I've been with my girlfriend for three years, and it's only getting more serious. I'm the first girl she's ever brought to meet her very conservative parents, and though they never said they don't approve of our relationship, they're always notably curt with me when I see them. We're going to her parents' house for Thanksgiving, where I'll be meeting her extended family. How should I act around them to ease the tension?
Dr. Erica Hyatt, DCSW, LCSW, MBE
"Congratulations on reaching three years of commitment! It isn't easy to get to where you are, so I understand that as you two are getting closer to possibly becoming family, you want to feel welcome with hers. First, take comfort in the fact that you've been invited to Thanksgiving. Since it’s a family holiday, it bodes well that they want you there. Second, I'd like you to stop paying attention to the negative little voice that’s telling you that if her family doesn't approve of your relationship, they don’t approve of you. After all, it might not even be about you: It would be nice if every time someone came out, their family’s response would be so over-the-top with love and acceptance that they painted a rainbow on the front door. But, unfortunately, that’s not always the case, and in this one, it could be that the family is still coming to terms with their daughter’s orientation and, regrettably, taking it out on you. While their process is understandable, their rudeness is not. Resist the urge to respond similarly because first, you’re better than that, and second, it would put your girlfriend in an even more uncomfortable position, and that’s not fair to her.
Dr. Sara Lassig, LICSW, PhD
"That’s a tough situation, for sure. But, given that you and your girlfriend have continued to make visits to her family together, despite how you’ve been treated, it sounds like trying to improve (versus avoid) this family relationship is important to you — and that’s a great place to start. Remember that you can never control how other people act or react, so all that matters is that you and your girlfriend are supportive of each other and don’t let the negativity of others weaken your bond. That said, even though you should present a united front when dealing with them, this is your girlfriend’s family, so she should take the lead in handling it.