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Ask Team Practical: Parents’ Blessing


by Liz Moorhead, Ask Team Practical

Ask Team Practical: Parents Blessing | A Practical Wedding

I’m at a bit of an impasse before even beginning wedding planning! My problem is beyond that which should be solved in an internet forum and will likely require professional counsel. Nonetheless, I am sure we are not the only couple to experience not receiving a blessing in marriage from parents. This is the stuff of many novels and movies, where some cultural or religious difference or sexual preference leave parents with varying degrees of disapproval. Our disapproval seems to be on a rather extreme end of the spectrum. I am hoping for the everyone-ends-up-happy, love-conquers-all ending. In the meantime, however, my fiancé and I are struggling to figure out how to proceed forward with our desire to get married.

We’ve tried talking to my parents to resolve differences, which didn’t seem to budge. They didn’t formally say, “No, you shouldn’t get married.” It was more like “We think you should wait and consider things more.” All other family and friends are super excited for us, and we ourselves feel ready to take that step. So, we tried saying f*ck it, let’s go forward anyway (we formally got engaged), which has resulted in a wider, more treacherous river to cross if we want to have a good relationship with my parents. We’d both really love to have my parents’ acceptance and blessing in marriage and want to stay close to them. I’m afraid that getting married without my parents blessing would leave me unhappy and start our marriage out on the wrong foot. Do you have any advice in this predicament?

Troubled Child, But Y?

Dear TCBY,

Don’t fret about starting your marriage on the wrong foot. Your marriage is what happens between the two of you—not what outside forces are attacking (unless you let them get in between you, which we’ll address in a sec). By getting married, you’re building a team of two, and your parents (poor dears) are outside of that team.

So, how do you protect your marriage from those outside forces—which aren’t always frienemies like parents, but also can range from evil finances to villainous legal issues to just plain old stress at work? Talk about stuff. That’s a big one. But also, don’t confuse outside turmoil with issues between the two of you. Put another way, don’t take what your parents are saying out on each other. Make sure your partner knows that these feelings your parents are vocalizing aren’t reflective of your own. And make sure that you, yourself, understand that it’s not your partner’s fault if your parents are acting like jerks. You guys are on the same team, handling this other stuff together.

But I’m jumping ahead of myself. Let’s talk about your parents. In fact, let’s visit things from their perspective.

Now that you’re grown, you’ve gotta realize that some of your decisions are going to seem “thoughtless” and “reckless” to your parents, who are no longer specifically privy to every thought process. I mean, assume you’ve told someone what you thought, and they nodded right along, and then you turn around to find they did exactly what you said wasn’t a good idea. I’d feel sort of like my opinion wasn’t heard and didn’t matter. So, give that sit-down chat another try. This time, instead of focusing on trying to find a compromise, just explain what you’re doing and hear their concerns. Sometimes it’s helpful to just know that your thoughts have been heard and considered, even if someone makes a different decision in the end. There’s a vast difference between valuing an opinion and agreeing with it, and right now maybe you should make sure your parents know their thoughts are valued. I mean, they said, “Wait and consider things more.” Just let them know that you’ve heard them and considered things.

The other reason this chat would be good? Your parents stinking love you, I’m sure of it. And after all that time of raising you, they probably have a pretty good understanding of who you are, and might have an inside track on your relationship that the cheerleaders around you don’t. Beyond all that, they’re older and experienced and smart. They really, actually might have a thing or two of value to say. I’d really encourage you to hear them out, consider what they’re saying, and dig down to figure out if there’s any wisdom or merit that you’ve overlooked while you were wrapped up in all the squishy love feelings.

But there’s also a good chance that their disdain is coming from a place of impracticality. Our parents, those sweet old folks, they sometimes have such rigid and unrealistic expectations for us kids. They could be getting hung up on some long held dream of, “But I always thought she’d marry a doctor, ” or, “Uggggh, but he has tattoos and holes in his ears…” (that last one might be rooted in my own experience, possibly). You don’t really know if their thoughts are valid or not until you hear them. And the difference between, “He’s incarcerated for embezzlement,” and “Well, his laugh is sort of weird,” can be pretty important.

Eventually, at some point in your life, your parents are going to disagree with your decisions. And sometimes, because they’ve gotten so used to being able to tell you what to do, they forget that they don’t have that right any more. Sure, we always hope that when they disagree with us, it’s about something not quite so big. But what I’m saying is that even if you avoid upsetting them in this instance (skip the marriage or hold off for a few years, or whatever the case may be), that doesn’t mean that there won’t come another point in time where they hate your decisions and it causes a rift. So, if you hear their thoughts and decide they’re invalid, let yourself off the hook for making a stink in the family. This is just the beginning. Oh, stinks will be made.

