The disapproving in-laws have been a cliché for a very, very long time.
If you searched through ancient Greek scrolls or Mesopotamian clay tablets, you’d probably find a joke or two about someone’s hypercritical mother-in-law. It’s natural for parents to be protective of their offspring, and not surprising when those urges carry over well into a child’s adulthood.
Even though it’s understandable, that over-protective nature can be a relationship killer, both for the parents’ relationship with their child and the child’s relationship with their significant other. There comes a time to let go and allow children the agency to make their own decisions. Some parents never really learn that.
You want your parents to like your S.O., so it makes sense to do your best to bring them together. Or at least tolerate each other. Here’s how to help your parents find the potential in bae:
Talk to them.
This might seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. Your parents might have unfounded reasons for disliking your significant other, but you won’t know unless you ask.
Sit down with them and say, “It seems like you don’t really care for my partner. Is there something you want to discuss?” Maybe they’re concerned your boyfriend can’t hold a job for more than a few months, or that your girlfriend never tries to initiate a conversation with them. Before you can fix their relationship, you have to learn why it’s strained.
Examine their reasons.
Sometimes parents have a unique way of sensing a bad relationship before it sours. Maybe they see something you can’t, or have a gut feeling stemming from years of life experience.
Before you write off their attitude towards your significant other, consider things from their point of view. Is there truth to what they’re saying? Are you glossing over unsavory aspects of your partner’s character? Talk to some close friends and get their opinion, as they can lend some perspective to the situation.
Nip it in the bud.
Parents often come around after a while, but sometimes those attitudes take root and are hard to change. “My spouse and I have been married for over 30 years, and my parents-in-law (now in their 80s) are still not sure this relationship is going to work out,” said blogger Doug Nordman of The Military Guide. Try to talk to your parents as soon as possible, before their ideas can solidify. Talking to them early on might not eradicate the problem, but at least you can make it clear that their disapproval hurts you.
Try to talk to your parents as soon as possible, before their ideas can solidify. Talking to them early on might not eradicate the problem, but at least you can make it clear that their disapproval hurts you.
Plus, getting to them early allows you to point out the potential in bae. You can help them see the good aspects of your partner.
Whoever has the problematic parents should take responsibility to curb inappropriate behavior when it happens. If your mother starts questioning your wife about how much she’s working or how she cooks, it’s up to you to step in. It’s easier for parents to listen to their child than their child’s spouse, and it will reassure your spouse that you have their back.
You have to be a team. As long as your partnership lasts, it’s vital that you present a united front.
Until your parents change their behavior, you might have to limit how often you see, speak with, or visit them. Limiting contact is one of the few ways you can prove how hurt you are, and how seriously you take your relationship. This can be done for an indefinite amount of time, or until the parents in question agree to make amends with your partner — or at least attempt to see the potential in bae.
Be respectful, but firm.
Anytime you disagree with your parents, whether it’s about the person you’re dating or where you’re going for dinner that night, you should be polite but firm.
Snide comments or rude behavior will only make you look like a child throwing a fit. Try to stay calm, don’t raise your voice and keep your argument succinct. The more mature you act, the more seriously your parents will take you. Take the high road even if they start making personal attacks.
Remember how it feels.
Nordman said he and his wife are still hurt by her parents’ disapproval of their relationship, but they’ve used that lesson to be supportive of their daughter and her spouse.
Parents, he said, should never get a vote on if your significant other is good enough. “If that significant other is important to the happiness of their adult children, then parents should be glad that their child has found happiness and maybe even love,” he said.
Live life on your own terms.
If you’ve done everything you can to resolve the rift, then it’s time to stop worrying about what your parents think.
You can only change someone’s mind if they’re willing to let their opinion change – not a common trait in older generations.
Nordman said three decades of fighting with his in-laws has been painful, but it’s taught him to not worry about what they think. “Humans want the love and support of our parents, and estrangement is painful,” he said. “We deal with it by reminding ourselves that it’s their problem, not ours.”