When you find the love of your life, you expect that the other people in your world who care about you will be happy for you. This is not always the case, though. What do you do when your parents disapprove of your relationship? There are several ways you can help bridge the gap between your family and your significant other.
Listen to Their Concerns
It's easy to give in to fear and assume that you already know your parents' reasoning, particularly if they have previously expressed disapproval of factors within your relationship:
- Same sex or gender
- Different religions
- Different race or ethnicity
- Different social class
If your goal is to reach an understanding (or at least a truce), however, try starting by giving them the benefit of the doubt rather than just assuming that bigotry is the reason they don't want you together (even if it is). By showing them the respect of listening to their concerns, you keep the lines of communication open and increase the likelihood that they will be able to hear what you have to say.
Set Clear Boundaries
It's great when conversations about your relationship bring resolution, but it doesn't always happen that seamlessly. Unless gaining their acceptance is just a matter of clearing up a small misunderstanding, you are probably going to need to set some boundaries with them. Clearly state how you expect your partner to be treated and what they can expect to happen if they do not treat him or her with respect. Although it may be difficult, try to keep your emotions in check. When you have to draw the line, do so with as much compassion toward them as possible.
Protect Your Partner
No matter how supportive your partner wants to be, it's important to remember that the problems between you and your parents probably existed before you met the love of your life and thus are likely to have little to do with him or her. Whatever factors seem to be the issue when you argue with your family about your choices, don't use your partner as an example to make a point. While this may feel like you are standing up for your significant other in the moment, to your parents it can look like you are engaging in an us-vs.-them stance, which is more likely to increase resentment rather than foster the understanding for which you are hoping.
Talk to Your Partner
On the other hand, you also don't want to leave your partner in the dark. Secrecy and protection are not the same thing, particularly in intimate adult relationships. You don't have to report every harsh word verbatim, but it's important for your partner to know what she or he is walking into the next time you see your family. Be willing to hear what he or she needs from you to help make time with your family easier. Consider attending couples counseling to enlist the help of a neutral third party in navigating these tensions.
Schedule Time Together
If your family refuses to acknowledge your relationship, respect your boundaries or get to know your partner, you may eventually have no choice but to stop seeing them. You are never obligated to endure abuse, even if it's from family. As long as they are willing to try, however, meet them halfway and be intentional about scheduling time for the two of you to spend with them. Seeing you happy together can break down barriers a lot more quickly than just talking about it. It gives them the opportunity to get to know your partner and thus understand why you love him or her so much.
Tense family dynamics may not be the picture you have always had in mind when you imagined finding someone to love. Addressing the issues directly, however, increases your chances of future peace.