I recently posted an answer to the question "What would you do if your parents did not accept your partner?" Several users suggested that I develop my answer into a myTake on this subject. I’m not too old to listen to others, so . . . @Cavewoman and @YourFutureEx, this is for you.
Sometimes, parents readily accept your choice for a new partner in romance and everything is just hot biscuits and gravy.
But . . . sometimes, as soon as you start describing him or her, you can see that look in your parents' eyes. You know the look: “I don’t like this new person, I’m not going to like this new person, and nothing you say or do will change my mind.”
How does this situation usually play out? You get angry at your parents and start raising your voice. They get angry because you aren’t listening to them and they think you are acting like you know more than they do. Then you start sneaking around to meet up with Mr. or Ms. Wonderful but you feel badly because you are being secretive and can’t include them in your family’s activities. Most often, these pressures cause friction within your new relationship and things eventually fall apart. After it is over, you never admit that your parents were right (and they may NOT have been right!) You still have resentment about them trying to control your life, and they have resentment about you acting like you are smarter than everyone else.
There is a better way to handle this situation. Before we get to the solution, let's talk about WHY you should handle this differently. You need to remember several very important points.
1. This person probably isn't The One. Your partner may seem like the most perfect person in the world - to you - but think about your last partner, and the one before that, and the one before that, etc. At one time, you thought your last partner was The Most Perfect Person In The World. This current partner may be The One and may be with you for the rest of your life but the odds are against that possibility. More than likely, this is one more person who is simply passing through your life.
If you think the new guy or girl is The One who you will ultimately marry and you will have children and dogs and with whom you will grow old, then you are going to perceive your parent’s interference as the most ridiculous and idiotic thing that anyone has ever done. But you do realize, somewhere inside - and you probably don't want to admit this - that the new guy or new girl probably ISN'T The One but you have yourself convinced of that . . . just like you were convinced three months ago about the previous Most Perfect Person In The World.
2. Parents are your best friends forever. You have only had one set of parents your entire life. You will never have another mother and father. They will love you even when you act like a total shithead and do stupid, rebellious stuff. They are probably the only people who you will ALWAYS be able to count on when you need help with something. When everyone else is against you, your parents will stand with you. When the entire world is crashing down on you, they are your safe harbor, your refuge during the tempest. They will be the babysitters who are always available when you and your future spouse want to have a night out by yourselves. When your child is sick and can’t go to school, they will take care of things at home so you don’t need to miss work. Do I need to continue with the reminders of how important these folks are?
3. Dating people who are different usually does not work . . . and your parents know that! If you look at successful long term couples, the majority of them share similar backgrounds and beliefs. Of course, there are some long term couples who are opposites, but those couples are the exceptions and not the norm. If you are a Christian and your new boyfriend is a Muslim, your parents have a reason to be concerned. If you are a 15 year old girl, honor roll student, meek and mild, never been kissed, and your new boyfriend is a 19 year old guy who does construction work, rides a motorcycle, and is covered in tattoos . . . they have a reason to be concerned.
Of course, you are aware of the differences and you naively think that “love will overcome all obstacles.” When someone like me tells you that love will not overcome all obstacles, you tell yourself “but they don’t know how strong my love is!”
But . . . actually, no one has ever visited the moon simply because they were loved!
You think that you have some unique strength that will enable you to defy all odds and do what no one previously has ever done. Well, if anyone has ever said or done anything that makes you feel that you are THAT different, let me put it in perspective: “Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.” - Margaret Mead.
4. Your parents have more experience than you. You are 15 or 17 or whatever; your parents have much more experience and they probably have a better understanding of who is good for you and what relationships have a better chance of success. Really! Undoubtedly, you disagree but most older people will agree with this statement. And . . . remember that we were all 15 or 17 years old at one time and we have not forgotten what that is like.
Do you remember some of the dumb shit that you thought when you were 12 years old? You no longer belief that stuff. Why not? Because at the age of 15 or 17, you have had more experience with the world and you have witnessed things firsthand. You have more of an ability to comprehend the world around you. Imagine how much smarter you will be when you have another 20 years of experience! Twenty years from now, you'll be just as smart as your parents are now!
5. Why do you want to date someone of whom your parents disapprove? Sometimes, we date people who are different than us. That is often motivated by either rebelliousness or a strong desire to show others that we can do things "our way!" If you are dating someone who is different simply to show your parents that you do not need to follow their rules or live up to their expectations . . . how do you think this “in your face” behavior makes them feel?
The fact that you feel strongly about what you are doing does not mean that you are right. This is part of the process of maturing and establishing your autonomy. There are better ways to establish your independence!
6. You should not simply dismiss your parents' advice without giving it serious consideration. All of the above does not mean that you should accede to your parents’ wishes about dating. But it does mean that you should be very mindful of their advice. After all, they really do want you to be happy and safe . . . and you now have the potential to do things that will forever alter your life for the worse (like becoming sexually active and getting pregnant or getting a girl pregnant.) This is what causes your parents to be concerned.
7. You can't "make" your parents accept your decision. Trying to force your parents to accept your decision will not work. It has never worked for anyone.
Q. How many of your friends, cousins, neighbors have ever “forced” their parents to accept a decision and had their situation resolve in a good way? A. None.
8. At last, The Solution! If you want your parents to accept your decisions because you think you are sufficiently mature, then you should handle this in a mature way. When you identify a prospective partner, you immediately know that gaining your parents' acceptance will be a problem. It is much easier for your parents to reject someone who they have never met and have no reason to like.
Invite the young man or woman to your home to meet your parents. Do not engage in any displays of affection in front of your parents: no kissing, no hand holding, no cute pet names, etc. Discover the areas of common interest that may be shared by your prospective partner and your parents and encourage some discussion on those topics. Let him or her demonstrate that they are respectful, courteous, bright, etc. Show your parents the reasons why you find this person to be an attractive potential partner. Once they start to know him or her and see some good qualities, it is much more likely that they will accept him.
If they still don't accept your decision, reassure them that you are only 15 or 17 years old and you are not looking for someone with whom to elope or to make babies. Tell them that IF their judgment is correct, you proceeding and having that experience with this mew partner should make it obvious to you. Explain that you don’t want to be rebellious but you also think that not following your heart would be disloyal to yourself and that you are caught in an impossible situation.
If all else fails, ask them if you can spend time with the new person in your home when they are present. More familiarity may weaken their opposition and, at the very least, you will be demonstrating to your parents that you are capable of handling conflict is a responsible manner.
9. Good luck!