When I called my dad to tell him the good news about our engagement, did he jump for joy? Did he congratulate me?
No. He told me in no uncertain terms that I’d ruined his holiday, then hung up.
It’s fair to say that my dad does not approve of my engagement to E. He thinks I’m far too young to be getting married, even though he met my mum when they were younger than I am now. He thinks I’m taking a big risk by relocating my life to Istanbul, despite the fact that it’s less far away than other places I’ve lived with his blessing. He thinks that cross-cultural relationships don’t work, on the basis of precisely no personal experience. And he thinks that E and I are not well suited, on a similarly thin evidence base (although he and E have met and hung out several times, my dad has always remained deliberately aloof).
My dad’s disapproval is no big surprise to me. In all the years we’ve been together, he’s never been a cheerleader for our relationship.
The only real surprise is how much I care.
This is the first Big Life Choice I’ve made that he hasn’t approved of. Everything else – from what university to go to, what subject to study, what field to go into afterwards etc – he and my mum have always wholeheartedly approved of. That’s not to say I only did what they wanted me to do, or that they agreed with all my choices right away. But they’ve always come around to my point of view sooner or later.
On this one, however, it seems my dad is digging in his heels. We’ve had several big showdowns on the topic already. I feel a lot better for having got things out in the open. But I don’t see him coming around to our decision any time soon.
As my incredibly wise godmother said when I was bawling down the phone to her not long ago, it’s probably about time I did something major my dad doesn’t approve of. I know she’s right. I just wish I didn’t care so much about his good opinion.
Have others in cross-cultural relationships experienced problems with their families accepting their spouses? I’ve heard stories – from actual, real friends and from the interwebs – about Turkish families not accepting their child’s foreign spouse, but I can’t find many that go the other way round. If you’ve found yourself in one of these tricky situations, I’d love to hear how you coped.