When Your Parents Hate the One You Love

How to cope when your parents don't like the person you're dating

It will probably happen to you at least once in your life. You'll fall for somebody that your parents don't like. Sometimes their disapproval will be valid, other times it will be irrational, but no matter what it will be hard for you to deal with.

What do you do when your parents can't stand the person you’re dating? Before taking on the role of diplomat, or even worse the role of family agitator, there are some things that you need to examine. 

Examining Your Motivations

Why are you dating this person? Be brutally honest. Are you crazy in love or loving driving your parents crazy? If you are motivated by rebellion the right thing to do is end the relationship.It isn't fair for you to use somebody else to get to your parents. With the relationship out of the way, you can focus on the real issue of why you feel the need to resort to such drastic rebellion in the first place.

Are you dating this person because of pressure from friends or in the name of popularity? If your feelings are based on your reputation rather than your heart you are being unfair to the person you're dating and your parents. Ask yourself if the relationship is worth all the drama. Chances are the answer will be no and your problem will solve itself.

What if It's Love?

People fall in love for many different reasons. Opposites can attract and people can find themselves in relationships that look weird to the outside world. When you find love it can make anything seem possible.

When your parents object to your love it can feel like they just don’t understand. It can be confusing and upsetting. You love your parents but your relationship is important to you as well. If you are in a good and loving relationship you should, within reason, do whatever it takes to protect it, even go against your parents.

Examining Your Parents' Objections

Try to understand where your parents are coming from. If you can determine why they object to your relationship you may be able to reason with them. Some of those reasons your parents may seem unreasonable, but some may have merit.  Examine the whole situation and see if your parents are seeing something you aren't or if they are acting out of ignorance.

When Your Parents Are Wrong

Objections based on racism, classism, religious bias or homophobia are not acceptable.  Hold your ground against their bigotry.

Your parents are likely objecting out of fear for you. They may worry about how others may react to your relationship. Being in an unconventional relationship can be difficult. Their reaction is wrong but it is based on their love for you and their desire to see you get the best out of life.

Sometimes parents cling to outdated social attitudes that your generation no longer shares. Listen respectfully to their, and then tell them they must agree to disagree on this subject. 

When Your Parents Are Right

Your parents may see things in your relationship that you don't notice. Listen carefully to what they have to say if only to gain another perspective. For example, your parents may have learned things about this person that you can't possibly know, or they may have heard rumors that you may want to look into further. 

If your partner has encouraged you to indulging bad habits, such as using drunks or drinking excessively, your parents have a valid concern. They have a right to speak up if your grades are dropping, you’re losing friends or you have stopped doing the things you used to love to do. It is not healthy for any relationship to consume your life. Your parents may be able to see that this is happening when you cannot.

The objection is based on racism, classism or religious biases.

This is unacceptable on your parents' part, don't let them put their bigotry on you. If they are racist that is their choice, don't let their choice control your life. However, try to be objective even when they will not.

These sorts of fears are usually based in something more than mere parental ignorance and it is too simple to say that they object only in an attempt to control you. Often your parents are really worried about how others will treat you, how the rest of your family will react or how the social norms in your hometown will label you. This does not make their objection OK, but it does mean that it is not as evil as it may initially seem.

Your first step should be to inform them that you do not share their views and that you won't live your life according to opinions you don't consider valid. You should also let them know that you are well aware of how others may view your relationship and state that you are prepared to deal with those who judge. Let them know that as far as you are concerned love is between two individuals, not a family, a peer group or a community.

Let the know that while you appreciate the fact that there are those who will not accept your relationship, you refuse to let those others decide what is right for you. Stay committed to your heart and politely confrontational with the views that motivate your parents. You should not try to sugar coat how YOU see THEIR views, but at the same time, you should try to remember that you are in a relationship NOT the middle of a social justice debate.

There is no good reason why your parents' bigotry needs to determine who you see, but it should play a role in how you handle the relationship. Flaunting it in their faces will not only upset them but it is not a nice thing to do to the person you are seeing. You need not hide the relationship, but you should never try to force your parents to accept a person they are unwilling to accept.

