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When Your Parents Hate Your Boyfriend

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You know your parents hate your boyfriend, but, frankly, you are head over heels in love and headstrong about keeping him. Could there be a way to keep everyone happy?

When Your Parents Hate Your Boyfriend
Dr. Wendy Walsh: Most of us have been there. You're at a family function with your new man and are met with that disapproving eyebrow arch your mother has perfected so well. After a perfunctory handshake, your dad runs to the bar. You know your parents hate your boyfriend, but, frankly, you are head over heels in love and headstrong about keeping him. Could there be a way to keep everyone happy?

Before you head to a Vegas chapel without their blessings, stop and think about this situation. First, ask yourself why you are with a man whom your family deplores, and why you might consider a challenging future where managing this conflict could become daily business. Know this: Even as adults, our behavior is often motivated by a desire to please our parents or piss them off. Would your man be "all that" if your parents liked him?

Next, consider your parents' disapproval. Are their opinions based on any real evidence that your new man might do anything other than bring you happiness? Are they truly reading your relationship incorrectly and projecting their own wishes and desires on you? Think long and hard about this before you blame them. They love you and want happiness for you.

Having said that, it is also important that you understand the journey most Americans embark on in young adulthood, as they individuate from their family of origin. The process of becoming a free-thinking adult usually begins in teenaged life, when teens identify with peers far more powerfully than parents. Child/parent conflict is an important rite of passage in our culture, as young people get ready to leave the nest. Next, in young adulthood and college, people venture out to even more experimental peer groups in a quest to find their own sense of self. In the end, if everything has gone well, we become an individual of our times. We carry most of the lessons, morals, and values of our parents and combine them with the shaping of our peers and media to form our own opinions. We may reject some of our parents' teachings and even some of our peers' ideas, and this very act of selection is the thing that makes us individuals. We know who we are and what we like, separate from family and peer pressure.

But it doesn't happen this way for everyone. Some family systems involve control, often exerted with money. If you come from a family that has attempted to define you in a narrow way rather than help you grow as an individual, this new man may be your ultimate act of defiance. He might also be the choice that you've needed to make for a very long time to make yourself happy on your terms. Only you know the answers to these questions. I encourage you to talk about this with friends and other relatives and ask them to be completely honest. You might be surprised by their answers, or happy they'll be coming to Vegas with you.

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3 comments so far | Post a comment now
ame i. August 6, 2009, 10:40 AM

A year or so after I was widowed I dated a man my family and friends detested. They were RIGHT. Although he was a school teacher (died of a heart attack 3 years ago) I found out he was a cocaine addict & tried to get me addicted so I would pay for his habit.

fizywelko January 20, 2011, 5:42 AM

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Liz April 22, 2011, 3:39 PM

My parents currently hate my boyfriend now, not because of his actions but because of his family background. Why should he pay for his parents mistakes?

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