Most of you already know that a large portion of our relationship was long distance, Mr. Milk living in Vancouver and I in San Francisco. This also meant that we were long-distance from our families and childhood friends. The implication of this is that with a few exceptions, we have been unable to get to really know many of the important people in each others lives. And of course the most important of these are our families.
While we each met the others family years ago, the distance and infrequent visits to Cyprus meant that we were unable to spend a lot of time with them so as to form stronger bonds. For us this has also been a little skewed, with Mr. Milk being able to do this more readily with my family than I with his. On a deeper level, our families are fundamentally different. There are differences in acceptance, interactions, values, expression of emotions, and attitudes towards life. There are also the different personalities that you need to learn how to interact with. We each know our own families and how to handle them, but these "methods" don't necessarily bide well with the partners family.
Anyway, when we were first engaged my family was more obviously accepting of Mr. Milk into our family. I think part of it is that my family had more warning that we were getting engaged while for Mr. Milk's it was totally out of the blue. You see, unbeknownst to me at the time, he had called my dad the previous day to request his permission to "ask for my hand" (nicely done babe!) hence giving them warning. But he never talked to anyone about the decision he had taken. He felt that this was a very personal decision, and other's input was not important to him. He'd decided that he was ready to take the next step, so to speak, and went about it the way he thought best. So needless to say I wasn't the only one that was shocked Christmas morning 2008!
Then there are the stereotypes. For a daughter and her family getting married is something that is looked forward to and almost expected, whereas in a son's family this isn't necessarily something that is thought about much. And the way most Cypriot men typically react to the "when are you getting married" conversation, is like you are talking about giving them a gross, contagious disease!
The different reactions were difficult to deal with initially. There were plenty of times where I felt like our happiness wasn't shared by all family members. As we would start to think about and talk about our wedding, not everyone would partake in these conversations, even when directly asked. Now don't get me wrong, I realize that the universe doesn't revolve around us and our wedding, but I expected more from immediate family. I am the type of person who shows affection. I like public (and private) displays of affection, I express emotions, be they happiness, excitement, anger, or sadness. I also can't hide my emotions. No matter how hard I try, what I am feeling is written all over my face. I also typically have a good gauge on people and it drives me nuts when I can't "read" them. So as you can imagine, this lack of expression of any type of feeling was confusing to me and I found it hurtful.
This also made it difficult for me when we really started to talk about the details of the wedding with Mr. Milk's family, like where it will be held, the guest list, the reception and so on. I couldn't quite get a sense of how to disagree with them without appearing rude or offending them or something. I found that conversations about the wedding would frustrate me, and I preferred not to engage in them, wanting to just plan it on our own and have them just show up on the day. But even when we were back in Canada, planning on our own, we both wanted to keep the families informed of what we were doing and so would show them things we had bought, the invitation design, the website (will do a post on this soon!), and so on, which mostly also ended in frustration with the different reactions and ideas that would come our way.
We initially decided that we would each deal with our own families since we already knew how to handle them. While this seemed like a good idea at the beginning, we slowly found that it was impractical. We would be in the room with one set of parents talking about the wedding and only one of us would pipe up to discuss it. We both had ideas and wants that needed to be expressed at the time of the conversation and having one person speak for both of us just didn't work. I also realized that I wasn't being true to me and who I was by essentially hiding behind Mr. Milk, and this more than anything was driving me crazy. After all, how were they supposed to get to know me if I wasn't being me.
So this time round things were different. From both parties. I realized that they needed more time to get used to the idea that they now had a new member in their family and they made more of an effort to make me feel like part of the family. For Christmas Mr. Milk's parents gifted us a trip to a spa resort for 3 days, with them, and we had a really enjoyable time. I also spoke my mind more. I realized that just as in wedding planning, someone isn't always going to like what you say or do. And thats ok. Just because they are your new family doesn't mean that you need to conform to their ways of being or they to yours. And while I can't speak for them, I can definitely say that I was much happier. For some dumb reason it is presented in the wedding world/media/whatever that once you become engaged, immediately everyone loves everyone. Well real life doesn't quite work that way huh?! Like any relationship, it is a work in progress, and as long as both parties can be respectful and put effort into it, I think it will work out in the end (minus a few exceptions).
How about you ladies? How was it for you when you became the newest member of a family?