DEAR TKB: “I am at my wit’s end. The situation with my parents has gotten out of control…” | REAL LIFE ISSUES

123four. five. 678nine. ten. ELEVEN. TWELVE. 


Aright, SO!  Happy Wednesday evening to your faces n stuff.  Listen, I will have you know that I am very, very excited for today’s question.  Of course by excited I actually mean totally emotionally distraught and angry that effing people keep effing acting this way towards their own effing children.

Here’s a fun fact before we throw down: some people aren’t the definition of supportive when you announce your engagement!  SHOCKING, eh?  I know, not so much, unfortunately.  Especially if you’re me, a wedding blogger who takes reader questions and thus you’ve heard the kinds of struggles quite a few of your readers have gone through with regard to families not being so welcoming to the people they’ve chosen to marry.

Today’s question is from a lovely reader we’re calling Miss M.  I need your help with this one, because I think Miss M could use all the thoughts and ideas and personal stories and potentially bits of advice you guys can stand to offer her today.  This one’s a shocker and doozie.  Aright here we go……

Dear TKB:

Alison, I am at my wit’s end. The situation with my parents has gone so far past out of control, they are making out of control look calm and serene. I am engaged and we are getting married this coming July 28th. I have received nothing but support from everyone, with the exception of my parents. Did I expect them to be excited for me? No, but I do expect them to behave like adults. This past weekend, my fiance and I went to my hometown in South Dakota for a belated Thankgiving/early Christmas visit with my family. We arrived before my dad was back from work. When he walked in the door, he did not make eye contact with anyone or say hello or respond to my hello to him. Saturday morning, my fiance walked into the kitchen and said “Good morning Mr. R, how are you doing?” In response, my dad looked around the kitchen and left without saying a word. The atmosphere did not improve as the weekend progressed. Yesterday, I gave my mom a call, as I usually do several times a week. My dad’s behavior over the weekend was brought up and I mentioned being of the opinion that my dad, while he did apologize to me for what happened, also owes my fiance an apology for how rude he was. My mother proceeded to inform me that my dad’s behavior was completely justified because my fiance “gave us the ultimate fuck you when we said no after he asked to marry you, and he proposed anyway.”

Some quick background information on my fiance’s experience when talking to my parents about the two of us getting married. Now, I wasn’t present for the conversation, but I trust that my fiance was honest in the facts he relayed about the event. According to him, my dad said “I’m not saying yes and I’m not saying no.” This response had my fiance pretty upset because it’s a yes or no question, there isn’t really room for ambiguity. My parents proceeded to accuse my fiance of being the reason for all of my faults because I was perfect before I started dating him. Alison, the things they were throwing out there were almost comical. They blamed him as being the reason I no longer play the violin (I do still play the violin). He’s also the reason I no longer take dance classes (I no longer take them because there are none available for adults my age). And he was also credited for being the reason I no longer go to church. I quit going to church because I felt forced into a religion, which I have tried to explain to my parents numerous times and it seems to go in one ear and out the other.

My parents have met me with whole hearted resistance on all major decisions of my adult life to date, so I was not surprised when they were less than supportive of my engagement and upcoming marriage. But they have gone past simply stating their concerns to being just plain mean. During my phone call with my mother yesterday, not only did she say that by saying “not yes and not no” they actually meant no and we should have known that, but she also said that everyone one in our family, on both sides, extended family included, thinks I am making a poor decision in getting married. The only person (besides my parents) who has been less than supportive is my dad’s mother, and that is because she doesn’t want me marrying anyone unless they are Catholic. She’s old, and I expect that from her. Everyone else I have spoken with has been extremely supportive and excited. My aunts are throwing a bridal shower for me for goodness sake.  