You can’t control how they behave. If they’re willing to use this decision as an excuse to go without talking to you, for example, or for skipping the wedding or whatever—well, like I said above, it’s worth really digging into “why.” Parents are usually pretty reluctant to do that sort of thing. But after that, you can’t be concerned that their behavior is your fault, or a result of something you did. Just like you’re an adult making your own decisions now, they’re adults choosing how they act, too. The ugly truth is, that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt, but it might help absolve some misplaced guilt.

*****

Team Practical, have you had to handle folks who didn’t approve of your marriage? What do you do when facing disagreement over such a big decision, with people so important to you?

Photo by APW sponsor Jesse Holland Photography.

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!

 

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her son.

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  • Amy March

    For me, this depends on the reasonableness of their position. Wait and see if . . . You don’t realize you’re actually straight. Not reasonable, and you need to press on and hope witnessing your love wins them over. Wait and see if . . . You can actually support yourselves as an independent unit. Reasonable. Even if you disagree, I think this is when you need to really engage with your parents about their fears.

    It’s very important to me to have my family’s blessing in life generally, and part of that means letting my parents have their say and really hearing them out.

  • Florence

    I really feel for you, TCBY. I went through the same thing with my fiancé’s parents, and Team Practical just gave you some excellent advice.
    I also think you and your fiancé should go to couple counselling to help you sort through the issue (plus it’s always useful to do a few sessions before you get married, as it’s such an emotional time of your life). It can help you distance yourself from the issue and then you’ll be able to tell your parents “I hear you, thank you for your advice, but we’re sticking to our plan to get married”. It will help you build a shield around your relationship so that this kind of situation doesn’t impact your marriage.
    I really hope things get better soon and that you’ll come back on APW with your graduate post on how getting married strenghtened your relationship with your family :)

  • http://somethingshavehappened.blogspot.co.uk/ Siobhan

    This resonates with me as a good friend of mine had this experience and it was very painful. In her case her parents were, in my opinion, unreasonable and they would not be talked round. But they have been married now for a few years and are very happy. It was not resolved neatly or perfectly but as it is not my situation I cannot say more.

    But I think theadvice above is right – if you have this conversation with your parents and are calm and they still object and there is no way to mollify them, then you need to make your own decisions and not expect them to play along. This might be thier issue and not yours. It might hurt but it’s not your issue and please don’t let it become yours if you can help it.

    I’m phrasing this clumsily as am tired and this has been a long day but for a very long time my friend did not know her parents were going to come to the wedding. They might not have (in this case they did and played the part of proud parents very well and I do love her parents very much, I just disagree with how they handled this situation). And I guess that bit in parenthesis is also a point. If you all disagree that does not make there any less love either, its a horrible situation and I found it so hard to help this other person through it, but things did get better for her and I hope they do for you too.

  • Ros

    I think the points raised above are very sensible, in that it depends what your parents objections are.

    Anything relating to your reliance on them (aka: you’re 21, living with them, and have no income, and they’re worried that you’re rushing into this and not going to be able to support yourselves or live with your commitment) they actually to get to be concerned about. Things like “we think he’s violent” or “he doesn’t treat you well” or “you act differently when he’s there” (sometimes a good thing, sometimes a bad thing…) can be warning signs of deeper issues and that’s worth hearing out, I think.

    But things like “but he has student loans/comes from a different background/is a different race/isn’t a doctor or lawyer or engineer/etc”, “but he’s divorced/has a child/has family issues” (assuming you’ve dealt with this and are ok with how that affects your life), or just things like “but he’s not what we pictured for you”… well, if he’s what you pictured for you, that’s something they’re gonna have to live with, because it isn’t their life.

    If it helps at all, I’ve had excellent luck having sit-down discussions with my mother where I ask her to lay out her issues, listen to her without responding (this is the hard part), thank her, and say that I’ll take her input into consideration when making my choices… The listening without attempting to reply has, occasionally, been the only way to actually get at the issues without having a screaming fight, and the closing statement sets the stage: you’ve heard her out. You will make your decisions. They might not (aka: probably not) match. That’s your prerogative, and she’ll have to deal.

    • LIZ (SINCE 1982)

      This is a GREAT suggestion. Just the act of fully hearing them out, calmly and without immediately trying to refute whatever points they are bringing up, may go a long way toward making your parents feel heard and reassure them that you have in fact “considered,” whether or not you are going to wait.

