the parents

i just thought this was funny.

i think i’ll stick with the parents theme today.  hers, yours.  frankly i could even bend this into a “deal breaker” post but i think i’ll just go with trying to keep it from going that far.

one of my best friends from high school and one of craig’s best friends from college, got married.  we’ll call them chad and sara.  they have been married 15+ years and still actually like each other.  amazing.  i take full credit for setting them up.  but i blame sara for the emotional trauma of the bridesmaid dress i had to wear.

i love sara’s parents.  always got along great with them.  but they were pretty controlling.  so when she started dating chad, he had to figure out how to work around them.  she was required to be at every family event and any other time they said to show up.  she was terrified of ever saying no to them.  and for good reason.  they were the Julie McCoy* of the guilt trip.  for sara’s sake and sanity, chad played by the rules as defined by her parents.  for a while.

then they got engaged.

as far as chad was concerned, this was a game changer.  he decided, if she was going to be his wife, she was going to be free to set her own schedule and make room in her life for more than just the will of her parents.  yeah, he’s kind of awesome.  he’s also incredibly reasonable and has a healthy view of what it means to be a man.

sara’s parents had a family event coming up that conflicted with something she and chad already had planned.  she tried to tell them she was busy and couldn’t make it.  they said she had to cancel her previous plans and be there.

sara was shaking.  chad intervened.

he said no.  god help him.  and he stood up to her parents.  he was the first one ever.

they hated it.

oddly enough, they didn’t hate him.  though they weren’t exactly pleased with him either.  they tried to go around him to get to sara, knowing they could bully her, but found him in their way at every turn.  he protected her.  he stood up to her parents when she couldn’t.  he did it kindly, without anger or aggression and maintained a respectful relationship.

fast forward more than 15 years and he’s still doing it.  and they still don’t like it.  but they love him.  there’s a mutual respect that’s been developed.  and sara?  she’s learned how to say no and still remain on good terms with her family.  she’s much more confident and knows she has a man she can lean on when she needs to borrow some strength.

how you interact with your/her parents can make or break a relationship.  i lucked out.  my parents and in-laws are amazing.  but i know it’s not like that for every one.  the question you have to ask yourself if there is conflict is, “Can it be fixed?”  if it can, great.  work through it and find common ground.  if it can’t, then you have to know what the boundaries are.  if the issue is with your own parents, you have to be able to shield your girl from any of their nastiness.  if it’s her parents, you’re going to have to know if she’s willing to let you step in and create an even playing field.  if she is, like sara, fantastic.  be her hero.  if she is not, if she defends her parents bad behavior and actively engages in the dysfunction, it’s probably time to cut your losses.  it won’t get better.

marriage is a magnifying glass.  everything gets bigger when you put a ring on it.  the good gets better.  the bad gets horrific.  and parents are a fixture until they die.

let’s end on that happy note.

*Julie McCoy – cruise director from The Love boat


6 comments on “the parents

  1. Oh, a Love Boat reference and magnifying glass euphimisim? You complete me.

    AND you’re right. I wish I had had a husband who acted like he had a pair and didn’t always have to borrow mine… we might still be married 😉

  2. Katie M says:

    About 4 years ago I was thisclose to marrying a guy that didn’t stand up for me at all to his super nasty parents, and then I saw the light and called the wedding off (3 weeks beforehand…eek!…sooner prooooobably would have been better). It wasn’t just his parents he had no backbone with, it was everything in his life, so I feel like I definitely made the right decision. I’ve also learned to set healthy boundaries with my own parents over the years. When I do meet the right guy, I’ll already have my crazy parents in check…YAY! 😀

  3. Erin Collins says:

    No need to reveal who Julie McCoy is…oh man. That Chad and Sara…what a cute couple.

  4. First of all, I love these two sentences from your post: “Marriage is a magnifying glass. Everything gets bigger when you put a ring on it.” Well said!

    Second, my stand-up-to-the-family story is one of discovering I had trained myself to give in to my parents–usually in the name of “family peace.” My wife’s parents were wonderful–cose but not too close, and never intruded into our young marriage. But my wife felt as though I always sided with my family and challenged me to stand up to them. She was correct.

    It’s often remarked that a boy becomes a man when he gets married–but it took my wife’s encouragement for me to :”man-up” to my own parents.

    Nice post!

  5. melaniejames says:

    I have to give Stephen credit… he stands up to my family. I almost always just let them yell and blunder around and then ignore them. My daddy came in and was mad at someone else and decided to yell at me. In my house. Stephen stood up and said “Lee, I respect that she’s your kin and all but this is her house, my house and you’re not going to disrespect her in her own home by yelling at her. Period. If you want to talk you’re welcome to stay, if you want to yell you can see yourself out.” He actually developed a pretty good relationship with him after that. I thought it was going to be a blood bath.

    I stand up to his family the same way. They’ve finally learned boundaries.

  6. Jesse says:

    Am really enjoying your blog!… You made a comment in this one that I’d like to hear more about… You said he had “a healthy view of what it means to be a man.” Would be really curious to hear you unwrap that a bit.

    Thanks for your insight and humor!

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