He Said-She Said: When Parents Interfere
- Thursday, May 26, 2011
EDITOR'S NOTE: Each He Said-She Said column features a question from a Crosswalk.com reader with responses from a male and female point of view. If you've got a question about anything related to singleness or living the single life, please submit it to He Said-She Said (selected questions will be posted anonymously).
QUESTION: My parents (unbelievers) are threatening to disown me if I "dare" to marry my boyfriend (a believer) of one year, based on the reasons that they feel he is not good enough and need to look elsewhere. Although he is amazingly kind, has a solid career, owns a home, and makes me wonderfully happy, they are threatening him and I. The threats have gotten so bad that my boyfriend, who once wanted to marry me, is now wanting out. He does not want to associate with future in-laws who put him down so badly with superficial reasons, which could possibly turn into more hate down the road. I'm so devastated and truly embarrassed by my parents' controlling behavior and it's destroying my relationship. Because we are not married, I cannot cleave to him like the Bible says unless he was my husband. Why is the Lord allowing us to be ripped apart by non-believers?
HE SAID: It’s difficult to comprehend why God allows for such things to happen when circumstances seem to be so “clear” to us, although disagreements and conflicts can sometimes cause us to face a malady in our own life, protect us from making a possible mistake or create a better situation in the long run.
Instead of trying to find solace by convincing ourselves there IS some reason behind it or remembering he is in control, maybe we need to seek to “understand” before trying to be “understood” and ask “why?” before demanding “why not?!”
If you aren’t doing so already, pray for your parents to receive the Lord into their lives. Even more important than finding a mate on earth is leading others to heaven.
You obviously respect your parents and want their approval, otherwise you wouldn’t have taken the time to write and ask for our opinion in how to solve this dilemma, nor care about theirs. I would also surmise you are living at home and as a result probably answer to your parents more than you desire.
With this in mind, the place to begin your process of discovery is to pray your parents will understand and accept the feelings you have for your boyfriend. Notice I didn’t say pray your parents will change their mind about him or agree with you, although that is probably what you may ultimately want.
Even though they are non-believers, they are your parents and should be honored.
Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12).
One of the most profound ways you can live that out in front of them is by giving them respect and taking a moment to listen to their thoughts and opinion no matter how much you may oppose them.
I would suggest you schedule a time with your parents to discuss (not argue about) your relationship with your boyfriend. There are no doubt high emotions on both sides surrounding the issue, and I would suspect there is a lot more to their non-acceptance of him than what they are saying (or what you are hearing).
Allow your parents the opportunity to share with you in a (hopefully) calm and loving way (and in a neutral location) what their true and honest feelings are. Encourage them to speak their entire mind not holding anything back and without any interruption. As they do, don’t formulate a rebuttal, but try to remember the following verse.
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19).
Once they have said their piece, share from your heart (not your emotions) how you feel about what they said, what your boyfriend means to you and why you believe he is the one God chose for you.
When all is said and done, find some common ground. There is no reason to force a date to be married or make ultimatums (for either party). Take your time. If God has chosen him to be your husband today, he will also be the one God chose for you tomorrow, next week and next year. If both of you truly believe you are to be together, then allow God to work in the hearts of your parents, give them time to experience all of the good in your boyfriend you do, and make opportunities for the four of you to spend together.
If you and your boyfriend don’t want to make the effort to give your parents the chance to get to know him in the way you know him, maybe he isn’t good enough for you. However, if he is everything you know and believe he is, a strong Christian man who will lead your future family, time won’t hurt your relationship, it will only bring you closer.
Honoring your parents as the Bible says even when you adamantly disagree may express Jesus’ love to them more than anything else. Wouldn’t you want your parents to truly understand and share in the God that brought the two of you together?
1 Corinthians 13:4 is not just applicable for wedding ceremonies; it was given to all of us for all times.
Love is patient, love is kind.
SHE SAID: This is a difficult situation, for sure.
I know you are torn. On one hand you probably want to honor your parents and their wishes and not disrespect them in any way (Ephesians 6:2). But on the other, since your parents are not believers you are probably looking for different things when it comes to selecting someone who you believe God has brought to you for marriage (2 Corinthians 6:14). And so I will answer based on the assumption that (a) you are a responsible and emotionally mature adult and (b) are also a believer (as you have indicated your boyfriend is).
Having dated for a year, you have no doubt had the opportunity to observe your boyfriend through all the seasons (as some dating experts and books suggest). And hopefully you have seen past the exterior and have a pretty good understanding of his character and what kind of man he is when no one else is around.