      • Kara

        Absolutely! Truly listening, without trying to refute everything you hear that you don’t like, is probably one of the kindest thing you can do both for yourself and for your parents too.

  • Michelle

    I went through a sort of similar-but-opposite situation… my mom got married a couple of years ago and due to a number of things, my sister had a really hard time dealing with it. She asked my mom to postpone the wedding until we could work some family stuff out, she said no, and they got married pretty quickly after that.
    I don’t think there’s really a way to resolve these kinds of issues, but I know it’s really important to handle the situation carefully. We (myself included) didn’t do a good job of that, and now 2 years later, I’d say my mom and sister are back on “acquaintance” terms after not speaking for nearly a year. The most important thing is to communicate — calmly and respectfully. Even if you disagree with them, your parents still raised and love you. They think they are doing what’s best for you, so if you can all sit down and talk about it – even if nothing is resolved – you can probably pave the way for civility. Which, even if it’s not a love-conquers-all ending, is a heck of a lot better than your wedding being surrounded by sadness.
    Sorry you’re going through this… I hope it all works out.

  • http://theincompleteidiotsguide.blogspot.com/ Alyssa

    I’m getting “officially” engaged soon (we decided we were going to marry each other a year ago, and have already picked October 2014 for the wedding when I’m done with grad school) and it’s become a source of stress mixed with happiness for me because of the parent thing. I’m not concerned about my dad. He’s happy as long as I am. My mom has already expressed to the whole neighborhood how displeased she was that we moved in together when I was 22 and he was 24. She disapproves of marriage in general (she’s very much of the school of “women don’t need a man”) and only married because of the legal protections it offered her children.
    My concern is that I’ll lose what connection is left with my family. We already aren’t super close because of me moving in with my SO and me wanting to be a teacher rather than a pharmacist. When she was engaged to my dad my grandmother stopped speaking to her for 5 years and forbid my grandfather and uncles from talking to her. I don’t want that to happen to me but she is so much like my grandmother I’m afraid it will.

    • Liz

      Hopefully, she’s learned from the past. If I had someone important to me cut me off for my choices, I’d really think better of it before doing the same.

  • Natalie

    Kudos to you for sharing your story. You are not alone. My parents fully agreed with my marital choice, but they’ve really disagreed with me on other big things in my life, namely, my career choice. They had grand dreams of me becoming a doctor, but I became a librarian instead. And they see how much I love my job, and they’ve come around slowly. I know it’s a very different situation, because one’s choice in a life mate is monumental in many ways compared to a career, since the probability of changing your career is pretty high compared to the probability of changing spouses. Hopefully!

    anyway, my point is that your parents might come around. More importantly, though, as pointed our in the post…if your parents do the quid pro quo and hold this above your head as a reason to sever or drastically alter your relationship with them, they need to realize that comes with SIGNIFICANT sacrifices and missed opportunities for them to be a part of your beautiful, wonderful, and happy life, including potential future grandchildren, etc. I felt for a long time that my parents were punishing me for some of the choices I made, making me feel like a child. It made me realize that, although I’m their child, I’m not A child, and I’ll have to live with many of my life choices after they’re gone later in my life.

    Now I’m facing all kinds of judgments from my in laws about how to raise kids, etc. my point is that it never ends, and its part of being a married adult with parents who care, but who let their caring come out sideways. I’m learning, slowly, that I value my parents opinion, but the decisions I make with my spouse are the final verdict!

  • http://Rippingback.wordpress.com Amber

    I’m a 36-year-old second-time bride, and I REALLY WISH my 22-year-old self had listened to her mother’s reservations. There wasn’t anything wrong with my first husband per se, but he was lacking in a lot of areas I was overlooking/not realizing how much it would matter five years down the line. I would suggest you sit down with your parents individually (so you can’t feel like you’re being ganged up on) and ask why they have reservations and what they are. “We think you should wait and consider” doesn’t sound like outright condemnation and it doesn’t sound like they think your fiancé’s a bad guy. Maybe they think you should finish college/see other people/travel to Europe before you get married. Maybe they think you shouldn’t jump into marriage after you’ve been together for only x long, or when you’re only y years old. I did a lot of growing and changing in my early 20s, as you do, and the guy I thought was swell at 18 wasn’t quite as much of a catch at 26. (In fairness, I wasn’t the girl HE fell in love with either.)