There is a big difference between keeping a potentially explosive relationship away from the fire and pretending it doesn't exist. Be respectful of the fact that they do not accept your relationship while staying true to your love. Chances are good that if your parents don't accept your steady it will be awkward for all involved - including the one you love.

Any time that you want all parties together, for instance on your birthday, make sure that your steady is OK with the tension your parents may give off. Don't worry about your parents' discomfort but do worry about the comfort level of your partner. Perhaps in time, your parents will learn to live with your relationship even if they don't approve. Often this is the best that you can hope for; pressing for more can be disastrous. In situations like this, you must be prepared to be one part loving child, one part loyal lover and two parts diplomat.

The objection is based on YOUR sexual orientation.

If you have recently come out to your family, or if they have had difficulties accepting your sexual orientation, the fact that they disapprove is probably not a shocker. However, the fact that they are having difficulties accepting who you are does not mean you should stop being true to yourself.

You are gay, your partner is gay and no amount of lamenting by your parents is going to change that. They need to be made aware that you are not going through a phase and that your newest love interest is not to blame for your sexuality. You are who you are, and you deserve to be happy and in love just like everyone else.

This sort of love affair needs to be handled very carefully because there is more than your parents' emotions to consider. You must also be respectful of the feelings of your partner. Much of the advice given to people in inter-racial relationships is applicable to this situation with one major exception.

While it is nearly impossible to hide one's race, keeping one's sexual orientation secret is very easy. For gay teens, it is also very common. When deciding how to deal with YOUR parents and family, you MUST consider how your partner is dealing with his or her family. You may be out while he or she is still in the closet. This absolutely must be a factor as you should not start your love affair with an unwanted outing.

When deciding how to act toward your parents it is important that you and your steady are on the same page. If your steady is still keeping his/her sexual orientation a secret from family and friends, this should be your first concern. If he/she has not yet come out the last thing they need is pressure from you and opposition from your parents.

In cases like this, be supportive of your partner and let him/her set the pace for how "confrontational" you get with your parents. While it is fine for you to press your parents to accept your sexuality and even accept that you are in a committed relationship, there is no reason to force them to come face to face with your sexually undeclared steady. Even if it is hard for you to be involved with a person who is not ready to come out it is not right or fair for you to expect him/her to take on battles he/she is not yet ready to have, especially battles with YOUR parents.

Now if your steady is already "out", the way to handle it is different. Form a united front and show all who object that you are as serious about each other as any straight couple your age. Try to keep the focus on your relationship and not on the issue of homosexuality. Do not hide your relationship but do not flaunt it in the faces of loved ones who are having trouble adjusting.

No matter what the outcome, be ready and willing to deal with outright rejection of your partner and of you. Many gay teens find themselves ostracized by family and friends when they have their first relationship even if those people seemed OK when they first came out. If you are faced with this type of rejection it may put a strain on your relationship. Try not to let it press things to the point where you stop enjoying being in love. Being in love is a happy thing; don't let anybody, even your parents, ruin it.

The objection is based on your love's reputation.

Reputations are vicious things, sometimes they are solidly based in fact and other times they are nothing more than malicious gossip. Since you should know the person you are dating fairly well, trust your judgment and help your parents to see where you are coming from.

Trust your instincts but know that rumors are not always false and reputations are more often than not formed from real incidents. For this reason, it is essential that you really sit down and listen to what your parents have heard, who they have heard it from and when what they heard is supposed to have happened. You may find that your parents only have half the story or that what they see as a problem is a part of your steady's past that you are already aware of and that has been resolved.

We all make mistakes and it is important for your parents to know that you and the person you love have come clean with each other about the darker points in your respective pasts. Then ask them to trust the job they have done raising you and tell them that they can have faith in your judgment because they have done their job well.

