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

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 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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