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nicole29's avatar

How should I handle this situation, in which my family disapproves of the person I'm seeing?

Asked by nicole29 (751 points ) October 19th, 2012

Check out the other questions I’ve asked, if you’re curious for the backstory.

I’ve been seeing this great guy for a bit over two months now. Emotionally, mentally, physically – it’s just a great match. It’s been such a short time, and I’ve already seen that his attitude, personality, and the way he handles things in life makes us complement each other very well, as a couple.

It’s certainly not my first relationship.. and I feel like what was lacking in others, has been made up for in this one. Of course, it’s often hard to just be happy without some bumps in the road and unpleasant circumstances. The age difference, the children from a previous relationship… those are the big ones. And I’m more than willing to admit that it is going to be a difficult thing to deal with. But, I’m also not one who jumps head first into relationships, and the fact that I’ve not bailed yet is a testament to how I feel about this one.

My mother asked last weekend if I was seeing anyone. I didn’t want to lie, even though I knew it would likely not be received well. To say she was displeased, would be an understatement… Our family is very “traditional” and I don’t think she quite appreciates the idea of an addition (possibly, in the distant future*) that may complicate things.

It’s been about a week, and last night I received a long email outlining the reasons that it will not work, and why this is not what she wants for me. Honestly, I saw the validity in many of the arguments, as I feel that I’m reasonably intelligent, level headed, and rational. But, he and I have talked, at length on different occasions about these same issues.. I’m always the concerned one, and he is always very reassuring that all issues can be handled/dealt with, as they arise. Nothing about our time together has ever suggested to me otherwise.

So, how do I tell my mother/family that I’m choosing (as it will seem to them) to disregard the advice? Do I acknowledge the email? Do I tell her that I don’t plan on leaving him?

We are close, and I hate that I feel like I’m disappointing her. I also don’t want that I feel as though I have to choose between my mother and my relationship.

Any advice on how to tactfully handle not only the email, but the future relationship between myself and my family? Just never speak about it, so as not to create waves?

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33 Answers

Shippy's avatar

Perhaps tell her you do see the validity of her fears. This will take her off the defensive and assist her to understand that you yourself are finding your own feet in this relationship. Explain to her it’s early days, and if any of her fears are proven in the next few months you will readjust what you think about the relationship. But for now, it is OK for you. Mothers do come from a platform of caring for the most part. The other part is made up of the mistakes they made, and what they dream for you. For you, perhaps it is to see which part is made up of the caring and disregard her dreams.Ask her to let you live your own experiences, make your own mistakes, so you can grow as a person.

Coloma's avatar

You’re an adult, ( I am assuming ) and your choices are nobody elses business, period, end of story. Your mothers feelings are not your responsibility and while it is nice to have others support it is not a necessity. All you can do is tell her that you would like her to be positive and supportive but that if she cannot it will not change your choices in the moment.
It would be one thing if the guy was an obvious drunk or other extreme red flag behaviors, but hellooooo, the world is full of divorced parents with kids and if she is so rigid and close minded about the possibility of blending a family, well…that’s her problem.

You must set boundaries now and stick to them. Tell her the old ” if you don’t have anything nice to say then STFU! ” haha Obviously, not quite like that, but you get my drift. ;-)
I would put things squarely back on her and let her know that you are free to make your choices with full understanding of the potential obstacles this relationship might face.
You don’t have to choose between your mother and the boyfriend, it is your mother that has to choose between her daughter and losing her because of her lack of support.
My daughter is 24 and has been with her boyfriend for 3 years, and I would NEVER, EVER, even remotely think I had ANY say in her relationship choices.

You’re a big girl now and mama bird needs to let go of thinking she has any right to intervene in your personal life.

deni's avatar

Man I’m glad my parents were not this controlling. So many of my friends parents are or have been in the past, and even looking at their issues from an outside point of view, it is infuriating.

