I used to watch a lot of Ghanaian and Nigerian movies as a kid, partly because their cassettes and DVDs dominated the house. I don’t want them as often now though – one of the sad realities of life is that you get less time on your hands as you grow up. Of course, on the other hand, there are some cool stuff that you get to do too when you’re older. So that’s pretty much a fair trade-off.
So, back to my point, one of the themes that used to run through a lot of these movies was with one party – usually the man – bringing home an intended to meet his parents and much to his disappointment, his parents disapprove of his choice of a future life partner. As the story unfolds, usually, they eventually get on the same page – man, wife/girlfriend and parents. But this is not without a lot of trials, bickering and unnecessary shedding of tears. Talk about drama!
Parents disapproving of their children’s partners is an age-old problem. Needless to say, it’s not an issue anyone would be excited to be met with. Considering the fact that it’s one of the bigger, permanent things in life and your significant other will soon be a part of your family, which included your parents to begin with, it’s natural that you would want their approval before you go ahead to marry the person. After all, they’ll be seeing each other more often after the wedding and will share in the celebration of major milestones with your new family as the years go by.
So, what do you do to manage such a situation?
Speak to your parents about the problem
To start with, get to your parents and try to find out the root of their disapproval. It could be a minor issue that is fixable or a complete misunderstanding. It’s also probable that they haven’t really gotten to know your fiancé(e) and therefore misjudged him/her. And sometimes, it may not necessarily be a tangible reason – just something they cannot place their finger on. In some cases, their worry might actually be a genuine one. Whatever the circumstance, you won’t know until you have an adult, heart-to-heart conversation with them.
Such a discussion usually proves more effective when there’s a neutral third party present to determine whether your parents’ worries are valid.
From your end, try to convey to them that their approval and relationship with your significant other is important to you. Let them see the importance of making a conscious, unprejudiced effort to know him/her better and it just might change their prior opinion. Of course, if their worry is due to a misunderstanding, find out where exactly the conflicting information comes in and straighten things out.
Talk with your fiancé(e) about the problem
Get your significant other involved in the issue too, especially when you have reason to believe that whatever your parents have against him/her is valid – or at least, a part of it is. Try to collectively come up with ways to win over their hearts. If there’s the need for attitude adjustment on the part of your s/o, bring it up so he/she is aware and knows how exactly to handle the situation. You might even be surprised to find out that he/she might have already noticed and started thinking in that direction. However, it is very important that you’re gentle and tactful in your approach. Disapproving in-laws isn’t exactly news anyone would be excited about and it’s necessary to ensure that it’s communicated in a way that your s/o doesn’t take it personally.
Inform your parents about your fiancé(e)’s efforts to change
In the case where parents’ disapproval is because of flaws in your s/o, after it has been pointed out to him/her and steps are being taken to remedy the situation, give your parents a heads up that better days are coming. Of course, you could also just sit back and let them notice the change themselves. However, experts remark that giving them prior notice helps to give your case validity. Outline the steps the person has taken and where possible, give solid examples to back your argument.
Integrate your fiancé(e) into your family life even further
As earlier stated, sometimes, all your parents need in order to come around is getting to know your s/o better. And what better way to do that than to create more opportunities for them to interact with each other. Take him/her along to family get-togethers, home visits and other places where your parents are likely to be around. This helps to instill familiarity and gets them more used to and comfortable around each other.
Of course, this should be done with sense. There’s a fine line between getting him/her integrated into the family and dragging him to a family meeting where he’s not needed or may not even feel comfortable. Experts advise that trying too hard to speed up the bonding process could get messy. Therefore, it’s important that the kinds and frequency of family gatherings you send him to are chosen with wisdom.
Avoid unnecessary drama
Perhaps, one of the first things you must notice and acknowledge about the situation that it’s an emotional subject and tempers are likely to fly. In spite of all that, do all that’s within your power to keep calm throughout the period of negotiation. It doesn’t help your case any better when you’re angry – it clouds your judgement and decision making. Avoid turning the situation into one that people are forced to take sides. Instead, focus on collectively finding a suitable solution to the problem. And finally, remember to maintain and show your parents the respect they deserve, even when you think they do not deserve that.
And with these in place, very hopefully, your s/o and your parents just might become the est of friends.