Negotiating relationships between loved ones is not always easy, and when your loved ones dislike each other, it can bring imbalance to your life, causing stress, anxiety and unhappiness. Perhaps one of the most challenging relationships to balance is the one that exists between your parents and your significant other. When parents disapprove of the person you are dating, it can make both your relationship with your parents and your dating relationship more difficult and uncomfortable. This can be particularly challenging and upsetting when parents are quite adamant about their feelings for your boyfriend and appear unwilling to alter their opinions.
Consider Your Parents' Feelings and Opinions
Give some thought to why your parents dislike or even hate your boyfriend. Research has found that friends and family often have a more objective view of their loved ones' relationships and, as such, often have more accurate predictions concerning the quality of relationships and their eventual outcome. Sometimes, when you are inside of a relationship, you can be blinded by your feelings and unable to critically and objectively evaluate your relationship or your partner. This blindness can lead to an acceptance of personality traits or relationship issues that will eventually lead to the relationship's demise. Consequently, giving some serious thought to the opinions of your parents can help you evaluate whether their opinions may be grounded in fact and worth considering when evaluating the health and status of your relationship.
Determine the reasons why your parents disapprove of the relationship and your boyfriend. Talk to your parents about their feelings in a nonaccusing, understanding manner. If you truly express an interest in their opinions and let them know that you value their opinions, you may find that the reason for their dislike of your boyfriend is something that can be remedied. For example, perhaps your boyfriend said or did something when they first met that gave your parents a negative, yet incorrect, impression of his personality or character. Instead of just getting upset that your parents dislike your partner, try to get to the bottom of their reasoning as this may help you to find a way to change their opinions.
Consider how your parents have reacted to past partners. Do your parents have a tendency to disapprove of anyone you date? Do they disapprove of the people your siblings date? On the other hand, have your parents generally been accepting of your past partners and your siblings' partners? Your parents' past behavior can give you an indication of whether their opinions and dislike of your current partner are specifically related to this relationship or whether it is just their natural reaction to any of their children's relationships. If your parents seem to take a dislike to any of your partners or siblings' partners then it may be helpful to understand that their opinions do not seem to be related to any particular choice of partner, but rather they may be having difficulty with the general concept of their children dating. If this is the case, you may be able to help make them feel more comfortable by reassuring them that you are happy in your relationship and that you have been careful in selecting a partner who is good for you.
Take Care of Your Relationship
Support your partner and let him know that you love him and are happy to be in a relationship with him, despite the feelings that your parents have expressed. Lacking social support and approval from one's parents for a relationship can have damaging effects on the relationship, both with respect to the happiness and longevity of the relationship and for the mental and physical health of you and your partner. Working extra hard to ensure that your partner feels confident in your feelings can help to mitigate the effects of lacking support and approval from your parents.
Seek other sources of support for your relationship. Although support and approval for relationships from parents is important, research has found that more often, it is the support and approval from friends that plays a larger role in determining the outcome and health of a relationship. If your parents are disapproving, seek support for your relationship from other family members or from friends. Receiving support from other sources may help to offset the lack of support and approval from your parents.
Make an attempt to honestly evaluate your relationship. If your parents' opinions happen to be grounded in truth, their dislike of your boyfriend could be a red flag that there is something seriously wrong with the relationship or the individual you have chosen to date. It is only fair to you and to your partner that you seriously consider the merits and downfalls of the relationship and make sure that the relationship is making you happy and providing you both with the love and support you need. Try to be as objective as possible when evaluating your relationship and consider making use of pro and con lists. In particular, evaluate your relationship for the presence of criticism, contempt, stonewalling and defensiveness. These four traits are characteristics of unhealthy relationships and their presence frequently predicts breakup or divorce.
- John Gottman's Four Horsemen of the Apocalpse
- Perceived social network support and well-being in same-sex versus mixed-sex romantic relationships
- Attachment Dimensions and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
- Parental Reactions to Relationships: Do They Make A Difference?
- Assessing the Accuracy of Predictions about Dating Relationships: How and Why Do Lovers’ Predictions Differ from those Made by Observers?
- Be patient. Changing people's opinions can take time, and parents often take awhile to warm up to new partners.
Karen L. Blair has been professionally writing since 2001. Her work has been published in academic journals such as the "Journal of Sex Research," "Journal of Social and Personal Relationships" and "Psychology & Sexuality." Blair received her M.Sc. in psychology at Acadia University and her Ph.D. in social psychology at Queen's University. She is currently a post-doctoral fellow and research consultant.