What To Do When You Hate Your Partner's Parents

Relationships are hard at any age, but for many young people, college is when you enter your first grown-up relationship. Say good-bye to the good ol’ days of group dates at high school football games, and hello to handling real-world issues. You might be having mature conversations about intimacy and the future of your relationship. And as your relationship moves forward, you are exposed to new aspects of your SO’s life, which likely means you will be interacting with your SO’s parents more and more frequently.

If you are lucky, while you may not be best friends, you will have a healthy and pleasant relationship with your SO’s parents. But, that’s not always the case. Even though you are amazing, it can be easy to get off on the wrong foot. Maybe you didn’t make the best first impression, or maybe you all just have very different views on major moral issues. Either way, disagreeing with your partner’s parents can add a new level of stress to a relationship.

And while it can seem like not getting along with your SO’s family could kill any future your relationship may have, relationship experts agree, that disagreements don’t have to be the end of the relationship. Your relationship can be salvaged, and become even stronger, if you and your SO work together to mediate the conflict.

1. Don’t tackle the problem alone

Experts across the board agree that if you are having a problem with your SO’s parents, you and your SO need to tackle the problem together. Jasbina Ahluwalia, a relationship expert and matchmaker, and the founder of Intersections Match by Jasbina, encourages couples to pursue open communication to best tackle any problem.

“Open communication is extremely important in a mutually fulfilling relationship. That said, ‘open’ is not a license for insensitive. Balance openly expressing yourself, while maintaining sensitivity for your SO’s bond with their parents,” Ahluwalia says.

It can be tricky to tell your SO, that you’re not really meshing with their parents. But when the time comes, take a deep breath and try to explain your feelings, avoiding emotionally charged language. If you know you want to work through this problem, make it clear to your SO that you are open to looking for a solution.

2. Identify the specific problem

It can be easy to make a sweeping statement that you ‘just can’t stand your SO’s parents.’ But if you are looking to make this relationship last, it is worthwhile to try to identify what is causing your negative feelings.

Ahluwalia suggests using a team-oriented approach to find the problem. “A good start is identifying the precise behavior which affects you instead of registering a dislike for [your SO’s] parents.”

It can be difficult to dig into your emotions and past actions to discover the root of the problem. But discovering the nature of your feelings can help you develop an action plan. If you realize the dislike stems from a bad first impression, you can remedy that through future interactions. If you know that these feelings originate from disagreements about social issues, you can simply avoid discussing them.

Related: How To Tell If It’s Just An Argument or the End Of Your Relationship

3. Decide if it’s worth broaching the subject with your SO’s parents

You may want to just pretend like everything is okay, but it can be tempting to address the issue with your SO’s parents. But, Dr. Jenn Mann, author of The Relationship Fix, cautions that it’s not always beneficial to bring up the problem.

“If morally and philosophically you don’t see eye to eye, it won’t benefit you to bring up the problem,” Dr. Mann says. “But, if it is communication style that is the problem, it could be productive to address it.”

If you can bring to the table, a specific problem, such as, “I don’t like it when you address me with that tone,” you can have a concrete issue to resolve. But if you can only speak in vague generalities like, “I just don’t like talking to you,” you can do your relationship more harm than good.

4. Know if the problem is a deal breaker

As much as you don’t want to think about it, there may come a time when you need to end your relationship. And while you may hope that the honeymoon phase will last forever, in the end, you have to be honest with yourself about what your deal breakers are.

“Most people have good instincts about what their deal breakers are,” Dr. Mann says. “You have to look at whether you are on the same page morally and philosophically. If the two of you are too far apart, it’s a deal breaker.”

Ahluwalia believes that it is essential to know that you have support from your partner in a difficult situation. And not having support can make a struggling relationship falter further.

“Resentment can kill relationships,” says Ahluwalia. “I think that any issue which is super important to one partner cannot be dismissed by the other partner without compromising the relationship.”

So, if your SO is unwilling to listen to your feelings, or if you know that you will never be able to have a polite conversation with their mother, it may be time to part ways.

Related: What To Do Once The Honeymoon Phase Is Over

5. Have a strategy to cope if you are going to stick it out

If you decide that a disagreement with your SO’s parents isn’t a deal breaker, it can be wise to have a plan on how to handle future interactions. Megan Mann, a graduate of Purdue University, hasn’t directly experienced this problem, but her boyfriend has.

“[My boyfriend]’s never really seen eye-to-eye with my mom or my sister and even after four years, he tends to keep his distance,” Megan says. “He deals with it by picking and choosing when to be around them. He limits what he’s willing to talk to them about, as he doesn’t agree with the way they treat me. It’s all about picking and choosing when to be around them.”

Going into family situations with a game plan can make life easier for everyone. So, if you know your dad and your SO don’t get along, consider having them socialize in different groups or sit in separate areas. If you know a certain topic sparks disagreement, steer conversation in a different direction. It can be challenging at first but will pay off when everyone’s happy.

While it can be immensely difficult to handle a problem with your SO’s parents, approaching the problem with your SO in a healthy and productive manner can only make your relationship stronger. In the end, remember that you all do have some common ground: both you and your SO’s parents love your SO. And that’s all that matters.

About The Author

Sarah Shevenock is studying biology and public health at the College of William and Mary. In addition to serving as a staff writer and Campus Correspondent for Her Campus William and Mary, she is a National Contributing Writer for Her Campus. In her free time, she enjoys reading voraciously, watching morning news programs, and keeping up with the latest television and movie news. She loves to talk about anything and everything related to theatre, cheer for her beloved Pittsburgh Penguins, and drink fancy coffee. You can follow her on Twitter @shevshevrolet.

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