Is It Okay If Your Partner’s Parents Don’t Like You?

Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures.
Crazy Rich Asians might be about a group of people so wealthy that they can afford to drop millions on a pair of earrings without thinking about it, but the story at the center is pretty relatable: Girl meets boy, they fall in love, girl goes to meet boy's family who are — shall we say — less than receptive to her.
It might make for a lot of tension if your partner's parents don't like you, but psychotherapist and dating coach Kate Stewart says it doesn't necessarily spell the end of your relationship. The way that it affects your relationship, however, will depend a lot on how your partner feels about their family.
"It definitely can matter if someone is very enmeshed or fused with their families," she says. "If someone is really intent on making their family happy and following in their family’s footsteps and doing what’s expected of them, it is kind of the kiss of death."
But, if your partner isn't easily swayed by their parents opinions and can look past that, Stewart says, your relationship can definitely continue, but keep in mind that things can change later on.
"There are times when people will say, 'I'm not that close to my family and it doesn't matter,' but then someone has kids, someone gets ill, or something happens and they’re around [their parents] more," she says. "It’s really good to have a conversation upfront to have a clear idea of what the expectation is, and to know if [your partner] has your back."
In fact, the best thing to do is to communicate with your partner and gauge their reaction. Stewart suggests saying something like, "Hey, I was getting this vibe from your parents and I just want to make sure I’m understanding this correctly that I'm not missing something."
Their response will give you a pretty good idea of how supportive they'd be if it turns out that their parents just truly don't like you. Stewart says that if your partner is understanding and asks what they can do to help, that's a good sign, but if they're flippant, or they don't acknowledge your point of view, that might not be such a great sign for your relationship.

It’s really good to have a conversation upfront to have a clear idea of what the expectation is, and to know if [your partner] has your back.

Kate Stewart
If the tension gets unbearable, you might be tempted to hash out any issues with your partner's parents themselves, but it's probably best to let your partner be the mediator here to avoid accidentally causing even more of a rift.
"By the time people are meeting their partner’s parents, a lot of those parents are in their 60s and 70s, and by that point in time, people are pretty set in their ways and they're not really able to bend a lot," Stewart says.
Still, you probably need to interact with them at some point even if they don't change their mind about you — and when that happens, remember Michelle Obama's advice: go high. (And maybe let your partner take the lead in the conversation.)
At the end of the day, you may just have to make peace with the fact that not everyone is going to like you, and unfortunately those people might include your partner's parents. On the upside, hopefully you won't have to see their parents all that often — or at least, rely on your partner to help keep the peace if you do have to see them regularly.
"One of the things you have to consider is, how much interaction are you going to have with the parents?" Stewart says. "If you meet someone and they live in California, but their parents are in Australia or even New York and they’re not that close, it’s one of those things where if your partner recognizes that their parents don't like you and try to shield you from it, I think it’s not an issue."
The bottom line is, it's a tough situation, but it's not impossible to overcome. Making a relationship work through this requires a conversation where your partner understands what you need and what they can do to make the situation more comfortable for everyone involved — and the most important thing for your relationship is that you both support each other while you work through the discomfort.

More from Mind

R29 Original Series