Whether you are single, engaged, married, divorced, young or old I am pretty sure you have come across some difficulties with your own or with your partner’s parents. If not, you are one of the fortunate few, and you should consider yourself very lucky.
While it’s totally natural for any parents to worry or to be concerned for their children, there are some ground rules that both parties needs to keep in mind.
1. Respect Parents
Before we dig in any deeper it’s important to point out that we are talking about people who raised us and probably sacrificed a lot for us so we can have a better life. Generally speaking I believe we cannot doubt their good intention and unless they go to an extreme direction we need to keep showing respect.
2. Consider the cultural differences
This can be a factor that both – the ones involved in the relationship, and their parents – underestimate in the beginning. Obviously none of us think about where the relationship will lead us in the future, if we wanted to ever marry or have children or how is it going to be to meet our loved one’s parents. What are your partner’s expectation and what are her/his parent’s expectations towards you.
As you get more and more serious you will need to face these. Consider the followings:
- Local traditions
- Religious expectations
- Cultural differences
- Parent’s individual expectations
The list can be longer and broader but if we want to bring it under one umbrella you need to take into consideration your partner’s cultural background primarily. What am I talking about?
Normally if you are both European, North-American, Australian you will not run into huge cultural differences that may lay unsolvable riddles for your relationship. Of course we do have our own challenges and difficulties but not the same way if for instance one of you were from Europe and the other one was Asian or African.
For example in China or India a woman aged 25 or more considered “left over”. In their own society they are outsiders and looked at with a suspicious and unpleasant eyes. A woman from these cultures and countries have primarily 2 responsibilities: Marry to a man with a good background and financial situation and give birth to make their parents proud. This way they fulfill the expectations for their society and their parents.
It’s not something to be judged on, if everybody is happy. However many women and men feels that they want to be in control of their own life. They want to study first. They want to achieve something. They want to see more of the World.
All this is understandable from their perspective. But what about the parents? They want to comply, submit to their tradition and it’s not something you can and need to change. Now you can see that this can bring immense pressure for both parties. While on one side you have freedom and choice, on the other hand there are tradition and obedience to family/parents.
What can you do?
If I am being honest you will need to respect and accept the cultural differences as long as you feel comfortable doing so. Also try to understand the “whys”, try to look a little deeper and hopefully you will find the beauty in another culture and tradition. With that you will understand that the intention of the parents are normally good and they just want their daughter to be in good hands and happy or their son to be in a position that gives him pride.
3. Set some ground rules
I would split it into 2 groups. First you will need to know your own limit. You need to self-asses how far you can go that is still acceptable and comfortable for you. What more important is that you must share this with your partner. Don’t be afraid to tell her the truth. It’s the first step so you both are clear on what each of you can take.
The second is that you as a couple need to lay down some ground rules that you both agree on. This will make you stronger and will help you to protect each other if necessary. After all if you had tried everything, to get everyone in the same boat in a respectful way but it still did not work, you will need to keep living your life together, pressure free from your parents.
Some ground rules you may want to think about:
- Bad-mouthing your partner
If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say it at all
- Criticizing your lifestyleThey may not like the fact that you don’t live close by, or that you moved to another country, or what profession you chose, but they are going to need to understand that it’s your life and as long as you are happy with it, they will need to accept it.
- Make you guilty
Unfortunately parents are notoriously good at making you feel guilty for numerous reasons. Whether it’s do with you neglecting them or not respecting your own tradition, or perhaps how you raise your kids, they will find your week spot. Not only you this will affect, but your partner too. You need to insulate your relationship, marriage from your parents behavior to be able to protect it
4. Avoid letting your parents pushing their problems on you
Basically parents should be aware of their own issues as it would help them avoid projecting their life onto their children. Unfortunately this is not the case most of the time. Whether it’s their own relationship problems or personal issues but they will either protecting you from the very issue they are experiencing in their life, or they won’t be able to understand your happiness due to the fact that they never felt it themselves.
The problem is that over protection becomes control. And as we know it’s very difficult to let control go. Even though it may be hard for us “kids” to see our parent’s failures and sorrow, we must know and understand that we are not responsible for it. Just like they are not responsible for our happiness or failure either.
If they can’t get it you have to let it go.
5. Give up on finding the perfect partner ( for your parents )
I had to include this point as this is the most common and sensitive issue. You may or may not like to hear this but as textbook psychology goes we are all trying to live up to our parents expectations unconsciously when it comes to choosing our partner.
Obviously in some families it’s more visible than in others but generally speaking all of us begin on the same path.
We are brought up in a certain way. We have been taught and educated to like certain type of people while we learnt to dislike others. We are all pre-coded by our parents and you can’t change it from one day to another.
Imagine how many requirements a mother has for his son’s girlfriend for instance:
♥ Be able to cook
♥ Have a good job
♥ Be a good housewife
♥ Be a good mother
♥ Be respectful
♥ Be from the same culture
♥ Like the same things
♥ Have similar interest
And a million other things usually a mother wants and needs the girl to be. I am sorry to break this news for you but it doesn’t exist. Not the perfect girl, but the expectations that any woman can live up to a mother. There is always gonna be something that is not right. From here the criticizing will begin and it’s going to be a never ending story.
Remember! You are not choosing for you mother or father but for yourself. Whoever your partner is, she can be perfect for you. Don’t let that ruin by the expectations of another person who has probably no idea what kind of person your partner really is.
No matter what you do or how much you are trying to make things work with your parents, and getting them to like your partner, if they don’t you need to let it go and start protecting your relationship. Surely you should make all the effort to have a good understanding between both parties.
If you have not managed to create it in years, you are going to need to move on and live your life. It’s the best for you and your partner ( and likely for your parents too ). You will need to insulate your relationship as much as you can.
You can’t choose or change your parents but you can create a peaceful life for you and your partner