My friends and family don’t like my partner – what now?
So, you’ve found the partner of your dreams! You want this person to be a part of your future, the two of you have big plans for your lives together and naturally, you want to introduce this wonderful human being to your friends and family. The only problem is that your nearest and dearest don’t exactly share your fond views of your partner. What’re you to do?
Before you can work out how to handle the situation, you need to assess how serious it is.
Do your friends/family:
- Simply give off a strange vibe as if something is a little out of place when your partner is around?
If so, read Situation 1.
- Express concerns/make negative comments about your partner to you?
If so, read Situation 2.
- Make negative, passive-aggressive or undermining comments while your partner is in the room or to their face?
If so, read Situation 3.
- Completely refuse to have anything to do with your partner, including making negative comments about them, issuing you ultimatums or deliberately excluding them from parties/events etc.?
If so, read Situation 4.
Situation 1: Casual conversation
If you’re picking up a strange vibe from family/friends, remember that at this stage, it’s just a hunch. In this instance, the best way to proceed is to ask your friends/family what they think of your partner when you’re alone and mention that you felt as though something might be off. It will help if you give examples. For instance, you might say “What do you think of ______? You seemed a little awkward talking to them at (insert mutual friend’s) party last week, was everything okay?”
If there’s a serious problem, your friends/family will likely bring it up. However if they brush it off and claim that everything’s fine, it likely is something insignificant like a personality clash. It’s totally normal if not everyone gets along – as long as your friends can be civil to your partner, that’s okay! Keep an eye on the situation. You likely won’t need to take any further action, but if they start acting outwardly hostile, you may need to progress to Situation 2.
Situation 2: Honest confrontation
It can be overwhelming if your loved ones are openly making negative comments about your partner to your face. In this situation, you need to confront those who are making the negative comments. Say to them: “From the comments that you’ve been making about ______, I get the impression that you don’t like them. This is uncomfortable for me, but your opinion matters to me. Can you tell me your honest opinion about ____?
Usually, your loved ones’ concerns will be based around jealousy, mistrust, personality clash or wanting the best for you. After you’ve listened, let your friends/family know how much you appreciate their honesty and know that they’re just looking out for you. Tell them that your partner makes you happy and you think that the relationship could really go somewhere – so you’d appreciate them trying not to be so vocal to you about their opinion. If they continue, or if the behaviour gets worse, you’ll need to progress to Situation 3.
Situation 3. Draw a line in the sand
Regardless of why your loved ones feel negatively towards your partner, it’s not okay for them to be making rude or undermining comments. You need to confront them about this, starting off with the steps mentioned above in Option 2. However, you may need to be a little sterner about what you expect from them after you’ve listened to their concerns. Say to them, “The way you’re discussing our relationship makes both of us feel awful, as we both just want to feel loved and accepted by you and it’s making spending time with you very uncomfortable. ______ and I would appreciate if you could refrain from making these comments, otherwise you and I may not be able to see each other as much anymore. I don’t expect everyone to love each other, but I do hope that everyone can at least try to get along.”
At this stage, once family and friends realise how much they’re truly upsetting the balance of the relationship, they’ll normally start putting in a lot more effort to keep their negative feelings to themselves. However, if the behaviour escalates or continues, you may need to progress to Situation 4.
Situation 4. Final warning
At this point you’ve already confronted and drawn boundaries for your friends and family (if not – follow the steps listed in Options 1-3). Your loved ones are now escalating the problem to an unacceptable level and deliberately excluding your partner, making ultimatums or threats over ending their relationship with you. Action needs to be taken – if their behaviour continues, this can seep into your relationship with your partner and slowly poison it. You might have to make some tough choices here.
After you’ve confronted the people in question, give your friends/family some distance to give your words some time to sink in. The next time you see them, when any negative behaviour arises, confront them straight away, then change the subject. For instance, “______, we talked about this previously. Please keep your negative opinions to yourself. Anyway, how’s your job going?”
Keep doing this until they start to understand. If it’s a family member, you may have to do this indefinitely but if it’s a friend or acquaintance, you may want to consider assessing their place in your life.
It’s rare that situations would progress to Situation 4, and most loved ones are usually fairly understanding once you let them know how special your partner is to you. Ultimately, life is a balancing act and the more considerate we can all be of each other’s feelings, the easier life is for everyone.
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