Photo: Alisa Sue Photography
Your parents might not like your nose ring or lower back tattoo, which you can deal with, but their disapproval of the person you intend to spend the rest of your life with? Kind of—scratch that—really a big deal. It’s natural to want your parents’ approval, especially when it comes to the bigger, more important, and permanent things in life, like where you choose to live and who you choose to live with. Plus, they’re going to be getting a ton of face time with your fiancé(e) through the decades and will have to share in celebrating major life milestones with your new spouse and future in-laws, too.
Find out the root of their disapproval.
Maybe it’s something fixable or a complete misunderstanding, for example, thinking your fiancé(e) was cheating or seeing other people when that was never the case. “If it’s a matter of them not really knowing your fiancé(e) and having judged him or her based on lack of information, let them know that it’s important to you that they make an effort to get to know them a little better,” suggests psychologist Nikki Martinez, Psy.D., LCPC. “See if this deeper level of understanding changes their opinion.”
Talk with your parents privately about the problem.
This is not the kind of problem that can be easily swept under the rug. It’s important that you make a point to speak with your parents about the situation and have a conversation about their disdain for this special person in your life. “This is often a new step in an adult child and parent relationship and, if they can attribute this positive dynamic to the fact that you have this particular fiancé, they’ll feel better about that person,” says April Masini
, New York-based relationship and etiquette expert and author. Ask them how they feel and listen to them intently, but be careful not to point fingers, as this may set your own relationship with them back.
Talk to your fiancé(e) privately about the problem.
Unless you’re fairly certain that your parents’ disapproval of your fiancé(e) is based off superficial or incorrect reasoning, don’t hesitate to open up the discussion with your S.O. You might even be surprised how well aware he or she is when it comes to their disapproval and may already be brainstorming ways to win over their hearts. It is smart, however, to be gentle in your approach, as your fiancé most likely takes their disaffection for him or her personally.
Let your parents know about your fiancé(e)’s efforts to change.
After gently talking with your fiancé, clue in your parents. Of course, you can take a wait-and-see approach to the changes he or she has made to kiss up to your 'rents, but the quicker route is giving them a heads up. “This will help give your case validity,” says Martinez. “Tell them the steps he or she has taken and provide solid examples to make a factual, non-emotional argument to your parents.”
Clear up misunderstandings.
When you do talk to your parents in a positive way, you both may come to realize that their disapproval may be the fault of mere misunderstandings. “Miscommunication is complicated by emotions generated by your parent-adult child relationship, so look for areas where there’s conflicting information,” says Masini. “But getting to the bottom of these misunderstandings requires listening, creative thinking and the ability to articulate without blaming, so focus on that trifecta!”
Let them know how important a relationship with your fiancé(e) is to you.
If their issue with your fiancé is just a general feeling of dislike that they can’t seem to put a finger on, tell them how important it is for you that you have their blessing. Also, let them know how much happier your life will be if they come around. “Explain what you see in your fiancé(e), perhaps sides to him or her that most people, them included, never get to see,” says Martinez. “Let them know what made you fall in love with this person in the first place.”
Integrate your fiancé(e) into your family life even further.
“Sometimes parents don’t like someone because they’re new or different,” says Masini. Giving them more opportunities to interact with and get to know your fiancé can go a long way in improving their relationship with him or her. They may not come around, and there’s a chance they may like him or her even less, but giving them more face time with your partner will instill familiarity between them. “Not everyone is open and warm and some parents need more to acclimate themselves and feel more comfortable with someone.”
Avoid any unnecessary drama.
This is certainly an emotional subject, but try not to blow up, have a tantrum, or badmouth your parents. “Avoid polarizing positions turning into ‘sides’ and instead focus on figuring out how to help ease their concerns,” says Kathy McMahon, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist and President of Couples Therapy Inc
. “Show your parents the respect they deserve, even during this difficult time and acknowledge that a cross-cultural marriage can be difficult.” And, keep in mind that a happy marriage tends to soften all but the most rigid parents.