It's a question plenty of folks have asked themselves before they introduce their new partner to their family: "What if my parents hate them?" Bringing together two parts of your life that you care deeply about is bound to stir up some worry — and most of the time, things will go off without a hitch. But sometimes, one or both of your parents might butt heads with your partner, and things can get tricky really quickly.
"If you're not being treated well, or your partner isn't kind to you or your family members, then [your family] has the right to be protective over you and share their concerns with you," says Lindsay Chrisler, a love and relationship coach in NYC. "But if they're kind to you, and you are in love with them, then your family really needs to be accepting." Before you confront your family, though, Chrisler suggests taking a second to figure out why your family members may not be big fans of your significant other. "Step into their shoes, and try to understand why they're feeling the way they are," she says. "It doesn't mean you have to be approving or accepting of that reason. It just makes you aware of that reason."
The next thing to do is to pull your parents aside and have a chat with them when your partner isn't around. "Talk to them about how happy this person is making you and how it's important that they accept him," says Rachel Russo, a dating and relationship coach in NYC. "Bring up the good parts of your relationship. If your parents love you, then they should be able to look past their differences."
When your parents are in the same room as your partner, do your best to steer the conversation in a positive direction. So if dad voted for Brexit, and your partner is a Remainer, maybe don't bring up politics over dinner. "You want to focus on similarities they have, and the things you and your partner do together that make you happy," Russo says. If you know both your partner and your mom are into hiking, it's not a bad idea to bring up a hiking trip you and your S.O. are taking in the near future.
But if none of this seems to work, and you feel the divide widen to the point where it's seemingly beyond repair, the best thing to do is just let the situation be. "You can't assume responsibility for everyone feeling a certain way," Chrisler says. "Let go of the idea of a perfect family unit and focus on your own relationships with these people — not their relationships with each other."
Would it be nice if your parents and your partner got along? Absolutely. But Russo brings up an important point. "You're with your partner; your family isn't," she says. "It would be great for them to have a connection, but if it isn't there, that shouldn't affect the relationship you have with your partner."