After saying that everyone is lying to me, my mom proceeded to tell me that I am irresponsible and my fiance is lazy because isn’t working full time while going to school. He starts student teaching on January 4th, so please, tell me how he is supposed to work full time while being in a classroom from 7:30 to 5 everyday. Yes, I agree completely with anyone who says you need to have a financial strategy laid out because if the money does work, then you’re screwed. We have crunched the numbers into a fine powder and are very comfortable. On my income alone, we pay all our bills, rent, groceries, and are able to save $7,000 between October 2011 and July 2012 to pay for our wedding. My parents seem to be ignoring the fact that I have a good job that pays me more than enough to live off of. I don’t mind being the sole bread winner. In actuality, I prefer it that way. When my parents got married, my dad was still in college and my mom was the only one with a job, but according to my mother “that’s different”. When Jon and I get married, he will have at least graduated and presumably have some kind of job somewhere. There are dozens of teaching positions opening up for next school year and only 6 people are graduating this semester from the local university who could apply for those positions, not to mention positions that will be available in the surrounding areas. I understand why people would be concerned about my fiance not currently having a job, the two of us have certainly discussed this already and are not lightly entering into the decision of marriage.  

At this point, my main concern is how to deal my with parents for the remainder of our engagement. My mom didn’t want to see the ring or the dress this weekend, didn’t want to hear about plans, and my dad didn’t really speak to anyone so that pretty well put the kibosh on wedding talks with him. They have not said if they will be contributing financially and right now I don’t even feel like accepting money from them would be a good idea since they are being so controlling and pushy. If this attitude from them continues, do I tell them to shape up or they can’t come to the wedding? Do I try to kill them with kindness and talk about wedding stuff even if they don’t want to hear it? Do I push for a relative to say something to my parents? Because nothing I say seems to get through to them. How do I make my parents understand that when I get married is not their decision? I want to enjoy my engagement and be excited to talk about it instead of nervous about what my parents are going to try and pull next. Just to clarify, I am 21, the fiance is 23 (will be 22 and 24 by the wedding), we have been dating for three years, and I am financially independent of my parents.


Dear M,

Before I tell you what I think and before I offer any suggestions, I want you to ask yourself this: Do my fiancé and I have the kind of love that is supportive, kind and true?  The kind we all should courageously strive for and not settle for less?

I’m going to assume that your answer is  “Yes!!” so let me continue;

Your parents love you in the way they know how.  And they feel (from their vantage point) that you would be happy if you continued to develop and perfect the talents that you showed them in your youth.  Choosing a man of the same religion would add to that happiness, in their opinion.  You not doing what “they believe” is best for you is much easier for them to explain if they can blame it on someone other than you or themselves.  Your fiancé therefore becomes a convenient and unfortunate scapegoat.  (By the way, know that you and your fiancé are not to blame for your parents’ feelings and behavior, even though you have likely wondered what you might have done along the way to prompt such a response.)

There are parents who want you to be happy and will be supportive and nonjudgmental in whatever ways you ask or don’t ask of them.  They prepare you for life and then root for you as you go out and pursue your dreams, whatever they may be.

There are also parents who want you to be happy but in their minds, it is only if you let them guide you, will you achieve that happiness.  These parents, unfortunately and often unknowingly, prepare you for a life that makes their happiness more important than yours.

Sadly, it seems that you do not have the nonjudgmental ones.  So…… What do you do?

I think you plan your wedding and your life without any expectations of financial help from them, or any change of heart from them, or any epiphany coming to them.

Do not ask them anything that could result in an answer that might upset you.  Continue to show them your love and respect. But, keep phone calls and visits short and sweet.

Invite them to the wedding without requesting assurances of any kind from them.  Hopefully, seeing you confidently taking mature control of your life and the events surrounding your wedding, your mom and then your dad will see you in a different and more positive light.

If this works, and I hope it does, you and your fiancé and your parents will have the happiness that we all want.  If not, you will know that you tried your best.

In the grand scheme of things, there are the people who show you love without condition, and there are the others.  You build your life with the ones in the first part of that sentence.

Much love, Miss M.

And to finish up this post, here’s a little video.  You know… to lighten the mood a smidge, if you need the mood lightened for a sec.

I totally like to make him guess.  This video is very true to life.

Ok.  I’d really like to turn the answering of today’s reader question over to you guys.  What are your thoughts on Miss M’s situation?  Perhaps you have some advice?  Or maybe some of you can identify with some part of it, or have seen a friend go through it?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in general.

Final note to the world… I want people to know that this is certainly not a unique problem to have, and I think it’s very important to know that people who struggle through something like this are by no means alone in what they’re experiencing.

xoxo!  - Alison

Lavender & Twine is a member of Vendor Love.  Explore more of Lavender & Twine’s work here, in our guide.

