There comes a moment in many serious relationships when it is time to meet your partner’s parents. In a perfect world, you will instantly connect with these individuals who raised, supported and love your partner — after all, those very family members will likely become a major part of your life if this is a relationship for the long haul.
But that isn’t always the case, and you may find yourself completely disliking your loved one’s parents.
Why Parental Conflict Arises in a Relationship
Forging a meaningful relationship with a partner’s family is easier said than done for some couples. Dealing with the emotional dynamics of making life decisions as a partnership can cause conflict with your loved one’s parents, who may have specific expectations for their child.
Additionally, issues may also arise if you choose to move away and physically distance yourselves. This causes some parents to over-compensate for the miles apart by becoming over-involved or communicating way too frequently. In any instance, it is a situation that needs to be approached delicately.
How to Cope with Issues with Your Partner’s Parents
To help keep the peace in your relationship when you don’t exactly get along with your partner’s parents, there are a few strategies that can help:
Set boundaries and communicate clearly
Have a candid conversation with your partner about how much involvement you are comfortable having with their family. When you think about what a “regular” interaction entails, does it mean a weekly family dinner or mostly seeing them around birthdays and holidays? You may find that you and your partner disagree on this front and may need to compromise when it comes to setting these boundaries.
See it from the parents’ perspective
This is often easier said than done, but seeing the relationship from the viewpoint of your partner’s parents may help ease some of the tension. These are people who have been a part of your loved one’s life from the very start and they may feel sensitive about the emotional distance caused by a new relationship.
When your partner’s parents make certain comments that are perceived as criticism or control, it may be them trying to communicate something else. Try to assume more positive intent in these interactions where you can.
Focus on the positive
If you don’t know a person well, it’s difficult to relate to them. The same is true for your partner’s parents.
Try to encourage more shared activities to get to know them better and determine their motivations. Maybe they have interests in carpentry, and you can involve them more in your home renovation projects. Perhaps you find that they are master puzzle-makers and can leverage this shared interest during family get-togethers.
When you hone in on the good, you may be able to find common ground and enjoy each other’s company a bit more.
Strengthening a Parental Relationship Benefits Your Own
While it can be difficult to overcome an issue with your significant other’s family, working through it in a healthy, positive and productive way can help make your relationship even stronger.
While you may not have willingly chosen to be in their lives if it weren’t for your partner, there are ways to build a lasting bond with them through one major common interest: Your love for their child.