When You Don’t like Your Significant Other’s Parents

A woman standing with her parents, about to meet her significant other.

Meeting your partner’s parents for the first time is always anxiety-inducing. You may spend a lot of time wondering whether they like you, only to realize later that you don’t necessarily like them. Maybe they’re too different from you, or so similar that you find yourself desiring to be competitive with them.

You can choose your significant other, but you can’t choose the people who birthed or raised them. Sometimes you luck out and win the significant other parents lottery; other times, you seriously consider pretending you have the flu every time they come into town.

Here are some questions you might be asking yourself:

Is not liking your significant other’s parents a deal breaker?
The short answer is no. You don’t need to like your partner’s family to love and have a successful relationship with your partner. You are not required to like anyone, let alone your partner’s parents, but this can be tricky if your partner loves and relies on their family a lot.

Obviously you need to be polite and respectful regardless of how you feel. You need to show up to family events with your partner to be supportive, you just may need to find a member of the family that you can talk to so you’re not just glued to your partner’s side at these events.

If you feel like your partner is choosing their family over you, you will need to check in with how you’re feeling to make sure you feel supported. If your partner has their own issues with their family, you can also communicate about those and navigate those as a team, which could bring you closer.

How do you tell your partner you can’t stand their family?
Saying your partner’s family is terrible or that you hate them all will likely put your partner on the defensive and they won’t understand where you’re coming from. Instead you should focus on communicating that you struggle with connecting with their family or that you feel uncomfortable when certain topics come up, etc.

Think about and share the specific behaviors or relevant situations that upset you. Focus on why you don’t want to spend much time with their family since that’s something your partner can help you navigate. The important thing is communicating and making sure that your feelings are being acknowledged. Your partner may not see what you’re seeing, and that’s okay, but they have to validate that your experience is your experience and help you move through it during family situations.

What role will their family play in your relationship’s future?
It’s crucial to the success of your relationship that you have an open and honest dialogue about how you feel about their family and how your partner feels as well. You may need to have boundaries that your partner needs to help with. These could look like only spending a couple of hours over at their mother’s instead of staying overnight or helping with a topic change when grandpa mentions politics. The important thing is this is a situation you both need to work on navigating, and open communication is essential for being able to do that.

While it’s never fun to have to sit through a family gathering with people you don’t like or who also openly don’t like you, sometimes it’s a part of what we do for our relationships. Communicating and setting and maintaining boundaries are important. Beyond that, be the kindest, most polite version of yourself. Try to focus on the positive, even if it’s listening to grandpa talk about woodworking because at least that means he’s not ranting about politics. Your relationship with your special someone can be strengthened by navigating these sorts of difficulties, and if you see long-term potential with them, you want to make sure you’re working through these as they come up.

Tara Mae Mulroy

Tara Mae Mulroy is a freelance writer and blogger who focuses on relationships. She is also the author of the full-length poetry collection, Swallow, and other writing found at taramaemulroy.com.

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