Getting engaged is a major milestone and a big life step—not to mention an incredibly exciting time in your life. But what if not everyone is as thrilled about your upcoming nuptials as you and your partner? Suddenly, your "perfect day" starts to turn into a family feud.
Relationship expert Wendy Walsh weighs in on what to do when your parents are not supportive of your decision to get married.
Meet the Expert
- Wendy Walsh, Ph.D., is a relationship coach and attachment specialist. She hosts the Mating Matters podcast and is the author of The Boyfriend Test, The Girlfriend Test, and The 30-Day Love Detox.
Don't Jump to Conclusions
It can be a serious blow when the people you're closest to aren't super excited about your engagement, even more so if they don't approve of your relationship at all. And while your first instinct might be to say you don't care and just run off together in newlywed bliss, there might be more to their disapproval than you realize. Try putting yourself in their shoes before acting out of haste. You may even want to consider sitting down with your parents alone or with your partner to help clear the air.
Talk to Your Parents
If your parents aren't supportive, begin by exploring why they don't approve of your marriage. "Most parents want the best for their child, and I promise you, their attitude is related to a fear. Perhaps they are worried about your future because they think you are marrying too young, without resources, or are in a relationship that they fear might turn abusive," says Walsh. "Talking about their fears honestly and reassuring your parents—or even considering the validity of their fears—can bring you all to a greater understanding of each other."
Talk With Your Partner
It may be hard to admit that some of their concerns are valid, but don't forget that marriage is a lifelong commitment (one that shouldn't be taken lightly, at that). It's best to be as open-minded and realistic as possible before making a decision blinded by passion. How well do you and your partner really know each other? Many couples go for premarital counseling, whether it's for Pre-Cana or just to talk things out before saying "I do." It can bring up a lot of issues (in a good way) that you and your partner may not have thought about or discussed.
Introduce Opportunities for Your Parents and Partner to Bond
Often parental objections will stem from misperceptions or misunderstandings. (These will usually become illuminated during your one-on-one conversation with them.) Help them truly see your partner for who they are by creating space for them to get to know one another and connect. If you have mutual interests, schedule group activities for everyone to bond. It can even be as simple as intentionally carving out time to share a meal together.
If you continuously find conversations dissolving into bouts of talking past one another or escalating to arguments, it may be time to consider some professional support. A counselor or therapist can serve as an objective mediator, and spot areas of improvement for everyone to work on. This will also set the foundation for healthier family dynamics moving forward.
Set Boundaries and Plan for the Future
If a happy agreement can't be forged, it's time to consider compromise. Your parents may be unwilling to waver in their objections to your relationship, but they won't stand in the way of your autonomy and love life. Have an open and constructive conversation about how you can make this situation work without risking either relationship. Boundaries can look like continuing to see your parents or attend family functions, but asking your partner to keep a distance.
Be mindful of not allowing your parents' or your partner's opinion of the other to influence your own relationship with each party.
Give Your Parents an Ultimatum
After taking your parents' words into consideration, if you discover that their reluctance is aimed at preventing you from acting independently or is a bid to control you, then it's time to set firm boundaries. Walsh says, "Tell them clearly that you love them and want their support in your decision. If they can't be supportive, you must plan without them." While moving forward without your parents' blessing isn't ideal (even unthinkable if you come from a close-knit family), the commitment between you two should be what matters. Focus on each other and celebrating this time in your lives. Either your parents will find a way to respect your decision to wed, or they risk missing out on your big day.