If it wasn’t for your boyfriend’s family, your relationship would be perfect! Well, really really good, anyway.
Here are a few ways to cope with your boyfriend’s family – whether they’re just annoying or truly toxic.
“My boyfriend’s mother controls everything he does, and he does exactly what she says,” says Olerato. “His sisters and brothers are also controlling him, and he just sits back and follows orders. This has put a huge strain on our relationship and he doesn’t listen to how I feel, no matter how many times I tell him. We are now spending our time together discussing how we will get through the family issues, rather than focusing on us and having quality time. I just want to get out of the relationship, but I love him so much. It hurts to think I might have to leave him because of his family.”
The first thing to remember is that your boyfriend’s family is loving him their way. Your boyfriend is trying to love you his way – and you’re trying to love him your way! Love is the bottom line, but it’s getting in the way of a healthy romantic relationship.
Learn how your childhood (and your boyfriend’s childhood and family) affects your relationships. How We Love: Discover Your Love Style is a fantastic book about families, intimacy, and love – it explains how early life experiences affect your current relationships. Knowing why you are the way you are – and why your boyfriend is the way he is – can help you reconnect…or let go.
When Your Boyfriend’s Family is Ruining Your Relationship
“Families aren’t easy to join. They’re like an exclusive country club where membership makes impossible demands and the dues for an outsider are exorbitant.” ~ Erma Bombeck, Family: The Ties that Bind … And Gag!
Accept that you can’t change your boyfriend’s family
If you’ve ever tried to break a habit or change something about yourself, you know how freakishly difficult it is. There are things about me that I desperately want to change – I want to lighten up, be more accepting of myself, be less critical of my husband, and say what I think more often instead of clamming up. I really really want to make these changes in my life, yet I keep reverting to my old ways.
How about you – what have you wanted to change about yourself? Do you make those changes? I bet it was hard.
It’s that hard for you to change yourself…and it’s a gazillion times harder for you to change your boyfriend’s family. They like things the way they are, thank you very much, and there’s no reason to change. His family may not be aware they’re ruining your boyfriend’s relationship with you – or maybe they just don’t care.
Accept that you can’t change your boyfriend
If your boyfriend hasn’t changed his behavior or perspective on his family yet, then he probably won’t in the future – no matter how much you argue, beg, threaten, or sweet talk. Men who are controlled by their families don’t cut the ties overnight – some don’t cut the ties ever. For whatever reason, he is under their thumb…and there’s not much you can do about that.
If you told your boyfriend that his family is ruining your relationship and he doesn’t seem to care, then you’re fighting an uphill battle. Maybe you’re in an unhealthy relationship? If you’re not sure, here are a few warning signs of bad relationships.
That said, however, here are a couple tips for stopping your boyfriend’s family from ruining your relationship…
Try “I statements”
Instead of focusing on how interfering, controlling, and downright nasty your boyfriend’s family is, try explaining how you feel to your boyfriend. I’ve learned that “I statements” come in pretty handy in any relationship – marriage, work, and even my neighbors!
“Because I-Statements require healthy self-disclosure, and self-disclosure requires vulnerability, they de-fuse rather than fuel arguments. It’s very difficult to carry on an argument when both people are using I-Statements; it’s very difficult to stop an argument when both people are using You-Statements. It’s also very difficult to blame others when we’re using I-Statements. They force us to take responsibility for what we’re thinking and feeling, which protects others from our blame, guilt and judgment.” From I-Statements, on the Human Potential Center’s website.
Examples of I-Statements in love relationships:
- I feel scared when it seems like your family is more important to you than I am.
- I love you, and want our relationship to be strong and healthy.
- I want to learn how to make our relationship better. Can we read books or go to workshops on relationship-building together?
Notice the lack of “you love your family more than me!” and “you’re wrong for putting your family first”? Lead with an honest statement that reflects how you really feel. Even if it doesn’t work, I can guarantee it’ll help you clarify your own feelings and thoughts about your relationship with your boyfriend. Be specific and clear about how you feel, without blaming your boyfriend or his family.
What about your family members – do they have anything to say about your boyfriend and his family? Read When to Take Your Family’s Advice About Your Relationship.
Love your boyfriend – and his family – for who they are
Some of my husband’s family members aren’t exactly my cup of tea…we’re very different, and we don’t really get each other. For that matter, some of my own family members aren’t my cup of tea! But none of our family members are trying to ruin our relationship.
To stop your boyfriend’s family from breaking you up, you need to get an objective perspective on what’s going on underneath all the drama. That’s why it’s so helpful to read books like How We Love: Discover Your Love Style. Then, you need to figure out if you can do anything to change the situation. If you can, then great! Start moving forward. If you can’t, then you need to decide if you want to love your boyfriend the way he right now – family and all – or if you need to break up with him before his family ruins your relationship.
For tips on dealing with family members, read Coping With Controlling Parents? 5 Ways to Take Your Life Back.
If you know in your heart it's time to move on, read How to Let Go of Someone You Love.
Is your boyfriend’s family trying to break you up – or ruin your relationship? Comments welcome below…