Originally posted on Bustle
When you’re in a relationship, having people close to you who don’t like your partner can be an absolute nightmare. Even the slightest tension between your partner and someone at your office happy hour can make your life difficult — and if it’s a close friend who doesn’t like your partner, it’s even worse. But for a lot of people, the worst case scenario is your partner not getting along with your family.
“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.”
It can be especially difficult if it’s your parents who don’t like your partner. Luckily, my girlfriend gets along with my mom and my step mom, but I had partners when I was younger who didn’t do well with my family — especially my dad. And the stress was unbearable. You don’t always know who’s to blame, and sometimes everyone involved is behaving less than favorably.
So what do you do if your parents don’t like your partner? If the criticism is coming from your parents, you need to start by talking to them.
Listen To Your Parents
First, speak to your parents and try to work out what the problem is. Does your partner have specific behavior or personality traits that are bothering your parents? Are they having issues with you being more independent? Does it seem too wishy-washy to be backed up by fact?
“When your family members don’t want to accept invitations where 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 author April 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.”
Listening to your parent or parents and finding out specifically what their issues are with your relationship will help you reach your solution.
Think About Your Dynamic With Your Partner
It may be that your parents are completely out on a limb and just being unfair— that definitely happens. So if you can’t see any basis for it, you may just need to tell them that it’s your life and they need to respect your choices. But take a step back and see if your partner has a habit of limiting or compromising your relationship with other people in your life. Have they been encouraging you to spend last time with your family? Or been overly critical? “If your partner wants you to pull away from your family to be with them more, and to have less of a relationship with them, this can be a red flag,” psychologist Nikki Martinez tells Bustle. “If you have a healthy relationship and boundaries with your family, question the motives of someone who is trying to move you and isolate you from the important people in your life. It can be about self-esteem, or it can be about power and control.”
And Your Relationship With Your Family
Ultimately, your family was there before your partner, and no matter who is to blame, you need to decide if the impact on your relationship with your family is worth it. “If there is an increase in conflict with family that somehow always indirectly or directly relates to your partner, chances are there is a causation,” life coach Kali Rogers tells Bustle. “Talk about it first before making any rash decisions, because all you statistics nerds know that correlation does not always mean causation.”
It comes down to your individual situation. If you’ve never been close to your family and you think they’re being ridiculous, you’ll probably be OK letting it go. If you are closer to your parents and you think your partner is being purposefully difficult, you may want to consider the relationship that you’re in. The truth is, in many cases it will fall frustratingly in the gray area — so you need to decide the right choice for your circumstances.
Family stress and relationship stress are bad enough on their own, but even worse when they’re combined. Try to look at all the factors and do what feels right for you.