I am 26 years old, engaged, and very much in love with my man, but he is not of Greek origin nor is he Orthodox Christian. My fiancé has similar feelings for me and although we knew from the beginning that our families might have objections to our relationship, we decided to move on because the relationship between us is very strong. Indeed, my own family at first was negative about moving forward, but over time they were convinced and now they show great love to my fiancé. But his own family, especially his mother, is still unhappy and shows it in every way. When we are all together she is cold and very formal. She speaks to me unwillingly and only if I address her, although I try everything to get her to talk to me. In a very subtle way, she excludes me from the family and some things they do together, relying on the excuse of religious tradition. For example, she does not allow me to sleep over in their house on the pretext that we are not married, even though my fiancé sleeps over at my house. She insists on not allowing me to go on holiday with them to their country, because she is ashamed of what the relatives and everyone will think, and she generally tries in every way to make our relationship difficult. My fiancé is very upset, because he cares deeply about his mother and I feel desperate with this situation. I’m very afraid she might eventually convince him to break up with me. What should I do?
A wedding is not a romantic fairy tale that ends in an evening with a wedding dress, champagne, and guests – and most of the time there is not even “and then they lived happily ever after.” As early as the next morning, the newlyweds may be faced with unforeseen problems and situations. In fact, many times the problems are created by close family members who are involved or who try to get involved in the way the couple wants to organize their lives, especially when different cultures are part of the equation.
Different cultures can mean different worldviews, different perceptions of life. The way one has grown up determines their principles, values and how they face life and daily challenges. At the beginning of the relationship, when the couple is in love, this difference may not be revealed in all its magnitude, because there is a tendency to look for similarities with the person you love, or to downplay the importance of the differences he may find. But in time, when one stops looking at the other through the distorting lens of romantic love, one can unfortunately come to the conclusion that he married a stranger, or that the other changed long after the marriage, so that it is very difficult to live with him anymore.
That is why it is very important to be able to see the situation carefully and logically from the beginning. Most of the time the other person shows who he is from the first moment, no matter how much he tries to beautify his image.
So in your case, too, what can help you make the best decisions for you is to be very observant and honest with yourself. Notice what your fiancé’s attitude is when he is with his mother. Is something changing in his attitude towards you, is he asking you to compromise on your basic principles?
When he sees her alone, does he give you the impression that she influences him? Does he often mention her perceptions to you, justifies her when she does not like something you did? Does he justify her when she forbids you to do something, when you do not see things the same way?
Also, try to understand why you feel so insecure about your future with him. What makes you wonder if his mother can persuade him to leave you? Are they your personal insecurities or are they due to the way your fiancé thinks or behaves? What do you need to proceed safely and confidently in this marriage? Can your partner offer it to you?
By answering these questions, you may find the answer to your concerns. What is certain is that in order for a marriage to succeed – even more so for a marriage of people of different religions or cultures – both partners must both know each other well and be determined to accept each other with respect, love, and trust.
Stavroula Tsoutsa is a Certified Holistic Professional Life Coach, ICF ACC, Certified Heartmath Coach/Mentor and Trainer, and Certified Points of You Practitioner.