When you’re in a relationship, it may be important to you that your family gets along with your partner. And that makes total sense! It’s awesome when our partners can be involved in multiple areas of our lives and hang out with the other people we care about.
But what if that’s not the case? What if your parents or other family members disapprove of your partner? This can be really tough. It might make you feel terrible or torn between your family and your partner.
You might want to react defensively and maybe angrily toward your family if they tell you they don’t approve of your partner. You might even want to ignore what they say and just shut them out or keep your relationship a secret from them. Those are pretty common first reactions, but it can be helpful to think through the situation further.
Would keeping your relationship a secret from your family make you feel good in the long run? It might seem like the easiest solution, but remember: all healthy relationships are built on trust, respect and communication, and that includes your relationship with your family. If you already have a relatively healthy relationship with your family members (in other words, you feel safe talking to them and aren’t worried about them becoming verbally or physically abusive), it could help to find out what their specific objections are to your partner/relationship.
While the conversation might be difficult, it’s important to approach your family members as calmly and respectfully as possible. Ask them why they have an issue with your partner. Do they feel that your partner is too controlling? Do they not like the way your partner talks to you? Do they think that your partner doesn’t respect you? They may see some unhealthy behaviors in your partner that you don’t see. Still not convinced? Ask your friends what they think about your partner. Do they have the same concerns as your family? If so, take some time to consider whether or not any of your partner’s behaviors are warning signs. You can always call, chat or text with a love is respect peer advocate if you need more help!
If your family members can’t offer any specific reasons why they don’t approve of your partner, or if they don’t like your partner’s race, religion, sexual orientation or appearance, then the situation gets a little stickier. Disliking someone based on these factors is called prejudice, and that has more to do with your family members than your partner. How you handle this depends on what kind of relationship you have with your family, whether you still live with them, and how safe you feel with them. You might respectfully let them know that while you appreciate their feelings, you don’t agree with them. You could suggest that you all try spending more time together so they can get to know your partner better. If the relationship is causing too much strife with your family, you might consider taking a step back and building a friendship with your partner while you work things out with your family members, if that’s possible. Ultimately, what’s important is that you do what’s healthiest for you and your life.