Since your parents are not looking through the lens of faith (as you are) when it comes to your boyfriend and marriage, it is understandable that you (and they) are looking at a potential mate quite differently. That being said, it would still be helpful to know what specifics they are objecting to when it comes to your boyfriend. Are these critical issues, such as character flaws (does he have a history of lying or stealing or has he committed a serious crime)? Or are they purely superficial (length of his hair, what part of town he lives in, etc.)? Another thought could be that your parents are just panicking a bit about losing you and don’t want to see you grow up and get married (this could be true regardless of your age). Thus, the threats.
But let’s get back to your boyfriend. You’ve pointed out some positives such as his job and home. In this day and age, having a solid career and being a homeowner is becoming more and more of a rarity when it comes to eligible young men. That’s just what I’ve found in my world, and it may not be true in yours (especially since I don’t know your ages). But I’ve noticed a trend wherein some single men (usually mid to late 30s and on up) have seemingly delayed their maturity. And visible proof of that can be lack of direction when it comes to career or instability when it comes to securing and maintaining a job or having multiple short-term jobs, as well as lack of home ownership by a certain age. (NOTE: I didn’t say is or always is, so please, dear readers, don’t send me hate mail saying that I said “all men who don’t have stable jobs or own homes are immature or irresponsible.”)
Outward signs of inward immaturity can symbolize lack of commitment and or irresponsibility found in the makeup of someone’s character. But the absence of either a stable job or a home doesn’t necessarily mean a man is not mature (that needs to be looked at on a case-by-case basis … see my previous “note”). I’m just saying that it can be an indicator of where a man is in his emotional growth—despite what his actual age is.
At this point I would recommend (if you have not already done so) seeking the counsel of those who are in spiritual authority over you. In your situation, this would include your pastor and/or a small group leader or an older couple you consider your “spiritual parents” and are your “covering” when it comes to input for major life decisions and who are involved in your growth as a Christian (Titus 2:1-8). Are they acquainted with and do they know your boyfriend? What is their perspective on your situation? Have you confided in them and have you prayed about this situation with them? What is the Lord telling them? Do they have confirmation one way or the other?
If you have confirmation from these individuals, then I believe you must continue praying (along with your boyfriend) and studying the Word for clarity until you feel certain that God is directing you toward marriage or not. He will give you a peace about it either way, and at that point you have some decisions to make. Do you trust God and will you obey him and follow the path he is leading you down (even if your parents disagree and disown you)? Or do you walk away from your boyfriend because you are afraid of disappointing your mom and dad and don’t want to be disowned by them?
It’s a very difficult decision, but I believe that if you are earnestly seeking the Lord in this matter that he will give you a clear answer and you will know what you are supposed to do (even if it doesn’t make sense to you at the time).
If it is “yes, marry him,” then you must sit down with your parents (perhaps with your pastor and/or others) and inform them of your decision to marry. Even though your parents may not understand or agree, it is imperative that you share from your heart and tell them calmly of your conclusions. You must also let them know that you love them and respect them as your parents and as individuals whom God chose to raise you and prepare you for the man you are now ready to marry. Even though you disagree with your parents (and if they still plan to disown you, you should acknowledge how painful that will be), you must show them that you honor them—no matter what. They may turn their backs on you, but you will not turn from them and will be the one whose arms will always be outstretched to them for reconciliation.
This isn’t an overnight decision, I know. So make sure you give yourself enough time to think through this issue thoroughly and that you pray through the matter with fervor until you have received a definite answer. Take your time. Those who join you in this journey (pastor, spiritual parents, etc.) will want God’s best for you and will undoubtedly help you to be cautious and careful in your decision making.
Hopefully, your parents will witness your example as they see you earnestly praying and seeking God’s will for this matter in your life. I pray that they will be drawn to him as a result of your living testimony in this complicated situation (Matthew 5:13-16).
HE is … Cliff Young, a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and a veteran single of many decades. He has traveled the world in search of fresh experiences, serving opportunities, and the perfect woman (for him) and has found that his investments in God, career and youth ministry have paid off in priceless dividends.
SHE is … Laura MacCorkle, Senior Editor at Crosswalk.com. She loves God, her family and her friends. Singleness has taught her patience, deepened her walk with the Lord and afforded her countless (who's counting anyway?) opportunities to whip up an amazing three-course meal for one.
DISCLAIMER: We are not trained psychologists or licensed professionals. We're just average folk who understand what it's like to live the solo life in the 21st century. We believe that the Bible is our go-to guide for answers to all of life's questions, and it's where we'll go for guidance when responding to your questions. Also, it's important to note that we write our answers separately (we think they sound eerily similar sometimes, too!).
GOT A QUESTION? If you've got a question about anything related to singleness or living the single life, please submit it to He Said-She Said (selected questions will be posted anonymously). While we are unable to answer every inquiry, we do hope that this column will be an encouragement to you.
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