Relationships / Turkey

“Dad, I’m engaged…”

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.

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11 thoughts on ““Dad, I’m engaged…”

  1. I have tremendous hope for you, and your relationship with both E and your dad. I am fortunate both families have always embraced our 23+ year marriage; though, I would like to share a little story with you.

    Sometime around 1960 my Jewish uncle met my Puerto Rican aunt in New York City. The connection was instant. A truer bond I have never witnessed and I use it as a template for my own marriage. My uncle was not from a rich or prestigious family, yet my grandfather looked down his nose on this Puerto Rican girl. Puerto Ricans in NY were viewed, at that time, similar to Turks in Europe today. An incredibly stubborn man, for months my grandfather refused to attend the wedding. He finally gave in at the last moment after threats from my grandmother. Not a pleasant start for a new wedded couple. By the time I became aware of family dynamics this Puerto Rican girl was loved and cherished by all family members, particularly my grandfather. She was the one who opened her home to my grandparents during times of illness. She was the one who hosted the family dinners once my grandmother no longer could. She was more than a daughter-in-law, she was a second daughter to my grandfather. I wish I could tell you how this all transpired, but I do not know. All I know is it did. So hold tight dear one to what you know is right for you. If E is a good man I believe your father who cherishes you will come to see that.

    Just one more thing. For me, the desire for your father’s approval is natural and appropriate. If not him, who?

    • Ilyset, thank you! This was such a heart-warming message, you’ve restored my faith in the world. Of course, I know my father has got to come around one day, but sometimes I find it difficult to hold on to that knowledge….

  2. Hi there, I got engaged to a Jordanian after knowing him for 2 month (now married 3 years with a beautiful 2yo daughter and living in Jordan) and at first my entire family didn’t speak to me. It took my both my sisters and my dad about 6 months before they actually spoke to me and my Mum whilst still speaking to me would talk about anything but the fact that I was in living in Jordan and engaged to a Jordanian. My mum finally sent an a one line email saying that her and my dad were coming to Jordan in 2 months and I sent a one line email back saying that the wedding would be the first weekend they were here. It certainly helped having Mum and Dad come and finally meet Atef and his family and see just how happy I was and how wonderful and accepting his family were of me and also them. Atef and I visited Australia 3 months after getting married and it was tense at first with my sisters but by the end of the trip relationships had been restored. It just took my family some time to adjust and in a sense go through a grieving period as they were losing me to the other side of the world.
    My decision to marry Atef hasn’t come without some unexpected lose of friendship. I lost my best friend. She wasn’t able to accept my decision and never spoken to me since I told her I was engaged over 3 1/2 years ago. This is still something that hurts as I’ve never even been able to even talk to her to try and explain the reasons why I made the decision, or even hear from her as to why she can’t accept the decision.
    Just give your dad time.

    • Wow, thank you for sharing your story with me. It sounds like you’ve had a really tough time. At least you’ve come out the other side now – that gives me hope! I’m really sorry to hear about your best friend, though. Luckily, my friends have been more accepting so far, but who knows how things will shake out? Thanks for the solidarity!

  3. Pingback: Confessions of a frightened fiancée | Love in Istanbul

  4. Hi! I’m a little bit late here, but I love your blog and I can definitely identify with you on this issue. I got engaged 3 months ago, before my family even met my fiance. My family is close-knit and very religious. We are all very much involved in each other’s lives and we know that our decisions affect the WHOLE family. My dad said (in a loving way) that he had serious doubts about my relationship and before I returned home for a visit he said,”Okay, I understand you’re dating him, but I don’t want you to come home and tell me you’re engaged.”

    Well, that wasn’t my plan, but I did not know my fiance was going to propose! So, I *did* arrive back in the States with a diamond on my right hand. I was really surprised by the way everyone reacted. Everyone was emotional but truly happy for me because they know I have a good head on my shoulders and I wouldn’t marry some bozo, much less a foreign bozo. Long story short, we visited the States a few weeks ago and everyone met him. They all love him and understand exactly why I’ve agreed to marry him.

    Via social media, however, I experienced some cowardly backlash from people who had some interesting opinions on why it’s a mistake to marry a Turkish man in particular. Needless to say, they no longer have a platform for spreading their ignorance in my life. Those things were NOT said out of love and genuine concern.

    I haven’t read your other posts yet to find out if your dad’s changed his attitude, but I really hope he has, and if he hasn’t, he will soon!

    • Thank you so much for your kind words – and sorry it’s taken me so long to reply. I must have missed this.

      I’m glad your family are so happy for you, that’s wonderful. My dad is coming around, I think – he just bought a suit to wear to the wedding (the first he’s ever owned in his 60-odd years!)

      I think hostile reactions from some people are, sadly, inevitable… BUT I guess you just have to tune them out.

      Hope all’s going well with you guys!

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