A Reader Asks:
For the past three months, I have been dating a wonderful woman with whom I see strong potential for a future. As our relationship has become more serious, family members on both sides have voiced their disapproval, suggesting that we are not a good fit. I am close with my family and really want their support. Am I blinded by this relationship and missing warning signs? Should I ignore my feelings and trust my family members’ perspectives? Should I fight for this relationship?
Dating Coach Rachel Burnham Responds:
Relationships with family members run deep. They often know us better than anyone else and have a perspective that’s heavily weighted.
If we are close to and respect our family members, we can be swayed by their opinions and perspectives. We can even refuse to make a decision that does not align with their values. On the other hand, if we are not close or we don’t respect members of our family, we may feel misunderstood and judged, which will only lead us to turn away from their viewpoint regardless of its merits.
Both scenarios can be dangerous. Here are some things to consider when weighing their input:
1.) Are they healthy? We should only accept views of dating and marriage from those who are healthy and act in our best interests. For us to consider any perspective it must be coming from a place of emotional, psychological, and spiritual stability.
2.) Is it personal? Are family members projecting their own discomfort in marriage or relationships on you? For example, if a brother is struggling with financial stability, he may not be supportive of a partner with weak financial prospects, regardless of the relationship’s fundamental value. It is important to compartmentalize issues that are real concerns to you and your future, and those that don’t really pertain to or bother you.
3.) Is it about character? Is it character traits that have become worrisome to your family? When swept up in the emotions of a relationship, we may ignore crucial character components out of the fear that they will disturb our relationship. In such cases, an outside perspective can be very valuable, particularly when we may not want to hear it.
4.) Does the relationship dynamic work? Some dynamics are healthier than others and, of course, we should aim for the healthiest possible dynamic. Your specific dynamic may not work for others, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work for you. For example, if she likes to talk a lot and you tend to do most of the listening, it may seem to your family that she doesn’t give you space to voice your own opinion. While this may be unfamiliar to some, it might be quite comfortable, or even enjoyable, for you. As long as it works, and you have the space to be yourself, don’t let the perception of others distort your experience.
6.) Take it outside. It’s a good idea to discuss the concerns of family members with an outside therapist or dating coach to gain an experienced perspective that is free from interference. Out of love, family members can be overly cautious or get too personal about our relationships. Don’t let their limited vision become an impediment to you getting married.
7.) Communicate. You will determine whether your family members have identified a dynamic that you haven’t seen or been willing to admit. Regardless, their concerns are likely to come from a loving desire to protect us. While you may not arrive at a solution that accommodates everyone, do everything you can to maintain respect and good communication. This will make them more likely to accept your decision and allow you to protect your lifelong bonds with them.
8.) Don’t follow blindly. Sometimes we are so close to our family that we can’t imagine marrying someone they would not love. On the other hand, just because your family loves a particular girl or guy does not mean they are the correct life partner for you. Be careful not to blindly follow what anyone says about your date without more in-depth reflection, discussion, and analysis.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you to do your due diligence and make the decision that’s in alignment with your own needs and goals.
May these tips and guidance lead you on the shortest distance to your longest relationship!
By Rachel Burnham