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November 16, 2011
When siblings disagree with your choice of a spouse
By Anthony Buono *

By Anthony Buono *

Dear Anthony,

I just got engaged to a great guy. I love him a lot, but my sisters both think I am making a mistake. It bothers me a lot that they don’t approve of him and I am afraid this is going to cause problems both now as well as after we are married. Do you have any advice about this?

Getting married is a very personal thing. It is something you both decide on for yourself no matter what anyone thinks. However, it is also very public thing. No marriage is a private matter because it happens within the context of community and society, and there are obligations each marriage has to the society, especially the society of family that is formed when children come along.

It is important that every couple think about how their relationship will affect others, especially future children. This is not something that tends to happen when a couple is dating. They naturally get caught up in themselves and what they mean to each other. I don’t want to take away from this aspect of courtship because it is very much about the two persons that make up the couple, and others should not be allowed to have decision making power about their relationship.

I have had many people contact me regarding the involvement of their parents when it has come to whom they are dating, and how the parents concern affects how they think about the relationship with the person they are dating, not to mention the relationship with the parents. Parents have a wisdom that can really be an asset to helping make a wise choice in marriage. When someone has parents they respect and admire and trust, it is best to consider their opinion heavily.

However, parents should never make their child feel bad about whom they are dating or a decision about marriage to someone they are dating. It is not the job of a parent to decide for their child, but rather to share their thoughts and/or be there for their child when they ask them for their opinion. If done gently and kindly, and with a sense of respect for the child’s right to make their own decision, they can have a real influence for the good on that child. If they know their child will do whatever they say, they also have the power to manipulate the situation, which would be wrong. And of course, if they are angry and harsh about whom the child is dating, they can push that child into the arms of the very person they believe is no good for them.

This also applies to siblings. But siblings are a little bit different. They are more like your closest friends rather than authority figures and protectors like the parents. I believe this is why it hurts even more when a sibling does not approve of your choice rather than a parent not approving. Unless you are not close to your siblings, but I am assuming here we are talking about two sisters whom you are very close to.  

The bond you have with your sisters makes it very important to you that they accept your choice of a spouse. So it is completely understandable that you are bothered that they don’t approve of this man that you have agreed to marry. I’m sure it makes you question if you have made the right decision or not. In fact, you are probably already considering breaking off the engagement because both sisters whom you are so close with do not approve of him.

If you are considering this at any level, I would encourage you not to act on that. You need some time to figure out what you are going through. On one hand, you love this man that you clearly find to be a good man and the one you desire to spend the rest of your life with. He seems to be everything you have ever wanted and cannot see living your life without him. On the other hand, your sisters do not think he is the man for you. Perhaps they see things in him that they feel are not good enough for their sister whom they love so much and want to protect. They might fear this man will hurt you or fall short of your expectations.

Both of these considerations have pluses and minuses. But in order to extract from both hands what is truth and good, you have to get past the emotional investment you have in your fiancé and your two sisters. Staying at the emotional level will only cause you harm and might lead you to make a decision you will regret. You love your fiancé and you love your sisters. They all mean the world to you right now, so you are emotionally too close.

This is where you have to take a prudent and intellectual approach to the matter. You have to take a step back from you affection for your sisters and take a pragmatic step forward. You need to explore this with them, but the trick is not to allow anything you talk about to get to you. Your sisters love you; they are not your enemy. It is not your two sisters vs. your finance. Remember that your sisters have your best interests at heart.

Having said that, you need to find out not only what they have a problem with, but what is behind what they have a problem with. From my experience, too often a loved one (whether a sister, a parent, or even just a close friend) is jealous of the relationship itself. They see that they are losing their close friend to this stranger who is perceived as an enemy. They likely do not think this consciously. But subconsciously, they might have ulterior motives for the things they say or the way they say them.

This is also very natural. No one wants to lose someone they love. Your sisters might feel this man is going to change your relationship with them. And they are right! He will. But that is no reason for them to attempt to sabotage your relationship or make you feel bad.

So you need to have a serious talk with your sisters. Ask them to share with you everything about your fiancé that they object to, and to explain why. As they share this information with you, try and have some side comments to feel out what their motives are. You might get to a point where you say “You know I love you both, right? And that my getting married will never change the fact that we are sisters and the best of friends, right?” Saying this could just reassure them and spark a peace in them that could change the way they think about him.

If they do start to come around, it should be primarily because they see how happy you are and how much you love him. They need to realize that this is your choice, not theirs, and that it is you who are attracted to him, not them.

But you should also pay close attention to anything they observe about the two of you together that they feel is not right. It does happen quite often that in our love for someone we are blind to things that could be considered red flags about the way you are being treated or that is unhealthy about you both as a couple.

To know about red flags, there is no one better than someone who knows you so well and loves you very much to point this out. Your sisters might very well have some important observations that you need to know about and consider specifically because as your close friends, your sisters know things about you that are negative as well as positive, and they know you might be willing to ignore certain red flags because they know how you are.

There is a lot to consider. I have given you just some food for thought. Sit down with your sisters and have a heart to heart. And just be open without being too sensitive. They only want to help because they love you so much. But in the end, this is your choice and everyone has to accept that. And they will.

Anthony Buono is the founder of Avemariasingles.com. For thousands of Catholic singles, Anthony offers guidance, humor, understanding, and practical relationship advice.  Visit his blog at 6stonejars.com

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