When you're in a relationship, one of the most significant decisions you make is to introduce your partner to your parents. We all hope for the best, and it's a great feeling to know that the people who raised you approve of and even like the person that you want to spend the rest of your life with.
But parents are still people, and they might not like the partner you introduce them to, so what then?
Times for the best part, have changed since parents chose or had a big hand in picking your life partner. Now that we're free to choose our spouses, do parental blessings hold as much weight?
Relationship counsellor, James Sturdee, says that "the general movement is that it’s something nice to have, not necessarily required. A lot of people these days don’t feel that they need it, but they would like it."
In an article for Verily, William McKenna writes that "when making a lifelong decision such as marriage, it’s important to remember that you are the one who has to live with that decision - not your mom and dad." Although this may be true, it is still a stressful thing to couples when parents don't approve of their partners for whatever reason.
James finds that this is one of the reasons for conflict in marriage. "Often you find that one of the spouses would find themselves having to cater for the needs of their parents and also the needs of their spouse and that can be quite a difficult balancing act," he says.
READ MORE: Are we looking at a future without marriage?
While couples are quite capable of staying with their partners in spite of their parents' disapproval (given that the blessing is not desperately needed), the success of the relationship depends on how strong the fundamentals of the relationship are. "If there are significant issues in the relationship – conflict management issues, communication issues, boundary issues, insecurities – then having this type of external pressure from people that mean a lot to them really challenges the chances of the relationship making it," James shares.
What to do when your parents don't like your partner:
If your parents express their objections, sit down and talk to them about why they don't approve. If you can find the reasons why, you can move towards finding ways to work through the situation. Communicating with your partner is just as important in a situation like this because it allows you to consider all the significant perspectives. Communicating means understanding what the issues are and finding practical ways to work around them.
Be honest with yourself
While we might believe that parents are always out to disregard everything we do, they often have a way of seeing things that we don't. Take time to understand why your parents feel the way they do and see if there isn't something in your relationship that they are concerned about that you might be missing. For instance, if your parents disapprove of a partner who isn't in the same financial bracket as you are, you might need to honestly consider if that is something you can overlook or if it might be something that'll create tension between you and your partner in the long run.
Take care of your relationship
With the focus mainly being on getting your parents to like your partner, you might forget to take care of the state of both relationships and end up creating opportunities for more conflict. Always ensure that your partner feels supported and important by keeping the communication open and honest between the both of you.
You need to understand how your partner feels in order to address the conflict in a way that serves everyone. If the fundamentals of the relationships are sound, James explains, then the couple would be able to withstand that pressure; so it's important that you spend time nurturing and understanding your relationship.
In the same way, ensure that your parents understand that, even when your partner is a big priority in your life, they are just important to you as your partner is.