly get more crazy, more and more crazy spewed out.

    One piece of advice that I received in the midst of it all, which I hope will help you as well, was this: “Just make sure they know that the wedding (AND MARRIAGE) train is about to leave the station and is picking up steam. They’ve got a little time left to hop on, but soon it’ll be too late – because they do not have the power to stop that thing or slow it down.”

    It worked. Our firmness with decisions was somehow actually a little comforting to some of the nay-sayers, who mostly chose to jump on board (though not always excitedly). I think they just had to be sure that their train-stopping attempts were futile, so we made that known. It’s so hard when the disapproval is from your mother, I know – but perhaps, after this period of breaking off and creating clear boundaries regarding your new family, you’ll be able to relate to each other better as respectful, independent adults. There are always growing pains associated with these family structure shifts, but things will settle and someday your mom will see how happy you are.

  • Chanel

    Oh HURT, I could have written this letter 6 months ago. I’m not going to give advice, because I don’t have any. I went through a year and a half yo-yoing between being very upset that my mother wanted nothing to do with my wedding, and being angry with her for being so stubborn and narrow-minded.

    About 2 months before the wedding date, my mom finally got into a huge fight about the choices I’ve made for my life versus the choices she wanted me to make. At the end of the argument we finally settled on an uneasy “agree to disagree” and “let’s just not talk about this topic because we only fight about it”.

    I’m certainly not suggesting this in your case… my problems with my mother stem from much more than just my choice of husband. But in the end, after that fight, she finally started getting really involved in the wedding planning and was one of my biggest supporters day-of.

    You never know how people are going to act or react, no matter how well you think you know them. Just do what’s best for you and try to be as understanding as possible.

  • Anonymous

    Oh my, I really could write a book in response to this post — and HURT — please don’t take this to be an assessment of your fiancee or your situation, since my family’s situation was totally different; the only way it relates to your situation is on the question of whether or not the people around you have the right and/or duty to express concerns that they have.

    About fifteen years ago, my sister announced her engagement to a man who was a total train wreck. For example, several of her pets died violent and supposed accidental deaths when he entered the picture. She met him when she had recently gone through a terrible trauma and I felt at the time that she wasn’t seeing things clearly.

    I don’t think anyone wants to find themselves begging a sister or daughter not to marry someone (something I did after the third pet died because I suspected that he was literally a psychopath). My parents begged her to postpone the wedding, “six months, please, a year, we’ll pay for everything twice if we have to. Just give it a little more time.”

    Pretty much all of our worst fears were realized. He was physically abusive, he had trouble holding down a job, he was selfish and overspent and drove them deeply into debt, always on stupid things like playstations when my sister didn’t have a decent pair of shoes. He is now hurting his two children with his craziness and (I pray not physical) abuse. I do not know if my sister or her kids will ever financially or emotionally recover. Bad partner choices can be a nearly never-ending nightmare.

    We tried so hard to rally and be happy for her around her wedding. My parents spent lavishly, we discontinued negative talk about him. But, you know what? She knew in her heart that no one wanted to see that marriage happen, including all of the women in her bridal party. And it was an extreme bummer. And it makes me so sad that when I cried in front of the whole church as the maid of honor that they were not tears of happiness. I hate that given the marriage’s inevitability we couldn’t all have been excited for her. I hate that my sister was less happy than she had every right to be on and before her wedding.

    At least as I see it, would have been cruel and unloving for us to all pretend we didn’t see a problem with her intended. She chose not to take our advice and we tried (not always succeeding) to respect that. But I would not be able to live with myself if I hadn’t — at least once — put a voice to my concerns.

    • Class of 1980

      Agree. Families are supposed to be about protection.

      • Class of 1980

        And THIS …

        “For example, several of her pets died violent and supposed accidental deaths when he entered the picture.”

        … is too much. I am scared for the children.

        • Alyssa

          WHOA. Yes, definitely.

          And I think it’s worth mentioning that there are different levels of disapproval. There’s the kind that Anon’s sister endured that absolutely MUST be brought up, the kind that would make you say them to a stranger or slight acquaintance if you witnessed.
          But there are the other more subtle kinds that need to be thought about before being broached, like HURT’s.
          I’m not saying either impulse to share disapproval MUST be quelled, but the second kind has a time and place. The first? As soon as possible, and preferably with the help of a professional.

    • poet

      Ouch, what a sad story! The problem is that when someone is in an abusive relationship situation – which it seems was the case with your sister – there’s no way they’re going to listen to people warning them, at least not right away. Emotional abuse, with or without physical abuse, induces a brain-washed state of mind where the victim really cannot see what’s going wrong, blames herself [or himself, as may be the case] and rationalizes the abuse. There’s not much an outside person can do, at least not immediately, because open criticism will often drive the victim further into denial and consequently isolation (since one prominent abuse strategy is to isolate the victim from their friends and family, claiming they’re not good to them / against them, and criticism or fighting will confirm this view)… it’s really difficult to decide what to do in this case – but I think it’s good to remain relatively supportive to them as a person so that once they find the strength to realize their predicament and get out of the situation you can help them accomplish this! So from what it sounds like you did the right thing… It’s awful to see a person suffer while making mistakes but one cannot always prevent it even if one tries.

  • Allison

    My fiance is nine years older than me, has been married before, and has a seven year old daughter. As much as my parents have generally liked him, when we started talking about marriage, my mom suddenly became very nervous about our age difference and different life experiences. She started talking about our different backgrounds, the fact that we have roughly equal incomes and that he is responsible for some finances related to his daughter, and topped it off with “you’ll always have to work to support yourself!”. At this point I was pretty much speechless (I have always planned to work, and we are not planning to have more children together). Then I thought about it and realized that, as HURT says, my mom and I are very different people with different expectations and desires in life. She wants the best for me, but her version of “the best” is different from mine. I think just letting her talk about her concerns, then saying “Okay, but this is what we’re doing and I really value your support” was helpful for both of us.

