My friend just called me asking for some advice with his girlfriend. Although his problem was specific, I feel as though the solution I gave him could be applied to a number of relationship issues. This is why I plan on sharing this story. So without further ado, here’s the background on them: their year and a half anniversary is coming up and they both bought each other gifts. The problem is that his girl’s mother is very strict and doesn’t want her daughter dating, so he’s been kept a secret from her this whole time. My friend is 26 and his girl is 23, but the thing is she’s African and if you know anything about African parents this actually makes sense. A lot of African parents are very strict. Now my friend called me because he wanted to go over her house right now and give her a promise ring as a step towards getting married. He was nervous of course because the mother has never seen him before. He wanted to know if I felt he should go ahead and make this big scene at their house now or not.
My recommendation to him: “Don’t go over there like that.” I told him before he made any rash decision like this had to put himself inside of her shoes. My friend had a hard time understanding his girl’s decision to keep him hidden because he doesn’t live in her family. In her defense I found out that her mother is paying for her college and wants to see her graduate to become a nurse. She has three more years left, now what if she were to get married before then… her mother would likely assume that means she’s going to get pregnant and have to drop out of school before she can finish. This makes a ton of sense for her mom to not want her daughter to have a boyfriend… although of course this is a very strict viewpoint. So to her mom her daughter having a boyfriend = getting pregnant = dropping out of school = failure for life.
Now this has become the stem of most of their arguments lately, and although my friend claimed that he’s tried to talk to her about it, there’s never been a resolution. Not yet. So I asked him if he could honestly say that every time he tried to come to a solution he remained calm while talking through this problem. I asked him this because I could hear the emotion in his voice speaking about this with me. Of course he said he could have done better at remaining calm. I told him the best thing you could do is express your feelings to her about this in a way that isn’t placing any blame on her so that she may be able to step inside your shoes and understand your point of view. The obvious thing is that they need to come to some sort of compromise/agreement. If your partner doesn’t understand how and why you feel the way you do, it’s impossible to reach a resolution. If you’re trying to get her to understand this while being emotional unstable (getting angry or placing blame) there’s no way your partner will be able to help you, or want to. Granted my friend is being asked to do a lot if he’s expected to keep himself hidden from his girl’s mom for the next three years, since that means he has to sneak around to see her since she lives with her mom still. But no matter how “bad” the situation may seem you must remain in control of your emotions.
After he expresses his feelings about this to her, I recommended that he have written out a bulletin point list of all different points he wants to cover to get his point across to her. For instance he said, "what if she had to go to the hospital, would this mean I couldn’t visit her?" etc. I only recommended him to write it out because it was clear that this was making him become very emotional and not able to think logically, so it would be easier to have this planned out. I told him after he presents his case, his girlfriend should be able to understand that they need to come to a resolution… he then has to make sure that they both stay on track with the conversation so they actually do come to an end resolution that they can both agree upon. He mentioned that they would both give up discussing the issue sometimes. The point is that both people need to be happy in a relationship. It’s not anyone’s fault if things aren’t able to work out at this moment, it might just be bad timing. Although my friend loves his girl, he doesn’t have to be with her to love her. I told him the famous words, that when you love someone you should be able to let them go… and if it’s meant to be then the both of you will come back together. He enjoyed hearing this. The point is that my friend needs to understand what his limits are, weather he’s willing to wait only one more year to meet her parents or whatever the case. If a compromise is to be discussed successfully then both partners need to understand the needs of the other person and the needs of themselves. If they aren’t able to both agree on something that satisfies both in the relationship then it shouldn’t continue. That’s not to say that later on they couldn’t get back together and it might work out perfectly. Sometimes life has a funny way of working out, but by truly understanding your partner and yourself most problems (if not all) can be avoided in a relationship. Asking a friend for help is a great idea, because that person is able to make clear decisions about what logically makes the most sense to have both partners be happy. If you’re able to think like this you too could “see yourself from a third person perspective” and begin making clear/logical decisions. This is why you may have heard someone say they would “mediate on a problem,” since it helps you calm down and think rationally, which is key. With that I hope you can take some of the lessons learned here that helped my friend out and begin to apply it to a problem you may be faced with. I wish you the best of luck.