When Your Family Loves Him More Than You Do

One of the most pivotal moments in a relationship is the introduction to the family. If it goes poorly, the couple has an uphill battle ahead if they choose to continue the relationship. If it goes well, everyone gets to live happily ever after. If it goes really well, wedding plans can commence. But what happens if your family falls for your honeybun and you aren’t quite sure Mendelssohn's March is in your future? Or worse yet, you fall out of love and decide to end the relationship?

Breakups are terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things on the best days. Regardless of who makes the decision to end it. And most people need the support of their friends and family to get through them. Unless they are heartless androids with no love in their souls. So, when your family revolts against your decision because somewhere in the line they fell more in love with the individual than you were ever able to, things can get terribly complicated.

This has only happened to me once because my family’s bullshit meter has always been more finely tuned than mine when it comes to the guys I brought home. He was a farm kid from a neighboring town. Terribly handsome (albeit short and never quite owning it) especially for Southern Minnesota and sweet, I considered myself a lucky 16-year-old. And so did my mom. She thought his down-home upbringing under the care of a tight-knit rural Catholic family much like her own, made him perfect. And he was. For 16-18-year-old me. But when college began to alter my perspective on what my future could be, he didn’t feel like quite the right fit anymore.

My mom was devastated. She could not understand why this match wasn’t going to end up in marriage and lots of little Catholic farm babies. That’s because my mom wasn’t me. I wasn’t her. For years she continued to pine for this boy on my behalf, but she eventually moved on, as mom’s will do. And I hadn’t given it much thought until I saw a friend of mine go through a similar, though more intense version of this experience.

It was an especially surprising scenario because at post-30, I wouldn’t think parents would be selecting mates based on the pictures they have in their minds anymore. They’ve had plenty of time to put to rest the notion that we would follow in their small-town footsteps when we made careers and blazed trails in the buzzing metropolis (heh heh) that is Minneapolis. You know, The Big City. But, of course, parents will be parents and no matter how much we push against their  expectation that we are meant to be generational clones, they never quite lay them to rest.

A fact that made the demise of this relationship a greater challenge for my friend. The guy was lovely and he represented so much of her upbringing (one she shared with me). Though her parents adored him for matching perfectly with her roots, she was no longer just her roots. She had branched and blossomed and needed a partner who could cultivate the ground she stood on now. It turned out he couldn’t be this partner.

She was bummed. Her family questioned everything they had ever known. Oddly, so did my family. Because they are just like her family. All they saw was this nice, down-home kid who would have been exactly what they’d pick for their 16-year-old daughter. But, she wasn’t 16. She wasn’t the person they thought their 16-year-old daughter would become either. Not in an “oh no we’ve lost her” kind of way (though sometimes it feels like that when you have the families we do). They had been proud of all she achieved and supported her success, and yet, somehow I think they always thought she would align more closely to her roots when it came time to settle down.

Truth be told, maybe she will. No matter how far she moves away from the daughter her parents had raised, she will always be tied to that upbringing and very likely be drawn someone who embodies that upbringing. But, it’s not fair of her family to put those expectations on her, especially when she’s explained that this one isn’t The One™. It is their job to wish her nothing but happiness and to accept it when she says “this isn’t making me happy.” Even if they can’t possibly understand why. She is a woman who has known what she wants for some time. Not a child hopping on the back of a motorcycle because she’s feeling rebellious.

For her part, she needs to remain confident in her decisions, recognize parents are crazy and cut them some slack. It’s hard to see someone you molded make choices you can’t fathom.  

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