    On the other hand, I once had a stinker of an ex, and I wish I had listened more to others’ reservations about him. So it’s worth at least hearing out whatever concerns loved ones have. If you know these concerns are not actual problems, great. But at least everyone will feel heard.

    Good luck HURT, you’re not in this alone.

  • Renee

    Oh, Mom Drama, I know it well. I am also an only child, and my boyfriend is 10 years older than me. But this is not about me. This is about, you, HURT.

    Here’s my two cents. Right around the time I was your age I came to the (rather shocking, for me, anyway) discovery that my mother was just as screwed up as everyone else. She didn’t have all the answers to everything. And her opinion wasn’t the only one that mattered. I actually started to see her as her own woman with flaws, fears, and major hangups all present and accounted for. It was pretty revelatory for me. And when I started making decisions that didn’t line up with what she thought I should be doing, or really, what SHE would have done, we came to blows. Over and over. It was a struggle, and it’s still a struggle.
    She has a hard time seeing me as my own person, instead of a reflection of her.

    So, I would advise to put yourself in your mothers shoes, and try to deal with her in a way in which she will respond. She’s going to have opinions, she is your mother. But that doesn’t mean she gets to call the shots.
    And if it were me, I would be very clear that unless she gets on board, your marraige train will pass her by. And she won’t get to be part of the new family you’re building.
    Good luck, stay strong, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. ((hugs))

  • Laura

    Family conflict is something I know a whole lot about, unfortunately. I was married last March and had a very similar experience with my parents. The advice that “you will have to do the only thing you can do—plan your wedding and your future with your partner” is right on. My father never really approved of any of my life choices and had been critical of everything I did. We were not talking when I became engaged and he was not happy when I finally told him I was getting married to an AMAZING man. He vowed to not come to the wedding, and successfully prevented my mother from coming, too. He wouldn’t let my mother give me her wedding dress (which I dreamed of wearing since I was a small child) and successfully bullied other family members to not attend, saying that they wouldn’t ever be welcome in his home if they showed up. What the F***?

    Just thinking about it brings up all the emotions leading up to that week before my wedding and the wedding day iteself. But, do you know what saved me from pure madness and utter sadness? My friends! I have the best, dearest, most amazing circle of people ever! They came from all over the US to celebrate with us. They offered up prayers and wishes for a good life with my husband. Ultimately, they were able to give us the love and support I didn’t get from my family. I remember the moment I walked to the top of the stairs, with my soon-to-be husband next to me (he walked with me up the aisle) and I looked down and saw 100 friends who wanted to be there, and wanted to share this amazing day with me…well, I just started to cry. I was so happy and at that moment I didn’t think about my parents at all.

    It was a perfect night.

    I really hope you’re able to find peace with your family. But if you don’t, be sure to surround yourself with beautiful people. Your day will be perfect too!!!

  • Kris

    I had a similar issue through my dating and engagement to my partner (2 months to go!) but things have gotten incrementally better. My partner is 10 years older and divorced, but no children. My mother’s concerns at first focused on the circumstances of his divorce and how long it was taking for him to propose to me (proposals happen relatively quickly in my religious community), which she interpreted as him not loving me. I patiently (and then not so patiently) explained that my partner understandably wanted enough time to build a solid relationship before starting the wedding train, which can be difficult to stop. Strangely, once he did propose, my mom suddenly had a number of new concerns and started making all sorts of judgments and demands when I floated various wedding plans. I quickly understood that my mom is afraid of losing me, afraid that somehow my partner will turn me against her, and she probably thinks that he is not good enough for me (but nobody would be). I tried to address this with her directly, but she was not self-aware enough to understand her own emotions about it.

    So, my partner and I focused more on how we could handle my mother’s antics as a team. I made sure I understood what he needed from me and I requested support from him as I grieved for the “way things might have been” with my mother. I turned a corner when I realized I needed to set some boundaries and be more forceful when I stand up for my partner. Similarly, my partner turned a corner when he realized that visits with my parents could be about supporting me, rather than trying to make my mom like him, which he could never accomplish.

    That said, my mother is starting to come around in the sense that she is beginning to realize that her emotional responses have more to do with her fear of losing me than anything that is wrong in my relationship with my partner. While she still makes cutting side comments (as she always has), she has been quite helpful with many aspects of the wedding planning. I think my father and brother have been helpful behind the scenes in getting her to this place by pointing out the true causes of her behavior in a less confrontational and emotionally charged way than I could. Perhaps some of your supportive extended family could play the same role?

    • Ros

      “I quickly understood that my mom is afraid of losing me, afraid that somehow my partner will turn me against her…”

      Ooooh yeah. That one.

      What kind of kills me about that particular situation, though, is that people (*cough*our mothers*cough*) don’t seem to realize that by acting like this, they’re doing waaay more to drive us away than anyone else possibly could…

      I’ve told people a few times: conversations don’t happen in a wedding vacuum. If you stay stupid hurtful crap, it’s stupid and hurtful and it hurts me in real ways that don’t have anything to do with my wedding. Don’t expect me to forget it and brush it off. What you say and how you act matters.