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Label(s): "DEAR TKB..." Advice Column, Real Life Issues

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  1. The Blind Bride on December 21, 2011

    I feel like there is something missing here. If he were that great of a guy, I doubt her parents would have been on the fence about them getting married. He did ask the question for your hand in marriage and without a firm “yes” it was not a wise idea to ask you (in my opinion). But, since he did, maybe you could ask your parents to sit down with you or the two of you to hash it out. Ask things like, “We are in love and getting married, what can we do to make you OK with that?” or even have your fiance apologize for misunderstanding their “not yes, not no” as a yes.

  2. Loe on December 21, 2011

    I don’t feel like her fiance would have to apologize for the “misunderstanding” of the “not yes, not no” question. Even without knowing the whole story, that’s pretty harsh of her parents. Yes, all a parent usually wants is their child’s happiness, but can’t they see she’s happy? And it seems like they are going out of their way to be mean about it, and that’s just not right.

    I agree with Alison’s suggestions. While yes, it is nice to have parents who are happy for it you, in the end, its your and your fiance’s happiness that is important.

  3. Lena on December 21, 2011

    No lack of tough in this situation here, huh? Obviously there are some details of the family dynamic that we’re missing, and that really couldn’t be summed up in an email, so we’re flying blind, but it seems like Mom and Dad had expectations for M’s life and those haven’t exactly come to pass, and they’re making their unhappiness known. Like my beloved Alison said, it’s so much easier to make that Jon’s fault than yours, and that’s a terrible situation for both of you.

    While asking for a daughter’s hand isn’t necessary in some clans, other families demand it, and it seems like M’s family would have been furious no matter how this went down. But what’s done is done, and I think everyone’s expectations should be fairly clear from here: M, don’t assume that any amount of wedding talk or sweetness from you is going to sway your parents. Speak openly with your other family members about their feelings–if there are real concerns here, it’s probably best to know that. And invite your parents with the hope that they will attend and keep their unhappiness to themselves.

    And M’s parents: piss off.

  4. Felicia on December 21, 2011

    Oh my, does it make me totally unromantic if I say they should wait? I think the parents are totally rude and that there is a healthier way for them to behave but I also feel that if Miss M is only 21 then maybe they’re just being overprotective parents, which is kinda maybe understandable.

    I can say from my personal experience that I’ve been with my bf for almost 5 years, since I was 19 and that his employment rollercoaster is a big reason why we haven’t gotten married yet. Getting a job and keeping it is not as easy as it used to be. So while I wish Miss M the best of luck, I think that waiting just until he gets a job, will be a tremendous help.

  5. Marit on December 21, 2011

    My advice mirrors Felicia ^. WAIT. You are so young and have plenty of time (I’m 32 and just got married!). Stay engaged and enjoy it, because let’s face it, saying “fiance” is so much fun! ;)

    Use your time to save money for not only the wedding, but your future together. Starting out on a bad financial note is not the ideal situation. Build a better relationship with your parents (if possible). More time will show them that you guys WILL be together and your fiance might even be able to win them over. I couldn’t imagine getting married and not having the support of my parents. I think you will be happier if you wait–and so will they.

    Another positive thing about waiting: think about all the DETAILS your wedding could have! You’ll have time to peruse all the great wedding blogs for ideas and shop around for the best prices. Start crafting now and maybe you’ll be able to post your kick ass wedding on TKB. Win-win!

  6. Koru Kate {Koru Wedding} on December 21, 2011

    I wish I had words of wisdom to share but I don’t. Just know there are people thinking of you & rooting for you! (((HUGS)))

  7. Vanessa on December 21, 2011

    After I read Miss M’s note, my heart broke a bit cause I could relate in some small way. My initial advice is for M to breathe. I read her email and I could feel the frustration pouring out of her!

    It is so easy to get caught in between the desire to be a dutiful daughter, wanting your parents approval, and evolving into your own woman. Alison, your advice to M is wonderful; she will most likely need to plan her wedding without holding her parents to any set expectations. When she speaks to her parents it should be with respect and presence of mind. If she is frustrated and upset, her parents will use that to further their belief that she is not doing the right thing. Cheerful confidence (even if she is not feeling so cheerful) may pre-empt any further parental grief.

