Originally posted in Bustle
For some of us, it’s really important that our parents approve of our partner. If you’re close to your family or just have a lot of respect for them, it can feel like a must that they like your partner. I love the fact that my mom and girlfriend get along, and it was a total nightmare when my parents and step parents (quite rightly) didn’t approve of some of my earlier choices.
Some parents, like my parents, may make their dislike obvious. Really obvious. But sometimes, you might just notice them being avoidant or awkward, even if they say they’re OK with it. And that can have big consequences. “When your family members don’t want to accept invitationswhere your partner will be present, this is because they are uncomfortable around that partner and choose to stay away rather than connect with you and tolerate your partner,” New York–based relationship expert and authorApril Masini tells Bustle. “Obviously, this dynamic swings both ways, but if your partner’s reaction to your family members staying away is aggressive, chances are, the partner is stirring the pot and hurting the dynamic between you and your family.”
But whether it’s your partner’s fault or not, it’s really difficult if your parents don’t approve. It can feel like you need to choose between your family and your partner, which just isn’t a fair position for you to be in. So you need to honestly assess the situation and set some clear limits on how this is going to affect you. Because ultimately, it’s your decision.
Be Honest With Yourself
Firstly, you need to figure out why they dislike your significant other. When my parents didn’t like one of my ex-boyfriends I knew they had damn good reasons for doing it — he just wasn’t a nice guy. But maybe they’re overreacting. “If your family don’t want to see both of you together, tell you they don’t like your partner, or try to see you alone, there’s something wrong,” Tina B. Tessina, aka Dr. Romance, psychotherapist and author of How to be Happy Partners: Working it out Together, tells Bustle. “Maybe you have a negative family, or maybe it’s your partner who’s the problem. Step back and take an objective look at who your partner is to your family.”
If you take a look and see that they have a good reason for disapproving, you might need to question the relationship. If you think they’re just being too harsh or irrational, then you need to find a way to hold your ground without damaging your relationship with them.
Hold Your Boundaries
Your parents and your partner can not get along and still all be incredibly important people in your life. You need to hold your boundaries. You can’t let the fact that there’s animosity between them stop you from living your life. So make it clear that you accept both parties’ point of view, but that you don’t agree and won’t let it affect how you relate to your partner or your parents. It may be your parents doing the badmouthing or your partner, but in either case it’s not OK. “A partner can manipulate you to view a family member differently by stating critical comments, or sly innuendo and judgments,” relationship coach and psychic medium Melinda Carver tells Bustle. “If you find your opinion of your family member changing through your partner’s manipulation, ask yourself whether you are viewing that person through your partner’s judgment or yours.” Make sure that you’re keeping a clear head.
Ask For Help
Finally, don’t be afraid to talk to the people involved to try to help you. Saying, “I know you don’t like them, but I need you to help me get through this dinner,” can be really effective. And if there are clear behaviors your family doesn’t like, you can ask your partner to refrain from them. “If your family refuses to be around them and they have concrete reasons for being upset,” then that’s just not OK, Stefanie Safran, Chicago’s “Introductionista” and founder of Stef and the City, tells Bustle. “For example, his [or her] behavior is problematic because [s/]he gets too drunk, [s/]he makes derogatory comments about people, flirts with other women, etc.,” she says. You can tell your partner you need their help to make these events go smoothly and help ease the tension. If they really care about you, they should be willing to make your life easier.
If your parents don’t approve of your partner — whether it’s their fault or not— it can make your life really tricky. Try to cope by remembering this is your life, so keep your boundaries where you need them to be. And never be afraid to ask for help.