Can you ignore a parent and still keep the commandment?


Little background here:

My fiancee was in a private catholic university paid for completely by his parents. All expenses paid came with a different price tag: he was not allowed to work, plan social functions, or choose his degree. They chose the major he would do and said this is it.

He had a 4.0 the first two semesters; the second year he failed both semesters and became rather depressed about everything. His parents and sister both refused to get his sister licensed to drive a car. The reason for this is still unknown. (She will be 20 in november). So he would actually miss his class every day to drive her to school, then miss his other class to drive her home.

He would also get called out of class to drive his siblings around to dance class, run errands such as grocery shopping or filling the tank and even coming home to cook dinner. I thought it was all really strange, as they were horribly angry to find out he failed. ???

Anyways, this summer he decided to stop taking the courses his parents demanded. He has had a lifelong dream and decided to pursue it even though his chances were pretty sorely used up due to the bad GPA. He told them of his decision to change majors and they cancelled all the loans and took the car away. So he got a job, a car, a place to live, etc and enrolled in a public college.

His plan is to take 2 semesters there with no debt, get an excellent GPA then transfer to a tier 1 school here for med school. The school has shown interest in him previously, but his parents refused to send him there as it was not Catholic.

Now anytime either he or I have contact with his family, they become a bit fanatical, screaming, threatening, etc, about how he is throwing his life away and it is all my fault. They warn him that he will be useless and poor, that he will fail school and never be a doctor, that I am dragging him down… on and on and on.

If I am in contact with them separately, they start talking to me about how I need to reconsider my enagement with him, as he will be a poor provider and never finish school, and that the public college will put a mark on him.

Honestly, I am proud of the way he has been charitable and reasonable. He has been through a ton of stress and is still coming out independent, gentle and financially stable. If anything, I feel that he has actually proved to be marriage material. What I like even more is that he did all of this on his own. I did not tell him what to do or help him do it, other than driving him to work for the week he had no car.

My worry is that I am disrespecting his parents, or that he is. Or that there is a better way to diffuse this situation. I do understand that their behavior is wrong. But two wrongs don’t make a right. What do you think?:confused:


I’m sorry, but I don’t see where either of you are being disrespectful. It’s not like he’s living on their dime and refusing to follow their rules. He didn’t want to live under their ridiculous demands, so he behaved as a responsible adult and took control over his own life. And unless you’re responding in kind when his family insults you, I can’t see how you are disrespecting them.

He’s an adult. It is his responsibility to see that he is in a position to someday be financially stable and not be miserable in the process. This is no longer up to his family.


He’s a grown man. If he is called to go in a direction other than medical school, then he needs to do that.

It’s a great gift that his parents are offering to pay for his education, but if he can’t accept it on their terms (resonable or not, it’s their $$), he can respectfully thank them for their generosity, graciously tell them to keep their money, and put himself through school–grown-up people are allowed to do that. That’s RESPECTFUL, because he is honoring the terms of their offer, and thereby honoring them. The disrespectful thing to do would be to whine and complain to them and ask them to pay on his terms.

How they choose to react to that is up to them. Honor and obedience are not necessarily the same thing once one is no longer being raised by his (or her) parents, and especially once one is married. When they are critical, you two can just thank them for caring about him, and politely tell them that it is ultimately up to him. Breathe deep, and always be patient and polite whenever it is humanly possible–even if you feel like you will explode!


Wow, these parents sound like total control freaks! He’s doing the right thing to break away from them and pay his own way! If he stayed tied to their apron strings I would say, bad news for your marriage. But since he’s pulling away, it sounds ok.

Best to steer clear of these manipulative people. Be respectful from a safe distance. The way they are talking to you now, I would not allow them to have unsupervised visits with your future children, they really sound disturbed!

My wife has not the best family along a similar vein. Fortunately my parents are warm and appreciative and she has bonded with my wonderful mother, which has made up for it.


Respectful is one thing, a put upon, disrespected abused doormat is another.

Have him call once a month and send cards at holidays.


:hmmm: I think I see what you are saying. There is a distinction between honoring someone and disobeying them. Or rather, the two do not always go hand in hand.

I do try to be patient and kind. Actually, I thank God I am not of the explosive type but rather laid back in social situations. Maybe it is because I have been in the customer service field for so long? ha.

I just tend to second guess myself and I am very hesitant in this whole topic. I can’t imagine my parents doing any of this! They want me to be self-sustaining and independent, and to follow whatever career best uses the talents God has given me.

Sometimes his parents will say something and I just stare. My mind draws a blank! I quickly recover with a nod of the head and words of acknowledgement. But I don’t get into arguments with them.

I dunno. I just dunno…:eek:


That is my thinking, too. Before I had a fear that he was too young-ish in regards to worldly things that I consider important: such as living on your own, working, having strong work and social relationships, time management, career planning, etc.

I feel much better now that I am seeing him firsthand being successful in these things on his own.

And I also relate to having the nice set of parents. He loves coming over for family visits and my parents have warmly welcomed him. I will never be able to pay them back for their acceptance and charity. (Or maybe he just comes over for the cookin’) :smiley:

It is nice to hear from others with similar difficulties. Sometimes I wonder if I am in the twilight zone.


We do not honor reasonable and unreasonable people in quite the same ways. It’s not necessary to capitulate to weird demands or offer oneself as a puppet for someone else’s head games. Sometimes silence is the most charitable thing one can do in such situations. You’re both obviously approaching this situation with prayer and level-headedness. I think you could afford to trust yourself a little more. Don’t get scrupulous! :slight_smile:


Sin or not, parents like those, I would disown until and if they change, stay away from that nonsense. I have experiences of my own will post later.