If what your parents have heard is brand new news to you the situation may not be so easy to diffuse. You will have to ask a few questions and honestly look at the answers you are given.

First, you will want to know WHERE they heard the info. If they heard it from your ex, or a competitive sibling or some other unreliable source you should be prepared for a battle.

You will have to convince your parents that the source is unreliable and then you will have to convince them that the information is untrue (since an unreliable source doesn't always mean that what they say is untrue). You also have to be ready for the reality that their information is accurate.

You should ask your steady about the rumor before expecting your parents to discount it. If it comes from a reliable source you have an even more difficult task. You will need to do some research before you can further discuss the issue with your parents and you will have to ask your steady about what you have heard. Prepare yourself since you may learn that the rumor is true and will have to deal with that on top of your own feelings of betrayal.

This is a really difficult thing to deal with since it can play out in only one of two ways; your parents' information could be false or it could be true. If it is false you will most likely be able to help them to see the truth of things BUT if it is true there will be some less than pleasant aftershocks to deal with. You and your steady will have to come to terms with the rumor and YOU will have to decide if you want to continue the relationship.

If the rumor turns out to be true you may never be able to change your parents' opinion, but you can ask them to accept the relationship and remind them that nobody is perfect. Point out that this person makes you happy and that your happiness should count for something. Then cross your fingers and hope they can put the past and the rumors aside.

The objection is based in your loves behavior.

Parents may be over sensitive to the bad behavior of somebody who is dating their child, but they are rarely wrong when they make decisions based on what they see first hand.

In order to deal with this sort of parental concern, you must be objective and ask yourself, "Are they really out of line, or do they have a point?". Take a step back and look at how your steady behaves around your parents, is it really inappropriate or is it just different from what they are used to? If you weren't in love what would you think of your steady's behavior?

Be honest, don't take the defensive just because it is your parents' who are voicing concern. Believe it or not, sometimes being in love makes us blind to the things that are less than desirable in the object of our affections. You parents aren't the enemy and they just may be the voice of reason.

Your first course of action has to be to see who is right. Is your steady's behavior a bit off the wall? If it is, then you need to talk to him/her. You need to identify the areas that are problems to your parents (and maybe even areas that secretly bug you) and discuss them with your steady. Be kind and try to offer up comments rather than criticism.

Tell him/her that the observations have nothing to do with your feelings but that you think it is worth mentioning since it is the only thing standing in the way of harmony between your romantic life and your family life. If all else fails ask your steady to consider making the changes for you and for the sake of your love. You may have to compromise and be happy with your steady only curbing the objectionable behavior when around your parents. But that is what love is about - compromise.

If your steady isn't acting out of line and your parents are being over sensitive or even snobby in their judgment, you need to have a talk with them. You have to be prepared for a heated one. The likelihood that your parents will easily come to see that they are the problem is next to zero.

Be well prepared. Observe how they behave and point out how it compares to the behavior they object to in your steady. Know what they have a problem with and be prepared to point out where they are being nit picky or over sensitive. Sometimes parents can be blinded by their love for you and they may have in their minds a specific type of person that they want you to be with. If your steady doesn't fit the bill it may be the real cause of the tension.

After you have voiced that you think they are looking for problems where none really exist, be ready to challenge the ideal they have in their minds. Tell them that you love them for wanting the best for you but that this person makes you feel happy and cared for. Ask them to be grateful that you are with someone who truly cares for you and point out that a few personality quirks are nothing in the face of loyalty and love. They'll see your point even if they never become your steady's number one fan.

Learning to cope when your parents can't stand the person you're dating.

The objection is based on a correlating change in your behavior.

This is a tricky one too, since it is hard to say for sure why you have changed, or if you really have. It is very common for parents to blame a new love when you change unexpectedly. It is also very common for a new love to change you unexpectedly.

The first step is to identify which has happened, have you changed? Have you changed because of your new found love? Are you exactly the same and totally baffled by your parents suggesting otherwise? Love does usually change us but rarely is that a change for the worst.

