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