  • lorna

    so in our house, in a policy instigated by my wonderful granny, there are strict rules about this:

    my family can say whatever they want about any life decision we make. but only once. as my mum puts it, ‘you came out of me. you have to respect me for one listen.’ only having one shot to voice displeasure means that everyone thinks carefully about exactly what will be said.

    after that, having genuinely listened to them, they must respect me enough to let me make my own decisions. they will then be as supportive as they can.

    it’s not easy. we shout, we cry, we don’t speak for 2 weeks. then we remember that we do what we do out of love and respect. this has gotten my extended family though two messy divorces, and a messy coming out, despite the fact my parents are evangelical christians, with everyone still talking to everyone, including ex-partners.

    like lots of others, i think it would help to talk to your mum, and make it clear you genuinely want to hear her concerns. then you want a few days/weeks to think about them, get back to her and address them, then it’s over. not full proof, and I can’t really imagine what it feels like to be in your position, but a good honest chat can’t make the situation any worse.

    good luck. x

    • Edelweiss

      I LOVE your Granny’s policy. How did you ensure a “genuine listen” during people’s teenage years?

  • Granola

    Dear HURT, this one is really hard, and I’m really sorry. The only perspective that I can offer is as the child of parents with two sets of prickly in-laws. My dad’s family is bat-shit crazy on a good day, and he isn’t that close to them. My maternal grandmother has been a widow for some time and her unhappiness poisons her interactions with everyone else, and she has a particular knack for meanly picking on my dad, who, admittedly, doesn’t always handle it well.

    Growing up, I was aware that my grandma always said bad things about my dad, and that my other grandma was an aloof jerk who was rude to my mom. It was and still is really hard for my mom to be in the middle of her mother and my dad. (Also, my family is super-Catholic like yours)

    Basically the takeaway here is that it’s helpful if the partner who is disliked recognizes the pickle their spouse is in and tries reasonably to not exacerbate it. And for the partner with the unhelpful parent to reasonably stick up for their spouse. Because as much as I hope for all your sakes that your mother comes around, it’s also entirely possible that she won’t, and that it will get worse. In that event, finding the courage to make those hard choices will be even more important because the ripple effect won’t end at you and your husband, but will filter down to your kids should you choose to have them and can stress your marriage in different ways over time.

    So, sorry to be the voice of doom, but I know that in my own family I’ve felt better when I’ve accepted the negative attitudes as just how things are and can take the occasional positivity as a welcome interlude.

  • Angie

    I had a lot of baggage coming into my marriage with my husband. While I’d dealt with it in therapy, the vestiges of were still real facts that could not be avoided: a mentally ill, extremely abusive criminal mother from whom I’m estranged, divorced parents, and an impoverished childhood.

    Somewhat understandably, this is not the match my upper-middle class mother-in-law had in mind for the brilliant son she’d tried carefully prepare for a social power marriage. (She had specific women in mind – some of whom were married by the time we married.) My mother-in-law repeatedly tried to get my husband not to marry – even taking him to a park and demanding he break up with me and later jumping out of a car when told we would marry. It was a bad situation with way, way too much drama.

    The therapist at the time said that eventually her friends would change her mind, through comments about my husband and my interaction with one another. We’re a great team – something my mother-in-law just could not see at the time. She was so focused on her dream of the power marriage that she couldn’t make room for the reality of a really great relationship with someone that came with a bit of baggage.

    It’s been 5 years, and I have to say the therapist was right. My mother-in-law recognizes that we’re a great match and that we have a good marriage. It didn’t happen overnight. And to be honest the jumping out of the car fundamentally changed our relationship to the point that we’ll never be super close, but she does treat me with dignity and respect now. My feeling is that knowing what she knows now, she’s embarrassed about the way she acted during the engagement.

    Which is all to say, it gets better. The relationship with your mother may never be perfect after you marry, but her reservations may be ameliorated over time as she sees you and your husband work together and her friends comment on the match.

  • ANON

    This is an awesome rule! I may steal it for my own baby family :)

  • Rachel

    I am not even halfway through the comments yet and feel a HUGE need to proclaim how awesome Team Practical is! There have been so many eloquent things written and conversations taking place. Its just so BEAUTIFUL, I couldn’t resist. Yay! And it puts me in such a happy, blissful mood over lunch.

    Everyday I am extremely thankful for APW. That’s all. :)

    To HURT, you obviously have a good head on your shoulders, supported by yourself and those you appreciate. Best wishes to you and yours!

  • kck

    I was in the place of HURT’s partner, once. For us it wasn’t an age thing but a culture thing (we’re not from the same culture). His parents hated the idea of him marrying someone outside the culture, but eventually they came around, and they’re quite nice to me now. I think two things basically contributed to changing their minds: they realized they couldn’t stop the “wedding train” and didn’t want it to leave without them; and I made some efforts to get educated & integrated into the cultural stuff — learning the language, going to festivals, etc. It put them more at ease about the “not having a common frame of reference” thing.

    But I think the biggest factor was my husband. At one point, I know he told them “OK, if you don’t want me to marry her, I won’t — but I’ll never marry anyone else, either.” That, I think, is when they started to hear the train.

    I think HURT’s mom needs to realize that, sure, someday HURT’s husband might die, and then she would probably be sad. But wouldn’t she be sadder if she never got the chance to have this relationship, and missed out on however many years of marriage the laws of probability and fate are willing to give them?

    I agree with what Angie said about this changing my relationship with my in-laws. They were very dramatic, made a lot of ultimatums, and followed through on none of them. Some of the things they said hurt my husband a lot. In the end, they kind of became the in-laws who cried wolf. I love them now, but we know they’ll overreact to perceived departures from the Traditional Life Plan, and we mostly don’t listen to their opinions about how to do things. It’s a shame, because they might have some good advice once in a while, but it comes with too many strings attached.