BINGO! Imagine, for example, a situation where your parents ask you to do something downright sinful. The commandment in such cases certainly doesn’t require you to obey them.

And remember the story of Jesus in the temple? He basically ran away from Mary and Joseph because what God called him to do at that point was different from what they wanted. Parents aren’t perfect and don’t always (some don’t often) know what’s best for us.

Always be as polite and helpful as possible, but you don’t have to obey your parents’ every word when you’re old enough to reason for yourself.


You said that he is no longer Catholic. Why? Could this be the root concern of his parents and not necessarily you or the school he is attending. What lead him to leave the church? They sound like some scared parents that are worried about the future of their son.


I didn’t get that from hasikelee’s posts, rasmussen. I thought she said something about he wasn’t going to a Catholic college anymore and had enrolled in a public one instead. Or did I miss something? :o


Well, first off, if he gets good grades from here on out (and if he’s studying what his heart’s set on, there is no reason he won’t) and keeps up the hard work, he’ll make it to medical school.

I think a lot of us have a hard time when we reach college or graduate because we’re so used to the “mother knows best” way of thinking. It’s good to think that way while you are under your parents’ roof and dependent on them–it keeps home life much more peaceful than questioning their decisions. However, once you move out, graduate, whatever, YOU have to start taking responsibility for your actions and making decisions for your life. That doesn’t mean you aren’t respectful–you always owe your parents respect. But that also doesn’t mean you owe them the obedience of a child.

Think about it, if adults owed their parents absolute obedience, I’d have grown up in a home where essentially my grandparents were in charge. Did I? Of course not. And that’s how I became comfortable with the fact that I wasn’t being a bad daughter by making my own decisions.

The same for your fiance. Is he being a bad son? No. He’s being respectful, demonstrating a strong work ethic, and a sense of responsibility which are very admirable. Are you wrong to be engaged? No. The approval of parents is a wonderful blessing for an engagement, but if the parents are obviously not working in the best interests of their children, you are not showing disrespect by continuing your engagement without their approval.

If I were you, I’d put some space between his parents and yourself. Be sweet when you see them, but don’t seek their company. And don’t feel guilty that you’re engaged to a man who is pursuing the dream of medical school. Goodness, we need more strong Catholic doctors!

Congratulations to you both on your engagement! :slight_smile:

kevinsgirl :love:


I guess I misunderstood. Sorry:o Carry on!


I think you are both pretty awesome young people to even be having this dilemna. Most people - and I have to admit I would be tempted to do this - would simply cut off all contact and just walk away.

I know that deepening my prayer life has helped me get through a lot of stuff lately - lots of ups and downs. Another exercise that helped me was one suggested by my 12 step sponsor…it was simply a writing exercise but it helped focus me and give me a bit more perspective. She asked me to pretend I was the person with whom I had a conflict and asked me to write down, to the best of my ability, what I thought that person would say were my faults, my problems and my character defects. Then we looked at them together to see if there were ANY at all that could be corrected or done away with by me.

Obviously, not everything is my fault but sometimes I have to be hard on myself to get some perspective. Unless the other party is completely psychotic they may have some kind of point of view that should be considered.

Anyway, it is just a thought…you are in my prayers as I think you are pretty darn together and your fiancee is blessed to have you in his life.


I think it sounds like he has done a really good job under the circumstances. It would be more problematic if he couldn’t stand up to them and do the things he did, like get a job and his own apartment. On the contrary to what they have said, I think he sounds like a pretty smart, hard-working guy.

Good luck to you both. Now the challenge will be being loving when he is happily married and a successful Dr. Can’t say ‘I told you so’ even though it would be oh so tempting. :slight_smile:



This is not a response to your question, but something I feel I should bring to your attention if you have not already considered it:

Please, before marriage consider in-depth that these people will be your children’s grandparents…they will likely see them on holidays, birthdays unless you have cut-off contact completely.

I am imploring you to have serious discussions with your fiancee on how you will handle this situation in the future and with your future children. I know of many families that were just torn up by situations like these. It can cause much stress.

True, you cannot avoid all future conflict…but it would be nice to know where he stands on certain issues before marriage and family. Will you allow your children to be alone with his parents if they treat you like this? Will you allow your children to see them if they are critical of you in front of them? Just some things to ponder. Thank you for letting me share my thoughts.


Monicad - that is the most solid advice I have ever seen.


LSK-you are too kind, but thank you…it was probably not my own feeble brain but the Holy Spirit

I supppose in all my years of dishing out bad advice I am bound to run across someone who thinks I get in a good one occassionally! I sure hope it helps…

God Bless


Hasikelee, it is obvious that you and your fiance want to do the right thing in the eyes of God. You can go to the Catechism for guidance on this point. Check out section 2217 in the section about the duites of family members. It states “Obedience toward parents ceases with the emancipation of the children; not so respect, which is always owed to them.” He is over eighteen and supporting himself so he is emancipated. Since you both are trying to respect his parents, you are doing the right thing. I am the mother of young adult sons, and I know how hard it is to let them be indepentent, and try not to interfere. Your fiance’s parents now need to work through the last stage of active parenting, letting go. When they realize that he is now an adult, they can be proud of the fine young man that they have brought up.

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