It starts with a hunch. Maybe your parents always forget to invite your significant other to dinner. Or, perhaps they don't ask about their job when you catch up over the phone. For whatever reason, you have the feeling that your family doesn't like your S.O., and they don't want to tell you.
On one hand, it's unfair to assume that your family dislikes your partner just because they don't grill you for details every time you talk. But, "if you keep bringing your S.O. up, and your audience still seems disinterested, something is up," Matt Lundquist, LCSW, a psychotherapist and couples therapist based in New York City, tells Refinery29. Even so, you may not want to come right out and ask them; Lundquist says to manage your expectations and consider your relationship with your family beyond how they relate to your S.O.
He adds that, prior to broaching the subject, you should try to decide how much you'd care about their disapproval. For instance, would you be willing to hear them out if their issues were more with your S.O.'s personality, rather than how they treat you? Have you trusted their opinions in the past or have found their judgments to be unfair? Knowing where you stand ahead of time will help you prepare yourself for a potentially unpleasant answer.
That way, if someone in your family does admit to disliking your partner, you already know whether to take their opinion with a grain of salt. If you generally value their opinions, and think they may have a reasonable concern, don't just leave the subject hanging there. Instead, Lundquist says, take this as opportunity to have an open, honest conversation: "You can either better understand their concerns, and make use of them in assessing the healthiness of the relationship, or you can help them better understand where you're coming from."
Opening the discussion up may reveal that you and your family simply have different ideas of what a happy relationship should look like — and clearing up those differences may help them see your current relationship in another light. Plus, giving your family a chance to tell you how they really feel may be the only way to find out what's going on.
Your next step will be determining whether their issue stems from flat-out disapproval or just a lack of chemistry. If it's the former, you probably wouldn't have had to ask — it'd be pretty obvious. If it's the latter, it's time to come up with a compromise.
"The vast majority of the time, reasonable people will find a way to get along," Lundquist says. "Just because a family member wouldn't pick that person to hang out with doesn't mean it's a giant burden for them to spend time with that person." You may have to explain that your partner is here to stay, and it would mean a lot to you for them to come around to that idea.
Like we said before, you won't know for sure until you ask — and it's never a good idea to let yourself stew on something that might only be in your head. For all you know, Lundquist says, your family could be trying to respect your relationship's privacy by not bringing it up.