  • charmcityvixen

    I can totally identify with HURT in many ways. My fiance is 10 years older than me, and he has two small kids from a previous marriage. When we first started dating and it looked serious, my mom told me: “I would run screaming in the opposite direction from someone who has been divorced, let alone someone who has CHILDREN.” (the age was never really a factor — my parents are 13 years apart)

    Divorce isn’t a common phenomenon in my family, and no one has been in a relationship with someone who has kids from a previous marriage. It was unfamiliar (possibly scary?) territory for my mom, and she reacted accordingly.

    I was hurt, I was mad, I doubted my sanity… and it didn’t help that I was having some culture shock as a (at the time) 22 year old woman now saddled with kids ages 5 and 7 on the weekends.

    Eventually, when she saw that we were very serious, she backed down. Today she still says things, but it is more along the lines of “well, they aren’t really your kids” or disagreeing with the way we raise the kids while we have them. Honestly, I try my best not to let it bother me, although a VERY large part of me struggles between seeking parental approval and being content with my little family and our decisions.

    My advice for anyone struggling with this is to sort out your own feelings on the subject before you talk to them. What have they done specifically that hurt your feelings? Is any of it your fault (i.e., is any of it YOUR expectations for THEIR behavior, and then disappointment when they fall short of your unrealistic expectations)? I’d write it down and be prepared to have a frank discussion of them. Setting healthy boundaries is important too (i.e., “It hurts my feelings when you say things like a) and b), and when you snub him in c) way. Because of this, I am not relying on you for this type of support anymore, and I’m going to need to limit your involvement in this wedding planning process.”).

    For me, I had to sort out my feelings (which took me several weeks) and then my parents apologized-without-apologizing and I didn’t have to say anything to them. The comments they make about childrearing are easier to swallow when I know how I feel about it, and sometimes they even have valid concerns.

    I think the reason why it got so much better is because my parents realized that they can either jump on this love train or be less involved in my life. Period.

    Sorry for the ramblings, HURT. I hope it gets better for you! Know that there is another young lady out there struggling with something similar :)

  • Stefanie

    My parents did not give me the reaction I’d hoped for when we got engaged. My fiancee is an immigrant who’s not yet established in this country. While I have complete faith in him, they did not. Over our engagement I’ve learned a few things. My parents love me and they’re worried about me because they want the best for me. My fiancee’s current life situation is not what they pictured when they imagined me getting married. And they were scared.

    In part through time, and partly through talking about it, the situation has gotten much better. A while back i reached a point where they still had some concerns but I felt I had done enough legwork to show them that my fiancee is absolutely going to be fine here and decided to stop worrying about it. I still care about them and how they feel. And they still care about me with a few concerns but we’re moving on. I feel for you. It’s a tough situation, and maybe one worth talking over seriously…. after a while. You’ve got a dream of a life with your fiancee, but it may take a while for your parents to include him in theirs. As we head into the final months before the wedding, I feel supported and loved, even though it’s not perfect. But who needs perfect?

  • natalie

    I started reading Meg’s book, and I cried while reading most of the second half of the book. This is an amazing piece of writing and I suggest it to all brides-to-be. It made me feel normal again, instead of feeling like the psycho everyone was making me out to be!

    During my engagement, as the book desribes many engagements to be, I have been an emotional wreck. one minute I am in a blssiful, excited, so-happy-I’m-going-to cry mood; then next, i am sobbing and screaming into a pillow thinking about my childhood, and how I need to grow up and emotionally part with my parents and my old life.
    it’s not like I’m sobbing over my wedding colors clashing or the style of my table runners. I sob because the wedding is 5 months away, and i am so close to having my own baby family. This has huge social, religious, spiritual, and emotional implications for me, so from now on, I’m not going to feel guilty about being emotional. It is part of my journey through this process.

    I just wanted to say that!

    And, in regard to HURT: I am sorry to hear that you are dealing with this issue.

    My best friend is catholic and married a man of jewish faith. His parents are very conservatively jewish and her family is devoutly catholic. both sets of in-laws disapproved of the marriage. After the wedding, slowly, both sets of parents started realizing that, if they were going to continue to make comments about how ‘your wife isn’t jewish’ or ‘your husband isn’t catholic’ that they were going to push their children away, and ruin an otherwise excellent chance to become part of the lives of their children and future grandchildren.

    My position is: you will always be your parents’ child, but you are no longer a child. Your parents should in theory recognize that, if they choose to shame you for the marriage you are about to enter in to, they forfeit their rights to sharing the joys of YOUR LIFE in the future. My feeling, though, is that your parents are going to come around. two other of my friends have had difficult situations that are similar to yours, and in the end, parents come to a place of love and acceptance, especially when they realize how happy you are.

    i think that it’s also important to note that parents have a funny way of showing that they’re feeling a little sad to ‘lose’ their daughter. Of course you are not going anywhere per-se, but marriage definitely changes child-parent dynamics. My parents had a hard time at first coping with the idea that they weren’t going to be my primary source of emotional support anymore. it came out in weird ways, mostly in sideways hostility or frustration over things that were, in the end, not the real source of anger. one thing that I have learned is that anger and frustration are by-products of a more deeply-rooted saddness or loss, and I think perhaps your parents are having trouble emotionally surrendering control by seeing you, their only child, get married. I hope and pray that they see how beautiful your relationship is, and that they see how important your marriage is to both you and your fiance.

  • Sandy

    I think that Alyssa’s advice concerning abuse is very important, and that importance can be seen in the comments. As someone who left a marriage due to emotional abuse, I sometimes wish I had listened to my parents about their concerns. It was a painful path that took too long to resolve, but I have realized that it is what brought me to the place I’m in, which is wonderful.