What your parents may be having difficulty with is the very fact that you are in love and it may have nothing to do with your behavior at all. Identify what the real situation is before you even think about discussing it with your parents.

If you have changed, find out what it is about the changes that your parents don't like. Is there any validity to what they say? Is it possible that your feelings have led you to act out of character? Is it possible that you may even be acting self-destructively? Love doesn't always make us act in good ways. People have been known to do desperate, even stupid, things in the name of love.

Could your parents be seeing what "love" isn't letting YOU see? If your new love affair has led you to try new things or acquire new habits your parents may actually be doing you a favor by bringing this to your attention.

Be honest with yourself, are you into new things because of your new love? Are these things the sort of thing that are known to be destructive like, heavy drug or alcohol use or unprotected sex? If you have started acting differently because of things like this, it is probably best that you examine the relationship. Nobody who really loves you would want you to do things that are bad for you.

Maybe you have changed but not in any way that is dangerous or self-destructive. Maybe the changes are the normal sort of changes that go along with falling in love. Maybe what your parents are really having trouble with is the very fact that you are in love and growing up.

It is natural and normal for people to change, it is also natural and normal for parents to have difficulty dealing with these changes in their children. When teens fall in love the probability that they will become sexually active increases, this naturally worries parents, even the liberal ones.

What they may be finding so hard to deal with and what they may be seeing as negative changes is the reality that you being in love is a sign that you are growing up. Help them to see that your maturing is a good thing and reassure them that they have been good parents and now it is time for them to have faith in the job they have done. Do all you can to make them comfortable with your relationship and with the corresponding changes in you and no matter how hard they make it, don't shut them out of your life because they don't support your love affair.

Maybe you haven't changed at all and they are just not ready to let you give your heart to another person. This is something they will have to deal with on their own. You can make it easier for everyone by being open and honest about your relationship and by making every effort to get your parents and your steady better acquainted. As they get to know the person you have fallen for they will become more comfortable with the relationship and all it means in your life.

In situations like this, where what you are really facing is your parents' difficulty in accepting that you are at a new stage in life, being open and honest is the very best course of action.

When your parents won't say why they object.

This is the hardest of all to deal with; how do you fight something when you don't even know what it is? Obviously your first step has to be getting them to open up and come clean. This is not as easy as it sounds.

They have their own reasons for keeping their opinion to themselves. Maybe they know how you will react, or maybe they know how silly the objection sounds when spoken out loud. Either way, silence in this instance is not golden, it's a festering shade of green.

Since it will be easier to open a dialogue if you have some place to start, try making an educated guess. Look at the situation and see if you can determine what the problem may be then come to your parents with your suspicions. Come to them calmly and try not to be confrontational. Once you have an idea where they are coming from you will be better able to build your case and change their minds.

It is entirely possible that your best guesses will yield nothing and that none of your efforts will get your parents to open up. In this case, you have to let it go. Tell them that you can sense that something is bothering them but since they don't feel that they can talk about it, you have no choice but to ignore the situation and go on with your life.

If they forbid you to date the person in question tell them that you won't even think about respecting their wishes that until they respect you enough to tell you what their objections are based on. Say that while you do love and respect them that you can't let go of somebody who is important to you just because they say so and be prepared to deal with the consequences of going against them.

It may not seem fair or right but as long as your parents do their part in supporting you, you do owe them a certain degree of compliance. This does not mean blind acceptance, make sure that they know your feelings on the matter even if they are unwilling to share theirs.

Don't stop seeing the person you love, but never break your parent's rules. If you go to the same school, this will be fairly easy, if you don't it will be a bit harder. Yet it is essential that you not give them any reason to feel justified and if you sneak around that is all you will accomplish.

Show them that you are mature enough to keep both your romantic and familial relationships in a balance even when the odds are against you. You may never know why your parents object and you may never gain their blessing but you will gain their respect. With any luck, they will follow your lead and at least try to find a working compromise.

Learning to cope when your parents can't stand the person you're dating.