What To Do If Your Parents Don't Like Your Boyfriend (And If It Even Matters)
I recently realized my parent's opinion of the next boyfriend I bring home is very important to me.
I make... er, questionable dating decisions. I don't necessarily have a problem with these guys, but my family always does.
They pester me with questions like, "Why can't you bring home someone we actually like?"
On one hand, I understand where they're coming from. On the other hand, I can't change who I am or who I like. You can't help who you fall for (that's the best part about love, IMO).
It certainly puts me in an odd predicament: I don't want to compromise my romantic desires just for the sake of appeasing my family, but I've also grown tired of hiding the guys I'm dating from the people I love. It just doesn't feel right.
So, I'm left with the question: How much should my family impact who I date and the decisions I make in my love life? And how much should your parents' opinions matter in yours?
As psychotherapist Deborah Sandella, Ph.D. explains, "Dating is for learning about yourself, your heart, your soul and the kind of partner that fits with you. This is about you, not your parents!"
Phew! In other words, don't totally base who you choose to date on whether or not you think your parents will like them. Despite your love for your parents, their opinion of who you bring home isn't what matters the most; What matters most is that he makes you happy.
That being said, I get it if you're currently dating a guy and you want him to meet your parents. And you want your parents to like, nay, LOVE him. Statistics say you have a much better shot of having a lasting relationship with him if they do, Sandella confirms.
Here's how to help make that happen, from start to finish:
Before You Introduce Your SO To Your Parents
How far you're into your relationship with your SO should determine how much you tell your parents about him, says Sandella. So, if you've only been dating for a few weeks, there's no need to dish every detail.
But as you two get more serious, you should start sharing more about this special guy in your life.
But don't set yourself up to fail.
If you complain to your parents about your partner, and/or you complain to your SO about your parents before they meet, you're only further weakening the bond that could be possible between them, says Sandella.
Such remarks can stick in their minds and make them biased against each other, which will probably bite you in the ass if and when they do meet.
So keep the details positive, OK?
When You Introduce Them
"When you become serious about someone, you'll want to see how they interact with your parents and vice versa," says Sandella. So, it's the perfect time to set up that first visit back home!
If you've had a good relationship with your parents your entire life, you should try and facilitate the relationship between your parents and your SO as much as you can — without making that effort seem weird or contrived, Sandella says.
"For some families, activities and games are great ways to interact without too much heavy conversation in the beginning," she says. So, challenge your parents to a round of cornhole, or suggest breaking out that old Monopoly board.
"Spend the time fostering your partner's relationship with your parents and seeing what can happen," says Sandella. "By doing this, you're making it clear to both your parents and your partner how important it is to you that they all get along."
Listen To Your Parents Concerns, If Any
What I really want to know, though, is if I suddenly felt the urge to go back to my old ways and bring home a fuckboy, would there be any chance my parents could ever come around to him?
I mean, I've seen my cousins bring home girls their parents weren't crazy about, but eventually they came around to accepting them because they wanted to see their children happy.
But Sandella says going into a relationship thinking your parents will come around is a "risky strategy."
Instead, your best shot at winning your parents over is to sit them down and listen to what they have to say. It isn't fair to not hear them out or take their valid (key word being "valid" here) concerns about your partner into consideration.
How would you know if your parents' worries are "valid"? Easy, have an unbiased third party there.
"It may be helpful in some cases to have someone facilitate that discussion," Sandella says. So invite a friend over to be your trusty moderator.
Live With Your Decision
The biggest takeaway here is this: As your relationship gets more serious with your SO, you should be as open and communicative with your parents about him as possible. Share the special things he does for you with them, and keep inviting him to be a part of your family's life.
As your parents get to know your SO better, they're bound to fall for him as fast as you did.
But if you keep them separate, your parents won't have enough evidence to conclude that this guy makes you happy, and then you risk spending the rest of your life trying to change their minds.
And that doesn't sound fun.
Even so, regardless of what your parents think, "who you marry must be your decision," says Sandella. "It's your life and you will have to live with this person."