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Dear Stavroula

Ask Stavroula: To What Extent Do Greek Parents Make Life Decisions for Their Children?

Dear Stavroula,

For about a year, I’ve been dating a 45-year-old woman from Greece. I feel that our relationship could progress and we could get married, but she has doubts as she believes her parents in Greece will never allow her to marry an American who is more than 25 years older than her. Note that neither she nor I have children and therefore there is nothing holding us back, beyond this lady’s family. Is there really such a big cultural difference between Greece and America that parents decide for their children’s lives there, which is unthinkable here? Is it possible for parents to prevent the marriage of their adult daughter? And is the age difference so important for Greeks when the man is presentable, well-educated, and interesting as a personality?

Efstathios

 

Dear Efstathios,

The Greek family is an institution that fortunately remains strong, both in Greece and among the Greeks of America. Greek parents are close to our children, we strive so that they lack nothing, we support them in their studies, we help them financially until they are established professionally, perhaps even later, and we are by their side in any difficulty they encounter in their lives. A striking example is how the Greek family withstood the economic crisis. When the parents were unemployed, the grandparents supported the family by again providing for their children along with their own children who returned or paying for their grandchildren’s education. It is deep within our mentality to feel for members of our family, not to move away from them as we grow up but to strengthen kinship.

This sense of family sometimes makes us act against our children in a way that oppresses them. When they are young we tend to overprotect them, often not letting them take action out of fear they will be in danger or will get hurt. Growing up, when they reach adolescence, we want to save them from the agony of being hurt or seduced. We want to have a look at their choices, to participate when they take their entrance exams for the university, to discuss their potential partners, to organize their wedding feast. Up to a point though.

The fact that a 45-year-old woman is unable to determine her life based on her own desires and breaks off relationships if her parents object, has nothing to do with her origin or her culture. It seems that this woman has not managed to cut the umbilical cord. Perhaps behind this attitude there may be other problems that she would like to solve before deciding to unite her life with another human being. As for you (if you do decide to move on) you should consider whether at this stage of your life you would want to connect with a mature person who will be an equal partner, capable of taking action when needed, or if it does not bother you, to assume the role of the father in your relationship.

In your position I would also consider whether her attitude is a reflection of her own doubts about the evolution of your relationship, whether the age difference is a major problem for her, preventing her from marrying you and finding the justification for the objection from her parents.

In any case, this attitude has nothing to do with the culture of her country of origin. Greek parents, like any good parent, I imagine, want their child to be happy with his choices and that is what ultimately determines their attitude towards their partner.

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Dear Stavroula, I am writing to you because I am facing a big dilemma.

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