What to do when parents reject your spouse

What you need to know:

According to marriage experts, rejection of a partner by parents is a common challenge faced by many couples who intend to officially start a family together.

When you love someone, you expect other people, most especially your immediate family to love them too. That, however, was not the case when James Bamwine who hails from western  Uganda introduced his fiancée, Alice Atim, who is from the North to his family.

Bamwine was shocked when his mother pulled him aside after lunch and openly told him that she does not like his fiancée. Her reason was that Alice was of a different tribe and will not fit into the family dynamics.

"I was beyond shocked to hear my mother say those words. I knew my mother to be a very inclusive person and it did not occur to me she would ever segregate against another person because of tribe. I love my mother so much and wanted to have her blessing before I could get married, yet I also knew I could also not afford to lose my fiancée, " Bamwine says.

Bamwine says he was torn between choosing his family or his new wife-to-be. However, when he talked to a marriage counsellor, he was advised to talk to the mother and understand her reasons and try to come to an understanding.

"I had to go through my father because he seemed to be neutral on the matter. Together, we talked to my mother who later understood. I also encouraged my fiancée to try and create a relationship with my mother. Lucky for me, in a short time, they were friends and have been up to this time,” he says.

Haddija Sempijja and her now husband were not as lucky as Bawine, when Haddija introduced Benon to her parents, they gave an ultimatum, she either made him change his religion to Muslim or forego the relationship.

“We had been secretly dating for about three years when we decided to tell my parents about our relationship. I knew from the start that the issue of religion would come up since my parents have always told us that we cannot marry non-religious (non-Muslim) people. When we met then and they suggested that he changes religion, he was not willing to change and I did not want to force him since I believe every person has a right to belong to a religion of their choice. I told my parents that I did not mind marrying a non-muslim and was not willing to forego my relationship with him because we had already built a strong relationship together,”

Haddija narrates that her parents went ahead and assured her that if she married him, she will cease to be part of the family.

“That was so scary that at one point, I considered leaving him but we always ended up getting back together. The other factor that convinced me to be with him was the support that we got from his family. They truly loved me and supported me in all aspects. I started feeling like part of the family before we even got married officially. We made a decision to just have a wedding without the other functions like kukyala and giveaway,”

Haddija says her parents did not attend the wedding although they were invited, a few of her relatives however were there which eased the situation for her.

“We have been married for three years now and have a daughter. Once in a while speak, I speak to my mother, and the tension that was there at the start has reduced. She even sometimes asks about my husband and daughter which makes me happy. I believe that with time, he will be fully accepted because he is a very nice and calm person,” she says.

For Amon Matsiko, the story didn’t get easier. Matsiko says he had to forego a relationship with his girlfriend that he loved so much because the girl failed to create a good relationship with his mother.

“Our families knew each other but were not friends, when I told my mother that I was interested in the girl and would even consider marrying her, she told me I should reconsider the relationship because the family was not a good one to marry from. I insisted and brought the girl to meet my family but even from the start, you could sense some tension. The two most important women in my life simply failed to connect. I considered all factors and decided that it would not be wise to commit to a relationship that will only cause problems between me and my mother, even my girlfriend withdrew a bit after meeting my mother so when I told her that we should separate, she didn't seem very hurt about the decision,’’ Matsiko tells.

Matsiko, who is 29 years says he is dating again and will be getting married soon to a woman whom his family seems to get along with easily.

According to marriage experts, rejection of a partner by parents is a common challenge faced by many couples who intend to officially start a family together. The reasons may range from; differences in religion, culture, tribe, social status and the fact that some parents are narcissists that like to control their children.

Enid Mugarura, a professional Marriage counselor says that it is important for the person whose fiancée has been rejected to be very clear about their intentions with their partner before their family. They must also first establish the reason behind the rejection.

“First, you have to establish the reason why your family is against your fiancée. In cases where the reasons are religion, culture, or physical looks, one can try resolving them with dialogue. However, if these issues cause prolonged family wrangles or cultural restrictions, the person must be prepared to be separated indefinitely from their own family in some cases,” she says.

Mugarura further notes that it is important for the couple that chooses to go ahead and get married against their families’ consent to be aware of the repercussions involved.

 “For example, such a decision may result in permanently being cut off from the family which means that you will lose the support, which may not be limited to just financial support but also that social support. It is therefore important for the person whose parents have refused their fiancée not to cut off the relationship with the parents completely but maintain some connection with them through calls and visits. In most cases, the family comes along after some time.”

Samuel Ssettumba, another marriage counsellor advises that in such cases, the man has to make the hard decision to diverge from the parents but has to be very sure they love their fiancée enough to take such a position with them.

“Even the bible says that once a man is old enough, he will leave his parents' home and be united with his wife in marriage. However, when that happens, it is important to maintain a positive attitude with your parents, give help when it's needed and visit them often to show them that you still respect them as your parent. In most cases, after a few years, and if the marriage is going well, the parents will start to come around," he says.

Settumba however cautions that if the parents have valid information about the family, one should listen, but the information has to be based on facts not feelings. 

“The facts should be in a state where they can affect the future or the happiness of the relationships. If your family has evidence that the family has some genetic ailment and it’s likely to create problems for the couple, especially through their children. It is worth listening to them,” he says.

He adds that if it is a major family feud that sometimes rides back for generations, it may also be worth listening to and calling it quits. “It will affect the couple and they are most likely to be estranged from either side. If you go ahead in such a scenario, you have to be aware there are consequences you have to live with.