Long gone are the days when you actively sought out a relationship that you knew mum and dad would disprove of, now you actually want someone you can invite home for a Sunday roast.
While it’s important to remember your family shouldn’t dictate who you choose to date, it can be very difficult if your parents entirely disapprove of your choice, as people in this Reddit thread shed light on marriages plagued by this problem.
“I asked a psychiatrist what advice she’d give to a couple who love each other but can’t tolerate each other’s family. ‘Move to the other side of the world,’ she said wryly, ‘and if you can’t do that, at least keep a sense of humour’.”
So if you’re struggling to get your family to fall in love with your partner as much as you, this are the six things that the experts suggest you might want to try.
1. Allow for awkward moments when they’re getting to know each other.
A little bit of initial nervousness between your family and partner is a compliment (it just means they think it is important that they make a good impression) so don’t worry if they’ve only met a handful of times and things are still a little frosty.
Having said that, they should all be polite and have mutual respect from day one, Cox said: “You can’t force people to like each other, but you can demand respect. Both sides should be polite to each other.”
2. Give them warning about what to expect from each other.
To you, they might just be your dad’s weird eccentricities, your mum’s unrelenting desire to be overprotective, or your partner’s shyness in new situations, but remember that the other parties won’t necessarily see that.
Instead of throwing your partner or parents into the deep end, give everyone fair warning about what to expect from the other people. Or as Cox put it, “forewarned is forearmed.”
3. Ensure they don’t critcise the other person even if you do.
It’s an old adage but it rings true, you might feel free and easy about criticising your partner or your parents behind their back, and quickly forgetting what you’ve even said. But bear in mind that anything negative you flag up to your parents about your partner will not be forgotten quickly.
And it goes without saying that partners should avoid criticising parents, even when you’ve been moaning about them non-stop, Cox said: “The unwritten rule is - it is okay for them to pick fault but not okay for you to agree, even if you are dying to say: “I agree – your mother should be shot at close range”.”
4. Accept there might just be be some personality clashes.
Even when your parents get to know your partner they may find that they still don’t hit it off, but that’s okay if they are just not seeing eye-to-eye. People don’t get along for all sorts of reasons and it shouldn’t mean they aren’t a good partner to you or the relationship can’t work.
Cox said: “If it’s instant dislike, your family/partner/both may well get over it once the real person starts to take over their preconceived perception. If they’ve met five or so times and still can’t get on, accept it’s not going to work. Mix the two together as little as possible.” That and try to see family more on your own.
5. Talk about expectations for making things better.
If your parents are really starting to make things difficult with your partner, you need to talk to them about why they have reservations or bad feeling towards your partner and what their expectations are for improving the situation.
Cox said: “If there are fights over time, think about whether they’ve got a point before getting defensive. Are you spending too much time with [your partner] and not enough with them? Are their demands reasonable or childish?”
For a relationship to work, you need to make time to be together, alone, with your partner and their family, and with you and yours.
6. Try not to stress too much about the situation.
At the end of the day, perhaps ask yourself - how important is it that they really get on? You can spend time with both your family and your partner separately.
“Don’t forget it’s your partner you’re in love with, not them. You don’t have to adore them, though it’s certainly easier if you do. If you’ve truly tried but can only manage a superficial politeness, fine. That’s enough to get through the family get-togethers,” said Cox.