    If they just want you to wait a couple of years before you get married… You could consider that. You don’t need to be in a hurry to get married. If you’re going to spend the rest of your life with this man, well, you have LOTS of time together. I met my new husband 10 years ago, and it took him a long time to convince me that marriage was something I wanted to try again, but I don’t regret waiting. We dated, we lived together, we went through brain surgery and two cross-country moves before we got married, but nothing we did would have been different if we’d gotten married first. If I’d waited to marry my first husband… I probably wouldn’t have married him.

    Anyway. My best advice: really listen to your parents’ reservations, and really consider them. They know you pretty well and they have a lot more experience with both life and marriage. Now it may be that you listen and you consider, and you have an answer for all of their concerns, which is totally fine. My mother-in-law is a terrible worrywart and she seems convinced this my thoughtful, practical husband still has the decision-making of an impulsive teenager, and conversations with her seem to go, “Yes, Mom, of course I’ve thought about [this obvious thing]. It’s fine.” Maybe your parents are like that (and they may continue to be like that, even when you’re 30 and married and self-supporting), in which case, take a few minutes to assure them that you’ve considered the obvious things, and even the not-obvious thing. Reassure them a little.

    Good luck, and I hope you make the best and most prosperous choice, whatever that may be.

    • fermi

      I agree with Amber, I wish 22 year old Fermi listened to my parents, but I didn’t even have a chance to tell them I was getting married, I just eloped, BAD IDEA. And I eloped because I knew they would not be happy or accepting of it. In our case it took a few months for them to get over it but we ended up divorced 2 years later. He was not a bad man, just a bad husband (amongst other things) but I wish I had taken time to be in the relationship longer and would have talked it over with my parents. Maybe they just want you to take a little time to be engaged maybe? Are you “rushing” into it maybe too “young” (both were me just sayin). I don’t know…talk with them more about their concerns. That’s all I can say. And take your time…I definitely am this time.

      • SHELL shocked in San Diego

        First, I’m impressed with APW (Liz?) response to TCBY as well as agreeing with Amber. TCBY, your parents LOVE you, or they wouldn’t care about you getting married.
        I AM the mother of the bride who has been saying, ‘wait and consider’ to my 20 year old daughter and her 22 year old fiance- so I thought I’d share a different perspective. I was engaged at 19 and my parent’s disapproval saved me from disaster..(Prince Charming turned out to be psycho)
        First, we love our daughter’s fiance- he treats her well and is a gentleman. But her Dad and I know, after 34 years together, and mentoring ‘couples in crisis’ as well as pre-maritals, that marriage involves so much more than just ‘being in love.’ There are so many hurdles that a young couple doesn’t even know they’ll NEED to be concerned about. We look at the high divorce rate (85% in Military in our case) and we want our kids to go in to marriage with eyes wide open- we want the BEST for them.
        That said, THANK YOU ALL for opening my eyes to how our disapproval may be stressing out our beautiful daughter. We booked a venue yesterday so from now on, we’ll support them in their decision and help her plan the perfect wedding while her fiance is deployed!

    • TCBY

      I am sitting here wondering what exactly to say since a tremendous amount of ‘life’ has happened in the time since submitting this question. I really appreciate Liz’s advice and the comments, they are still extremely relevant and taken to heart as I navigate this confusing time of my life.

      We do not have a graduate story to tell, but we do have an unfolding story that I hope will get better and clearer with time. My dad passed away a couple of months ago, and we never got the chance to really fully resolve our differences in words. I spent several months not talking to my parents when they told me that they would never talk to me again for deciding to move forward with a marriage that they could not approve of over religious differences. Though it was never said, I guess we agreed to disagree in order to resume communication and my dad became ill a few months following. In the meantime, my fiance moved across the country for a postdoc. Then I followed him to the same state, but different city, for a permanent position pursuing my dream career.

      Regardless of what all happened and why, the important thing right now is that I was incredibly blessed to be by my dad’s side in his last days and send him away with love–a love that we just could not seem to communicate in words. Now the issues rest on my mom’s shoulders, but she needs time for mourning (as do I) before we try to move forward on marriage again and attempt to resolve the differences that we couldn’t resolve before. Pursuing our careers has added an extra layer of complexity, but life is all about juggling the things that are important. Parents are definitely very important.

      • Hintz

        Thanks for sharing your update, I’m so sorry to hear that your Dad passed. I’m hoping you’ll have some smoother days in the near future, good luck!

      • http://twitter.com/irisira irisira

        I hope that out of this tragedy comes some good (your mom coming around, for example). I am so sorry about your dad, but I am glad for you that you were able to say goodbye in a way that leaves you with no regrets.

