What to Do When Your Parents Disapprove of Your Marriage

A family in conflict
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When your parents disapprove of who you choose to marry, both your marriage and your parents' marriage can be negatively impacted. Additionally, the relationship you have with your parents can be severely damaged.

What to Do and What Not to Do

  • Be honest with your parents when you share the reasons you love your partner. Look for opportunities for your parents and your partner to get to know one another better. At dinner with your parents and partner, discuss childhood memories, dreams, goals, and so on.
  • Although you may not like what your parents are saying about the person you love, listen to them. Listening to your parents does not mean that you agree with what they say. You should give your parents the benefit of the doubt that their advice comes from a place of love and protection of you. 
  • If you are a minor, your parents do have to give legal consent for you to get married. Even if there is a pregnancy involved, they may say no. Don't try to use emotional blackmail on your parents. Try to understand their willingness to be disliked by you as a sign of their love for you.Realize that if you and your partner are truly in love, waiting a few years to get married will not destroy your love for one another.
  • Be willing to go to family counseling with your parents. An objective third party, such as a licensed marriage and family therapist or clergy may be very helpful in getting all of you to improve communication and find viable solutions to this disagreement. A counselor can also help facilitate the forming of a new family structure that includes your spouse.
  • Consider attending premarital counseling or an "Engaged Encounter" weekend. This may help alleviate your parents' fears that you are marrying too quickly, marrying for the wrong reasons, marrying too young, or marrying the wrong person.
  • If you are having second thoughts about your relationship, postpone your wedding until you are sure about your relationship. Realize that it is less traumatic to call off a wedding than it is to get a divorce.
  • If your parents continue to dislike your spouse even after your marriage, talk about the boundaries and limits you both need to set in your relationship with your parents so that their disapproval doesn't become a wedge between you and your spouse.
  • Decide together whether or not your spouse will attend your family gatherings or visit your parents with you, but don't allow your spouse to distance you from your parents. Realize that isolating you from friends and family is a red flag in your marriage. If you choose to attend functions and events alone (or with your children) in order to protect your spouse then that is something different. 
  • Studies show that parental disapproval of a spouse can create distrust, criticism, and conflict in a marriage. It can also be a recurring topic of your arguments that can drive a wedge between you both. If this happens, please consider seeing a marriage counselor. 
  • Don't allow the conflict to escalate to the point of destroying your relationship with your parents. Consider the consequences of a long-term estrangement from your parents and possibly your grandparents, siblings, and other extended family members. Realize that holding grudges and anger can harm your own health.

A parent who disapproves of your partner choice is not a new concept. It is, however, a painful one. Part of growing up is making your own choices based on the values you have been raised with. Do not expect your parents to embrace someone who has an addiction, is dependent on you, hurts you in any way or treats you with disrespect. But, if there are some concerns that can be ironed out, as a team you both can make a big effort to do your part in making things better.  

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