    When I was in the deciding stages of my divorce, as in deciding that divorce was the best option for me, my best friend supported me and voiced her concerns about my relationship for the first time in nearly 8 years. She was wonderful and told me that she knew I needed to come to the realization on my own in order to fully accept it. She then supported me through my divorce.

    When I started dating my new husband, however, she voiced her negative opinion early on in the relationship. Her objections ranged from rational (the speed at which we became serious) to the irrational (disagreeing with his political views). When we became engaged, I was afraid that she would not approve and not support our wedding/marriage. Things were a little weird at times, but for the most part she did exactly as Alyssa said and “backed the eff off”. Since we married, her support has been very heartfelt, though I suspect she still doesn’t like my husband.

    I’m glad to see based on your post and your comments that abuse does not seem to be a factor in your relationship. The advice that I give you is two fold. First, take some time, counseling is an excellent suggestion, to make sure in your heart that your mother’s objections are groundless and not indicative of something you might be missing. Pre-marital counseling is an excellent avenue for this as it should address any problems from his previous marriage/fatherhood that your mother may be worried about. Second, follow Alyssa’s advice to give your mother space but continue to include her as much as makes you happy and sane. It may never be perfect but she loves you and may come to support you even if she can’t agree with you.

    Good luck and congratulations on your engagement. Can’t wait to see your wedding graduate post!

  • HURT

    I want to respond to every single one of you but I thought I would just make a larger, group post. Thank you so much, all, for your kind words, support, and encouragement! It means so much to me, and some of these comments even brought a tear to my eye!

    It is comforting to know that I am not completely alone in this.

    Thank you all for taking time to write such thoughful responses!

  • Katy

    Oh HURT, there are so many things that I want to tell you about navigating a relationship with an age difference, but the main takeaway that I have gleaned from my current 4+ year relationship with my partner (who is 25 years older!) is that, much like wine, sex and casseroles, people get better with age too.

    I had a lot of social anxiety when I initially started dating my partner, but as you probably know, choosing to date someone with an age difference is not something you just casually walk into. When I chose to share my relationship with my parents, (who are 40+ years older than me) I naturally expected a lot of negative feedback. And sure enough, I heard the same snide comments about his swiftly approaching and inevitable death or concerns about a lack of chemistry.

    The main thing that people assume about a relationship with an age difference is that there is a fundamental problem with the two people involved. Whether there is the assumption that he is only attracted to young women or you are attracted to his stability (i,e wealth.) people want to project their discomfort with the difference as an issue with yourself. That you are gold digger. That he is a cradle robber. In our case, people assume I have daddy issues and he suffers from Peter Pan syndrome, neither of which is true (okay, wholly true, REALLY: WHO WANTS TO GROW UP?!?!) The fact of the matter is that we don’t have problems, but we are the solution to each others problems.

    So when my parents reacted poorly, I understood. I expected it, but I didn’t have to live with it. And I threw down an ultimatum. Get over your insecurities, your social mores and either get to know my partner or they could choose to not have a close relationship with me. The best part? I knew the cards were dealt in my favor because I was the one CHOOSING to be with my partner and I was CHOOSING to share my life with them. I also knew that they couldn’t bear a life in which we weren’t close…so the deck was stacked against them, but yeah, remember that thing I said about people getting better with age. It’s true.

    My folks came around (actually really quickly) and exhibited a lot of personal growth. And as a separate caveat: my parents were once very devout and very conservative, but over the years those things have faded, but our relationship continues to grow stronger and I attribute a lot of that to the fact that they see how they raised a solid woman who is in a loving relationship that means enough to me throw down!

    So my advice: lay it out for you mom. (Hello! Only child!) and it will be tough at first. Challenging your parents is never fun, but she will respect you for it. And for those times when she isn’t speaking to you (which will happen, I wager) see above: sex, wine and casserole!

    • Peggy

      I don’t normally respond to others’ comments, but Kathy – your thoughts on relationships involving an age difference are so wonderful! Thank you for beautifully expressing the things I always struggle to say, and for helping me to explain our 15-year gap to those who automatically assume that we must be fundamentally flawed people.

  • Joycie

    Great advice!

    I moved out of my parents’ house fairly early compared to my older siblings. Instead of waiting til I got married, I left when I was fresh out of high school and moved 6000 miles away to NYC. That distance drew me a little bit closer to my mom, and I found in the years that followed that we could talk for hours on end. More than a few times in the ten years since I moved away, the subject of me getting married would come up and she would demand that should I get engaged someday, she wanted to be the first person I told, no matter what time of day it was or where we lived.

    When my fiance finally proposed to me at my very first picnic right by where we met, we called my parents almost immediately. Granted, it was 230 in the morning with the time difference, but their reaction was completely underwhelming. In fact, majority of my immediate family had pretty disappointing reactions. To top it off, it felt condescending every time I was asked if I knew what I was getting myself into, as if I didn’t know how to make a sound life decision. It was rough and despite how close I thought we were, it made me feel like I couldn’t celebrate my engagement. I felt like I couldn’t ask for help in planning a wedding that I specifically decided to hold closer to them and farther from me (easier to transport 2 people than 11), and I had just been looking forward to being excited together. Instead, I felt overwhelmed, stressed, and alone.

    I held a lot of these feelings in for a few months, until my mom made an offhand comment that made me completely blow up, and then it was like a chain reaction and I suddenly wanted to yell at every one in my immediate family for making me feel the way I did. Here is what I found out: they acted the way they did because it’s hard not to be concerned for the youngest member of the family. Once a baby, always a baby, no matter how old you are, I guess. They didn’t at all intend to make me feel the way I did, and once I understood where they were coming from, things got a lot easier. My parents have been making every effort they could to get to know my fiance better (tough to do when they’re in korea and he was in Afghanistan up until a couple months ago), and everyone’s been really nice about checking to see if I need any help or support.

