With Thanksgiving right around the corner, the thought of spending time with your partner's family may make you feel a little nervous — especially if they're not the most welcoming bunch. Their cold shoulder toward you may stem from wanting the best for their child, so maybe they think no one can ever fit the bill. Or they may still regrettably be hung up on your partner's ex, even if you've made their child happier than ever before. If your partner's family won't stop comparing you to their ex, it can be really discouraging. But don't fret, I spoke to three experts about how to approach the topic with your partner and/or their family if you'd rather not have to deal with comparisons this Thanksgiving.
Before you jump to the conclusion that your partner's family comparing you to their ex is a slight to you, Grant H. Brenner, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, recommends trying to see where they're coming from. "They may have different social norms about how they talk about people, for example," Brenner tells Elite Daily. "They may not understand that it is upsetting, as hard as that is to believe. If they don't realize they are doing something which does not work for you, that is easier to deal with — have a friendly conversation with them, let them know how you feel, and ask them if they would please stop."
When you decide to approach your partner's family about the comparisons, you may find that you're not sure how to bring it up. Brenner advises starting with mentally and emotionally preparing yourself for the conversation. "You have to be ready to stay calm no matter what they say," he explains. "There's no point in having a conversation like this unless you plan to show that you are mature and responsible." Before you go up to them, decide what you're going to say. Write everything down and stick to the script throughout the entire conversation.
"Set aside a fixed amount of time, not too long, 15 or 20 minutes perhaps for a first convo," he says. "Be prepared to have a series of discussions as a one-off may not do the trick. Avoid getting into a big fight as it will make things worse, and you may still have to hang out with them in the future." If your partner sees where you're coming from and is on your side, ask them to help you out when all of you sit down to talk about it. "Stay on message, share how you feel, and ask about what you want to ask, if you have any questions, for example, about how come they compare you to the ex," says Brenner. "Avoid accusing them of anything, and avoid being passive-aggressive."
After you've had the talk, give bae's family a few days. See if they really grasped what you were saying. If they did, wonderful! You can finally start working toward forming a good relationship with them. If they didn't, consider whether or not you want to revisit the question again. "It depends on what is happening with your partner — how important the relationship is, how committed you are, and how important it is for your relationship that you get along with the family," he says.
If, on the other hand, you don't feel comfortable going directly to the source and telling your partner's family something, licensed psychotherapist Denise Limongello recommends talking to your partner about it first. "Let your partner know that you feel scrutinized and uncomfortable around his/her family due to these comparisons," she tells Elite Daily. "It is possible your partner isn't aware this is even happening, and they might be grateful you're bringing it to their attention."
Be open and raw with bae. Explain to them the effect their family's comparisons may be having on you, like keeping you from being able to connect with them fully. "You may have to reinforce to your partner what you need because sometimes a partner, despite good intentions, can make matters worse by 'rationalizing' your feelings or telling you that they don't mean anything negative by their comments," licensed marriage and family therapist, Anita A. Chlipala tells Elite Daily.
If your partner talks to their family, and nothing changes, then you may want to consider approaching them yourself, even if you're not incredibly comfortable with that idea. "When a family member makes a comment, note what they said and find an appropriate time to talk with them," Chlipala advises. "Stick to the facts first, and then share how these comments make you feel."
So, if this Thanksgiving, you don't want to sit there and listen to your partner's family comparing every little thing you do to their ex, I don't blame you. You deserve better than that. It's time to sit your SO and/or their family down and talk about it. Be respectful and honest. "Tell them that yes, you're not like his ex and never will be but would love an opportunity to show them what you have to offer," says Chlipala. The holidays are supposed to be a happy time for everyone. Don't let anyone take that away from you.