We all want our parents to approve of our choice in a partner. The desire for this kind of affirmation is natural, and during stressful times we need our family. But, when making a lifelong decision such as marriage, it’s important to remember that you are the one who has to live with that decision—not your mom and dad.
This is not to say that your parents' opinion should be disregarded when considering a life partner. Oftentimes they know you just as well as, if not better than, your partner and they also often have the life experience to know what a good marriage looks like. That said, your parents' disapproval of your future mate puts you in a sticky situation. You don’t want to stubbornly disregard the opinions of the people you value most.
So, how much weight do you place on your parents’ opinion when deciding whether to link up for life with the man you love? Be really honest with yourselves about these three questions, and you will be in a good place.
01. Do your parents have any good reasons for their negative opinions?
It’s important to reflect upon why your parents don't like him—it’s possible that they have good reasons for their negative opinion. Think back on your relationship history. Did he maybe say something that upset your parents, and they’ve never made up? Maybe he holds conflicting beliefs or values? Once you have identified their concerns, have a conversation with your parents to see if you and your man can resolve any unaddressed conflict.
It could be that your parents do not have any good reasons for disliking your future husband, and in this case you may need to lean on your own instincts instead of theirs. No one likes to admit it, but we all have our shallow biases. Maybe he’s from the wrong part of town or the wrong country. Perhaps he’s too short, too skinny, or practices his faith in a different way than your family. You need to sniff out and understand both your own and your family’s biases because these have no place in making a lifelong decision. Your parents’ biases do not make them bad people, but it does call their judgment into question when they are evaluating your potential spouse.
02. Are their complaints something you can live with?
If your parents do object to your partner and you decide to marry him anyway, then you are most likely in for a long and bumpy ride. In the best-case scenario, your parents will learn to respect your decision and support you both. In the worst case, your parents will struggle to move past your decision and will make their discontent known for the rest of your lives together. You need to ask yourself whether or not you can live with this latter dynamic since consistent tension with your parents can lead to frustrations, anger, and eventual bitterness. If you do decide to marry your partner and you are reasonably certain that your parents will negatively react, then you need to make sure that you have the proper boundaries in place to protect your marriage from the influence of your parental relationship.
03. If your parents’ approval will make or break you, then what does that say about your ability to really be a united couple?
A wise person once told me that we are free to make our own decisions in life, but that we have to own up to both the positive and negative consequences of those decisions. That means that we have to accept that our parents will not always be able to bail us out of our problems. You will have to make choices with your spouse that your parents may disagree with, and if their approval makes or breaks us, then we really haven’t reached the maturity and independence necessary for marriage. Indeed, if your parents’ influence drives your opinions in your marriage, then you may find that your marriage is among four people instead of between two. You and your spouse need to be a unit, stand by your decisions, and then do your best to make good come out of a bad situation if necessary.
It’s helpful to receive proper advice when deciding if and whom we should marry, but our choices are ultimately our own. Your parents are not the ones who have to live with him—you do.
Photo Credit: Sean Pollock