Ask Margot-His parents won’t accept her

They're in love but believe in different things. Are they headed down the path of romantic destruction?

By Margot Carmichael Lester

ear Margot,
I am dating the most wonderful man I have ever met. He respects me and my decisions, he loves me, and I love him, too. My parents are crazy about him, and I love his parents, but the only problem is: They don’t like me. They think my religion is “false,” and that their son is making a horrible choice in dating me because of my religion. They repeatedly tell him that our relationship will
Honey, it’s the Hatfields and the McCoys all over again.
fail because MY religion is wrong, but they won’t even give me a chance to discuss it. They don’t know what my religion is really about. All they know is what they’ve read in nonfactual books, and they don’t even try to understand. What can I do? I love him and I love them, but they don’t like me. They never say anything to my face so I don’t feel like I can confront them, because I don’t want to seem like I’m the cause of the problem, but I can’t deny that there is a problem. How do I get them to accept me?
– Miss Understood

Dear Miss Understood,
Here’s an old joke folks ’round here like to tell: What’s the difference between outlaws and in-laws? Outlaws are wanted. Relationships with in-laws and potential in-laws are fraught with challenges — some of which we can never completely overcome. But that doesn’t mean we have to give up our relationships or our beliefs.

First of all, let’s talk about this My-Religion-Versus-Your-Religion thing. Honey, it’s the Hatfields and the McCoys all over again. It’s very clear they don’t like your religion and, as you point out, they don’t even give you a chance to discuss it with them. As frustrating as this is, you can’t slight them for having strong beliefs, even to the extent that they exclude yours. It’s been my experience that in situations like this, you will never succeed — at least not in the short run — in winning them over. So you might as well stop trying. After all, you’re not in love with your boyfriend’s parents; you’re in love with your boyfriend. And that’s the most important thing to keep in mind.

Now let’s look at more specific issues. You say they don’t say things to your face and that you are reluctant to confront them. I see these as big positives right at the moment. The last thing you
Truth is, you have no control over how they feel about you.
want to confront anyone about is religion. Granted, this leaves you with some discomfort. That’s not pleasant but it’s not exactly a death sentence, either. Whenever I’m in a situation like this, I remember what my mama always said: “Just swallow hard and keep a smile on your face.” After all, how often do you see these people and how significant are your interactions?

You also ask, “How can I get them to accept me?” Well, you’re probably not going to like this answer, but I do believe it is true: The best way to get others to accept you is by accepting them — even the parts of them you don’t like. This approach may not get them to open their arms and minds to you, but I guarantee you they’ll never do it if you don’t do it first. Hmmm. Sounds suspiciously like the old “do unto others,” doesn’t it?

Truth is, you have no control over how they feel about you. So the only thing you can control is how you feel about them. Is there space in your heart to forgive them for not liking your religion? Is there a way you can remind yourself of how much you liked them before all the bad feelings about religion came up?

Unfortunately, we don’t control other people’s feelings, especially not the way they feel about us. We don’t make them like us or hate us. That’s their story, not ours. But when we have to coexist with people we don’t get along with, there’s a lot we can do to make things more workable.

In your case, you’re off to a great start: You love your boyfriend. Presumably, he loves you, too. And you even said you love his parents. Can you let the religion issue go for a while — at least your part of it? I’m not counseling you to give up your beliefs, just to stop worrying about explaining or defending them. Concentrate instead on what you love about these people and not how they might feel about you. Identify some common ground — find a few things you do agree on or share. Who knows? If you and your boyfriend decide to get married, your commitment to their son may change the way they feel about you.

Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer based in North Carolina. Send your faith-based dating questions to
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