How to cope if your parents don’t like your new partner
Bringing a new person into your family is always tricky. The hope is that everyone will like each other and get along, but if your parents disapprove of your choice in partner it can make things uncomfortable and awkward, especially for you.
The question of whether your parents like and accept the relationship could also seriously affect the future of the relationship, but their initial reaction may not be the whole story.
The parent’s role
Ever since you were born your parents have been looking out for you and making decisions based on what’s best for you. Even though you’re an adult now, the parental instinct to protect you doesn’t diminish.
When they meet someone you introduce as a new partner, they’ll naturally want to make sure they’re good enough for you and they make you happy. Your partner may be scrutinised, or even criticised, as they test their worthiness and the strength of the bond between you.
This protective phase usually passes when your parents are assured that your partner is genuine and that you’re happy together.
Finding common ground
Before you introduce your partner to your parents, give them some background. Don’t limit this conversation to just what they’ve been like as your parents but also what they’re like as people. Tell them about their interests, careers and backgrounds so your partner has as much information as possible to find some common ground when they do eventually meet.
We often focus too much on the negative aspects of our upbringing and by sharing these experiences with a new partner you may be inadvertently setting them against your parents. If they care about you they will naturally be upset if they think your parents didn’t care about or support you in the way you needed them too. By confiding too much, you may sabotage any chance of them liking each other. That’s not to say don’t confide in your partner, but do try and give a balanced picture of your parents as people.
It’s not only parents that may make integration of a new partner difficult. If you have children or extended family, they too may have strong feelings about your new relationship. If your family aren’t accepting of your new partner, it may not actually be because of them personally – it could have more to do with the role that your ex played within the family.
Children may feel they’re being disloyal to their other parent if they accept your new partner, and they may not be alone with these feelings of disloyalty. Even though your relationship with your ex is over, other family members may miss them and the role they played in their lives. By bringing a new partner into the family, it shows that the other person isn’t coming back and may bring up feelings of resentment and grief.
It’s important that children maintain contact with the other parent where this is possible and appropriate. It’s up to you to reassure them that accepting your new partner doesn’t mean that they love their other parent any less, just that they understand your life has moved on and theirs must move on too.
Give it time
You need to accept that your parents and family may not initially warm to your new partner, but if you seem happy and content they will probably come around in time. If they have genuine concerns about your partner’s suitability, let them air them. Love can be blind and sometimes it’s someone outside of the relationship who raises the red flag when there’s something wrong.
The important thing is to not force the situation on either side. The relationship between your partner and parents is separate from you and as much as possible, you shouldn’t interfere.
Your family will eventually accept that you have the right to choose your own partner, and for the sake of family unity they will come to accept them.
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