How to Deal When You Don't Like Your Parent's SO

As much as us kids want to thwart the idea of our parents dating, it’s a pretty common occurrence in this day and age. Whether your parent is newly single and dating for the first time, or whether this is something you’ve been accustomed to growing up, it’s hard when you’re not particularly a fan of who they’re seeing. As college students, we feel more like responsible adults than we ever have before. Because we’ve been making mature decisions and taking care of ourselves, it can be difficult to adjust to change and accept it as the new norm, especially when it revolves around our parent’s dating life. Hopefully, by reading this article, you’ll learn how to deal with not liking your parent’s significant other so much.

Be empathetic

Consider your parent’s feelings first. Although this is a deeply personal issue and you may feel a whole host of emotions, try to see things through your parent’s eyes. Empathize with why they may have sought a relationship with this person. While you’re at college, your parents are still continuing their lives back at home. They may want to try dating again just for the fun of it, or because they’re lonely. We're so focused on growing and evolving into the adults we want to be; we may assume our parent's lives are static. They're not.

Sarah*, a junior from Lehigh University, says, “I never liked my mom’s new boyfriend and it took a lot of getting used to, but when I realized that she was happier, I realized this might not be so bad.”

After being open-minded to the fact that our parents can make decisions about their personal lives, it’s important to remember that the way you feel is also valid. You may feel confused, upset, betrayed, or even happy. Your emotions depend on your familial circumstances and how you view the situation. Perhaps after a period of distraught, you may come to realize that if your parent is safe and happy, then that makes you happy as well.

Leslie*, a sophomore from Muhlenberg, says, “My parents got divorced a couple years ago and when my dad started dating again I took personal offence to it. It felt like he was getting a new family. After a while, I talked to him about it and he made me feel a lot better. I’m probably never going to be perfectly happy with this change, but talking about it with my parents makes it seem more normal.”

Leslie brings up several good points. She acknowledges her feelings and brings them up to her parents. Our parents may never know how we truly feel about their love lives until we talk to them about it. While we don’t want to make them unhappy, it’s imperative to at least tell them what we’re thinking. Whether they’d like to factor your opinion in or not is up to them, but because you’re their child, you’re probably going to be affected one way or another. It’s one thing to be a little blindsided and uncomfortable having a new person around the family, but it’s another to be completely distraught and horrified by the new significant other. Your parents should keep your feelings in mind just as much as you do theirs.

Open dialogue is crucial

Amanda*, a senior from California Polytechnic State University, says, “If it's the person our parent wants to be with, we don't really have any control over it. And, I suppose, since we are adults now, they don't really have an obligation to ask us for our opinion. In the end, though, we just have to accept it and hope that our parent does the same for us when we choose who we want to be with.

Amanda’s response to disliking her parent’s significant other was more than just “accepting it” and moving on, of course. It takes a lot of patience and maturity to realize there are bigger battles to face in life. If it really bothers you to be around this new person, tell your parent that and try to spend as little time with them as possible, if that’s what you need to do. This should be after you explain the specific reasons why you don’t like your parent’s significant other. Is it because they’re unfamiliar? Is it because they treat you poorly? Or, is it because you don’t like seeing your parent with someone else? This is something you need to dig deep inside your feelings for. Of course, you shouldn’t have to force yourself to like someone if you really, truly don’t. Just try to be as rational as possible.

Remember, your parent’s significant other is not automatically your new parent. It’s not right for someone to force their parental responsibilities onto you. If they act as if they’re your new mom or dad, speak up, because this is not something you have to be comfortable with.

Although you may feel a little uneasy with your parent’s significant other, it’s another thing to feel threatened or unsafe. Be specific about your feelings If you or your parent is in danger of being taken advantage of, abused, etc. it's important to be on the same page and explain examples of why you feel threatened. It is crucial to have an open dialogue with your parent to express your concerns especially if you feel you're in immediate harm. If you or your parent have been physically abused/threatened already, however, contact your local police or social services. 

We hope this article sheds light on some of the more personal aspects of your family life. It’s a difficult feeling to tackle since you want your parent to be happy, but you’re afraid of how this may affect your life. We hope by highlighting some important common feelings, you feel more validated and secure in talking to your parent about how you feel. As always, good luck!

*Names have been changed