        Good luck to both you and your fiance with the new jobs and the move and the wedding planning moving forward. :)

      • Gloria

        Condolences on your loss, I’m sure it’s been a tough time for your family.

        Religious differences can be a tough one to get over, although perhaps time will ease some of your mother’s concerns, and seeing your fiance at your side during this tough time couldn’t have hurt. Sometimes it helps to remind parents that just because your partner doesn’t believe everything that you do, doesn’t mean that it changes what you were brought up to believe in (assuming that you’re religious).

        I hope that you will be able to find your way to a continued good relationship with your mother, and that you have a long and happy marriage. Good luck!

  • Lizzie

    TCBY, I feel your struggle and I’m rooting hard for you guys. My new hubs and I are dealing with the fallout of a similar situation–our parents were happy when we were engaged, but then we eloped and they stopped speaking to us. There was a lot of hurt on both sides–ours and our parents’–and more than a month later we’re still learning to be comfortable around each other.

    I wish we all could just say “F*ck ‘em” and move on, but the reality is that we’ll always be tuned into their reactions and moods, especially disapproval. What’s helped Hubs and me was a) the support of our awesome friends and other relatives, and b) couples’ counseling. I may go back for individual sessions too.

    One caution is that if you ask your parents to sit down with you again and talk about things, they may think you’re “finally coming around” and are going to apologize to them. If you can clarify beforehand that you want to talk about making your (parent/family) relationship stronger in the future, and that the marriage itself is not on the table, that might help everyone understand what’s really at stake.

    Best of luck to you! I wish you didn’t have to deal with this, but I’m glad you have Team Practical to help you you.

    • http://theincompleteidiotsguide.blogspot.com/ Alyssa

      It’s hard theoretically to say f*ck them and move on because whether you like it or not parents are a part of your life. It’s one thing for them to be concerned about you making a bad decision, but definitely another when you are making a genuine good decision for yourself but they don’t see it. I definitely sympathize with my mother thinking I am too young and me just feeling like she doesn’t understand the depth of support that I get from my relationship.

  • LadyB

    This really hard. TCBY, I’m going through something very similar. My partner has a physical disability, which was never much of a concern to my parents when we were dating but had become a much larger concern for them now that we’re engaged. Depending on what your circumstances are, your parents concerns might be similar to mine in that I’m “setting myself up for a hard road”–with living situations, kids, etc. and “settling”–like I should just go out and choose another partner who would be “easier” in the long run. After a lot of yelling and crying, my partner and I eventually did sit down with my parents, listened to their concerns and explained our plans for our future together (regarding his disability and ways we could adapt to accommodate it with houses, kids, etc.); it helped that we addressed their concerns–it hasn’t been all roses and sunshine since–but it helped. They want the best for me, even though our conceptions of what is “best” don’t exactly match up.

    Be honest and upfront with your partner about all of this, and it’s definitely a good idea to get some couples counseling together so you can make sure you’re on the same page and can work out strategies for dealing with your parents as a team.

    And finally, if your parents don’t come around much, surround yourself with people who are really happy for you. It’s sad and lonely to not feel mentally and emotionally supported through most of your engagement, and I waited too long to tell close friends about everything that was going on with my parents. I’m just now starting to feel people rally around me as we come down the home stretch.

    Congratulations on your engagement, and good luck with your parents!

  • Marina

    I really really value my parents’ opinions, and if they said “Wait and consider…” anything about my relationship I would absolutely want to consider their point, if maybe not wait. I know this depends a lot on your relationship with your parents, and personally I think I have the best parents in the entire universe so yours may not be as awesome as mine. ;) But like others have said, “Wait and consider…” doesn’t sound like outright disapproval, and if you can show them that you have considered, if not waited, that may deal with the issue all together.

    I suppose I actually did hear this from my parents, although my views did match up with theirs at that point. I met my now-husband when I was 17 and moved in with him when we both went to college. At that point my parents asked me some carefully worded questions about where I saw this relationship going. I think if I had said, “I consider us engaged already and we will be getting married ASAP” they would have had some major reservations. Instead I said, “I want us both to prove we can financially support ourselves individually before making any permanent decisions, and so I want to wait until we’re out of college before officially getting engaged.” I was lucky in that I was on the same page as my parents about what we should wait and consider about.

