When Your Parents Disapprove of Your Marriage

Shot of a young woman ignoring her bf at home

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It can be devastating when you think you've found the perfect partner and your parents disapprove of them. If you're close to your parents, you want their approval of your marriage. But you also want to remain loyal to the person you're committing to spending the rest of your life with. The upshot: You're torn with a capital T.

Don't use emotional blackmail on your parents to get them to come around—even if there's a pregnancy involved and/or you're a minor who needs their legal consent to marry. Try to understand your folks' 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 won't destroy your love for one another.

Why Your Parents Disapprove of Your Relationship

Some possible reasons your parents might not like your partner include:

  • They might be concerned that your partner is not right for you
  • They might be concerned for your safety and well-being
  • They may have noticed behaviors or interactions that raise concerns
  • They might be jealous
  • They might disapprove that you are marrying someone from outside of your cultural or religious background
  • There might be a lack of boundaries

Sometimes parental disapproval is rooted in genuine concerns. In other cases, dislike might stem from personality differences. But it can also result from dysfunctional family relationships.

Poor parental boundaries might also contribute to their disapproval of your relationship. In such cases, creating and enforcing clear boundaries may help.

Regardless of the reasons, research has shown that parental disapproval of relationships can take a toll on your marriage.

One older study found that parental interference actually increased feelings of love between couples, a phenomenon that researchers dubbed the Romeo and Juliet effect. Some more recent studies have found that approval from social networks may act as a buffer against family disapproval.

However, other research has indicated that disapproval from family and friends generally tends to hurt relationship satisfaction, quality, and outcomes. 

Addressing this disapproval and finding ways to cope with it can be important for the health and future of your relationship with your partner. Here are a few tactics you might try to help you parents feel more comfortable with your partner.

Talk (and Listen) to Your Parents

While it can be a challenging subject, it is important to have a frank conversation with your folks about why they don't like your partner or approve of your marrying. Calmly and respectfully allow them to voice their objections.

You may that your parents haven't had a chance to get to know your partner. Or maybe their opposition is based on a misunderstanding. If you can get to the bottom of the problem, you may be able to reassure them that your partner will make a good spouse.

Conversely, there's also the possibility that your parents have a legitimate issue. Maybe your partner has cheated on you in the past or has been too controlling or demanding. You may realize your parents' concerns are valid and that you should seriously consider them—and maybe talk them over with a trusted friend or family member to get their take too.

You may not like what your parents say about your significant other. But unless you have strong evidence otherwise (for instance, maybe they're prejudiced against people of your partner's race or religion), give them the benefit of the doubt. Their advice comes from a place of love and protection.

Help Your Parents Get to Know Your Partner

More together-time might help your parents become more comfortable with your partner and see him or her as you do. Look for and encourage such opportunities. Invite them out to dinner or to a religious service or sporting event.

Encourage your partner to discuss childhood memories, dreams, and goals, so your parents can get to know them better. Seeing the two of you together and witnessing your love can help convince them that your significant other will be a supportive and committed life partner—someone they can gladly welcome into the family.

Consider Counseling

An objective third party, such as a licensed marriage and family therapist or clergy member, 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.

Another option: You and your partner might agree to attend premarital counseling or an "Engaged Encounter" weekend. This may help alleviate your parents' fears that you're marrying too quickly, marrying for the wrong reasons, marrying too young, or marrying the wrong person.

Don't ignore second thoughts. If you're having reservations about your relationship, postpone your wedding until you're confident you're making the right decision. Be assured that it's less traumatic to call off a wedding than it is to get a divorce.

Plan for the Future

If your parents continue to disapprove even after your marriage, talk about the boundaries and limits you both need to set in your relationship with your parents. It's important that their disapproval doesn't become a wedge between you and your spouse.

Decide together, for instance, 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.

You may choose to attend functions and events alone (or with your children) in order to protect your spouse. But if your partner isolates you from friends and family, that is a red flag in your marriage.

Tactics to Avoid

Don't allow your parents' reservations to destroy your relationship with your fiance or spouse. 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, consider seeing a marriage counselor. 

Don't permit 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 as well.

A Word From Verywell

A parent who disapproves of your partner choice is not a new concept. It is, however, a painful one. Don't 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 concerns that can be ironed out, you and your partner as a team can do your part to improve the situation.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Bradford AB, Drean L, Sandberg JG, Johnson LN. They may disapprove, but I still love you: Attachment behaviors moderate the effect of social disapproval on ,arital relationship quality. Fam Process. 2019. doi:10.1111/famp.12519

  3. Driscoll R, Davis KE, Lipetz ME. Parental interference and romantic love: the Romeo and Juliet effectJ Pers Soc Psychol. 1972;24(1):1-10. doi:10.1037/h0033373

  4. Sinclair HC. Ellithorpe CN. The new story of Romeo and Juliet. In C. R. Agnew (Ed.) Social Influences on Close Relationships: Beyond the Dyad. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press; 2016.

  5. Felmlee DH. No couple is an island: a social network perspective on dyadic stability. Social Forces. 2001;79(4):1259-1287. doi:10.1353/sof.2001.0039

By Sheri Stritof
Sheri Stritof has written about marriage and relationships for 20+ years. She's the co-author of The Everything Great Marriage Book.