When Your Parents Disapprove of Your Marriage

A family in conflict
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It can be devastating when you think you've found Mr. or Ms. Right and your parents think he or she is all wrong for you. If you're close to your parents, you want their approval when taking this big step, 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. Here's what to do (and not do) should you find yourself in this sticky situation.

Talk (and Listen) to Your Parents

Have a frank conversation with your folks about why they don't like your partner or approve of your union. Calmly and respectfully allow them to voice their objections. It may turn out that they just haven't had enough of a chance to really get to know him or her. Or maybe their opposition is based on a misunderstanding of some sort. If you can get to the bottom of the problem, you may be able to reassure them that your fiance will make an ideal spouse.

Conversely, there's also the possibility that your parents have a legitimate issue with your fiance: Maybe he or she 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.

The bottom line: You may not like what your parents are saying about your significant other, but unless you have strong evidence otherwise (for instance, maybe they're prejudiced against people or his or her race or religion), you should give them the benefit of the doubt that their advice comes from a place of love and protection of you.

Allow Them to Get to Know Your Significant Other Better

If you think 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 him or her better. Seeing the two of you together and witnessing your love can help convince them that your fiance will be a supportive and committed life partner—and a son- or daughter-in-law 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.

Plan for the Future

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 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. Just don't allow your spouse to distance you from your parents.

If you choose to attend functions and events alone (or with your children) in order to protect your spouse, that's one thing. But realize that isolating you from friends and family is a red flag in your marriage.

Tactics to Avoid

  • Don't use emotional blackmail on your parents to get them to come around—even if there's a pregnancy involved and 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

A Word From Verywell

A parent who disapproves of your partner choice is not a new concept. It is, however, a painful one. Part of growing up involves making your own choices based on the values you have been raised with. 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 some concerns that can be ironed out, you and your partner as a team can make a big effort to do your part in improving the situation.

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  1. 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 Marital Relationship Quality. Fam Process. 2019. doi:10.1111/famp.12519