Q I have 2 kids from a previous relationship and I’m now in a new relationship with man who’s been brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness – although he’s ‘lapsed’ and doesn’t go along with it any more. He says his mother and father were both very strict and physically abusive to him as a child.
I haven’t met his family yet but I know they don’t acknowledge or celebrate Christmas. I don’t want to spoil it for my kids when they come over to visit us soon in the new year. I don’t want to have to tell my kids not to mention Xmas or the presents they got. I don’t want to cause an atmosphere and I don’t know what to do for the best or who to please.
A There are two issues here. Abusive parents, and their religious beliefs. Assuming that you don’t suspect that they will be physically or emotionally abusive to you or your children (or to your partner in your presence) this leaves you with how to ‘accommodate’ their views when then visit you; and your own feelings towards them based upon what your partner had told you far.
I suggest that you do whatever best suits you and your children. Your partner’s parent’s beliefs are not shared by you and there’s no reason that they should be.
You may also find that they ‘disapprove’ of other aspects of your life too. Such as the type of mother/parent you are, or your marital status etc – and you have a choice about how you handle any such negativity if it comes your way.
It’ll be worth rehearsing a few assertive statements to have at the ready – just in case you need them.
I’m wondering whether your new partner has had this problem before with any of his former girlfriends, and if do, how did he handle it?
Children should be able and allowed to show their excitement, pleasure and gratitude for gifts at any time of year – irrespective of anyone else’s religious views (which should hopefully be about unity and care, and not division and judgement).
I’m also wondering if you have a pattern of trying to please other people to be seen as OK by them.
If so maybe it’s time for you to have a deeper look at that and explore how that old childhood conditioning gets in the way of being your authentic assertive self as an adult.
Please don’t allow yourself to become afraid of upsetting someone just because they are different to you and choose different beliefs.
You can be respectful of their choices without bending yourself out of shape to accommodate them.
I wish you and your children a peaceful and pleasurable time when your partner’s parents visit you.
He may also have to consider how his parent’s views might get in the way of his own future happiness. That’s something he’ll have to work through and decide upon the amount of contact he has with them, and the extent to which he allows them to continue to influence his adult life.
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy)
www.maxineharley.com – where you’ll find a page of FREE RESOURCES that may be of interest to you as you become more authentic and assertive