I have mixed feelings about the gay marriage ruling. Don't get me wrong, I'm over the moon that we've made such progress. But my relationship with my parents will inevitably get worse if I express excitement or happiness. They already ignore the reality of my sexuality as much as they can. I hate that my happiness is tempered with such frustration and anxiety. I can't even make my picture rainbow without fear of a major fight.
- Pensive Rainbow
It sounds to me like your feelings about the gay marriage ruling aren't mixed at all. You're happy about it (and I am too!). Your parents, though, aren't. That makes things complicated. Wanting the love of our parents is normal, and wanting to keep the peace during family gatherings is natural.
One of the hardest things about being a young adult is figuring out how to interact with our parents. You may move out, pay bills, get a job, go to college... but in their eyes, you will always be (partially, at least) a child. Watching a child grow into an adult is painful and awkward for the parents too, and I think it's important to acknowledge that.
But that's where it stops. There will be many ways, great and small, where your parents disagree with you, from how much time you spend on the internet to your thoughts on religion, and everything in between. You can't pretend to be someone you aren't just to keep things calm. It's not just bad for you emotionally; it's unsustainable. Someday, your parents will have to deal with how you feel about this issue and many others. Living your entire life counter to your own beliefs just to please your parents is going to result in you being unhappy with not being who you want to be, which is worse than any family drama.
Be yourself, open and unashamed. It will make you a happier person, and that is something every parent wants for their children. It's their job – and very likely, their desire – as parents to love you in spite of any differences of opinion you might have. Politely and respectfully give them the opportunity to rise to the occasion.
Remember: Your feelings are not up for debate. They belong to you and aren’t dictated by argument. If the huge argument you envision looks as though it's going to erupt, go with “I love you, but I don't want to talk about this with you right now,” and let it sit. Passions can flare in the heat of the moment, but once they've had some time to get used to how you feel and behave, they'll relax. They probably won't come around to seeing things your way, but they'll realize their relationship with you is more important than fruitless arguing.
Thanks to this week's Supreme Court verdict, I found out my son supports gay marriage. I'm worried he might even be gay, and just not telling me. I don't agree with that lifestyle at all. What can I do?
- Feeling Like a Bad Parent
I’m going to skip over arguing whether the Supreme Court ruling is right or wrong – you have your beliefs and a few sentences on the internet is unlikely to change that.
Let me ask you this: Do you love your son unconditionally? You, like nearly all parents, are likely to answer with a resounding “yes!” to this question. Well, it’s time to earn those stripes.
Loving people you agree with on everything is really easy. But you’re not going to agree with everything your child does. That’s painful, and when it comes to a fundamentally held moral belief, it can be deeply painful. I understand. Find someone to talk to about the issue – a spouse, a trusted friend, a counselor, a pastor.
But NOT your son. He’s your child, not your therapist. They’ve spent their entire lives with you – I’m sure they know how you feel. Heaping guilt and judgment on them for your own peace of mind is inappropriate. Instead, focus on the thing that is the marker of a good parent – show them love, with the focus on the “unconditional.”
If that seems too hard or too vague, start with a lesson your parents very likely taught you – if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
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Well, that's all for this week. If you have a question you'd like featured in next week's column, leave a message in the comments or message me on Facebook or Twitter @isaacjourden.