In this counseling answer:
“Telling him to do and not do certain things may not necessarily help your relationship with him. This type of behavior may even push him away even more. Instead, attempt to invest in your relationship with your son long-term. Let him know that you are his loving mother who cares about him deeply and believes in his strengths and abilities. Give him strength, hope, and lead by example.”
Salamu ‘Alaikum Sister,
Thank you for sending us your question. I am sorry to read about this difficult challenge that you are facing. I ask Allah to help you and your son cultivate a strong and healthy relationship based on mutual respect and empathy.
After reading your message, the first question that came to my mind is what does your son believe in and how does he identify himself? Is he Muslim or not? Is he questioning his faith? Is he trying to find what he believes in? The answer to these questions is the core of your problem. Why did he start dating this girl you describe above in the first place? Why does he want you to meet her family? What does he see in them that pleases him?
As a mother, the first thing you need to do in order to get to the core of this issue is to reach out to him. You need to provide a safe environment so both you and your son can talk honestly and candidly about his actions. What I mean by a ‘safe” environment is that he needs to know and feel that he can be open and honest with you about his feelings without you judging him and reacting negatively to whatever you hear that displeases you. You need to hear him completely and seek to understand how he feels honestly. In other words, you need to connect with him emotionally. Is it possible that he may feel emotionally connected to this girl and her family? Through cultivating a safe environment and encouraging your son to speak his heart, you may find that he is willing to talk to you.
How has your relationship with your son been? At 20 years old, it is a bit too late to try to convince him to be Muslim or to refrain from things that displease you if he doesn’t internally believe in it himself. Instead of arguing with him about the symptoms of his issues (i.e. dating an atheist, doing other haram things, etc.), start with what his heart believes in and what is important to him at this stage in his life. Ideally, this should have been a part of your relationship with your son from a young age, but it is certainly never too late to try to connect with him once again. Just understand that at 20, he is already an adult and has almost formed a general idea of how he wants to live his life and what he views as right and wrong.
Telling him to do and not do certain things may not necessarily help your relationship with him. This type of behavior may even push him away even more. Instead, attempt to invest in your relationship with your son long-term. Let him know that you are his loving mother who cares about him deeply and believes in his strengths and abilities. Give him strength, hope, and lead by example. Let him feel comfortable whenever he is with you. If you do not feel comfortable meeting his girlfriend’s family and having dinner with them, then be honest with him and tell him why (i.e. you do not want to sit on a table with people drinking, etc.). There’re chances that if you show respect to your son and nurture your relationship with him, he will also show respect towards you and respect your wishes.
However, it is important to know that cultivating and maintaining respect takes time to build a relationship if it wasn’t there in the first place. There is no quick fix to these issues with your son, so you must intend to start a healthy relationship with him on a long-term basis. Just remember to maintain a safe environment and make du’aa’ to Allah always.
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.