Ask Darling D: I Don’t Get Along With Her Family

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Dear Darling D,

My girlfriend and I have been dating for a year and a half. I met her immediate family about six months in, and her extended family at a wedding last month. Ever since I met her parents, I haven’t clicked with them. I don’t like them, I don’t like her brother, and I try to avoid their family gatherings because it’s awkward for me and I think for them too. What can I do keep my girlfriend happy and avoid the family function awkwardness?

Thanks in advance,

Markus, Families are Fun

Dear Markus,

We always picture that our dream partner has an amazing family – the kind you can have fun with, be yourself with, and cause you no in-law problems. Fact of the matter is, that dream comes true for some, but definitely not for all!

There are so many questions I have for this situation – so allow me to advise through some questions for you.

  • Why don’t you like her parents (or brother)? Do they have different beliefs than you? Are they rude to you? Do they not like you? Do you not have anything in common with them?

It’s really hard for me to help you here without knowing the underlying cause of the tension. Without knowing, my best advice is to answer the question for yourself, and then decide how to handle it. If they’re rude to you, is that something you can ask them to change? As in, “I love you daughter and I want to spend time with your family but the way you speak to me makes me feel disrespected.”

If they have different beliefs than you, then Google “how to get along with someone with different beliefs” because that’s a big piece entire political landscape at the moment. If you don’t have anything in common with them, I’d figure out a way to learn more about them, and find a way to step out of your own comfort zone to make an effort to find some common ground.

  • How does your girlfriend feel? Is she bothered by the fact that you don’t like her family and you avoid family events? Or is that not important to her? Is getting along with her family long-term a deal breaker for her?

This part of the equation is huge, and also dictates the direction you go. If it’s not important to her that you’re around for family stuff, then you’re off the hook as much as you want to be. If it’s important to her that there is a resolution to the conflict, then I would engage her in helping bridge the gap to be a part of the solution. What that looks like I’m not sure, but if she wants the current situation to change and you’re willing to do some work to make it change, then a happy ending definitely seems possible.

  • What/how have you tried to be courteous at former family affairs? Do you make an effort to speak with them, or do you sit on the couch on your phone? Do you talk to your girlfriend in advance about how you can make the most of your time spent with her family?

Answer the question. If your list is pretty short, it looks like you’ve got some work to do. If your list is long, and nothing to date has worked, ask yourself what/how her family has tried with you. What does that list look like? After answering that, it looks like an opportunity for a conversation with her family, or with your girlfriend.

In life, we get along with some and we don’t get along with others. If you are in this relationship for the long haul, take responsibility where you can to make the familial relationship as enjoyable/manageable as possible for yourself. It may not be the best, but you can make the best of it!

You’re right, families ARE fun!

Darling D