by Mary Jo Rapini
Once you have a child that relationship never ends. Our kids bring home their elementary friends from school, their high school friends, their college friends, their dates and eventually their potential spouses. So what happens if the potential spouse of your child is someone you don’t like? Is it better to tell them directly, behind closed doors, or should you not say anything?
Most experts agree that if the child is a minor, and you feel the person they want to marry is abusive emotionally, physically or sexually, you have legal rights not to give consent for marriage. These legal rights will support you even if there is a pregnancy. But what happens when your child is of age and they choose someone that isn’t abusive, but not high on your list of people you would have chosen for your child? It is important to remember as parents that your behavior and words during this time can affect your relationship with your child, as well as your marriage and your relationship with your other children. It isn’t easy to hold your tongue when you have been telling your children how you feel for years, but this situation calls for control and attention to your words and actions. The worst thing that can happen if you aren’t careful is you will lose your chance for a relationship with a son or daughter-in-law, your child, and possibly your spouse.
Below are delicate ways to manage your feelings and protect your relationship with your child and their potential spouse. Experts agree that, as much as possible, you want to always think “inclusion of the partner rather than exclusion.”
- As much as you can openly share your concerns in private with your child. You don’t have to criticize, but saying I am concerned about such and such, have you noticed that? Stop at any time if your child acts defensive. The seed has been planted and you needn’t say more.
- Have their partner over as much as possible and engage them with conversation using old family photos or memories you have with your children. This will help the new partner begin seeing your feelings for your child and may help them feel safe to share theirs.
- Listen to your child when they talk about their partner. Listening with an open mind doesn’t mean you agree, it means you are showing your child that you care about what they have to say.
- Be broad with conversations about marriage and relationships, but be honest. You should never sacrifice your own morals, but that doesn’t mean you have to boast about them.
- Remember if you attack your child’s partner they will break from you and join their partner. You do not want to create this in your family. Try to look for the good at all times and comment on this. Your child will then feel safe to bring up the not so good.
- If your child gets married, and it is not a dream marriage, your child is going to know they can come and talk to you. They will also want to know that you will be understanding and help guide them. Don’t create an impasse for the sake of being “right.”
I have seen parents be eliminated from their child’s life because they could not get along with their child’s spouse. Many times that meant that the grandchildren were not part of the parent’s life either. Nothing you say can be worth destroying your relationship with your children over a potential spouse. Keep your feelings to yourself, and try to find what it was or is that your child fell in love with. The greatest gift you can give your child is your willingness to work with them and their new spouse. It is also wise for parents to invest in wedding gifts that can really help the young couple. Instead of an expensive wedding dress, cake and all the frills, giving your child and their potential spouse pre-marital classes is something that can help them for the rest of their married life.