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When Your Steady's Parents Can't Accept You

Updated on January 8, 2011

Have you continued to date someone after their parents made it clear that they didn't approve of you?

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Ben's Dilemma

Happiness can exist only in acceptance.

-Denis De Rougemont-

A male friend of mine recently sent me an e-mail asking for relationship advice. After months of living in the clouds falling deeper and deeper in love with his girlfriend, Ben has been brought back down to Earth by her parents. For a week, he had dreaded meeting them. Zoe-Grace aka Z.G. had, from day one, warned dear Ben about her dating history. Apparently, men don’t stay around for long after meeting her parents, the reason being that Mom and Dad are known for being highly judgmental. Having always been able to instantly charm past girlfriends’ parents, he was positive that things would go well. As they did not, he is now trying to figure out what may have gone wrong this time. Also, he wants to know if he can beat the odds and stay with Z.G. despite not being accepted by her parents.

I am a hopeless romantic who believes that 9 times out of 10 love can conquer all. Yet, centering on the 1 in 10, it doesn’t always happen. There are some circumstances that not even love can overcome. Unfortunately for Ben, I’ve always considered uncooperative parents to be one of them. In other words, if the parents don’t like you, the relationship can go south pretty fast. Let me explain my reasoning.

  • Parents are the first people that a child meets and gets to know. Through their first years of development, a child relies on their parents to guide them and to show them what it takes to make a good decision. After a certain point, a child starts to develop opinions of their own. Yet, whether they agree with them or not, they always compare their own opinions/choices up against their parents’. If the opinions vary greatly, the child tries to figure out why. This questioning can turn even a solid relationship into a shaky one.

  • As they are the first people a child bonds with, a child always has the urge to do what will keep them in their parents’ good favor. No child wants to lose their parents’ approval (without good reason). No matter how far you go in life, you’ll always have a subconscious pull to please your parents. You may love your significant other a lot, but, if your parents disapprove of them, you have to find out why and reconcile yourself to these character flaws.

  • Some children are so close to their parents that they would never dream of being with someone who their parents don’t adore. Even if they love their partner more than life itself, if Mommy and Daddy don’t approve, they will kick them to the curb.

  • When your parents don’t approve of your girlfriend/boyfriend and place an ultimatum of "them or us," you’re in a sticky position. Things were going great until now, but what if your parents are right and things don’t work out? Is this cutie worth severing ties with the people who gave you life? In an ideal world, a happy medium could be met.

Seeing Ben and Z.G. together, it is evident that they could make a life of it. They enjoy each others company. They are supportive and loving. They talk about everything and have no secrets. They share similar interests and beliefs. Had it not been for this disastrous meeting, I would be encouraging them to get married. However, it did happen. Before going any further, Ben needs to consider some things.

  • Could it have been an off night for her parents? I know considering her history, it seems unlikely. However, when parents are involved, you have to consider all options. Perhaps they had a bumpy drive to the restaurant (construction, marital squabble, etc.). Perhaps they were under the weather, but didn’t want to disappoint the young lovers by canceling. Yes, they very easily could have simply not liked Ben, but until you know the truth, you just don’t know. Z.G. needs to talk to her parents.

  • Could Ben have misread her parents and be worrying for nothing? As I said earlier, Ben has always known how to charm parents. Still, parents do vary. Just because he didn’t get a warm feeling from them doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Ben needs to take a deep breath and wait for Z.G. to talk to her parents.

  • Let’s say her parents really do dislike him. Will Z.G. be able to cope with this or is it a deal breaker? Just because her parents disapprove doesn’t mean she has to end things. She has to decide if pleasing her parents matters more than her own happiness. On Ben’s end, he needs to accept her decision and go from there. He also needs to decide if he can handle not being liked or if it’ll end up breaking him in the end.

Too often, I’ve seen couples (good, loving couples) end things because of one set of parents not approving of the match. Unable to handle such disapproval and the risk of harming the parent-child relationship beyond repair, love (romantic love at least) did not conquer all. With such a burden placed on a person, no wonder there is such a high divorce rate.

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