As you glanced bashfully at each other from your separate tables at the coffee shop, the butterflies in your stomach told you that it was love at first sight. After a couple of dates, you were convinced it was true love.
The fact that your parents kept irritating you with questions like ‘are you dating anyone’ and ‘when are you getting married’ gave you the enthusiasm to take them home to meet the family.
Sadly, they don’t seem to approve of the person you brought home. The reception accorded to your soul mate is so cold that you can feel it cut through your tender heart. But because you are in love, you shrug it off like ‘it will pass’.
Now, you are planning to get married and have never been happier, it is going to be the best day of your life. You look forward to living happily, together, but your family is not warming up to the relationship. What do you do?
Kamikazi (not real name), a businesswoman, vividly recalls the day she introduced her husband (boyfriend at the time) to her family. It’s a day she says she will never forget.
“We had been dating for about six months. He was wonderful, everything I had been looking for in a man. I was 27 at the time, and my older sister used to nag me about settling down. When I finally did bring him home, the chemistry between him and my father was practically zero. I don’t know if it was because of his laid back and seemingly proud nature.
“My sister took me to the kitchen and asked where we had met. I told her. She then said he had an aura about him that made one feel ‘undermined.’ After we left, my mum called me later that evening to ask if I knew what I was doing. I started getting the feeling that they knew something that I didn’t,” Kamikazi says.
It wasn’t long before she realised that there really wasn’t anything to her boyfriend, her family simply thought she could do better.
“He was a structural designer at the time but on a freelance basis. My father felt that wasn’t stable enough yet he actually earned quite a decent pay from jobs here and there. I was confused but I also knew I loved him enough not to let my family get in the way,” she says.
Despite her family’s attitude, Kamikazi stood her ground and her family reluctantly gave her away to the man they ‘rejected’.
“I told them I was getting married about six months to the wedding, after preparations were well on the way. They were not amused. They said I would regret my decision and that ignoring them wouldn’t end well for me. We’ve been married for 3 years now, and they still haven’t warmed up to him. So I just don’t visit them as often as I should,” she says.
Relationships are hard. Most people will agree that nailing sap to a tree might be easier than finding ‘the one’. As old fairytales go, one might have to kiss many frogs before they get their prince charming/princess.
“When it comes to marriage, a parent’s blessing is indispensable and usually, their disapproval of a partner has reasons that actually hold water,” says Jessica Kayitesi, a youth counselor.
She says, “We should understand that parents always want the best for their children and would do anything to see that all they achieve in life is greatness.
“When parents disapprove of a partner because of reasons that are actually factual, let’s say integrity or background, I think one can try reconsidering.”
For Clapton Mugisha, a local comedian, nothing would stop him from marrying the love of his life, not even his parents’ intervention.
He explains that love is a feeling we have no control over and that dictating to a person who they can or cannot love is ridiculous.
“I think they have the right to intervene, of course, they are my parents but they shouldn’t make decisions for me. In any case, aside from knowing a bit about my fiancé, I’m in a better position to know and deal with who she really is, hence my decision to make,” Mugisha says.
The heart wants what it wants. Parental interference can’t fight this, says Ronald Gakuba, a third year student at University of Rwanda.
He says that he understands that parents mean well but there are certain battles that only the heart can fight.
“Out of respect for my parents, I would talk to them and find a way to keep us on the same page. But if it fails, I don’t think I would dump my fiancé,” Gakuba adds.
Collin Mwangi is engaged and says he wouldn’t in his right mind call off his engagement because the family doesn’t approve.
By the time an adult decides to get married, they are mature enough to know what is best for them, he argues.
“Marriage being a lifetime decision- or at least it is supposed to be, the two people getting involved are the only ones who should have a say in it. Other ‘advisers’ or decision makers will only be around for the ceremony but not in the day-to-day lives,” Mwangi adds.
Your fiancé loves you but your parents love you more
Jackie Umurerwa is an accountant and engaged to her long time boyfriend. However, calling off her engagement would be no trouble for her, in the event that her parents disapproved of her future husband.
“Parents only want what’s best for us. I know it would be hard giving up on your love but marrying someone against your family’s approval isn’t the wiser decision either,” Umurerwa says.
Jamie Kutesa, a 22-year-old entrepreneur, is of the view that for one to avoid such unnecessary collisions, they should introduce the person they are dating to the family earlier.
“Before things get serious, take your date home, such that, if the family doesn’t approve, you drop the relationship before you get to the engagement stage, this will put off possible heartaches,” he says.
Paul Kalisa, a father of three, asserts that he would definitely have to have a say in the choice of a spouse his child plans to spend the rest of their life with.
“Truth be told, there are good and bad families and you just can’t let your child pick a partner from wherever they fancy, for example, families whose integrity levels are questionable,” Kalisa says.
Kalisa says that checking out the education level also wouldn’t hurt because he would rather see his children build a future with someone whose intellectual capacity is unquestionable.
“The family from which my child is marrying should also have a history of good conduct, for example, are they trust worthy and religious? If they are the total opposite of this, I wouldn’t let my child anywhere near them.”
Why do some parents hate their in-laws?
In her article, When your parents hate your spouse, Francine Russo wrote that from a strictly energy efficiency perspective, such drama is far from adaptive — rather, it’s a drain on precious emotional and physical resources.
Generally, such wasteful behaviours don’t survive generation after generation, as disapproving parents and rebellious lovers have. So why has this conflict persisted so obstinately throughout history?
Russo mentioned about a study published in the journal Evolution & Human Behaviour, which proposed that genes may have a lot do with the fact that parents hate their children’s spouses.
She wrote about an evolutionary theory that suggested that parents and their daughters (and sons, for that matter) should both want a caring and supportive mate that would work for all of them and they do both strive for this, but parents apparently want it more.
The study’s co-author, Tim Fawcett, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Bristol, wrote that this model of parental and filial behaviour is predicated on the fact that parents presumably value all of their children (and therefore the survival of their genes) equally.
“Parents want to allocate their resources optimally and make sure that each child ends up with equal share. But if one daughter marries the hunky but unreliable handyman and the other comes home with the gawky, devoted investment banker, the former will probably require additional investment of time, money and emotional support to survive, and the others will get less from the parents,” she wrote.
For evolutionary scholars, this struggle is especially intriguing. Why, if it causes so much angst, conflict, and as in Romeo and Juliet’s case, death, do parents (and young lovers) never learn?
So the question is, to follow your heart or your family?
Should your family decide who you marry?
I would let my parents choose my partner for me because I trust them.
You do not marry for yourself but for a generation, which is why the family background of your spouse matters and therefore, your parents are essential in determining the values of who you marry.
However, I should determine the right time for me to get married.
I would never let my parents decide who my partner should be.
We are in a civilised era and I have the right to choose who I want to spend the rest of my life with.
I wouldn’t let them decide for me just like they cannot tell my heart who to love.
How can I marry someone that I do not love? That would be inconsiderate of them.
That is something of the past. I would only let them give me advice because they are wiser than me and have experience. However, the choice of partner would be up to me because I am the one going to spend the rest of my life with him.