While I respect their wishes and wouldn't dream of ever making a big deal of it, the beach trip has been a source of discussion for EJ and I (and admittedly a couple tears on my part) about what qualifies as "family" and how our relationship is viewed by our respective families.
As a little girl and teenager I always had these dreams of the perfect in-laws. My future mother-in-law would be thrilled to meet her son's girlfriend and would be joking about our future wedding and kids (much the same way my own mom does!). Though I get along with his mom, our relationship feels very polite and formal. Unlike my mom, who had an Easter basket for EJ just three months after our first date, I feel that his mom hasn't made an effort to get to know me beyond my most surface self. I've tried to reconcile the differences with excuses of distance or difference of opinion, but the truth is, it's hard to admit how much that hurts sometimes.
When I decided to write this post, I began writing with the intention of adding a check mark in mine and Leah's "Personal" category of posts, which has been lacking of late. We like to let you guys know what is going on in our lives. Sometimes that is as simple as "I got a new cat!" but I think a little vulnerability sometimes is good for the soul. And sure enough, as I started typing, I realized more and more that I needed to vent this a little bit - so thanks for reading if you've made it this far.
That being said, the conversations I have had with EJ surrounding this topic have been great. We talk about our future and how our relationship is able to draw from both of our family experiences. In our possible future marriage and family we will get to pick and choose which aspects of our upbringing we want to incorporate into raising our children. He recognizes my frustrations and is able to explain some of the behaviors that cause me anxiety. He is also able to make me able to see the biases I bring to the table, coming from an "open arms" kind of family unit. Our talks can be long and emotional, but they bring us closer together and help us better understand each other's lives before "us", so to speak.
I think it is important in any relationship to talk about not only what each of you brings to the table, but what family you bring as well. A life with someone automatically includes a life with that persons family. There are holidays, vacations, and visits that will need to be planned. And whether you're receiving birthdays gifts from grandma after the first year or waiting for that post-ring approval, open communication with your partner is key. You can't change a person's family, but you can create an honest dialogue around feelings and expectations.
Have you experienced something similar with an in-law or family member? How have you handled differences in upbringing between you and your partner? Please share below and advice or comments!