“Ask a Priest: What If Parents Forbid You to Date Someone?”

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Q: Is it dishonoring your parents if you continue to date, potentially to marry, someone they forbid? Should you only marry if your parents approve, since they’re the ones giving you away? – C.B.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Let me guess that you are the one having trouble with your parents.

You don’t mention why your parents are opposed to your boyfriend. If there is an objective impediment to a possible marriage (for instance, he is divorced, with no annulment), then your parents’ opposition is understandable.

If there are no such impediments, the short answer to your question is: As an adult you can make your own decision about whom to marry. If you are still a minor living at home under your parents’ care, they have a bit more say about the young men you can bring around to the house.

People might speak of a couple giving their daughter in marriage. But strictly speaking, parents don’t own their children. You are your own person, and marriage involves use of your free will.

There are two factors to take into account, however.

If you disagree with your parents over your boyfriend, then you would want to do that while remaining respectful. If they don’t want him to step foot in their house, you would need to respect that, too.

Another factor to consider is the reason for your parents’ opposition.

Do they see something faulty in your boyfriend’s character? Do they perceive that he doesn’t show you enough respect?

Is he of a different religion (or no religion)? Or do your parents simply not care for him because of his ethnicity or economic status?

In any case, they might see a current or potential problem that you are overlooking. It might good to speak with them in-depth.

It is worth remembering, too, that marriage often involves more than just the spouses.

Marriage can take in a whole network of family relations. When you marry someone, you sort of get his family as a package deal, and he yours.

If your parents are strongly opposed to him, would you be able to deal with that in the future? How might that impact your marriage? And your children?

Perhaps this is something to take to prayer.

As you consider marriage, you might also want to do some reading that can help you learn from other people’s experiences. Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married by Gary Chapman, for example, is an interesting read.

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