Marrying Someone Your Parents Don't Approve Of? Here's What To Do
When you meet "the one" or the love of your life, a natural next step is to introduce them to your parents. What happens when your parents don't like them and you decide you want to get married? Marrying someone your parents don't approve of can be a brave but difficult decision to make. You may be worried about what this will mean for the future of your relationship with your parents and how it might also affect your partner.
How do you manage the emotions around your decision and practical aspects of wedding planning? Expert therapists share eight tips on how to navigate parents not approving of your marriage.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
A range of feelings may come up when you decide to choose love over your parents approval and some could include guilt, sadness, anger, stress and doubt, says Daphne Fuller, a somatic therapist and director of Therapeutic Solutions and Wellness in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Unpack what you're feeling either through journaling or confiding in someone you trust so you don't implode or end up carrying the difficulty of the situation alone.
Check In With Your Partner
You may get so caught up with the overwhelming feelings you're experiencing that you forget to check in with your partner. Meanwhile, when your parents don't like your partner, it can be devastating, isolating and create feelings of rejection for them too.
"If you are not careful, this can put a strain on your relationship with your partner, your relationship with your parents and your partner's relationship with your parents," says Fuller.
To help minimize the damage it does to your relationship, touch base with your partner regularly to find out how they're doing and how you can support them. Try your best to listen without judgment and create a safe space for them to share their feelings as you navigate the situation.
Utilize a Mental Health Professional
If things become increasingly overwhelming, consider relying on a mental health professional like a couple's therapist or family therapist. You may decide to do therapy with your partner, with your parents or together if everyone is open to it. Individual therapy can be extremely helpful too, especially if you have a complicated relationship with your parents and their disapproval is triggering for you. Working through any parent induced trauma can help you manage your emotions better through the experience and gain clarity where needed.
Sometimes parents don't approve of a partner because they have preconceived notions about them or haven't taken the time to get to know them. To ease your parents' fears, try having an open conversation with them and giving insight to your relationship.
"Consider sitting down with your parents to have a conversation with them and share the health and love within your relationship," says Fuller. She also recommends having the talk without your partner if appropriate. "This could help you avoid a negative interaction with your parent(s) and partner that could potentially harm your relationship."
Form A Support Group
Having a group of people rally behind you when your parents disapprove of your relationship can help you in a multitude of ways. For instance, you may need a cousin or friend to walk you down the aisle and play other roles that a parent would typically perform at a wedding. That aside, it can feel good to have people who respect your decision and support your love affirm you.
Support may also be outside of your immediate circle. Fuller recommends exploring support groups like Co-Dependents Anonymous if you have a codependent relationship with your parents. It's a support group that supports people desiring healthier relationships.
Co-dependency may look like being emotionally enmeshed, a lack of clear boundaries and individualism within a parent-child relationship.
"Co-dependent parents can make you feel you are doing something wrong or that they will not survive if you get married," says Fuller. "I have seen situations where the parent has told the adult child, "I will be dead soon, so you won't have to worry about me much longer."
Once you've made up your mind to marry someone you parents don't approve of, it's important to set boundaries.
"This may mean not talking to certain people about your relationship, and even agreeing about which family members you still wish to engage with as a couple," says Ebunoluwa Orimoloye, owner of Agape Love Counseling.
"Talking to your partner about what holidays and celebrations will look like as you engage family is also another important place to discuss regarding boundary setting," she adds. Aside from setting boundaries with your partner, you can also set some boundaries with your parents and communicate those boundaries with them to be sure to have follow-up actions in place if your boundaries aren't respected.
Confusion is a common reaction to parents not approving of your partner. If doubt begins to creep in, explore it through journaling, therapy or talking to a neutral and trusted person.
"Take some time to write out what you want in a marriage, what you currently have in this relationship and if it is healthy for you," Fuller suggests.
You also want to be honest with yourself and make sure there is no truth to what your parents are saying.
"Sometimes those on the outside looking in can see things that perhaps you can't see or things you may be in denial about," Fuller adds. "It is better to work out any challenges you have with your partner prior to getting married."
Sometimes parents come around when they disapprove of a partner. Unfortunately, sometimes they don't and that's why it's critical to practice acceptance, says Orimoloye.
"Many of us dream our whole lives about life with our soulmates. Having a family that does not approve of the relationship can be very different from what you imagined," says Orimoloye. "When you practice acceptance you are present and aware of your current thoughts and emotions without any judgment." She also adds that acceptance isn't approval and it's ok to hope for a different outcome in the future.
Acceptance isn't an easy road to travel, but it is a way to find peace and focus your attention on planning your life with your partner.