Well, I take it you don’t live with her anymore. You’re an adult. So you can do your own thing, she can’t control you, the only obstacle is getting her to understand this and having no hard feelings. If it were me I’d email back something like “Mom, this guy makes me really happy. You haven’t even met him, I’m not sure how you can make such a negative assessment about him as you have. I see your points and even agree with several of them, but we’ve discussed them. We’re adults. He makes me happy for the time being and thats what is important to me right now. I’d love for you to meet him, I think you’d change your mind!” Or something.

jca's avatar

I would tell her that you’re just seeing each other and you’re not serious at present, and that her anxiety about the relationship is somewhat premature. I would also tell her what @deni said, that she hasn’t even met him yet and so she should reserve judgement until she gets to know him better.

poisonedantidote's avatar

You may not necessarily want to take this advice, but I say the mother needs to learn a lesson. A relationship is between two people, what anyones family thinks does not matter.

Even if this is not the guy for you in the end, you need to make your family understand it is none of their business, and that trying to tell you who to love, will just result in you pushing them away.

If they do not learn from that, then do push them away. Family are important, but can be done without when that is how they act.

Print off a copy of the email, take it round to their place, ring the bell and burn it on the door step, before they end up screwing things up for you.

wundayatta's avatar

You thank her for the email. You thank her for her concern and love. You say you share her concerns. You have discussed them with bf. You don’t know what will happen, but you really appreciate that she shares your concerns and that you are a team together on this, making sure that you have the best relationship you can have.

Assure her that a mother is very important to be on your side. A relationship is not made of just two people, but of a whole community and it makes you feel good to know she is on your side.

The idea is that you want to slightly change the direction of her concerns, redirect them so that they are aligned with yours and you are on the same side instead of being on different sides. It’s tricky to pull off, but if you can do it, it might be very difficult for her to attack you directly. Also, why would she want to?

bookish1's avatar

I don’t have anything to add to @Coloma,‘s @deni,‘s and @poisonedantidote‘s advice, except:

You only have one life, and no one else will live it for you.

snapdragon24's avatar

Its easy to say ‘live your life’ or ‘who cares what your parents think, your adult enough to make your own decisions’ or ‘its your business’ but if you are a family person like myself, you then need to see if the person you are with is really worth the fight because when parents disapprove, things can get really tough. So think things through carefully. If he’s it then he’s it.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

There is a line between parental concern and meddling in a child’s romantic life. Without knowing what the real concerns are, and yes, I read the previous posts, it sounds as if your mother has crossed it.

While she offered unsolicited advice, conducted it through a e-mail, and frankly, it’s none of her business, @snapdragon24 has a point. My advice is to schedule a time to talk to her about it, in person if possible. Thank her for sharing her feelings on the subject and discuss each point that she provided.

You only need to address her concerns with a, “Yes, we already talked about that” or “Interesting. We haven’t discussed that yet” or “This is not an issue because…”. Wrap up the conversation with, “What other concerns do you have?” and “How do you feel about it now?” While she may still not be convinced, she will be aware that you and the guy are just as serious about considering any potential challenges. That may be all that she really needs to hear. End the conversation with a sincere thank-you for continuing to look out for your best interests.

Please keep us posted. This is a timeless issue for some people, and it might be beneficial to others to find out what worked for you.

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JLeslie's avatar

How old are you and how old is he?

Depending on your answer I might agree with your mother, however, in the end it is your life. If you tell me you are 18 and he is 30, I think your relationship is most likely doomed, but you could also be the small percentage that the relationship lasts forever and be happy. Only you really know your relationship with him. So, if you feel great about this guy, you tell your mom thanks for her concern, that she has valid points, points you have considered yourself, and she should feel reassured you know the possible problems. If she still pushes you can tell her you don’t want to hear her negativitiy anymore, that you very much want everyone to get along and to feel comfortable bringing him to family events. You can even say that if the relationship does go south, you hope you can come to her without judgement.

Your answers kind of imply you have your own nagging questions about your relationship with this guy. I might have interpreted wrong. If you have a voice in your head or any red flags going off, pay attention to them.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@JLeslie The OP is 21 and the guy is 10 or more years older. He lives two hours away. He has children.

