By Amanda Kirzner and Nina Bronson

When you become a parent, something changes inside you. Sometimes the change is instantaneous, while other times, it takes a bit to feel that overwhelming love for this little person you just met. This little person, in turn, worships you and relies on you for everything. 

Your hope in life is to raise a healthy, happy child, and, most importantly, a good human being. You put all of your time, energy and money into helping your child develop into an emotionally confident adult who is able to make his or her own decisions. 

Although this may be your goal, it is often difficult for parents to come to terms with the fact that their children are, in fact, able to make their own decisions and not rely on said parents as much as they used to. It is even harder when they begin to rely on a significant other as their guiding light instead. While it is safe to say that this transition is rough for all parents, it seems to be particularly hard for the mother of a son.

To reiterate a cliché: “A daughter is a daughter for all of her life, but a son is a son ‘til he gets a wife.” Judging from the large sample size of people we have spoken to about this subject, this statement – with a few exceptions, of course – does seem to hold true. 

Accept the flaws of the person
your child has chosen.
Respect your child’s feelings
and opinions,
and communicate
with him or her. 

We can’t really say why, but for some reason, daughters more frequently stay close to their parents and extended families after they’re married, and have a closer connection with their own mothers. Sons typically tend to be less involved in the lives of their families after marriage. While sons obviously love and cherish their parents, they oftentimes allow their wives to influence major decisions … which can mean living close to their in-laws instead of their parents. This can cause the parents of the son to feel hurt, excluded and, regrettably, second best.

Can you prevent this situation from happening? If you don’t like your child’s significant other, what can you do? Should you have an intervention and try to stop a wedding or an engagement? 

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As appealing as it sounds, taking any sort of negative action against your child’s fiancé(e), or his or her spouse, is highly unlikely to work in your favor. Of course, there is the rare story of a child seeing the light and realizing that the partner is the wrong fit, but that is the exception, not the rule. The odds of you, as a parent, getting your child to gain a different perspective with regard to a person whom they love are slim to none. 

The likelihood is that the wedding will happen, and both of them (because, of course, your child will eventually tell his or her future spouse) will hold whatever actions you have taken against you, further alienating you. Your attitude about your future daughter- or son-in-law will probably not change your child’s mind, so the best thing to do is to let things unfold on their own. Unless there are illegal activities, drugs or abuse, we suggest behaving with grace, as it will be far more beneficial than the alternative.

So, how can the parents navigate the situation and stay active in their child’s life after the wedding? Should they express their feelings to the child and the spouse? If they do, will the child understand, or will things be misconstrued? Should you go with the flow while you continue to feel hurt and left out? It’s hard to know the right answers when it comes to this common situation.

To start, it is important to look at things from your child’s perspective, who is likely not purposely trying to hurt you, but instead, prioritizing his or her spouse and children. It is also crucial to recognize that this is not your daughter or son-in-law’s fault. Your role in your child’s life has changed, but your child doesn’t love you any less.

If your hurt is so deep that you feel the need to express yourself, we suggest a positive approach. Instead of telling your child that you feel hurt and angry, explain that you miss him or her and would like to spend more time together. Perhaps that means you bringing over dinner during a busy week, planning a holiday visit in advance or simply asking how you can be more involved. Look at solutions instead of problems and criticisms, and respect your child for the adult that they have become – the person you worked so hard to raise.

Kindness and patience are key to trying to build a strong relationship with both your child and his or her partner. Give of yourself, but do not expect in return. Isn’t that what being a parent is, after all? Let your child and the partner know that you want to be in their lives as much as they want you to be, but do not force yourself on them. Try to let things roll off your back (which is hard, we know) if they decline an invitation. If you are able to form an individual relationship with your child’s spouse, that will likely make your child very happy, and, in turn, it will make both of them want to be more involved with your family.

It is so difficult to navigate the relationship between yourself and your child’s spouse. While the relationship may not be what you were hoping for or imagined that it would be, you just have to swallow your pride and make the best of it. 

Accept the flaws of the person your child has chosen. Respect your child’s feelings and opinions, and communicate with him or her. Create solutions instead of problems. Unless you can convince your child to go for an arranged marriage to someone of your choosing – good luck with that – the person your child has chosen is here to stay, so we believe that looking toward the future with positivity is the best way to go.