My boyfriend’s parents don’t like me. How can I win them over?


The dilemma My boyfriend and I have been together for two years. I love and adore him, but I am worried about our future, because his parents don’t like me. We are very different people. He says that he fell for me when I walked into the bar in the battered wellies my foster dad gave me and that I wear out of loyalty to him. My foster dad also taught me to ride a bike, which suits me because it is solitary and I am pretty self-contained. My boyfriend comes from a close family, grew up in the country, played rugby and is sociable. He walks me to classes and he takes care of me always. I have never felt so loved or so wanted. Which is why it is so difficult that his parents don’t seem to like me.

He only really came out to them after we met, although he had previously told his mum he might be bi. His dad is visibly uncomfortable with any affection between us and leaves if we are left alone. His mum never smiles at me and conversations are short. I tried to talk to her, but she made it plain that they thought he could do better. He says just to give them time, but I don’t know if he is capable of talking to them about it. I don’t want him to have to choose between us. How can we be in a long-term relationship when I am not welcome in his home? I want to make things better between his parents and me, but I don’t know where to start.

Mariella replies Bide your time. I appreciate you want to be welcomed into the bosom of your boyfriend’s family, but maybe they’re just not ready for that. You can take their behaviour as a personal insult, but it’s unlikely that it is. Instead, it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy where the more you rail against what you feel to be their unfair judgment the more you’ll create an issue.

I’m not saying it’s right that they should be circumspect, but neither should parental approval be a deal-breaker for your love affair. If it was, most relationships would struggle to get past first base. Your letter moves from outrage at their lack of approval to recollections of your foster father, and it makes me wonder how much it’s the family package you are chasing, rather than just a boy to call your own.

The easiest way is for you to stop seeking his parents’ approval
You might want to try to put your own issues to one side momentarily and revaluate his parents’ point of view. You are both young and just starting out in adult life. One day you might become a parent, too, and then you’ll understand how hard it is to divorce the protective from the restrictive. Your boyfriend only recently revealed to his parents that he might be bisexual, which suggests it’s fraught territory for them. His embarking on a same-sex relationship might not be welcome news and they may need to witness the positive impact of your relationship before their worries diminish.

The world may have moved on, but not everyone keeps pace with upgraded expectations and perhaps his parents are still snoozing rather than fully woke.

Blowing it up into a make-or-break ultimatum won’t rectify the situation and will likely exacerbate it.

You’re not dating his parents and although we might prefer them to have no issue with their son’s sexual preferences, we can’t always get what we want. The easiest way to resolve this situation is to stop seeking their approval. Your relationship is thriving and doesn’t depend on their acceptance. In your longer letter, you mention he’s joining your house-share and that, therefore, all will be well for the next year, but after that you have fears it won’t work out. If you’re only prepared to enter a relationship with a guarantee of longevity, you’re better off staying single. Anything can happen in a day, a week, a year or a decade, which is why, instead of projecting anxieties into the future – particularly at the moment – we must keep our eye only on each day’s dawn, resolving to live each moment as fully and joyously as possible.

The longer and more contentedly you remain together the less his parents will fear for their son’s choices. For the majority of parents the sight of a happy child derails most prejudices. Remember, too, that being fostered will possibly have had a part to play in your need for approval and acceptance. You might need professional help in quieting those self-doubting voices or negotiating them better. Focus on analysing your own instincts rather than investing energy in your boyfriend’s parents’ behaviour.

Families are complicated and entering into someone else’s is a trial by fire that few escape without some scorching. By your own admission you have a wonderful relationship with a boy who cares for you – yet you’re worrying about a future no one can predict. It’s a crystal ball you’ll need if it’s the future you want assurance about. My advice is to focus on how to live now.