How to Deal With Not Liking A Child’s Significant Other
When your child was young, you thought about diapers and feedings. Then it shifted to training wheels and the first day of school. Before long, your mind was occupied by their driving skills and drama with friends. You kept looking forward to the day that you could worry less and enjoy more. But how about when your child turns into a young adult and starts dating? Do you know how to deal with not liking your child's significant other?
Unfortunately when children are involved, no matter what their age, there are things that will add stress and worry into your life.
Lately, the stress is surrounding your child’s partner. Whether they are dating, married ,or some level in-between, there is something about it you don’t like. In fact, the more you go over the relationship, there are many things you notice that you don’t like. The list is long, and you have discussed and repeated it to everyone that cared to hear.
Obviously, this situation is ripe for a range of potentially negative outcomes. From avoidance to alienation, any relationship is fluid.
You want to ensure the stability and success you have maintained with your child. The path may seem bleak, but there is a way to deal with not liking your child’s significant other.
Set Your Goal
What do you want to accomplish here? Are you looking to find acceptance? If so, how will you do this? Are you looking to break up the relationship? If so, why? Without a goal, your efforts will be inconsistent and accomplish nothing. This leaves you as a likely target of their frustrations rather than the significant other. At this point, any goal is better than no goal at all.
Understand It's Their Life, Not Yours
You are not going to like everyone that your child likes. The good news is that you don't have to. Their life and their choices are their own ultimately, and having a solid grasp on this idea will serve you well throughout your child’s adult life. Decisions will be made that you do not agree with. If you taught them well, you know that they will do well in the end. The end will justify the means.
Some significant others will rub you the wrong way. They will be quiet and aloof, or suspicious and inconsistent. They will speak in a manner that you do not care for, or they will not speak at all. Remember that you will perceive these individual differences in one way while your child likely will see things differently.
Because of the difference in perceptions, consider these relationship deal breakers that are based on fact rather than opinion:
- Physically abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Consistent pattern of lying
Unless these deal breakers or others like them exist, you may not have a case when it comes to ending the relationship. If one or several deal breakers are present, your undesirable view of the partner is justified.
Where Are These Feelings Coming From?
Whenever you find yourself having a strong emotional reaction to your child’s significant other, you need to ask yourself where these feelings are coming from. This is your child, after all. You are used to having strong emotional reactions.
Are you upset that they are spending more time with their partner than you? Does it make you sad to think that they might leave you completely? Do you think the partner is not good enough for your child? Do you see your child repeating mistakes from your past?
Rather than saying, “I just have a bad feeling about them,” look further. If no deal breakers are present, you may be bothered by other aspects beyond the relationship itself.
If this is the case, you must gain awareness of your triggers to build comfort in the relationship. With awareness of the triggers, you can begin modifying your reactions to be more fair and without bias.
Open the Lines of Communication
Hopefully, the lines of communication between you and your child have been open for some time. If they are, use your ears more than your mouth early on. Having access to your child’s thoughts, feelings, and motivations will give you a better understanding of the situation. From here, you can use their opinions to offset your own view.
If the lines of communication are not always open, you must approach the situation in your best assertive way. Being assertive means that you value and respect the other party in the conversation as much as you do yourself. Saying, “I wanted to talk to you about concerns I have with your significant other. I would appreciate it if we could have an open conversation about it,” will go a long way to accomplish your goal.
The conversation might illustrate that they don’t view the relationship as something serious or long-term. This means that they will explore the relationship, and then move on to the next, which allows you to reduce your frustrations. Maybe the conversation will yield more positive aspects about the relationship that you were not previously aware of.
Sometimes parents feel that they are better suited than anyone else to determine what is best for their child. Sometimes parents feel like their child is not capable of making good choices because of their age, their past, or other factors. Trusting in your child will improve your ability to handle the relationship if deal breakers are not present.
At the same time, using assertive communication with their significant other may help change your perception of them. Just remember you cannot use “assertive communication” as an excuse to be rude or demeaning.
Parents employ ultimatums to their children throughout their lives. “Clean your room or else.” “Get good grades or else.” They don’t stop into adulthood.
Using an ultimatum with your child regarding their relationship can be a risky choice.
Consider an ultimatum as a tool of last resort. If you feel that your child is at a great jeopardy of physical, emotional, or legal issues by staying with their current relationship, attempt an ultimatum to the best of your ability.
If they are not at risk and no deal breakers have happened, forget about ultimatums. They will only drive a wedge into your relationship, driving you farther away from your child.
If an ultimatum is not a viable course of action for you, acceptance will be your best bet. Acceptance is the state of not trying to change the situation for you or your child. Acceptance is finding peace in your inability to control them.
If acceptance is proving to be a challenge, try these tips:
- Focus on the positive characteristics of the significant other.
- Think about times your child made decisions that you didn’t agree with that worked out well.
- Listen and accept your child’s point-of-view of their significant other. They may see the good.
- Realize that nothing is permanent. Just because they are together now does not mean it will always be the case.
In the end, balancing the faith in yourself and the trust in your child is a necessity. No matter your course of action, practice patience. Many times, negative relationships work themselves out with little influence from you.