Don’t Like Your Son’s/Daughter’s Boyfriend/Girlfriend? Read This.

That magical time has arrived: your beloved son or daughter has a boyfriend or girlfriend.

They’re glowing with love, they’re giddy, and they want to spend as much time with the object of their affection as possible.

…and you hate this person.

Maybe you aren’t sure why, or perhaps you know exactly why you can’t stand them.

Either way, it makes for a rather uncomfortable situation for everyone involved. 

So, what can you do if you don’t like your child’s choice of partner?

Let’s dig a bit deeper to see what your options are.

Well, Why Not?

First and foremost, it’s important to figure out what it is that you don’t like about them, and why.

Grab that journal of yours and write down everything it is you don’t like about this person.

Be honest, even if it’s difficult: you may discover a lot of uncomfortable – and even ugly – personal issues and biases about this person that have nothing to do with the relationship they have with your kid.

Do you feel that they aren’t somehow “good enough” for your child?

If so, why not?

Does this person seem to have a negative influence on your child’s life?

For example, are your kid’s grades slipping because they’re spending what you feel is “too much” time with their partner?

Are there traits in this person that just happen to annoy you?

Do you find that there are cultural/class differences that are difficult to navigate?

What about their style of dress, or music preferences?

These are just a few of the questions you can ask yourself as you do sincere soul searching on this topic.

There are many others, of course, but hopefully this can get the ball rolling so you can get to the heart of the issue.

Have You Taken Time To Get To Know This Person?

People often make snap judgements about others before really taking the time to get to know them.

This is particularly true when it comes to being protective over others.

We’re more protective over our children than pretty much anyone else on the planet, so it’s understandable why our hackles go up if we feel that anything could, possibly, maybe be a negative or harmful influence on them.

For some people, knowing that their child is being physically intimate with someone makes them very uncomfortable.

Even though said son/daughter may be in their late teens/early twenties/onward, they’ll always be that person’s “baby” on some level.

Seeing them being affectionate with their partner might trigger an instant, fierce protective response… even though they’re in no need of being protected.

In other cases, a parent might have a very strong idea of the kind of partner they’d want their child to have.

If their daughter/son’s chosen lover doesn’t embody those traits, they might feel that this person somehow isn’t “good enough.”

Or that their kid is being difficult or defiant just to spite them and their idealized wants.

When this happens, it’s important to ask yourself whether you actually know the person your kid is dating.

Don’t Judge A Person By Their Appearance

Sure, you might have had the occasional dinner together, and you may have chatted briefly at larger family get-togethers, but have you really taken the time to know them?

Small talk doesn’t really give us solid insights into someone else’s personality, never mind a million different other aspects of who they are.

If this person is of a different cultural background, and you’re very well-educated, you might find yourself irked by their lack of fluency with the English language.

Their vocabulary might not be extensive, and there may be cultural differences that you find uncomfortable.

Take the time to get to know them, and you may discover that sure, they have difficulty speaking English, but that’s because this is their fifth or sixth language.

They may be incredibly well-read, well-travelled, and insightful on countless topics, all of which you would have never known about because of your snap judgements.

Is this person of a different financial class than you?

Okay, so you may daydream about your offspring marrying a doctor or lawyer and now you’re frustrated by the fact that they’ve “settled” with a carpenter.

You might dislike this person solely because you feel that they’re not going to offer your child the type of life that you imagined.

This is when you have to take a moment and realize just how often the word “you” is used there.

And then wake up to the fact that this relationship has absolutely nothing to do with you.

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Respect Your Son/Daughter’s Choice, Because It’s Theirs

One of the most difficult lessons a parent will ever learn is that their kid doesn’t belong to them.

Remember this poem by Kahlil Gibran:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

^ That.

You can’t expect your children to do as you would do, want as you want, live as you live.

They are individuals with their own paths, their own fears, joys, and aspirations, and those need to be respected and supported.

And that extends to their dating preferences as well.

Don’t Try To Forbid The Relationship

One of the worst things a parent can do is try to forbid their son/daughter from dating a person they don’t like.

Remember that your kid loves this person for a reason (even if you don’t believe it’s true love), and anything negative you say about their beloved is going to provoke a serious knee-jerk response toward you.

If you have valid concerns about their partner, talk to them about your worries.

Make it a calm conversation rather than when your emotions are elevated, or even write down your concerns in a letter that they can read several times over when the time is right for them.

Also remember to treat your child with respect, and approach the topic out of concern for them, rather than just expressing your dislike.

A good way of going about this is to ask them questions about the relationship, rather than being accusatory.

For example, instead of saying, “this person doesn’t treat you well,” ask: “do you feel that they treat you as well as you deserve?”

Similarly, rather than, “I don’t like the fact that your partner drinks so much,” try an approach like: “I’ve noticed that ___’s behavior changes a lot when they drink. Does this make you uncomfortable?”

This way, rather than imposing your own views and emotions, you’re giving them the space to reflect on aspects of their relationship.

In all honesty, sometimes they might already be aware of these things subconsciously, and by raising these issues and concerns, you might make your child peer at them a little closer, even if they resent you for it in the moment.

Expect resistance, even anger, but know that your words will reach them on some level.

Ultimately, You Need To Back Off

After you’ve said what you’ve needed to say to your cherished offspring, it’s time for you to back away and let them handle it.

Continually criticizing your child’s partner will only irritate your kid, and alienate them from you.

Remember that they’ve chosen this person for a myriad reasons, and incessant negativity from you will only strengthen their resolve.

The good news is that if this is an adolescent/early twenties relationship, chances are that it won’t last that long.

Infatuation passes quickly, and most young people try out several different relationships as they learn to figure out who they are, and what they’re looking for.

We all learn a great deal from mistakes. Even though it might be difficult to watch them take missteps, and even painful to see them deal with hurt and heartbreak, it’s important to allow them the space to mess up and grow from all of this.

Abuse is Never Acceptable

Just as a final note, if your son or daughter is being abused by their partner, then that’s a different story.

Abuse is never acceptable, whether it’s physical or verbal.

Your son or daughter may not be comfortable talking to you about what’s going on, but they’ll likely be willing to talk to friends or a counselor. 

If you witness physical violence taking place, especially if it’s in your own home, you have every right to call the police and have them intervene. 

It’ll be uncomfortable for everyone, but may alleviate a lot of damage in the long run.

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About Author

Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais region. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.