Groom Duties

What to Do if: Your Parents Don’t Approve of Her

Plunge reader Ryanh007 asks:

“You meet girl.  You fall in love with girl.  You want to marry girl.  What do you do if your family doesn’t like her?  This isn’t the irrational “Nobody is good enough for my boy” dislike, its the irrational “Her family isn’t as good as ours, she works at walmart, she isn’t the best looking girl in town” dislike, plus other arguments that wouldn’t hold their weight.

What do you do when your family is too stuck up to see your bride to be the way you see her?  They have valid points, but you aren’t as stuck up as them.”

Here’s the good news. Since you were a little kid, it feels like we, the children, are powerless, and your parents wield the sword of destiny.  Even when we move out, get jobs, grow up–it doesn’t matter–we still have that instinctive, primordial fear that, the second we slip up, we will “get grounded.”

The dirty little secret: they can no longer punish you. They can no longer ground you. If you want, you can eat a whole tub of strawberry ice cream without touching your broccoli.   Their influence–while still real, undeniable, and largely helpful and necessary–has waned.

Or, to be more blunt: what are they gonna do?

Let’s push this to its logical extreme. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that your girlfriend fits the following profile:

  • She’s never heard of the Supreme Court.
  • She once drove drunk and smashed her car into the front of a Taco Bell, causing $26,279 in damaged gorditas.
  • She can’t read.
  • She has four children with another man (or men, you’re not completely sure).
  • Her favorite band of all time is The Jonas Brothers.
  • She has told you that her life’s dream is to appear on Springer.
  • She thinks that she can drink free at bars by taking all the “free money” on the counter, not realizing that they’re leftover tips.
  • She makes you buy her designer clothes.
  • She’s addicted to crystal meth
  • She’s into Scientology.

Sounds like a real keeper, right?  But here’s the thing. Maybe you can see past all of this. Maybe you say, “Sure, she can’t read, she’s fat, she has a drug problem, and she’s not exactly what you’d call a news junkie. But screw it! Love’s deeper than that. Love’s stronger than that. I will love her, honor her, and cherish the shit out of her no matter what.”

If that’s the way you really feel—and if you truly trust her, believe in her, and want to spend the rest of your life with her (and make sure you take our quiz to see if She’s The One), what are your parents going to do? They don’t have any moves. They can’t make you eat your broccoli.

Does this mean you should ignore them, spite them, say to hell with them? Nope. That’s immature and self-defeating, and it will ensure an awkward dynamic for years or even decades. (Besides, it’s just wrong. As cheesy as this sounds, they are your parents, and that should command your respect.)

But it does mean this: you have the power. Remember that. Sleep well knowing it.

And there are two things you should do:

1) Find the common ground

Remember that your parents love you, and, ultimately, they’re concerned for your long-term happiness. Are they misguided? Are they being judgmental? Are they deaf to true love? Maybe. That doesn’t change the fact, however, that they’re (probably) not being malevolent or mean-spirited: they’re just worried about their kid, and they don’t want to see him make a big mistake.

So when you talk to them, keep this in mind and avoid getting defensive.  And tell them that you understand that they’re looking out for you. Tell them that you appreciate where they’re coming from, and that, if you were in they’re shoes, you’d probably feel the same way.  Every time your parents bring her up, if you cover your ears and scream, “Nah nah nah nah nah! She’s MY illiterate Jonas Brothers-loving-meth-addict mother-of-four!!!!” you lose the moral high ground.

So even though it sounds like a small thing, it isn’t. Before you even discuss the girlfriend, talk about how much you appreciate their support and their good intentions, and that you would never want to let them down. (And now you pivot…) But, as surely they know from when they were younger, sometimes love doesn’t come in the expected package, and you have to follow your heart.  (Ahhhhhhhwwwww! Gag us. Did we just write that? Are we writing screenplays for Selena Gomez movies now?)

2) Give it time

This is the ultimate solution. Whether they like it or not, in time, your parents will come around. You can’t really rush this. It’ll just happen. It has to. Unless they’re actually threatening to disown you–which, 99.999999% of the time, won’t happen–they have no choice.

But remember. They’re your parents. They’ve loved you all your life and they’ll keep doing it. Even if they seem wildly irrational, they still mean the best, so try and keep that in mind as you ignore their wishes.

Good luck.

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