6 Ways to Cope When You Can’t Stand a Family Member’s S.O.
The only thing more uncomfortable than disliking your BFF’s new bae is being in the same tricky spot with a family member. While friends sure feel like family to most of us, the truth is that the stakes often get much higher when your actual relatives are involved. When you struggle to like or even just get along with someone a parent, sibling, or extended family member brings home, it can totally throw off the dynamic of family dinners and holiday celebrations. It’s important that you figure out a way to handle this situation with care, so keep scrolling for expert tips on what you should do if you don’t like a family member’s significant other.
1. Figure out the root of the problem. There are about a million reasons that you might dislike someone. Before you decide how to handle these negative feelings you’re having, you need to home in on the specific reasons that are creating this particular situation between you and a new potential family member. Life coach Devoreaux Walton suggests that your conclusion there should guide your next steps. If you simply find this person annoying or don’t quite relate to their personality, it’s probably best to set your concerns aside and try to have an open mind. “On the other hand,” Walton tells us, “if you dislike a family member’s significant other because you feel they are disrespectful, rude, or detrimental to your family member, you do have the right to speak up.”
2. Have an honest conversation. If your issues with this person really do run deeper than cheesy jokes or less than sterling table manners, you should approach the conversation with your family member thoughtfully. “Be honest with [them] and politely express your concerns, while making sure to let them know you are coming from a place of love and don’t mean any harm,” recommends relationship expert Lori Bizzoco. “If they’re willing to listen to what you have to say, then great. If not, don’t push too hard.” At a certain level, you do have to trust that your parent or sibling can make good decisions — and sometimes, even with a toxic or downright abusive relationship, being even justifiably judgmental can result in the person you’re trying to help getting defensive. Expressing your concerns is all you can do.
3. Fake it ’til you make it. “The only way your family member is going to take a good, hard look at their S.O. is if they’re not busy defending that person from you,” agrees Tina Gilbertson, a Denver-based psychotherapist who specializes in family estrangement. Do your best to be polite to the partner in question so that your loved one doesn’t constantly have a reason to come to their rescue. With outside stresses eliminated, they may be able to more easily acknowledge that their partner’s negative behaviors don’t outweigh their positive ones.
4. Change your mindset. As long as you or your family members are not in danger because of this person, you might find that the best course of action is to work on shifting your own perspective about the situation. (Yes, we know this sounds like advice you would get from your mom… but moms do know what they’re talking about.) “[You] might never be best friends with the person, but [you] can focus on changing negative thoughts about the person,” encourages mental health writer and expert Emily Mendez. “Emotions are strongly connected to thoughts. Changing thoughts about the person can help change [your] reaction.” Try practicing more positive thoughts. You might find yourself naturally falling into more enjoyable interactions with the new flame, which could kick off a real friendship between the two of you.
5. Set boundaries. If you’re not ready to change your mindset or are not comfortable doing so, then it’s totally okay for you to maintain your current negative feelings. They are, after all, your feelings! Licensed professional counselor Julie Williamson notes that setting boundaries might be necessary. Assuming your primary frustration with your family member’s partner has to do with their personality — and assuming they are totally head over heels in love with each other — it’s kind of up to you to remove yourself from situations that will drive you crazy. Sitting out certain casual family events so that you can show up with a better attitude to holidays and other major milestones might be the best way for you to keep your cool and maintain a healthy relationship with the family member who’s caught in the middle. And who knows? With a little distance, you might even find yourself less frustrated.
6. Stay positive. When all else fails, try to remain the bigger person. Remove yourself from a tense situation with a family member’s S.O. before it turns sour. This is a way better course of action than letting things get negative, and it will help maintain your relationship with your fam no matter what happens with the partnership.
How have you handled disliking a family member’s partner? Tweet us @BritandCo.
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