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How to Deal When the Parents Don’t Like You

A couple in a car looking mad because they have relationship problems.

Girl meets boy. Girl falls in love with boy. Girl meets boy’s parents, and everything starts to fall apart. If this story sounds familiar, you know how crushing it can be to clash with difficult in-laws. One minute, everything is going swimmingly. But the next, you feel the weight of their disapproval in more ways than one: on your confidence, on your heart, and on your relationship. If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, make sure you proceed with caution, because difficult in-law “approval” is a delicate topic.

I’ve dealt with difficult in-laws and lived to tell the tale, so I’m here to shed some light on the situation. These insights took me a lot of time (and therapy) to understand and accept, so while it might be a lot of brutal honesty to take in at once, hopefully it will help.

Insight #1: Your in-laws are never going to change. They’re adults with their own set of opinions and chances are, their son or daughter’s love interest (you) will not change the way they see the world or process information or react to their surroundings. So you can’t make them love you, but what you can do is hopefully positively affect the way you communicate with each other. It will make for more peaceful holiday family gatherings.

Insight #2: Try your best to not take their opinion too personally. Accepting this simple but sometimes impossible truth will help you keep some perspective and a level head when addressing your relationship. Think of it like a business deal gone bad: It’s no longer about impressing them or making them like you, it’s just about striking a balance that satisfies both parties’ needs to feel happy and respected.

Insight #3: Your significant other never belongs in the middle.  Don’t ask your partner to choose a side. Don’t insult their family. While it can be tempting to just let it all out and vent vent vent, stop yourself, because doing so will cause more harm than good. Figure out how to compromise and remember that you’re on the same team. It’s so important to appear as a united front to difficult in-laws, so as long as the two of you are solid, it’ll be easier to deal with the two of them.

Difficult in-laws come in all shapes and sizes, but once you learn their patterns of behavior, it becomes easier to predict how they’ll react to things and navigate the choppy waters. My best advice is to remain quiet and polite, but firm. Try not to give them any reasons to dislike you. They’ll likely invent one on their own, but if possible, don’t feed into it. Should you find yourself in the middle of a screaming match (seriously, it’s happened to me more than twice in the past), try not to get involved, because this isn’t really about you.

One question will loom larger and higher than any other: But why? Why don’t they like me? What can I do differently? It’s totally normal to want their approval. As human beings we crave acceptance, and it’s only natural to want your partner’s parents and family to like you. If you find yourself struggling with difficult in-laws, try to remember that ultimately, the most important love is the love you share with your mate and have for yourself. Difficult in-laws shouldn’t define your relationship, and in some ways, the struggle will make you stronger.

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