JLeslie's avatar

21 is borderline for me. Living two hours away is a negative, but not impossible. Hopefully her mom will back off once the OP talks to her. No matter what it seems like the OP needs to play it out for herself. Who knows, might be the love of her life.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

These are also concerns for the OP as well. The relationship is only two months old, yet the couple is already discussing them. That shows maturity and logic. The question though is how does the OP address the mother who sent the e-mail with the list of concerns.

susanc's avatar

@nicole29, your mother thinks you’re still pretty young, and I do too. You’re very level-headed but you haven’t had much time to take this all in.
Take it a little bit slow; enjoy; you and your guy keep talking and thinking and feeling it out. It’ll be soooo fun and sweet.
With regard to your mother, do EXACTLY what @wundayatta said and things will unroll fairly smoothly. Let the rest of us know how it goes in two more months. A lot can happen in that amount of time (as you know!). love, susanc

Jenniehowell's avatar

I’m a lesbian – my father never has approved of any of my relationships for that reason. When I was a child (freshman in high school age) he came to my brother and I mentioning his intent to marry my now step mother. He asked for my brother’s & my blessing for the marriage. We didn’t consent/bless the marriage – we told him we thought he was moving too fast in the relationship. He married her anyway. They’ve been married now for 22 years or so & however crazy I think it is they seem to apparently be happy with the arrangement. When he attempts to suggest I do something in my relationship choices – I simply remind him how he ignored my suggestions in his own and how well it has gone for him and I offer him a trade. The trade is for him to let me become involved in his life and adult choices & for him to take my advice fully in some random circumstance and then when he has successfully accomplished this, I will honor him by doing the same.

So far he hasn’t been willing to make that trade & I assume that my offer is taken in the logical way with regard to it’s round about point which is – you live my life, I live mine, you make your mistakes, I make mine, you mind your business, I mind mine and we all treat each other respect despite the random choices the other makes where we may have a judgment that it is totally asinine, self destructive and nutty.

My point is – thank your mom for her opinion but remind her that you are an adult & you have to make your own decisions and learn from your own mistakes and successes. It’s not you being rude or disrespectful to her to tell her that after you’re legally an adult the opinion she has should be dealt with by her and not pushed onto you. Of course the exceptions to that are if you are not legally an adult, if you are still living under her roof even if you are an adult or if she is paying for all or the larger percentage of your life and living. In those cases I’d say when you are independent that is the time to make independent decisions – otherwise you may need to sit quiet and listen to those giving you advice lest you lose your meal ticket.

Your choices are your own – your experiences are as well. I would add though that if you are going to your mom and disclosing info about the relationship then you are to some extent inviting her opinion. I’ve found that if I don’t want a person’s input into my relationship then I keep the details of my relationship to myself good or bad. Don’t go to people with the information or seeking advice etc. then you won’t have to worry about getting it. The only time I feel it justified for one adult to get a little pushy with regard to opinions about the relationships of another is perhaps when there is physical abuse or illegal activity involved. If he doesn’t’ beat you & he’s not cooking meth or running a prostitution ring out of his house then it’s your mistakes or successes and your bad or good experiences that you must live through and learn from on your own. A mother who really cares/is good at mothering would rather you learn your own lessons as opposed to babying you through life privileged to have been protected from harm all the way along. A parent’s job is to care for a child when they’re little, bring them up to be independent and self sufficient so that they are a good citizen and not a burden on others & so that they can live without having to depend on mommy and daddy. To release you from the nest and then attempt to hold you back from that independence is contradicting what I believe to be a parent’s duty. You can’t learn from your mistakes if she never lets you make them.

JLeslie's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer As I mentioned above, I think she should acknowledge her mother’s concerns and then tell her to mind her own business, while also stating she wants her mom to meet him, etc. But, in nicer words of course.

nicole29's avatar

Update: Thank you for all of your suggestions.

