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Counseling/How to get my family to accept my fiance?


Alright, well, Iím 23, and my fianceís name is Samoset. He is 26 and he is American Indian (Algonquian). Him and I have been together for two years and just got engaged a couple of weeks ago. My family has met Sam maybe four times on holidays and he has always been friendly, gracious, and just very well-mannered, as he always is. They have been mostly cordial but I know that they are somewhat judgmental because they donít like the idea of me marrying someoneÖ WellÖ Not white. Now donít get me wrong, my family is not racist or prejudiced or anything of the sort. Theyíre just very traditional and Iím going to be the first person bringing someone not white into the family. And the cultural difference is much more drastic than with some other races. My family is also made up of mostly devout Christians, and they don't really like or understand Sam's beliefs, and I'm unsure whether him telling them more about it would help or hurt. My family has asked him some uncomfortable and rude questions not realizing they were being rude. I just want them to be accepting because I love Sam more than anything. I live in a different state from my whole family so I havenít told anyone yet that we are engaged, minus my mother and sister, who are the only accepting ones. I am planning on telling everybody on Sunday when I go to visit, but Iím very nervous. How can I get my family to accept that I am marrying an American Indian? Sam is very quiet to start with, and he is convinced that they hate him, so he is always very intimated to go see them. What do I do?

Hello Storm. Apparently your family IS racist. You cannot make them change their values or beliefs. You CAN appeal to them to get to know Sam before making any judgments. If they really love you, they will want to put your happiness above their discomfort at having a non-white in the family. Discuss these with Sam and perhaps your Mom and sister:

If you have questions about these, please ask.

With compassion - Pete


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Peter Gerlach, MSW


I can answer questions about mood disorders, depression, suicide, relationships, communication skills, problem solving, clear thinking, bonding disorders, trauma recovery, addiction management, grieving, shame, guilt, fear, reality distortion, and trust disorders; courtship, family functioning, "problem kids," mediation, (re)marriage, divorce, stepfamilies, stepparenting, boundaries, self-neglect, abuse, parental neglect, personality subselves, ("parts work"). I cannot answer legal or medical questions.


I maintained a private therapy practice near Chicago for 27 years, and have worked with over 1,000 men, women, couples, and families on a wide range of personal and family problems. I have been in personal recovery from growing up in an alcoholic family since 1986, and have worked with five therapists to heal my own psychological wounds. I maintained a "warm (phone) line" for callers on the topics above for 20 years, and have taught over 200 seminars and classes in midwestern universities, churches, support groups, and schools since 1981. I have practiced internal-family therapy ("parts work") with trauma-recoverers since 1991.

National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC) Experts Council; Compassion and Choices, and Final Exit Network

# Several hundred articles in my non-profit "Break the Cycle!" Web site at These articles are augmented by over 150 educational YouTube videos .

# six books on childhood-trauma recovery, effective communication, and stepfamily courtship, coparenting, and management.

A bachelors degree in mechanical engineering (BSME, 1959) from Stanford University, a Masters degree in clinical Social Work, (MSW, 1981), and over 500 hours of post-grad training in the topics above - including clinical hypnosis, spirituality, codependence, addicrtion-management, and guided imagery. My post-grad traning includes two 9-month internships on doing internal-family therapy at the University of Illinois.

Awards and Honors
Hundreds of grateful emails and comments from students and clients all over the world.

Past/Present Clients
Over 1,000 average Midwestern-US women, men, couples, and families. A physical disability limits me to doing telephone and Skype counseling now.

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