You never thought it would happen. You have finally found the perfect partner you’ve only dared to dream about. The search is over, and you are anxious for your parents to meet the person who has brought such fulfillment into your life. They are sure to adore him or her. Their relationship with your chosen one is important to you.
From the day you were born, your parents were your source of unconditional love. They probably made a lot of sacrifices to provide you with a good life. Now, someone else is providing you with love and security that used to be their sole responsibility. Another person has become your top priority.
How do you compare and deal with the two most important relationships in your life? They are critical to your happiness, but the relationships are entirely different. Who takes priority?
Ideally, everyone will get along. That’s the dream. The reality can be quite different. All too often, your spouse and parents will not like each other, or, in some cases, won’t even treat each other with basic civility. From not-so-subtle slights to drawn-out arguments, the two most important relationships in your life can make you miserable.
What To Do When Parents And Spouse Aren’t Close?
How do you satisfy both relationships without getting tangled in the mire? While you can’t change who they are, you can make the situation easier for yourself:
Check Your Expectations
If you are expecting a “happily ever after,” you may need to reconsider. Relationships are real and can be difficult. They are rarely perfect, nor are the people we love the most. It may not be easy to accept that the most important people in your life do not get along, but you need to be realistic. Sometimes, you need to settle for civility. And that you have every right to insist on.
Understand The Cause Of The Friction
Sometimes, the cause is a simple personality clash. Other times, it can be possessiveness. Your parents may resent no longer coming first in your life; they are struggling with the fact that they are no longer the ones you come to first for advice. Your spouse might be annoyed by the “hold” and influence your parents still have over you. They are eyeing each other as rivals instead of family.
Accept that there is probably very little you can do to change them. All you can do is control your own attitude.
Have Honest Discussions
It might help the situation if you approach it proactively. Before your significant other and parents even meet, talk to them about the other party. Explain to your significant other how much you love your parents and why. Sit down with your parents talk about what a great influence your new partner is on your life. It might help if they have positive preconceptions of each other before that all-important first meeting.
Make sure both parties understand how important it is that they show respect to one another. They don’t have to adore each other, but they should work together as a family.
Don’t Be The Middleman
If there is friction in the relationship between your spouse and parents, they are likely to place you in the middle, with both sides demanding that you agree with them. Make it clear that that game will not work. You care about both parties. If they are unable to accept that, it is their problem. Do not permit them to divide your loyalties. No party has the right to provide you with an ultimatum and make you choose between them.
When The Situation Needs Help
You may be torn in such a way that you are unable to handle it yourself. You cannot and should not be expected to please two warring factions in your life. When it becomes overwhelming, a therapist can help you get back on track and make it easier for you to sort out any complex issues of your own.
Boundaries are useful in defining acceptable behavior. You need to determine where you draw the line, and your parents and your spouse need to understand where the demarcation is. When the line gets stepped over, explain that since they all profess to love you, they owe it to you to try and cooperate. That is not too much to ask for.
These boundaries may involve inflammatory references, outright anger, and open hostilities. This is especially important when there are children. Children should not have to be exposed to feuding family members.
How To Handle Both Relationships
If possible, see both parties separately. Perhaps weekly dinners together are not a good idea. You can spend quality, enjoyable time with both parties separately. This isn’t always easy, and the holidays can become a major issue, but at least it is a start.
Sometimes, there may be underlying causes to the ongoing hostility. Perhaps your parents would not accept anyone, regardless of who it is. There may be religious, social, or racial issues that neither party acknowledges. Your parents and spouse will react negatively to each other regardless of what you do because they are apt to view each other as stereotypes instead of individuals.
Perhaps time can heal the differences. Sometimes, the arrival of grandchildren will set aside all differences. But such preconceived concepts are more difficult to mend than simple political disagreements.
On the other hand, your parents’ reluctance to accept your spouse may be based on reality. He or she may be wonderful now. However, has his or her past behavior been questionable? Perhaps he or she even spent time in jail. Every parent has a legitimate reason for concern given these circumstances.
Keep reminding them that people can and do change and deserve a second chance. Explain to them that if their complaints continue, your relationship with them will suffer.
Signs That Your Family Disapproves Of Your Relationship Choice
Sometimes, the signs of hostility are fairly clear:
- Your parents do not invite your partner or spouse to family gatherings or only schedule gatherings when they know your partner is unavailable.
- They do not want to engage in any positive discussion about your partner or hear how happy he or she makes you.
- They will find any reason for criticism. If your partner can’t find a job, they will eagerly berate him or her. If your partner works hard and long hours, he or she will be accused of neglecting the family.
- Your parents may be brutal in their criticism while in your partner presence and discuss his or her weight, looks, lack of education, or anything else they consider a flaw.
Reasons Your Parents’ Disapproval
Your parents may have concerns about not being able to control your life. Perhaps you have made mistakes in the past, and they are afraid that without their “supervision,” you will continue to make them. They are uncomfortable with letting go of control. Let them see by your behavior that you have grown and are capable of making good decisions.
While you should not get in the middle of any feud between your parents and your partner, do give what the parents say consideration before dismissing it. Perhaps they recognize signs you are dismissing. Is your partner’s insistence that you spend every and all weekend doing things as a couple a desire for togetherness, or it is a form of control? Do some reflection and be honest with yourself. If you have any doubt, a counselor can help you gain greater insight.
As much as you would like, your parents and your partner may not get along. You can set down certain rules of acceptable behavior when everyone is together. However, you cannot change them or how they feel. The only control you have is how you react.
The legal process can get difficult, which is why we always recommend that you seek the assistance of counsel; or at least have a consultation. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.
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