I emailed her back to acknowledge her email. We are close, as far as relationships go, but I will not see her again until Thanksgiving, so speaking in person was not an option. I let her know that I appreciated her concern, and that I am the exact same daughter as I was before she found this out – and that I hope no hard feelings come of this (between her and I) because they do not need to. Yes, I am skeptical, but I don’t think that anyone would go into this situation and not be at least a bit hesitant. I told her that at this point, he has been nothing but great to me, and if any of these concerns arise, over time, I’ll re-evaluate. I am not afraid to walk away, but at this time, I would regret it.

She responded, basically stating that she is glad I’m at least considering it. While she still thinks its best that I walk away, she realizes that if it is not of my own choice, uninfluenced by her, then I will resent her for it, and our relationship will not be the same.

As it stands, I’m okay with it now. She doesn’t have to love it.. or even support it. I just don’t want her to worry about it.

Also, just to clarify as far as independence from my mother goes… She is gracious enough to help me pay for my schooling so that I don’t have tremendous students loans when I graduate. That being said, I understand her concern even more… she doesn’t want something like this to affect an education that she is paying for. I just want her to understand that it won’t.

JLeslie's avatar

@nicole29 You think her concern is the money for your education? I doubt that. I think she is worried you will spend time in a relationship that will cause you heartache. There might also be she worries you won’t finish school I guess. She probably went through a relationship where she stayed in longer than she should have, because once in it is hard to leave at signs of trouble. I am just guessing of course, I don’t know your mom, but I do know most people have been through relationships like that. It isn’t always age or distance, there are many many reasons. I am not saying your relationship is doomed, only saying what I am guessing your mom’s real fear is.

snapdragon24's avatar

My only worry is that he might
not be who he says he is…and is manipulating her to accept more than she can take. He has a kid, he is older…and I just hope he is as great as he sounds. Again, really think things through and make sure he is worth the fight. I have seen many situations where my young gfs were infatuated with older married man, or a man with kids etc. and they all have come out heart broken.

Jenniehowell's avatar

@snapdragon24 Being heart broken, disappointed, manipulated is all part of life. Hiding our kids from the reality of it really benefits them less than letting them go through it so they can learn from it and grow and move on as more knowledgeable and aware individuals with some experience under their belt.

(in general and not assuming that you do this) I always find it interesting how a mother’s worry (a natural thing to some extent for any mother) can translate in them interjecting their two cents when it may not be asked for or even worse having them attempting to control/manipulate the situations in some way shape or form. Fathers do this same thing in their own way. It always perplexes me what must be the issue in those situations. I always find that those afraid someone else will manipulate their children are people who have done the same to their children on some level and therefore when the goal was to teach independence and self sufficiency that parent knows all too well that they have hindered the growth of their child by manipulating them frequently enough to be worried that someone else may also as easily manipulate them. When parents teach all they should in regard to independence and self sufficiency, safety etc. then really to worry in such a manner is to second guess themselves and their parenting skills. Our children are a product of what we have done to them and/or taught them as they grew.

I feel in general that my parents did a great job. They taught me independence, safety, psychology and right from wrong etc. and then when I was free to do my own thing I went out and made my mistakes, learned from them & because of the great job my parents did I bounced back from any of those experiences which may have been negative and multiplied the benefit of those which were positive. In cases during my college or military years where my father attempted to manipulate my decisions with his advice or any other effort – I always felt sad for him. It must be a depressing state to be in to have such a lack of confidence in yourself and/or such a second guessing of the self that you feel the need to control another on any level be they your child or be it just through something as simple as a political vote. I understand the worry but I don’t understand the self doubt. I would love for my father to be more objective about his part in my upbringing so that he wouldn’t blame himself for me not living the life he had wished to vicariously experience through me & so that he would see that he really did in fact do a good job. In the last 10 years he’s been much less this way but he used to be quite interesting to say the least before that. It’s just a sad state of affairs when parents try controlling or manipulating the outcomes of their adult children’s lives regardless of whether the reason &/or intent are positive ones.

Kardamom's avatar

Tell your Mom and your Guy that you would like to attend some pre-marital/couples counseling and see what He thinks about that. If he’s the right guy for you, he’ll be all for it. If not, he’ll balk and tell you that everything is fine and that you’re making way too much of this situation. In that case, you should know that HE isn’t making very much of the situation.