  • ANA

    I feel your pain. This happened with my parents and it really put a strain on the engagement period. The morning of my wedding my mom told me it wasn’t too late to run the other way and she didn’t care if the deposits were lost/how many people flew there/ she would give me all the things and all the money she wouldn’t give me if I went through with this…
    It hurt so much and I wish that wasn’t a part of my memories from that day. However, my wedding happened, my marriage is strong, and when my parents heard over and over every wedding guest and friend and even strangers say how perfect we were for each other/ how I was the happiest bride they had ever seen, my parents were forced to reconsider. I’m happy to say that they are actively trying to rebuild the bridges they burned during our engagement. I hope things work out for you too.

  • anonymous

    This really hit a chord with me because we went through a similar situation with my husband’s parents. My situation falls on the extreme end of the spectrum, and it was not pretty. We did everything we could to address their (nonexistent) concerns, but they just continued to refuse to support our marriage. They wanted us to wait a year, but had no good reason for suggesting that alternative. In my opinion they had spent the better part of the two years prior to that trying to break us up and were just buying some time do continue to try to do so. What made this situation even more difficult was my husband’s entire extended family, supprted his parents without an explanation as to why they couldnt support us. After multiple very frustrating conversations we went ahead with our wedding planning, and chose to do what made us happy. We were able to do this because my parents were amazing, and we had a very supportive group of extended family and friends. Needless to say they were VERY angry and put my husband through some very emotionally abusive situations in the weekend leading up to the wedding. They went so far as to try to sabotage our plans, they turned off his alarm on the morning of our 10am wedding, when the best man went to pick up my husband for our pictures he was still sleeping!! It has now been almost two years since the wedding and we have not had a single phone conversation with them since, and have only had an email exchange here or there. We are in the process of getting therapy for the whole thing, but are getting to the point where we dont need a relationship with them to be fulfilled and happy. They have only brought negativity into our lives and we would like to have a relationship with them but only if it can be positive and healthy.

    I guess what I am trying to say is sometimes things dont work out how you think they will, but thats okay too. What is important is that you and your fiancé are happy and support each other.

  • Katie

    Trust yourself. It’s really easy to overthink things, its really easy to try to analyze things but ask yourself: What do YOU want? Go to a quite spot and listen to your heart. Listen to the small reactions that you have to all your interactions. You ultimately know what the right answer is for you, even if you read 100 advice columns, it still wouldn’t change. No one but you knows what is best for you!So listen to yourself and know that whatever you decide there will be people there to support you and be there for you through whatever outcome you are faced.

  • http://twitter.com/irisira irisira

    Such good advice. My mother’s reaction to our engagement really put a damper on the day (fortunately, my ILs reaction 100 percent made up for it – I hit the MIL jackpot, for sure). We had some pretty heated discussions over the first month of our engagement, and I hit my limit when another family member started with some passive aggressive line-crossing shit.

    I sat her down and told her that I really needed her to be on board and to be supportive of my decisions, that her behavior was not okay, that I needed her on my side with the planning process. We had a good, honest discussion, and she ended up being my biggest cheerleader.

    So, in other words, an emphatic YES to Liz’s advice. Communication and honesty is always the best route. ALWAYS.

  • Pippa

    Ohhh this post is so timely. I’m not sure if I can offer any actual advice on this kind of situation, but I can say that I’m living it, and these comments and the post have given me some things to think about.
    In my own case, my father has said to me, “Don’t marry this man.” My partner and I have a long and complicated history but almost 3 years on from that comment we are actively planning a wedding. When we decided to move in together after being together for 5 years, my father told us we should slow down, and that I was too immature for such a decision. And I also get disapproval from him in terms of my career – I’m not a doctor so I’m not living up to my full potential. I don’t know yet how I’m going to deal with these things. I’m hoping that time will bring him around, if very slowly. In the meantime, we can at least sit down and I can let him know that I’m hearing him…

  • S

    I actually told my now-fiancee-then-boyfriend that if my parents and friends hadn’t liked him I’m not sure if we’d still be together. But that’s because I can’t foresee my family and friends disliking a guy for actual reasonable reasons; if they did actually dislike a boyfriend, I’m sure it would be for some actual valid reason (which especially when you first start dating you might not see), I can’t see them disliking a boyfriend because he dyes his hair green or something irrelevant. This is, unfortunately, not the case with everyone’s friends and family. So if up until this point you really believed that your family wanted nothing but what is best *for you* (ie, not what *they* think is best to happen for you), then I’d be really curious to figure out why they think your engagement is such a bad idea.

