When you first meet your boyfriend’s family, it’s normal to envision an idillic scene: your boyfriend’s mother embracing you, his father lovingly ruffling your hair, his sisters and brothers welcoming you into their inside jokes, and your contribution to the meal getting a rave review.
Sadly, this is the exception and not the rule.
While most of us want to have a great relationship with our significant other’s family, it can be difficult. Most of us have our own ideas about what family is and how it should function, and fitting in with someone else’s family can be a challenge.
But let’s say you’ve made the best of it and there’s no denying it: you really, really don’t like them or get along. Then what?
Here are a few tips to make things bearable.
Be cordial. Everyone wants their boyfriend’s family to like them. It’s normal! But there’s no need to fawn all over them. Be friendly, polite and grateful, but avoid being sickeningly sweet, especially if you’ve had conflict in the past.
Encourage him to spend time with them, alone. If they live nearby, try and make it for important family gatherings, but don’t feel the need to go to every gathering. In fact, if you dislike them because they mistreat you, they will probably relish the time to have your boyfriend to themselves. If they live far away, consider only going for part of his visit so they get time alone with him and you get to see them without being there too long.
Resist the temptation to make him feel bad about their behavior. This is the MOST important thing you can remember. Your boyfriend is probably embarrassed if your family treats you poorly. Do not get mad at him. It’s one thing to state that you don’t like their behavior, but it’s another thing to complain non-stop and blame him.
Set boundaries. General dislike is one thing, but if they are out and out mean to you with name calling, rude comments and mean-spirited comments, you can choose to not participate. Ask your boyfriend to have a conversation with them about their behavior and get to the bottom of it. If there’s a problem that can be solved, work to solve it. If it’s just the way they behave, you don’t have to subject yourself to their behavior. Encourage his relationship with them, but if they are unwilling to change, there’s no reason to continue a relationship with them
Think carefully about whether or not you can tolerate this, especially if the relationship is getting serious. It’s easy to say things like “love conquers all” and “it’s no big deal” but if family is important to you, and if his family is a big part of his life, this may not be an ideal relationship. Family really matters in long-term situations so think carefully if you want to deal with these sort of issues for the rest of your life together.