He’s considerably older than you are. I think it’s a bad idea to just jump into something with a man who’s a lot older than you are (when you are still very young, it would be very different if you were 30 and he was 40-ish). Older men like younger women for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons is that they are cute and free and not encumbered with children (like his ex-wife is) and they don’t expect as much as a more mature woman would.

He may indeed be a great guy, but just dating him and playing around, while he has children that should be his first priority, and dealing with/taking care of his ex wife is a full time job. Having a girlfriend, under the circumstances seems kind of frivolous to me. I don’t mean to sound like you are frivolous, but this situation just reeks of problems down the line, for everyone. Not just you, but for the kids and him and you and the ex-wife (who he has probably made out to you to be harpie or a shrew or some other type of un-worthy person).

There are too many men, who try to justify hooking up with younger women, by telling themselves (and the women) that their ex-wives were horrible people or that they were misunderstood. Pahleeeeze!

This guy needs to make his children his FIRST priority, not you. If he is serious about you, then he will gladly enter into couples counseling/family counseling with you to make sure that you and he are doing the best thing with regards to raising his children. And part of that means respecting and treating his ex-wife with the highest of regards. Even if he’s convinced you that she’s not worthy.

It would be in your best interest to get to know his ex-wife, too. Because if you continue your relationship with this fellow, you will be signing up to co-parent the kids. It would be best if you could befriend her, and support her, because it’s the welfare of their children that matters most in this situation, not whether or not your mother likes your boyfriend or not. You just entered the adult zone.

jca's avatar

I think in order for any of us to have given the best answer possible, it would have been helpful for the OP to detail (without just saying “check out the other questions I’ve asked, if you’re curiosu for the backstory”)
1. her age,
2. the boyfriend’s age,
3: his kids’ ages and
4. exactly what her mother’s concerns are.

nicole29's avatar

@jca
1) 22
2) 35
3) 4 and 6
4) That if we choose to stay together, I will be limited in what I can do with my life (ex. Where I can live, when we can do activities that interfere with visitation, how much money will be in the household after his child support, etc.) I think a major concern is that I will graduate making a lot of money in a few years (as a pharmacist) and she doesn’t want to see what I’ve worked so hard for going to someone else’s children (and ex) if we were to stay together. And, of course, she’s worried that he is using her daughter.

JLeslie's avatar

35. 35 is a lot older than 21. If you were my daughter I would be freaked out. I would worry he likes young women and always will.

Have you been out to his home? Or, does he always see you where you live?

snapdragon24's avatar

10–12 year age gap is quite alot but it’s not the end of the world…but just remember he is always two steps ahead.

Eleonora's avatar

Keep honest to your family and yourself
and fight for what you really want

jca's avatar

Your mom makes good points and legit points. I am with @JLeslie that I’d be upset if I were your mom, too.

JLeslie's avatar

@snapdragon24 It is not the age gap as much as it is that she is only 21. If she were 30 or even 25 I would be less freaked, because I would have more confidence in her ability to evaluate relationships and more confidence he does not look for very young women. Women’s bodies and minds are very different from early 20’s even to as soon as late 20’s.

tedd's avatar

Sigh

I’m probably the last person you want advice from on this… and I don’t know the whole situation (nor do I want to know anymore of it, this much is painful enough)...

But

You’re not an idiot. I can say with few doubts you are one of the smartest people I know. If your gut is truly telling you that you’re enjoying this… then go with your gut. You shouldn’t do what I’ve seen you do in the past, and allow the details to ruin a good thing. But remember… your mother is also ranked pretty highly on that list of smartest people I (and for that matter you) have ever met. She may just be seeing the inevitable outcome, that regardless of how happy things are now is probably coming. Enjoy yourself, but when reality comes knocking on your door some time down the road…. don’t ignore it out of stubbornness.

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snapdragon24's avatar

Yes you are right @JLeslie…I’ll be 25 soon and when I compare myself to what I was two years ago…there is definitly a change of perception and understanding. Whatever happens to @nicole29, I believe she will
find a way out if she has too.

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