    Despite spending a lifetime together, your family cant know everything you need, or how their actions and words can make you feel. I hope you get a chance to talk to your mom about how you feel, because things might be different after!

    Good luck! :)

  • Riley

    I think my favorite line from my dad when I told him that my boyfriend just proposed was “really? you know, he didn’t even call me to ask my permission”. Families can be wonderful, but can really rain on our parades sometimes.

    Congratulations on your engagement!

  • irisira

    Oh, honey, do I feel you. In my case, also an only child, but my mother was (is?) a single parent, and we are VERY close. My mother was never very good about my relationship with my now-husband, and when we got engaged, she acted like I was playing a joke on her. (Seriously, her response was, “WHAAAAAAAAAATTT?” and not in the excited way.) It was a completely joyful day, and my joy was brought crashing down into reality. I had called and left her a message to call me back, and she called us while we were at a restaurant having dinner. After this exchange (and she knew it wasn’t a “joke”), I told her I would call her back later, after dinner. I tried calling her later and she didn’t pick up the phone or call me back until later the next day, because she “just didn’t feel like it.” I was crushed.

    The next couple of months were rocky. We decided to have a shorter engagement, after my mother tried to talk us into an indefinitely long one, we decided to get married somewhere other than my hometown for a laundry list of reasons that worked for us and our budget, etc. After not backing me up on a couple of my decisions to family members who started to make spiteful trouble (and after a couple of awful phone conversations that had me in tears), I finally sat her down, face to face, and told her that I know she wasn’t thrilled about my engagement, the marriage, or some of the wedding decisions we were making, but that I needed my MOTHER. I needed to have her in my corner.

    It still was a bit bumpy, but after that conversation, she finally got where I was coming from, and saw how much her actions were hurting me, rather than just seeing her own pain and disappointment. (I finally got her to admit, too, that one of her biggest reservations was that she saw how in love with my (now) husband I am, and that scared her. Which helped with the conversations. “What, would you prefer I marry someone that I DON’T love?” And she realized how ridiculous that was.)

    You know your parents better than we do, but all you can do is stand your ground (firmly, but not tantrum-y), and approach them as calmly as possible about this. Also, lean on your support system in the meantime. THIS is what your best girlfriends (bridesmaids, usually, or Bridal Brigade, or just besties in general) do best. Let them take you out for margaritas (or beer, or wine, or pick your poison – I just happen to love margaritas!) and listen. They’ll have your back.

  • Newtie

    I just wanted to add a family story, in case HURT might take any encouragement from it:

    When my dad proposed to my mom, my grandmother (mom’s mom) went to bed and cried for TWO WEEKS STRAIGHT. Literally did not get out of bed. She did NOT approve, and my mom really had no other family to offer support or be happy for her. Fast forward 38 years later, and they’re still happily married and madly in love, and my grandmother loves my father like he’s her own son (and it didn’t take 38 years for that, either – maybe 5, tops). Now, it’s a big family joke. We laugh, frequently, about how my grandmother hated my dad. I know when my mom was going through it she never imagined that years later the pain she felt at the time would be less than a distant memory, or actually be something that made her laugh out loud with glee to be able to tease her mother about.

    So, even if it seems impossible, in a few months/years your mom could completely come around, and all of this might not hurt nearly so much. Relationships do change. If you don’t have the relationship with your mom right now that you wish you had (or if she doesn’t have the relationship with your fiance that you’d like them to have), keep trusting that there’s always the possibility for improvement, and you all are going to be a family for a long time yet. You know your fiance’s a good man — chances are, your mom will see that too, it just might take her much longer than everyone else. Good luck!

  • Peggy

    HURT, I am so glad you posted this, and so sad I’m seeing it a few days late! One of the things I’ve felt about APW for awhile is that there’s not nearly enough dialogue about stepfamilies and the dynamics that come with them. There are many brides on here who have children of their own, but few who are childless and marry someone with children. It’s no surprise that many of these relationships also come with an age difference. Kudos to you for bringing this up and discussing a topic that is near and dear to many of us!

    I am a whopping 15 years younger than my fiance, and he has two children from a previous marriage. Like you, my parents disapprove of our union. They’re not religious, but feel that divorce is wrong and he should be concentrating on his “real family” rather than attempting to make a new one. Hearing your mom refer to your fiance’s ex as his “wife” can really take the wind out of your sails. So sister, I feel you.

    Speaking of feeling you – I literally gave an amen when I read this line:
    “My mom and I have never been very close—we are very different people, and she hasn’t agreed with a lot of the choices I have made.” My parents are both engineers, logical to a fault, very career-oriented, and basically everything I’m not. My mom cried in her room for a couple of days when I chose to go to a liberal arts college instead of the state engineering school where I would have been a fourth-generation legacy. I can’t tell you how many arguments we’ve had over my career choices and the fact that I chose a liberal arts degree over something more marketable. For my entire life, we’ve disagreed over everything from boys to books to after-school activities.

    I tell you what, though, that can be a huge blessing in disguise. When FH and I first got engaged and my parents were less than thrilled (mom cried, dad refused to speak to me for a week) I thought my life was over. I’m in my twenties, and so my parents’ opinions still hold a lot of weight. But what eventually got me over it, besides a lot of consoling from FH, was the realization that I don’t want to live the same life as my parents. I don’t want a marriage based more on convenience and shared values than on love and commitment. I don’t want to look back in 30 years and realize I’ve spent more time at the office than with my children. I’d rather live in a shoebox and be happy than live in the mansion my parents own and live a life of stress. I don’t want to be my mother. Just like I wanted to be a cheerleader in high school instead of on the math team like her, I want a relationship built on trust and love rather than on the fact that we share children and divorce would be messy and financially stupid.

