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Did Your Partner Ask For Your Parents’ Permission To Marry You?

permission for marriage

I wouldn’t describe myself as an emotional person in the least. My husband and I have built our 10+ year relationship on a solid foundation of sarcasm and dark humor. So when he proposed almost 3 years ago in our living room while I was clipping coupons, I didn’t exactly turn into a mess of tears and Vera Wang hopes and wishes. I high-fived him because he did a damn good job at choosing and emerald cut solitaire and texted my sister shortly after. But what turned me into an emotional mess was when my father called a few minutes later and told me, “We were wondering when he was going to finally do it. He asked us weeks ago!” A few days later when my little cousin called to congratulate me she also admitted, “He told me he was going to marry you a few years ago.”

I think what hit me front and center in the feels was the realization that from that moment on that seemingly outdated gesture was what marriage was about for me. It was about the idea of your family growing and becoming connected to whole new set of aunts, uncles and cousins just because of one person.  In the past I had never dated anyone who felt comfortable enough to hold a conversation with my Dad that wasn’t about me or when I wasn’t around. But for the past few years, my fiancé at the time had managed to get along with my parents effortlessly and always made my sister feel welcome when she would hang out with us, unlike other guys who seemed annoyed when anyone else had my attention but them. The idea of family growth was also important to me because I had never grown up close to my own extended family, and much of the time I had to treat my cousins with as much caution as I would a stranger on the subway. It was nice to witness how loyal my partner was to not only his family, but family friends that he grew up with. It opened my idea of family to a whole new world of Sunday dinners, family reunions and weekly phone calls from Grandma. I probably would’ve married my fiancé even if he didn’t ask for my father’s permission, but the gesture affirmed that he wasn’t just making a commitment to me, but my whole family, and I appreciated that.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that asking your parent’s permission to make your lifelong union official isn’t as popular as it used to be. According to a 2015 internet poll done by wedding website The Knot, some 77% of suitors ask parents’ permission to wed their daughters, according to a 2015 internet poll of 12,000 brides and 1,200 grooms. Gay and lesbian couples are embracing the tradition too, with more than 40% asking parents’ OK.  But even at those rates many couples still say they would do the damn thing anyway with or without parental approval. Many couples reported that they had already gotten the engagement out of the way and booked a venue before letting their parents in on the secret.

Stephanie Coontz, author of “Marriage, A History” expresses that couples may be opting out of parental approval because marriages are becoming more equal with both partners contributing financially to the household and cohabitating before even discussing matrimony. She reveals that the tradition survives in part because couples hope their families will invest interest in their marriage and help hold it together in a time were divorce is so easily accessible.

In a world where independence is the goal and many couples find themselves having to prove their love and make scheduled progress on milestones like marriage, home ownership and parenthood, I think the idea of including family in your union from the beginning is comforting. When you’re starting a family, whether you have 5 kids or 2 cocker spaniels, you really start to grasp the importance of a support system and how much you may lean on your family for everything from house sitting to life advice. I’ve witnessed friends who have co-parented with partners whose families they can’t share a meal with without the cops being called, and I must admit being able to drop my child off with in-laws who genuinely like me and feel connected to me without their son being around makes all the difference. It’s nice to know that if there ever did come a time when we weren’t together for whatever reason, it might be awkward but I know that I could still call his parents and get support and he could still call my family and ask my Dad to take a ride in his muscle car without anyone feeling like strangers or enemies. And what better way to start that kind of relationship, than to include them from the very beginning. You marriage may not rise and fall on the approval of your parents, but unless you’re dealing with the in-laws from hell, having a few more relatives on your side could only help.

Toya Sharee is a Health Resource Specialist who has a  passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about  everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.

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