Family feud: What to do if your parents hate who you’re dating

Three concrete approaches for handling parents who disapprove of your date

What do you do when your parents can’t stand your significant other?

Sneak around and lie? Break up and resent them for meddling? Force all of them to interact and see just how awkward you can make family functions? The parents-vs.-your-S.O. scenario is pretty common. Fortunately there are things you can do to improve that situation.

Overcome a bad first impression

Did he get too drunk at your cousin’s wedding? Do her tattoos freak them out? Did your folks catch you snogging or doing something much more intimate—and acrobatic—than that? A bad first impression can leave them unimpressed.

  • Damage control. If they were legitimately hurt, maligned, disrespected, or offended, both you and the S.O. should apologize. In person or in writing. Sincerely and clearly.
  • Don’t do it again. Get everyone together and have your S.O. show them what he or she is really like. Engage. They don’t have to kiss anyone’s ass (your folks will see through that) or be someone they’re not. They just have to try putting their best foot forward.
  • Be patient. The goal is to give your parents more positive memories of your partner than sucky memories. Give it time as everyone works on tolerance and acceptance.

Get them to see you as an adult

Do your parents still see you as their baby? They need to realize that you’ve got to grow up sometime.

  • Talk to them. Communicate like an adult. Without any pouting or fighting, ask them why they don’t like your S.O. and what kind of person they think you should be with.
  • Address their concerns. Let them know why you are with this person and what you get out of the relationship. Give them a glimpse of your maturity and help them understand where you’re coming from.
  • Try some ground rules. Setting boundaries might help them feel more comfortable and give you space to carry on without their glaring disapproval. Maybe you decide to spend time more family time without your S.O. around. If you live at home, maybe you agree to stay out of the bedroom when the S.O. is over. The goal is to assert your independence in a way that your parents support. Hopefully this will calm their fear of losing you and they won’t transfer that fear into disliking your S.O.

Take a stand for your own happiness

Sometimes parents are flat out wrong. And unreasonable. But sometimes they’re right and you’re just too close to it to see.

  • Validate. Ask your friends if they have any concerns about your S.O. Take a step back and really try to see if your parents’ concerns are true.
  • Do the right thing…for you. If it comes to light that breaking up is a good thing, be brave. We know you’ll find someone who treats you better. If you determine your current partner is the one for you, be brave here too. You may have to agree to disagree with your parents and work around that.
  • Pursue peace. If this gets ugly, some parents might threaten to throw you out of the house or cut you out of their life. We hope it never comes to this, but if it does, it can help to talk to a therapist, school counselor, or spiritual advisor. They can usually help you stay sane and safe when facing this sort of decision and stress.

It kind of feels like everyone experiences parental disapproval around a partner or friend some time. Has it happened to you? Got some good advice? We’d love to hear it.

One more thing: Here’s some advice in case your S.O.’s parents don’t like you.

But we’re sure they love you,

P.S. Can you avoid STIs by sticking with oral sex instead of sex-sex? No. And OMG, have we got a video for this one.

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