    Even if you disagree, it’s important to know why they think that. Assuming that they DO want the best for you, and that they are reasonable, and that your fiance is a wonderful perfect guy for you, there could still be some issues that should be addressed. Maybe they think it’s rude that he does X because they assume that means he thinks Y (something bad), when you know he does X because of reason Z (something reasonable) that they had no idea about.

    Maybe once they find out about reason Z your problems will be solved. Or maybe you’ll find out that your family doesn’t think reason Z is valid (but you do), and you’ll have more info about your opinions vs theirs going forward, and if action X is relatively unimportant you’ll know to avoid doing X around them. Or maybe you’ll find out that he really does think Y and that’s an issue you two need to discuss.

  • Gytha

    Anyone got any guidance for a mother who disapproves, and is going to continue to disapprove indefinitely, because she raised me Orthodox Jewish and I lost religion and am marrying an agnostic? Even though I’ve made it incredibly clear to her that our kids are going to still know lots about our culture and history and that’s really important to me, she’s heartbroken and angry. This is especially hard because she’s going through some very difficult life stuff right now and I’m one of the only people she loves and trusts enough to lean on, and she’s often been such a wonderful mother to me, but she just … I don’t think she’s ever going to get past the religion thing, ever, and I just wish anything about this could be happy when it comes to her.

    • http://twitter.com/irisira irisira

      “My choices on religion are neither a reflection on you nor are they a rejection of you. I am still your daughter, and I love you and accept you for who you are. Please love and accept me for who I am.” And then refuse to engage the discussion further. If she tries to engage further, lather, rinse, repeat. Calmly. She may never accept your decision, all you can do is stand firmly on this.

      Also, if your kids decide to be Orthodox Jews as adults (or any religion that is not some cuckoo cult that wants them to kill themselves or something), promise yourself you will be accepting of who THEY are. (But don’t tell your mother this, or she may forcibly try to convert them.)

      • Gytha

        Have totally already resolved to do the thing in your second paragraph. I’ve seen how much comfort and happiness and sound guidance it gives my Orthodox family and friends, it just happens to not feel true for me.

        • http://twitter.com/irisira irisira

          Good luck. I know it is not easy to follow the path that is right for you that was not what your parents specifically envisioned. She needs some space to mourn that loss, and acknowledging that to her will help her see that you’re not doing this to spite her. I hope she comes around, for both of your sakes.

  • Hintzy

    The advise given here sounds pretty spot on to me – especially the part about not letting it get between your team.

    Thankfully our situation is pretty well resolved, but we went through some ugly steps to get there. At this point I don’t feel like anyone disapproves our plans to get married nor did any one vocally disapprove our buying a house together – they only vocalized that they hoped it would be followed by legal marriage and not a perpetual state of not-legally-official-in-the-eyes-of-society kinda thing. They in this case is particularly my father – we’ve had many long talks, many tears from my eyes, and a lot of resentment on my part and especially my fiance’s part towards my Dad. Which is sad, because I really seriously love my father, a lot. And I’m sure it had a lot to do with my now fiance leaving me (aburptly) a couple years ago – he deicided that he didn’t want a serious relationship any more and walked away. I’m pretty sure my Dad said something along the lines of “I told you so” and my step mother made awful comments when my partner and I had reconciled and announced our intentions to be a couple once more several months later. To be fair, many of those issues that Dad had harped on about and I had cried over were issues that led to our split, and when we got back together we worked hard on those issues.

    That hard work and my willingness to talk it out with Dad, tears and all, lead to him now being accepting. My fiance and my Dad can have a (still somewhat awkward) conversation now, and I’m way more careful about how I allow other’s comments and critiques affect the dynamic between my fiance and I. So I swear, these kinds of rifts can be made better, and it’s definitely worth trying. My step mom still says awful things… I’ve learned to smile, nod and move on.

  • Kate

    A friend just got engaged to a man who has all the indicators of an abuser, and her parents – particularly her mother – is not thrilled (obviously). Sometimes the people who love you have a clearer perspective from the outside – especially when you want to believe only the best about the person you love.

  • similarly burdened bride

    Thank you for this question and answer post. I am also dealing with something similar in my life, and it’s helpful to hear how other people are dealing with their situations. When my fiancé and I got engaged, my mother disapproved vehemently, made hurtful (untrue) accusations, and tried to turn my entire family against me. I had a hard time processing the sadness and anger that brought me at a time when I wanted to be celebrating my happiness with my fiancé. It helped a lot that our friends and his family (who we are much closer to) are over the moon happy and excited for us.

