By Christine Katende
You have met the person you are convinced is your better half. You have discussed and agreed on a future together. The next step is meeting the in-laws to be, as your partner also meets your relatives. You are excited but nervous. Finally the day comes and you meet them and things go absolutely wrong! The “feedback” is that they do not think you are right for their child. Shaken, you wonder what next.
This is the situation that Praise Nankya found herself in.
“I and Peter had dated for three years while at campus. After graduation, he decided to introduce me to his family following a mutual understanding between the two of us. I loved him and he loved me too and those close to us wished us well. It was so sweet between us, it was very hard for anyone to suspect a separation, for we respected and adored each other so much,” she recalls.
Having had such a strong bond, Nankya did not think her man’s parents would say no especially his mother.
But the nightmare happened shortly after her visit to Peter’s parents’ home. Nankya received a phone call that crashed her.
In a very low and sad tone, she recalls her boyfriend calling and saying, “I am very sorry love. How can I say this?! The truth is that we can’t go on with our marriage plans. I have been forbidden from seeing you again and as well been asked to cancel any plans we had. Honey, my parents have promised never to attend or even bless our relationship if I persist with you. I surely can’t disrespect them, I am so sorry baby,” he said.
Nankya who is now happily married to someone else with two beautiful children reminisces that getting over her ex took a period of two years. Thankfully her mother comforted and prayed for her to get strong and find the right man.
“I was so confused when he broke the least expected news. I could not imagine that our love was no more. I remember calling him severally but he would neither pick nor return my calls and he even stopped responding to my texts,” she discloses, adding, “Peter went to the extent of shifting to a place I didn’t know which worsened the whole situation.”
According to Nankya, Peter’s shifting without her notice made it clear that all the once had was gone, “I slowly adapted to it. I deleted all his contacts and unfriended him which helped me forget about the connection we had.”
Nankya can’t forget the fact that although the whole situation made her lose weight, she remained strong, seeking solace in God.
“I thank God who later linked me with a true and loving man whose parents treat me like their own. His mother hugged me the very first time she saw me, she calls me her sweet daughter,” Nankya says.
According to Nankya, her husband too was welcomed into her parents’ home and he is loved and respected by everyone.
Nankya is not the only one who has suffered this. Also, this situation does not affect women alone. Men too are affected. And it can be even more painful if the person tries to fight for their chosen one with no hint or sign of acceptance from the relatives. Some will go ahead and insist on marrying their partner regardless of what their parents say or do. However, many will pull out painfully and wait for a person their parents are happy with because they believe it is important to get a parents’ blessings.
Evelyn Connie Kharono Lufafa, a counselling psychologist affiliated to Talk Therapy Uganda, says that as the new would-be husband or wife, there is often a misconception that they will automatically be loved and accepted by their in-laws.
“But establishing relationships and bonds takes time, especially if you remember you are coming into a family that has lived all their lives together and so already bonded. This can sometimes complicate things, especially when parental interference is a lot,” she says.
However, rejection by in-laws can be emotionally draining. Being separated from someone you had built something with is not easy. While situations differ, and there is no one-size-fits-all plan for this, there are various things you can do to deal with the situation.
Talk to your partner
Samuel A Bakutana, a counselling psychologist and CEO of Inspired Leaders International, says that the two need to sit together and have a conversation on the way forward based on what you believe in, your values, and who you choose to listen to. Wisdom and moderation are very important. In addition, Lufafa emphasises the need to speak calmly and avoid accusatory language. “You and your partner need to be united in approaching this if you will arrive at meaningful peace,” he says.
Keep the bond strong
Lufafa reveals that having a strong bond between you and your partner is crucial as this makes it easier to deal with your rejecting in-laws due to the support you give to one another.
It is advisable not to try to include the would-be in-laws in your discussions and plans on the way forward if they are not willing, according to Lufafa; it is good to respect the boundaries.
Set realistic expectations
It is not automatic that your in-laws will instantly like you. Accept that they may not have had you as the right person for their son or daughter-in-law. This will help you move on because what is not taken or accepted by one family might be loved and treasured by another.
Learn to cool down
“Many times the best thing to do is to be silent and speak less while with in-laws who dislike you, time heals the wounds,” explains Lufafa.
Whenever possible, avoid communicating through a third party. In case you are mistaken about a certain behaviour that may turn out to be cultural, the psychologist says that one can gently ask why certain cultures and practices are what they are in order to understand and not to judge.
Bakutana further elucidates that, “At times the family members/in-laws mean well for their son or daughter and they may be observing something their son/daughter seems to be blind to. This is a reason why he/she should not completely dismiss their position until he/she has heard them out regarding their reasons for being against the relationship.”
He adds that once the reasons are known, the person can then make up his/her mind on whether to go ahead with the wedding or not.
Mind about yourself
Take good care of yourself by finding a meaningful support system from people who have experienced this kind of attitude and managed to overcome, Lufafa advises. She adds, “Exercise, read self-help books and seek professional support too.”
In conclusion, Bakutana indicates that under normal circumstances, in-laws should not impose their preferences and tastes onto their child, brother or sister because marriage is not between a man and a clan or a woman and a whole family. It is between one man and one woman. It’s therefore a choice that should be made by those intending to get married.
The possible reasons why parents may not accept the person you want to marry
· Level of education
· Family background