In-laws, as well as our partners’ friends (yes, we’ll talk about them, as well) can be a real pain in the neck when it comes to our relationships. As much as we would want that, we can never live in a vacuum with our partner. And though the relationship between us may be perfect when we forget other people for a little while, learning how to live and function with those other people is a prerequisite to a healthy, long-lasting relationship.
Bummer, I know - but I’m here to help you get there. Let’s jump right into the most common “other people” problems you may experience in your relationship and talk about ways to overcome them.
#1: My Boyfriend’s Mother Hates Me - For No Reason!
The trope of an overprotective mother who thinks no woman is good enough for her golden boy didn’t come out of nowhere. It happens to a lot of women, and most of them make one huge mistake in approaching it: they keep their disappointment inside until it grows into fiery anger, and during all that time, they say nothing! In fact, they walk on eggshells and do everything in their power to win their mother over.
And sure, it’s something you should try at first. But if you see it’s going nowhere, don’t waste your energy, because if she still doesn’t like you after a couple of months, there is one main reason for it:
You’re trying too hard.
How come? Because your behavior comes as a result of an irrational demand you have:
“She absolutely has to like me, otherwise
a) She’s a horrible person, or
b) I’m completely unlikeable.”
The first conclusion leads to anger (“How can she not like me, the old hag?!”, and no matter how much you try to be extremely nice, trust me - you’re not going to be fooling anyone. Unless you’re acting in an authentic manner, you’re just perpetuating her idea of you as someone who lies and pretends to get what they want.
The second conclusion will likely lead to you downing yourself (“I must be so unlikeable, it’s just a matter of time before my boyfriend realizes it, too!”), and you try way too hard to make them all fall in love with you just so you can convince yourself there is nothing wrong with you. And somewhere along the way, you lose your sense of self and become who you think they want you to be instead - which, again, isn't the most authentic thing you can to.
What should you do instead? Start by working on your demand.
Instead of believing she has to like you no matter what, work on developing a strong preference - that you would very much want that she likes you, but if she doesn’t, it’s her problem, you’ll find a way to live with it, and it’s just the way it is sometimes. She may be acting in a rotten way, but she’s not a stupid old hag, and it says nothing about you, either - after all, the most important thing is that your partner likes you, right?
Once you start acting from a place of acceptance, your actions will be authentic, you’ll be able to determine what’s natural and what’s trying too hard, you won’t risk falling into passive-aggressive behavior… And by doing that, you’re actually raising your chances of winning her over!
Another thing to do is, well - communicate.
Talk with your boyfriend first (“I get a sense that your mother doesn’t like me very much, do you know what’s going on there? I believe that for our relationship to be healthy, we should at least be able to tolerate each other, don’t you?”), and if that doesn’t give you any answers - talk to the mother herself. Be honest (here’s where disappointment, rather than anger, will allow you to have a healthier conversation) - tell her you love her son, you want him to be happy, but you’re feeling hurt and confused because sometimes you get the idea she doesn’t like you, and you’d like to know if there’s anything you can do to change that. Tell her you understand if she worries about her son and his future, and promise her you have nothing but the best intentions for him.
Chances are, she’ll be so confused and embarrassed you’ll be getting along in no time.
Bonus advice: Talk to her yourself, don’t let your boyfriend do it! Otherwise, she could see it as you turning him against her and all your hard work will have been for nothing.
#2: He Always Wants Us to Hang Out With His Friends
Not exactly an in-law problem, but a quite common one nonetheless. If you’re feeling sad and think your boyfriend is neglecting you by wanting to spend more time as a group than with you alone, the one thing you shouldn’t do is keep it in, hope for the best, and let passive-aggressive comments and behavior ruin your relationship!
Some of those passive-aggressive sentences may be:
So, we’re going out with your friends again. Greeeaaat, just how I wanted to spend a romantic Friday night!
Sometimes I think you’d be better off in a relationship with John and Nick than with me - after all, you spend more time with them than with me alone, don’t you?
And some of the behaviors:
Dressing up to go out angrily, clearly avoiding the conversation and responding to “What’s wrong?” with “Nothing, everything’s fine”
Ignoring the conversation once you’re all out and having fun, hoping he notices you’re (deliberately, may I add) not having fun and hoping he decides to go home with you right away.
What you want to do is create an atmosphere in which it’s you and him against the problem. This way, it will be you against him, and that will only wound your relationship. Just think about it - if he decides to minimize the time spent as a group because you were acting all offended and sulking, what are the chances he won’t hate you (if only a bit) for making him do that?
A far better solution is - well, as it always is - to talk to him about it. You need to accept that just because you see something as a problem and he doesn’t, it’s not a sign he doesn’t care or that he prefers his friends over you. His perspective may be “I’m so proud of my girl, I want to parade her any chance I get!”, or something else completely.
But to be completely sure about it, you need to communicate. Tell him how you feel, that you miss being alone with him, and don’t forget to show empathy and understanding. Say that you understand his need to be with his friends, and that you’re okay with going out as a group from time to time, but that you feel neglected with how often it’s happening now.
Finally, offer a compromise: tell him how many times a week/month you’d like to go out as a group, and ask him what he thinks about it all. This way, it’s much more likely you’ll come to a mutual agreement, and not one where he’s frustrated and you’re feeling bad!
#3: We Visit His Parents Too Often.
This one is pretty similar to #2 so I won’t talk too much about it. The one difference is that this time, the compromise can consist of you agreeing when you’ll be joining him for visits, and when you won’t. If you can make a good enough excuse, it means he can visit his parents all he wants, and you can stay home and catch up on that TV show instead!
#4: I Don’t Like Some of His Friends - I think They’re a Bad Influence.
I don’t know a single woman that hasn’t experienced this in at least one of her relationships. The main problem is that, per usual, we tend to be all passive-aggressive about it, they take offense, think you hate their friend for no reason, and hold it against you every chance they get.
As with any other issue, approaching it from a place of rationality is crucial. Instead of believing something along the lines of “He must see how bad of an influence that person is, and if he doesn’t, he’s dumber than a box of rocks!”, try being a bit more gentle and understanding. After all, that friend is their friend for a reason, right? Whether they’re always there for them or they can throw a mean party, wanting them to cut ties just like that isn’t very empathetic.
Start by trying to think this way:
“I would really, really like him to see the bad influence this person has on them, but he doesn’t have to! He’s allowed to be fallible and not notice it, and it makes sense he wouldn’t - he’s too emotionally connected to the person. So I’ll do my best to help him see it, and if he still doesn’t, well, tough luck! Either I learn to live with it, or I find someone who’s (not dumber than a box of rocks) able to see things like these.”
When you’re starting a conversation with this in mind, you’ll come across as understanding and caring, which will definitely make him listen a lot more than passive-aggressive comments would. Show your concern, give explicit examples that prove your point, and give them some time to accept it, too. And if they won’t, well - you can either accept that, or if it’s too big a problem for you, move on.
Let me know if you have any other problems you’d like me to cover in my future articles! You can also contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or schedule a free online consultation with me so we can talk.