You said yes; the date was set; this should be the happiest occasion of your life, right? Unfortunately, for couples with disapproving relatives, the engagement is only the beginning of a long emotional battle. There are several ways to deal with relatives who don’t approve of your upcoming union.
You can’t control their actions or their ultimate decision, but the good news is: you have complete control of your own. Before acting hastily, take some time to consider your best course of action.
Ask Why They Don’t Approve
The most important step in understanding why your relative disapproves of your fiancé is asking her, point blank, why she feels that way. Surprisingly, this crucial step gets ignored often enough to create huge, family-wide conflagrations based on simple communication errors.
Find a nice, quiet time to sit down in person with your relative–let her know that you have an important question on your mind.
Without placing blame or inviting an argument, gently bring up the topic. “I notice you haven’t been very enthusiastic about my wedding. Is there something I should know?” One nice way to invite honesty is to frame your relative as a trusted friend whose opinion you value.
Since you’re making a lifelong commitment, it’s only natural that you would want to know all sides of an issue before jumping in. You don’t have to make any promises to abide by your relative’s advice: just politely request to hear her point of view.
Your relative may have a very understandable reason to disprove of the marriage. For example, if your fiancé had major problems with substance abuse, crime, gambling, spousal abuse, or serial cheating in the past, your worried relative is only looking out for your best interests.
In this case, give your future some deep thought. If your fiancé has truly put his shadowy past behind him, you can best convince your naysaying relative by giving concrete examples of how your fiancé has improved.
Weigh the Objections
If the objections to the marriage are flimsy at best (like your fiancé isn’t tall enough, is the wrong race or ethnicity, or has a modestly-paying job), your best bet to convince your relative is to invite her to spend more time with you as a couple. The more your relative sees of your fiancé, the less she will be able to picture a stereotype, and the more she will see the aspects of your fiancé that you love so much.
If your relative’s objections fall along religious lines, such as objecting to a same-sex ceremony, realize that there may be nothing you can to do change her mind. The best some same-sex couples can hope for, at least in terms of immediate results, is that the relative makes a single exception in their case (without approving of same-sex marriage as an institution).
Especially for older relatives, who can be deeply set in their ways, expecting drastic changes will only alienate them further. Instead, take pride in baby steps; if you get your relative to attend your wedding, she will be more open to accepting you fully in the future.
The more you can expose your relatives to your loving and healthy relationship, the easier you make it for them to set aside their judgments.
Remember: You Don’t Have to Invite Them
Open communication smoothes over many differences, but it doesn’t magically solve every situation. Some relatives will remain dead-set against the wedding no matter how much logic and love you throw at them.
If playing nice isn’t your goal, skip the wedding invitation altogether. You won’t risk a commotion during the “Does anybody have objections to this union?” part of the ceremony, and you’ll save money on a stamp, too!
Of course, withholding a wedding invitation does send a pretty strong message. You may be looking at the end of your relationship with your relative (which could then affect inter-family relations as a whole).
But at the end of the day, the value you place on the relationship is your own decision. After all, do you really want someone in your life who doesn’t approve of your choice of a life partner?
Lisa is a special needs teacher and a hugger. She always makes time for everyone and lightens up everybody’s lives with her presence. When she is not chasing her students around the yard, she finds time to write about what she truly loves, and you guessed it, its people and relationships.