My parents do not approve of my boyfriend but I love him and we are happy together. They keep telling me that I can do better and are not very welcoming. This is causing me a lot of stress and tension because I am really close to my parents. What do I do?
-"Torn between him and them," 25, Michigan
As part of a generation raised by "helicopter parents," I'm guessing Mom and Dad have been very involved in every aspect of your life and have an opinion about everything you do - including whom you date. And if you are like most twenty-somethings, their approval means a great deal to you...but so does your current "McDreamy," so what's a girl to do?
First of all, it's important to discern whether your parents are expressing reasonable concern or judgment based on their own biases. What's the difference? Well, reasonable parental concern would be around issues that would create a sensational plot line for a Lifetime movie. For example: he's a drug addict, alcoholic, abusive, womanizer, extremely emotionally unstable, too old for you, liar, moocher, or has a criminal record. If your guy demonstrates or even shows signs of any of these types of things, perhaps your parents have a point. Time to take off the rose-colored glasses and dump the "bad boy" or "project."
On the other hand, if your parents are expressing feelings based on their judgments of him, meaning they just don't like him as a matter of taste or opinion, that is a different story. But you don't have to choose him or them - there are ways to deal with Mom and Dad's judgments. It's critical that you stop playing defense. I am sure they have reasons that make perfect sense to them about why he's not the right guy for you and you're not going to be able to change their minds. As hard as it may be, I encourage you to suck it up and hear them out without defending him or your relationship. Just say, "I hear you and understand you only want the best for me, but I have to decide for myself what is best for me." As soon as your parents see they are not getting a reaction out of you, they may start to back off.
After they wear themselves out a bit, approach them with an invitation to get to know your guy a little better. Tread lightly here. Consider saying something along the lines of, "Mom and Dad, I understand how you feel about my boyfriend but I don't want this to drive a wedge between us. It would really mean a lot to me if we could all spend some time together so you can get to know him." Have the meeting on your turf so both you and your boyfriend feel comfortable. In the meantime, try not to let this situation consume you as it will get in the way of enjoying your individual time with your boyfriend or your parents. Make the subject off limits during one-on-one time with either of them.
Your parents' opinion may change, but it may not and you will have to face that reality. Do your best to open their hearts and their minds, but in the end it's you who has to love him, not them. And you can't live your life consistently seeking your parents' approval if you ever want to truly grow up. That said, keep in mind that sometimes our parents see red flags that we don't, especially in the first year of a relationship where infatuation can be blinding. Be open to the possibility that your parents may have a point, even if their delivery of it is harsh. Only you know how and if the relationship is truly serving you. Don't stay in it to prove them wrong and don't jump too soon to gain their approval.
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