Young People Ask . . .
What If My Parents Oppose My Marriage?
Lakesha and her boyfriend are thinking of getting married, but her mother doesn’t approve. “I will turn 19 this year,” says Lakesha, “but my mom insists that we wait until I’m 21.”
IF YOU are planning to get married, it is only natural to want your parents to be happy for you. It can really hurt when your parents do not approve of your choice of a mate. What should you do? Ignore their wishes, and forge ahead with your marriage plans?*
This may be tempting if you are of age and legally able to marry without parental consent. Nevertheless, the Bible sets no age limit on showing honor and respect to one’s parents. (Proverbs 1:8) And if you ignore their feelings, you could do lasting damage to your relationship with them. Furthermore, there is also the possibility—perhaps even a likelihood—that your parents have sound reasons for opposing your marriage.
How Young Is Too Young?
For example, are your parents telling you that you are too young to marry? Well, the Bible sets no minimum age for marriage. But it does recommend that before marrying, one should be “past the bloom of youth”—the years following puberty when sexual desires are at their peak. (1 Corinthians 7:36) Why? Because such young people are just in the early stages of developing the emotional maturity, self-control, and spiritual qualities necessary to handle married life.—Compare 1 Corinthians 13:11; Galatians 5:22, 23.
When 20-year-old Dale decided to marry, he was dismayed at his parents’ opposition. “They said I was too young and lacking in experience,” he states. “I felt we were ready and could learn as we went along, but my parents wanted to be sure that I wasn’t acting solely on emotion. They asked many questions. Was I ready to handle the day-to-day decisions, the finances, the reality of providing for a family in a material, emotional, and spiritual way? Was I ready to become a parent? Had I really learned how to communicate? Did I really understand the needs of a mate? They felt I should get to know myself better as an adult before I could start caring for another adult.
“Though we did not want to wait, we postponed our marriage in order to give ourselves the time to mature. When we finally did marry, we entered the relationship with a better foundation and more to offer each other.”
When Religious Differences Are the Concern
When Terri developed romantic feelings for a man who did not share her chosen religious faith, she dated him secretly. After announcing their plans to marry, Terri was distraught to find that her mother was opposed to the marriage. “I don’t want my mother to feel this way about me,” lamented Terri. “I want us still to have that mother-and-daughter relationship.”
But who was really hindering that relationship? Was Terri’s mother being mean or unreasonable? No, she was merely upholding the Bible’s counsel to Christians to marry “only in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:39) In fact, the Bible commands: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers.” (2 Corinthians 6:14, 15) Why so?
For one thing, religious harmony is a very important factor in a happy and successful marriage. Experts say that the stresses and strains common to interfaith marriages often lead to divorce. A greater concern, though, is the possibility of being pressured to compromise one’s religious beliefs—or to abandon them altogether. Even if an unbelieving mate did not interfere with your worship, you would still have to live with the heartache of being unable to share your deepest convictions with him or her. Does this sound like the formula for marital bliss?
Terri therefore had a tough decision to make. “I love Jehovah God,” Terri said, “but I don’t want to lose my boyfriend.” You simply cannot have it both ways. You cannot compromise God’s standards and still enjoy his favor and blessing.
Perhaps, though, your parents are opposed to your marrying a certain fellow Christian. Is it possible to be unevenly yoked to a believer? Yes, if that person does not share your spiritual goals or devotion to God. If that is the case or if that person is not “well reported on” by the brothers in his or her congregation, your parents may rightly have concerns about your marrying that person.—Acts 16:2.
What About Racial or Cultural Differences?
Lynn’s parents raised objections for a different reason: She wanted to marry a man of a different race. What does the Bible teach in this regard? It tells us that “God is not partial” and that “he made out of one man every nation of men.” (Acts 10:34, 35; 17:26) Humans have a common origin and are of equal value in God’s sight.
Even so, while all married couples suffer “tribulation in their flesh,” interracial couples may experience additional challenges. (1 Corinthians 7:28) Why? Because many people in today’s hate-filled world do not accept God’s viewpoint on race. While interracial marriages have become increasingly commonplace in some Western lands, there are still areas where mixed couples encounter strong prejudice. Your parents may therefore fear that you are not equipped to deal with such pressures.
“My folks thought it would be very hard on us,” admits Lynn. Wisely, Lynn showed respect for their feelings and did not rush into marriage. As her parents observed Lynn’s maturity and became better acquainted with the man she loved, they gradually began to feel reasonably confident that she could handle the pressures of this marriage. Says Lynn: “Once they felt we could be truly happy together, they also were happy for us.”
Sometimes, though, the issue is not race but culture. Your parents may be concerned that, in the long run, you would find it difficult to enjoy living with someone whose life-style, expectations, and tastes in food, music, and entertainment are so different from yours. In any event, marrying someone of a different race or of a different culture can present big challenges. Are you really up to meeting them?
When a Parent’s Opposition Seems Unreasonable
But what if you feel that your parents are being totally unreasonable in their opposition? A young woman named Faith says of her mother: “Mom has been divorced several times. She says you can never really know the person you marry until it’s too late. She is convinced I won’t be happy in marriage.” Oftentimes, parents who have had poor marriages themselves are not able to view their child’s marriage objectively. In some instances, parents have questionable motives for opposing their child’s marriage, such as a desire to maintain control of the child’s life.
If your parents are unwilling to listen to reason, what can you do? Among Jehovah’s Witnesses, congregation elders can be called upon for assistance in settling family problems. Without taking sides, they can help family members talk matters out in a calm, peaceful, and productive way.—James 3:18.
Of course, many other factors could ignite your parents’ opposition to your marrying, such as financial concerns or a prospective mate’s personality. And in the age of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, your parents may rightfully be concerned for your health if your intended led a promiscuous life before becoming a Christian.*
As long as you live in your parents’ home, you are obligated to recognize their authority over you. (Colossians 3:20) But even if you are on your own and old enough to make your own decisions, do not be quick to dismiss your parents’ concerns. Be willing to listen. (Proverbs 23:22) Carefully weigh the possible consequences of getting married.—Compare Luke 14:28.
After doing so, you may well decide that you still want to get married. Naturally, you will have to bear the full responsibility for such a decision. (Galatians 6:5) If you have made every effort to consider your parents’ point of view, perhaps they will be moved to support your decision, albeit reluctantly. But if they continue to voice objections, try not to become bitter or angry. Remember: Your parents love you and care about your future happiness. Keep trying to make peace with them. As you make a success of your marriage, perhaps their attitude will soften.
On the other hand, if you truly consider everything your parents have to say and take a hard look at yourself and the person you are so eager to wed, don’t be surprised if you come to the startling conclusion that your parents may be right after all.
The information in this article is directed to youths in lands where it is traditional for one to pick one’s own marriage mate.
See the article “Helping Those With AIDS,” in the March 22, 1994, issue of Awake!
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Your parents may feel that you are too young to get married