    I realize this has been one giant personal anecdote, but what I’m trying to say is this: you and your mom are different people. You’ve disagreed over things for your entire life, and this is no different. But take a step back and ask yourself if your mom’s life is seriously what you want. If it is, maybe you should look into following her advice a bit more. But if it’s not, which I suspect it’s not, remind yourself that YOUR values and YOUR feelings are the ones that have guided you up until now. Despite your parents’ protests, you’ve become a happy, healthy and functional adult. The person you choose to spend your life with is your decision – just like all of the choices you’ve made up until now.

    Good luck, and I’m rooting for you!

  • The gold digger

    That’s too bad about your mom and dad. Having a child at a young age does not mean someone is a bad person. It is probably actually even harder to do what your fiance did than the alternative.

    When my cousin told his dad that his high school girlfriend was pregnant, he was terrified. But his dad told him that he would find later that this child would be the best thing that ever happened to him. Both families rallied. My cousin and the mother never married, but have stayed on good terms. My cousin finally got married last year – to a woman with her own teenage daughter. In the meantime, my cousin’s daughter is in college and is the joy of both families.

    I hope your mom and dad come around. Your fiance sounds like a good guy.

  • RK

    HURT, I feel for you. My now husband is the best thing that has ever happened to me, but there were some people who were concerned about “baggage” he brought with him because he lost his father to suicide at a very young age. I too accept this so called baggage because his experiences in life have shaped the warm, loving, wonderful man he is today. My parents had reservations, but they have come to love him too because they know that he makes me incredibly happy, and that’s all they want for me in life.

    Best of luck to you, and stay strong!

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  • kt in kc

    I want to thank with all my heart everyone who has posted on this topic, because I am going through a similar situation.

    After I graduated law school, gained my own job, and started having my own life, my relationship with my mother deteriorated steadily, for various reasons which would take too long to go into here. When I started dating my current fiance, she disapproved with her version of “silent treatment”. She never asked about him, never wanted to meet him, never talked about my relationship with him, or anything. He became a very big, wonderful part of my life, but whenever I was with her, I only felt comfortably talking with her about anything in my life except him, which created a short list of topics that eventually dwindled down to just my dog.

    A couple times, I tried to talk to her about him, but we only ended up arguing. She created lies about him to justify her opinion of him. For example, she thinks he takes drugs and is a good-for-nothing lazy bum. In reality, my fiance takes medication for epilepsy. I’ve tried to explain this to her, but she doesn’t believe me. (Apprently, me taking care of him when he seizures and me taking him to the doctors to get his seizures under control with the right medication and me giving him his medication every night counts as no sufficient proof of evidence to her.) She also thinks that, “Even if he is epileptic, you don’t need to take care of him. Let somebody else take care of him.”

    My fiance and I have been together – almost inseparable – for the past three years. I love my fiance very, very, very much – more than I’ve ever loved anything in my life. He’s changed my life in so many ways, for the better, better than I could ever have imagined my life could be. We became engaged on my birthday last October, and we couldn’t be happier. All his family (who are incredibly fabulous and adore me just as much as I adore them) and all our friends are happy for us as well. However, when I told my mom, she at first didn’t know what the ring was for. Then, when I told her it was an engagement ring, she played dumb and asked, “To who?” And then, when I told her we were going to have a long engagement so that we could plan and save for a great wedding, she said, “Well, then you still have time to break it off.”

    My mom and I haven’t talked since that conversation.

    For the longest time, I’ve felt immense guilt and frustration, because I couldn’t figure out a way to fix the situation – to fix my mom. Finally, I gave up. And like someone point out in this discussion above, giving up is sometimes liberating. My fiance and I are in love and marrying for our own reasons. We determine our happiness. Nobody else. Nothing else. Our wedding and marriage is to be a happy occasion, celebrated with friends and family who are happy for us. My mother is not happy for us, and I cannot make her happy, so I will not be inviting her to share in the celebration, and I no longer feel bad about that. If she changes her mind and opinions, I’ll be ecstatic and very happy, but knowing her, I don’t think that’ll happen. So I give up. I’m moving on. My fiance and I are going to be happy.

    • MIEL

      Hello KT IN KC

      I would like to know how thins are going in your side? When I read your post I recognized my mom through the comments and attitudes you described about your mom. I have been dating my boyfriend for 3 years now, and I know soon we will get married. My relationship with my mom and with my dad, highly influenced by my mother are deteriorated, Fortunately I have an aunt that talks with them, and tries to smooth out their bad attitudes. My parents are against my relationship because they think I am too good for him, because tye think he is ugly, and because he is 32 and I’m 34 and they think he manipulates me (being so young, a kid for them I guess !) and that he tries to “buy” me with trips etc, when the trip we have made are paid by the two of us and are small trips.

      My mom, still married, doesn’t believe in marriage (ironically I know), she thinks love is not worth anything, I believe she wants me to get married at 40, when I would already be a star in my job, have my own house, my own car… she only thinks the WAY is to do everything being alone, and THEN find somebody… but the problem is NOBODY is good enough for me. And every person i’ve been with, even before my present boyfriend, become obstacles to the “superwoman” she wants me to be. And that is when she blames all boys, and makes up negative things about the poor guys in order to make me feel bad.

      anyway its a long story… just wanted to know if you are still there and how thins are going, I would like to contact you to know a little bit how you have managed your relationship with your mom.

