Is it appropriate for my parents to insist that I – a thirty-something single mom – allow them to "vet" the men in my life? My mom in particular insists that this is going to happen. She claims that it's her prerogative and responsibility as a Christian parent. I have a potential suitor who is coming from out of town to visit, and my mother says that she needs at least two hours alone with him so that she can "check him over" and "tell him about me." I'll admit that my first choice of a mate was a poor one – sadly, we were divorced after seven years. But I'm not convinced that this is healthy or that it's a legitimate part of my mom's role as a parent. What do you think?
Your mother's claims might make more sense if you were living in another time or another country. In India, for instance, parents are to this day intimately and actively involved in choosing mates for their children. Even in western society – and this includes the United States – parental approval was practically a formal requirement for marriage as recently as a couple of generations ago. But this is no longer the case in modern American society. Everyone wants to have good in-law relations, of course, and there are usually negative consequences to marrying somebody with whom your parents are exceptionally displeased. But times have changed and most mothers and fathers no longer expect to exercise veto power over an adult child's selection of a romantic or marriage partner.
We're sorry to have to say it, but it sounds as if your mom has serious issues with control. Wise motherly advice is a good thing, and most daughters welcome it when it's presented in the right way. But in this case Mom needs to understand that advice isn't advice until it's requested. As for you, you need to find the courage and self-respect to stand up to your mother and let her know that you can't go along with her demands. Whatever your mother may think, it's not her place to step in and tell you what to do.
If your relationship with your mom is such that you think she'd be open to hearing your concerns, we suggest you talk to her about your feelings. Naturally, you should take some time to think things through very carefully and plan your strategy before taking this step. You might say something like, "Mom, I appreciate your concern for me, but I need to make these types of decisions for myself." Then let her know that she simply doesn't have the right to subject your prospective boyfriends and suitors to some kind of interrogation. If she listens and agrees, you've gained your point. If not, you may simply have to draw a line in the sand and keep your distance. Some people seem to think that there's no place for boundaries in relationships between members of the same family, but this is far from true. Boundaries are good for all kinds of relationships – especially relationships with controlling and manipulative personalities.
It's worth adding that, as a single mother, you'd be wise to concentrate on the welfare of your children and avoid having men in and out of your home during this season of life. It's best for your kids' sense of security if you wait until a relationship becomes fairly serious before introducing them to a new beau. You want to be very careful in this regard. Don't make the same kind of mistakes you made in your first marriage. But having said this, it's vital to add that these are things you have to figure out on your own, preferably with lots of prayer and a great deal of dependence upon God's ability to guide you.
This is not to say you shouldn't also seek advice from others who know you well – provided they respect your ability to make this decision for yourself. It would also be an excellent idea to seek out the assistance of a professional Christian counselor – in fact, we strongly recommend it. This consideration is one that is even more critical if your relationship has or may soon be moving in the direction of marriage. Pre-engagement counseling offers the best and easiest option for determining if your relationship is marriage material before the ring is purchased and the invitations mailed out.
If you think it might be helpful to talk your situation over with a member of our staff, we'd like to invite you to call Focus on the Family's Counseling department.
Relational Wisdom 360