What if You Don’t Like Your Child’s Boyfriend or Girlfriend?
What if you don’t like your son’s girlfriend? Or you detest your daughter’s fiancé?
This situation is so common that I’m frequently consulted by parents who feel stuck in very sticky and awkward situations.
For example, Jerry, the father of 18-year-old Brendon, never liked Brendon’s girlfriend. “She always seemed cheap, manipulating, and controlling,” Jerry said. “I tried to tell Brendon, she wasn’t good enough for him, but that just made him angry and resentful toward me.”
For Paula, the mother of 17-year-old Stephanie, the consequences of her disapproval of her daughter’s boyfriend led to Stephanie moving out of their home to live with her boyfriend and his family.
“Stephanie’s been dating her boyfriend for about three years,” Paula said. “However, her boyfriend has done things in the past that we couldn’t tolerate. We have not tried to keep her from seeing him, but we do not spend time with him. We have tried in the past but it just didn’t work out. He treated us with disrespect and several times was rude to us.”
Paula said that she and her husband told Stephanie that they didn’t like her boyfriend, but they would not interfere with her relationship. “I feel that we have always had a loving family with few problems,” said Paula, “but now Stephanie has run away to be with her boyfriend. How do we rebuild our relationship with our daughter if or when she comes back?”
Perhaps Paula’s big mistake was telling her daughter they did not like her boyfriend. Very few adolescents are able to accept that kind of criticism about the person with whom they are romantically involved without being defensive or angry. This sets up the kind of conflict and tension in a family which can lead to what Stephanie ended up doing – moving in with her boyfriend and his family.
Therefore, there must be an attempt to rebuild your relationship with your child. But like many situations with adolescent children, you must choose your battle. Should you choose the battle over who they date, fall in love with, or marry? Or, are there other battles that are less risky and easier to win?
In effect, by choosing her relationship with her boyfriend as the battle, Stephanie’s parents have taken a big risk — and lost. Not only have they lost – at least temporarily – a relationship with their daughter, but they have made it difficult for her to break up with him and come home. If she decides to end the relationship, then this is an admission that her parents were right. Stephanie would likely find it very difficult to admit her parents were right and she was wrong. Some adolescents are more willing to stay in a bad relationship rather than admit they were wrong.
If you find yourself in the same situation as Paula, you have to avoid further battling over your daughter’s boyfriend or your son’s girlfriend and let your child know that you love them and that you will always love and support them no matter who they love or choose to marry. You can also your child know that you will try to accept their intimate friends as long as they love them. And you can let them know that you are open to any suggestions about how you and your child can maintain a friendly relationship despite their boyfriend or girlfriend.
The hardest thing for parents is to accept that our children have to make their own decisions and their own mistakes. Most of us had to make our own choices and errors; it’s part of growing into an adult to accept your mistakes and get over them. As tough as it sometimes is, we have to be respectful and encouraging of our children’s choices in dating and in marriage.
We may think we have great advice to pass on to our kids about their love life and romantic relationships, but trying to tell our kids who they should go out with or who they should marry will almost never be appreciated.