  • Jennifer Stroopwafel

    I found they’re producing a television show about this topic, and they’re still looking for participants. Seems pretty interesting…

  • Crea

    I just told my mother today about my engagement to my fiancee. My fiancee proposed over the weekend. His family are happy for us. I told my mom after she called me and she proceeds to ask if I said “Hell no (not exact words but pretty darn close. she used a very long and odd way of saying it).” Five minutes later I get a call from my father (he is on travel for work) and he asks why is my mom having him call me. I proceed to tell him what I told mom. He then asks if I was happy (yes) and if we planned to wait till after college (yes we plan to wait a good few years after college). I then tell him that my fiancee’s family approves. He says ok and he is not sure why my mom was freaking out. It hurt when my mother asked me if I said hell no. My fiancee and I have been together over a year and I love him so much. He works so hard to make me happy.

  • Kristin

    Hi HURT,

    I’m in the exact same situation as you. I’m 25 and dating a 39 year old divorced man with a daughter. I know that this thread is old but I would love to talk to someone in a similar situation, especially someone who has already gone through the engagement and marriage process, as we are about to. Please give me a shout by email if you see this!

    • Sad Scotland!

      Hello Kristin, I don’t know if you are still looking at this or not, if you aren’t it’s because I hope all is going well for you! Unfortunately though I’m going through this exact situation and would love to speak if possible. I’m 27 and seriously involved with a wonderful man 15 years older, he is divorced with 2 children. My widowed mother will disown me if I carry on the relationship. It’s horrendous, I can’t loose either of them,

      So it would be lovely to speak to yourself or indeed anybody else reading this. Good luck everybody!

      • Lynda

        Hello Sad Scotland! I also live in Scotland, in Aberdeen to be exact. I am in the same situation also. I am 24, and my partner is 40 (about to turn 41 in a few days) so a 16/17 year age gap. He is divorced and has a 17 year old boy. My family do not approve, and my mum won’t even come to visit me in Scotland if he is around (grew up in London). I feel as if I am making some sort of a choice and it definitely does take away from the relationship. It would be great to talk to you – or anyone else in the same situation – just to have the understanding and support of someone who is going through the same thing. Please get in touch if you are reading this. Good luck!

  • riling

    I want to use this opportunity to thank Therapist Oniha for helping me get my lover back after she left me few months ago. i have sent friends and my brothers to beg her for me but she refused that it is all over between both of us but when i met this Therapist Oniha he told me to relaxed that every thing will be fine and really after just 4 days i got my woman back. so thank him so much. Here is the email i don’t know what will i have done if not for Therapist Oniha. Please everyone on this blog should please help me thank him with happiness.

  • Zyan Art

    I’m on the same boat as you are HURT, I’m 20 years old an only child raised by God-fearing parents, and there’s a guy who was 20 years older than me he had a live in partner back then and had a 4 year old daughter. He asked me if he can court me. I like him, he likes me, but my parents, they don’t like him. I am happy being with him. I told my parents about him, courting me, and that’s when all trouble began. My mom overacted, she would call me at work and ask if the guy and I were together, which is obviously yes, we worked on the same company. My mom would call my friends and ask them if they could take the guy away from me, so that I won’t fall in love with him. But I love him not because he is 2 years older than me and has a daughter, but because of his effort to love me too.
    Today is my birthday, earlier this day, I talked to my mom, i begged for her understanding. I told her all my thoughts and what I feel.But she didn’t listen to me. I don’t want to choose between that guy and my parents, I love them both. I actually hated my parents for not understanding me, for not listening to me.
    We haven’t talk to each other well since last week. I never want to talk to her, I don’t wanna disrespect her anymore, I’ tired of shouting at her cause I’m breaking her heart whenever I did that. I tried to be silent to avoid arguments with her.
    But when I woke up this morning, there was a glass with roses in it on my computer table and a note beside it, saying: “Happy birthday dear, I love you -Mama” That makes me cry. That’s the only time I feel that she loved me.That she just wants the best for me.Guys could come to me give me flowers which they bought. But my mom,she gave me flowers that she cared for and wait them until they bloom.
    I know she really really loved me. I am a miracle child to make it more clearer.
    I don’t wanna choose between that guy and my parents, i love them both, until this very moment, I really don’t know what will happen in the future. What I know is for now, I’m going to honor them and show them how much i love them while they’re still alive. As for that guy, I’m not giving up on him that easy.

    I may sound very religious here, but my suggestion to our situation is,
    PRAY, God is not dead, he hears our every prayer, He may not answer you today because it’s not the right time. But just be in faith, trust in Him, Cast all your worries to Him. Love your parents show them how you love them while your with them, tell them how much you love them while they can still hear you. Hug them while they can still feel you. Spend time with them while you can. It’s not too late.
    As for our “lovers”, if they truly loves us, they would wait and endure every hardships.If he truly love you he is willing to wait and court your parents for you. :)

    -cheers! have a nice day everyone!

  • Earl


    I’m facing a huge challenge. I’m dating one of the girl she’s a Branhamism we been together for 3 months now. I really love her to bits want to spend the rest of my life with her and we both feel the same for each other.

    Her family they are against us dating or being together cause I’m not of the Branhamism. they told her if we carry on seeing each other they will disown her as their daughter. they will make her life miserable. cause Branhamism are not allow to marry Christians. but if we look at it we serve one God and we believe in Jesus ????

    I’m a born again christian believe in Jesus. and they don’t want us to be together cause I’m not one of the follower.of the Branhamism

    my question is:

    Christian are they not allowed to marry branhamism ???

    I look forward for your mail

    thank You

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