    I know how hard this must be for M. Hopefully in time (and along with grace and patience) her parents will learn to accept and appreciate M’s path.

    PS – I realized that after initially reading M’s note, I grabbed my Ipod and played an old song by Sarah McLachlan called “Elsewhere”. If you don’t know it, give it a listen, I think its pretty appropriate.

    Happy Holidays!

  8. nora on December 22, 2011

    Totally agree that maybe, just maybe, you should wait. I’m 22 and my BF is 23 and we live together, have jobs, are in love, blahblahblah, but we’re not getting married. I acknowledge that although we could do it, life throws you curveballs, jobs do not happen, and money may be tough to come by. My parents would be supportive but they’re more supportive of waiting until we have definite financial resources, rather than just plans. $7k saved can be gone with one illness or car accident and I would be more worried.

    But if you’re going to do it, I would agree with TKB and go for it, politely and without expectations from your parents.

  9. christina on December 22, 2011

    Very similar situation happened with my best friend. sit down with your parents (in person if possible) without your fiance there. force them to air every complaint they have about him and respond in a mature fashion that addresses why you disagree with this complaint (such as the violin playing). very likely that there have been misunderstandings or miscommunications but don’t get up until they agree to give him another chance. if that doesn’t work, do what Alison says. Sooner or later your role in your parents’ life will be more important than their disapproval of him.

  10. Jennifer on December 22, 2011

    Ohh this is a tough one. I also agree with TKB that if you and your fiance really want this, you have to do it yourselves. Pay for it yourselves and don’t talk about it with your parents. It may be helpful to sit them down to talk about the issues, but I doubt it will help. For your parents to not want to be a part of, or not approve of the biggest decision of your life, shows real anger and it likely won’t leave with one conversation. I would also say wait, not just for the sake of your parent’s approval, but for other reasons. You have so much time ahead of you! Financial issues are huge in relationships and being dependent on one income can create resentment. I do wish you the best of luck with your parents and your marriage.

  11. Nicole P. on December 22, 2011

    I agree with the Blind Bride and it sounds like that there is some missing information. I doubt the parents would not want you to get married just because they think you don’t dance or play your violin anymore. I feel maybe there was a past issue with the fiancé that wasn’t mentioned unless your parents are just totally irrational people.

  12. Chelsea on December 22, 2011

    I had so many emotions reading this question, and then I started reading the comments. I didn’t realize that you are only 21. While I’m not much older (25), I look back on things I did at 21 and think about how little I knew of the world (and that’s a euphemism, because I mostly just look back and say how stupid I was). Obviously you have things together, probably moreso than I did at that age, but I agree with many asking “what’s the hurry?”.

    My husband and I JUST got marrie after being together for 7 1/2 years. I’m not trying to say that you have to wait, but I can tell you that 1) my friends who got married young (with disapproving and supportive parents) are now divorced. Obviously that’s not a guaranteed outcome, but food for thought.

    If you insist on going forward with your marriage, you should sit down and talk things over with your parents. I wouldn’t have your fiancé there as they don’t seem to like him right now. Correct their assumptions that he is a negative influence and tell them that you and he love and support each other. Tell them his asking you to marry him was not meant to be a slap in the face to them, but because you make him happy and he makes you happy and you want to share in that happiness together. Ultimately, realize you are not responsible for their happiness OR unhappiness. For your sake, look to the people who are giving you support and are excited and be thankful you have them. My mom and I fought throughout the entire wedding process and it was awful. I was lucky to have my sister, boss, and friends. Even though I didn’t get what I wanted from my mom, I still got it.

    Anyway, I hope everything works out for you! I just typed ALLLLL of that on my iPhone so you know I mean it cause I hate texting etc. on my phone.

  13. Chelsea on December 22, 2011

    My husband and I JUST got marrie after being together for 7 1/2 years. I’m not trying to say that you have to wait, but I can tell you that 1) my friends who got married young (with disapproving and supportive parents) are now divorced. Obviously that’s not a guaranteed outcome, but food for thought.

