There’s a reason why meeting your significant other’s family members for the first time is such a huge deal for many couples: There’s always the possibility that you just won’t get along.
At first you might not realize there’s anything wrong, especially if you’re used to making a good first impression. But if your partner’s family starts asking aggressive questions, avoiding direct contact with you, or generally acting disinterested in you, it could be a sign that they’re not your biggest fan, according to relationship therapists.
It works the other way, too: You may not get a good vibe from your potential in-laws. Maybe their quirky habits or beliefs are unbearable, or they’re so dysfunctional that you can’t have a conversation about anything without starting an argument.
No matter the source, tension between you and your partner’s family can put a strain on your relationship. After all, you two don’t exist in a vacuum: Being with someone means committing to spending time with their friends and relatives. It may hurt your boyfriend or girlfriend to learn that you dislike the people they love, but if you want your relationship to progress, you have to be civil toward the people in their lives, even if you can’t stand some of them.
If you’re in the unenviable (but quite common) position of not getting along with your significant other’s family, here’s how to improve the situation.
1. Talk To Your Partner About Your Concerns
Don’t hide your true feelings or fears from your partner. If you don’t like their family, or worry that their family doesn’t like you, talk about it openly and honestly. Your partner might be able to shed some light on the situation, since they know their family best.
This is a delicate conversation, so choose your words carefully. Avoid making accusations or bashing certain family members. Share your concerns in a straightforward but diplomatic way, and trust that your partner will be honest in return.
2. Find Some Common Ground
Whether you get along or not, you’re probably going to have to see your partner’s family on occasion, even if it’s just over the holidays. When the time comes, it’s good to be prepared with some light, pleasant conversation topics that could potentially give way to bonding.
Before your next visit, do a bit of research on your partner’s family. Look at their social media accounts to see if you have any common interests or tastes you can discuss, like movies, music, sports, food, etc. Honest, genuine efforts to get along with someone are often recognized and rewarded – and even if it fails to land, at least your partner will see that you’re trying.
3. Never Force Your Partner To Choose Between You And Their Family
The fastest way to ruin a relationship is to give your partner an ultimatum. Relationship counselor Ammanda Major notes that asking your significant other to choose between you and their loved ones will make them feel caught in the middle, and that’s not fair to either of you.
“Not only could it result in unhappiness for them but it could mean they end up resenting you,” she wrote in an Independent article. “If you really can’t get on with their family and are no longer on speaking terms, allow your partner to continue their relationship with them on their own.”
Remember, it’s not the end of the world if your partner’s parents don’t like you. Have open, honest conversations about the root issues causing tension between you and the family. Then, try to course-correct and get along for your partner’s sake. You may not feel the love, but in time, you may grow to like each other.