Your family's opinion can be a powerful thing, depending on how close you are and how much you value their input. While that kind of connection can be wonderful, it can also put a damper on your relationships if your family doesn't approve of the person you're with. Even more difficult can be when you're on the other end of that equation and your partner values their family’s opinion over yours.
While there’s no denying that your partner favoring their family's opinion can become an issue in the relationship, it's also important to keep in mind how long you’ve been together, as Jenna Doherty, a Blush online life coach, tells Elite Daily. “If it’s early in the relationship, then I think it’s an appropriate boundary for your partner to take their family’s opinion more into account. But if you’re in a long-term, committed relationship and your partner values their family’s opinion more than yours, then it’s an indication of a bigger issue: lack of respect, lack of trust, lack of commitment are all possibilities,” she says.
If it’s the latter, Nicole Richardson, licensed marriage and family therapist, says you essentially have three options on how to deal with the situation: Try and discuss why you feel this is problematic, accept that your option does not seem to factor for your partner, or end the relationship," she tells Elite Daily. Richardson cautions against trying to eliminate your partner's family's influence altogether, however, since as she explains, asking someone to choose between you and their family is a losing prospect in most cases.
When your partner routinely allows their family to overrule you, it can feel like the relationship is doomed, but Doherty says there’s still reason for hope. "I think any problem can be resolved if both parties want to work toward a mutually beneficial resolution," she explains. In that case, it's just going to come down to the two of you getting on the same page and becoming a team. "Relationships are an environment where people learn more about themselves and others, and sometimes what you’re learning is an area that needs improvement," says Doherty. If the current dynamic is bothering you, she suggests discussing how you're feeling with your partner. "If your partner gets defensive when you try to discuss the way they value their family’s opinions over yours, then ask them if they’re open to talking to a counselor. If your partner is open to talking about it, then share your thoughts and feelings,” she advises. “Help them to understand what you expect from a relationship and how this dynamic makes you feel. Pay close attention to how they respond, and how validated you feel."
Doherty says this may be more of an ongoing process, rather than something that can be resolved in just one conversation. "If nothing changes after you talk to your partner, then move to the next level of effort. If you’ve only talked about it casually, then talk about it seriously. If you’ve only talked seriously between the two of you, then get professional help with therapy in some form," she advises. But eventually, if you can't find a solution, it might be time to consider one more option: This relationship just isn't the right fit for you. And that's OK, too. In that case, Doherty says to ask yourself: “Is your partner trying to change? If so, are you willing to let this be a work in progress? Is your partner unable or unwilling to change? If so, you may want to find someone who respects you and shares similar cultural values.”
If you're still not sure what to do, Doherty's advice is to practice some self-reflection and trust your instincts. "Especially when you and your partner reach a level of commitment in the relationship," she says. "If you’re still counting dates, it’s probably too early. If you’re discussing a future together and this issue is coming up, then hit pause for yourself. Not only is this a potential red flag, it’s possibly the tip of the iceberg. Someone who truly values their family’s opinion over yours is someone who isn’t in a committed partnership built on mutual and equal respect. Metaphorically, they still have themselves firmly planted in their family of origin rather than branching out to start a new family with you."
But before you panic and pull the plug, take a breath. There are plenty of steps before you reach that extreme option, and they begin with just being honest with your partner about how you’re feeling and what you need from them. These kinds of conversations are rarely comfortable or easy, but they do have the potential to bring you closer together. Whatever the outcome, just know you’re worth having the kind of relationship that meets your needs. Just do what feels right for you.
Jenna Doherty, Blush online life coach
Nicole Richardson, licensed marriage and family therapist