    I realize there are many typos (iPhone!!), but there was supposed to be a 2) (which is) I’m glad I waited. We both changed so much and still stayed together; not that we’re super awesome or anything (I happen to think we are, but…), but not many do.

  14. Melodious on December 22, 2011

    Ok, I’m going to be candid and blunt here. Your parents are being assholes. Sure, you’re a bit young, but you’re an independent adult and if you want to get married, you can and you should.

    In your letter, you defended and explained yourself way too much. YOU DON’T OWE ANYONE ANY EXPLANATIONS FOR YOUR CHOICES! If you are happy and in love, good for you! If you’re fine with being the sole breadwinner, then nobody else should find fault with it. You make your own future, and it sounds like the two of you have a solid, feasible plan. You don’t need the approval of your parents.

    Asking for your hand was a kind (and quaint, and antiquated, and sweet) gesture on your future husband’s part, but you are not your father’s possession to give away or withhold at his whim. It sounds like your parents are having a hard time letting go, but it’s coming across as mean and heartless.

    Personally, I’d scrap the entire wedding and have a fabulous elopement just for yourselves and your most supportive and loving friends and family. But that’s just me. There have been some good suggestions already

  15. Melodious on December 22, 2011

    Whoops! I had a little keyboard slip and hadn’t finished before hitting enter.

    As I was saying, there have been several good suggestions already. But it is possible that your parents will never come around and become welcoming to your honey. You need to prepare yourself for that, as well. It can be stressful on a relationship and you will have to work doubly hard to make sure you have a firm foundation when things get shaky.

    I wish you all the best. You’ve got some tough times ahead.

  16. Madison on December 23, 2011

    This is a really tough dilemma and i agree with melodious. You are an independant adult who is old enough to make her own decisions. I also think the comments about your age are a little unfair, i’m 22 and getting married next year. Ive been with my boyfriend for 8 years, have lived together for 4 in our own house with our own mortgage and we have had our ups and downs and have always got through it. To judge someone on age alone isn’t really fair when you don’t know that individual, hope everythign works out, i wish you the best xx

  17. c. j. on July 12, 2012

    I felt the need to comment on this post because I am in a similar situation. I am 21 and just got engaged to my boyfriend (who is 25). I will be 22 and he will be 26 at the wedding (planned for fall next year). My parents have been supportive of our engagement for the most part but do have some reservations because I am still young and we are in school and don’t make that much money. I totally understand that when you love someone and you feel that you are ready then sometimes you don’t want to wait.

    Some background, before meeting my fiance I was in a relationship for 4 1/2 years. I was always very cautious, never saying we were going to get married, always believing that “if you wanted to be together forever then you could wait to get married”, understanding that we are young and things/people change. Then things did change and we weren’t happy anymore and we broke up.

    When I met my current fiance though things were different. With in a few months, I found myself dreaming of a life together. I wasn’t scared or cautious about committing. Add to that the fact that we want to join the Peace Corps together and couples are only placed together if they have been married for at least a year. My philosophy began to change to “if you want to be together forever then why does it matter how soon you get married”. We are completely 100% invested in our relationship and see nothing wrong with wanting to make it official at a young age, especially when our future plans will be benefited by tying the knot earlier on.

    So, bottom line, if you know then you know. Yes, we are young, things might change, but things can always change and people are always growing. I think that you should do whatever makes you happy and the people who love you should be happy to know that you are happy. It may take a long time but I think your parents will come around and until then focus on being the happiest you can so that it is all the more obvious to them that you know what you are doing.

  18. Passerby on September 10, 2012

    While 21 is young, I don’t think it’s good advice to tell them to wait. If he’s willing to put off marriage to you for years, then I would seriously doubt his commitment to getting married in the first place. And people, keep in mind that it’s a lot easier to save up for the future if they’re sharing a home and expenses, rather than paying seperate rent and bills waiting to start their life together.

    I wasn’t ready at 21 and I wish I had been; I’ll be 30 by the time my wedding comes around, and my chances of concieving aren’t even half what they were back then. I wasted a lot of years puttering around college and crap jobs, and if I could do it over again I would do it with my husband by my side.


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