If Your Family Doesn’t Support Your Relationship, Here’s What Experts Suggest
How important is it to you that your family likes your partner? If the answer to that is "very," then it can be a really serious struggle if your family doesn’t support your relationship. But does it mean your relationship is doomed if you don't feel comfortable inviting your SO to family functions? "One of the more painful situations in life is when you fall in love with someone, only to realize that your family does not support your choice of a partner," Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent LA-based couples therapist, tells Elite Daily. "Family support of your relationship can be very helpful, and especially in a committed long-term relationship."
So, does this mean your relationship is destined to fail if you can't find a way to make your partner and family connect? Like all things having to do with love and family, the answer, according to experts, is that it's complicated. "It depends how close you are to your family. If being with family and valuing family is at the top of your list, then it's going to have a greater impact than if you aren't that close," Diana Dorell, intuitive dating coach and author of The Dating Mirror: Trust Again, Love Again, tells Elite Daily. If this is something that hits close to home, then here is what the experts say about how to navigate this tricky, and often painful, situation.
How important is it for your family to support your relationship?
“Having your family support your relationship is important, but not essential,” Susan Winter, a NYC relationship expert, love coach, and author of Breakup Triage: The Cure for Heartache, assures Elite Daily. “It certainly helps when they accept your mate, but as an adult you’ve got greater freedom to live the life you see fit — with whom you see fit — in the way you see fit.”
Ultimately, who you give your heart to is your choice to make, and, provided the issue your family has with your partner has nothing to do with their character or the way they treat you, Winter says you should look at it as your family’s loss, more so than your own. “They’ll see less of you, as the burden is on them to awaken to the value of your romantic choice,” she says.
What could it mean if they don’t?
While your choice of partner may be yours to make, the experts say it's also important to understand why your family takes issue with them, as they likely have your best interests at heart, and it's possible that they're noticing things you may be too close to see. “There can be any number of reasons why your family may not support your relationship,” says Dr. Brown. “It's one thing if they don't particularly like your partner's style in clothes, politics, or religion. So long as they are a genuinely nice person, you can certainly live with these differences if you are with a loving and kind person, who clearly has your best interests at heart and whose values align with yours,” he says.
However, Dr. Brown cautions that your family's dislike of your partner could also be because they're picking up on red flags, like, for instance they don't approve of the way your partner treats you, or they don't share your same values. “Those are serious concerns that, if founded in truth, can indicate that this relationship may not be the best for you now or in the future,” he explains.
Winter agrees and explains that this is why you should hear your family out. “Give your family the gift of listening to their complaints, once. Allow them to cover each issue without defense. When they’re done, thank them for caring. Tell them you’ve heard their concerns. This diffuses their resistance. Knowing they’ve voiced their warnings, and you’ve listened, helps to eliminate their underlying anxiety,” she says. Winter adds that you should also reflect on what they had to say and ask yourself if maybe they might be right. “Is any part of their argument valid?" she asks. "Perhaps there’s truth to some part of their concerns. Think it over. You may want to have a later discussion with your mate.”
Here’s what can you do about it.
It's never easy being in the middle of two groups of people you love, which is part of what makes being in a relationship your family doesn't approve of so challenging. The key, the experts say, is to remain respectful and make your case to your family thoughtfully. “Rather than react or attack, explain why you’re happy with your mate. Give concrete examples of how your partner edifies your life. Don’t push for approval. Give your family time to see what you see, and to realize you’re happy and content,” says Winter. She adds that once you’ve heard your family out and considered their opinions, it's important to set a boundary moving forward. “Now that you’ve listened, there should be no further discussions on the matter. If they try again, explain you’ve already heard their concerns,” she suggests.
Dr. Brown says it's also important to consider any role you may have in creating this dynamic. “Another thing to ask yourself is, 'Is there anything that I am saying or doing that may unintentionally be fueling my family's dislike of my partner?'” he explains. For example, do you find yourself only sharing negative things about your partner and venting to your family? If so, it's probably adding to their dislike or distrust of your SO. If that's the case, Dr. Brown suggests sharing positive things about your partner to help them develop a better picture of who they really are.
The ultimate takeaway here is that while this dynamic is far from ideal, it also doesn't need to be a dealbreaker. Don't panic, just give the relationship time to evolve and make sure that you're not contributing to the discord unintentionally — and if so, course correct. Dr. Brown offers one last bit of advice and hope. “Over time, when they see the good qualities of your partner, your family will come around. Maybe not all at once. Give it time,” he says. Whew, that's a relief.