    After many years of therapy, I have come to understand that my mother is mentally and emotionally unstable (there is a long pattern of very unhealthy behavior). However, for my own peace of mind, I did exactly as this post suggested – I talked to her with an open mind to allow her an opportunity to be heard, but she is still unable to be supportive in a meaningful way. We have set our wedding date for September, and I am unsure if she will be a part of it (or if I want her to be).

    One of the hardest parts for me has been trying to talk to my fiancé about this. The accusations my mother made about him, besides untrue, were incredibly hurtful, and I didn’t want to make him feel upset or insecure. I am so glad we did talk about it, though, because he has been incredibly empathetic and understanding. He knows this is more about her and her insecurities that it is about him. We have been able to work through it together, which is only making our relationship stronger. I am so impressed with how well he’s handled the situation and how supportive he has been of me through this, which speaks volumes about his character and has given me more confidence in him and our relationship than my mother could ever undo.

  • hanna

    This post really touched my heart, as I too deal with this same situation. While I cannot offer advice, I found it very helpful to read through other’s experiences, so I will share mine. I have been together with my now fiance for 7 years, but just recently engaged. My parents have disapproved from the beginning. I have always had such an incredible relationship with my parents, that their disapproval should be the end of the story and make me drop the relationship. However, from the beginning there were never “good enough” reasons to make me really validate their position, to the point where I would leave the person I am in love with. Trust me, I have TRIED to HONESTLY consider everything they have said but “He’s not who we’ve pictured you with” and “He is very different from you and us” did not seem worthy of my sacrifice to leave him.

    We decided to get engaged and when he asked for their blessing, it was not given… but rather “we cannot tell you what to do, she is an adult”. This destroyed him and caused him to definitely resent my parents. He knew he wanted to marry me and so he asked anyway. However, I am worried the resentment will ruin the relationship further (with my parents). He is very offended by their comments… and I don’t blame him (their comments were uncharacteristic of who he is, and completely off base… but they will not budge their opinion). I am upset and stuck in the middle. I want to be able to talk to him about it.. and I do.. but I cannot fully confide in him, as it is such an offensive topic toward him.

    How to maintain a relationship with both sides is hardest part

  • The Other Half

    Any advice for the other half? I’m the fiance who is hoping to marry my bride to be. We’ve been engaged for over three years now, but have no wedding plans in the foreseeable future. She still lives with her parents and works with them. So she struggles to get out from under their judgement and manipulation. She has a caring but controlling mother with anger management and fear of abandonement issues. Another family member informed her mother that I was concerned we weren’t moving ahead because my fiance fears her mother’s wrath. We were on the brink of breaking up but worked out some issues and feel we are on the right track. In the meantime a huge rift has developed where her parents and I are no longer on speaking terms. I’ve reached out to them on numerous occaisions over the past year and a half, but all attempts to resolve this situation have been rebuffed. They see themselves as the injured party and feel no motivation to resolve this situation. Their daughter is miserable because of the stress and strain. But that doesn’t cause them to budge. They hold themselves faultless and place all of the blame in my direction. My fiance and I have gone to counciling together and individually. We’ve made some good progress and our love for eachother and our relationship is stronger than ever. But her relationship with her parents has really been strained. They have dug in their heels and even battled with other family members over these circumstances. Of course those arguements are seen as my fault as well. It appears the only solution they are willing to accept is the end of our relationship. My fiance is fearful that if she moves out or proceeds with our plans to marry, they will turn their backs on her, or she will be seen as turning her back on them. I’m trying to be as supportive and understanding as possible, but sometimes it seems like we are getting nowhere. She desparately wants everyone to get along and find some hapiness together. Without their blessing, she has serious reservations about getting married. She probably would do it, but the thought of doing so with the possibility of her parents not being there is more than she care bare. She feels the pressure of this huge dilemma and often blames herself for all of the anguish this has caused. She is struggling and I am wondering what else can I do?

  • Chrissy

    I introduced my bf to my parents a month ago and we ve been together for one year. They ultimately said NO!! Reason being he is 17 years older than me, he hs bn divorced 13yrs ago and he has 5kids frm that first marriage. All they think is that i wl b miserable when i get married to him. His x wife n her kids will make my life a living hell. I think they have a ground for their disapproval but what annoyed me is they are saying they need me to bring home a guy of my age who has no kids n no x wife! How can u dictate what is good for your daughter?! That being absurd. They also say that my bfs family is full of fools for allowing their son to marry a younger woman. Nw that made me feel like hating my parents forever!! They claim to be christians yet they have the guts to insult people?! I am currently not in gd terms with my parents and am considering not to talk to them for the rest of my life.