My Parents Don’t Like My Boyfriend

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I am a recently divorced single mother who has moved in with my parents so I can go back to graduate school. I have recently started dating a man who I have fallen in love with. We have begun seriously discussing a future together, although I remain cautiously optimistic in part because I am really surprised I found someone I like so quickly.
My parents did not express their concerns over my ex-husband until after I began divorce proceedings. I asked them if they would please share their opinions in the future. They have now approached me saying that my new BF is “setting off alarm bells”. My dad feels he is way too controlling. I don’t agree with this statement entirely; my BF is a very dominant personality, as are my father and I. Being exhausted by my co-dependent ex and always being the dominant one I find the better balance with my new BF very refreshing. I wonder if this is a clash between my dominant father and the new BF? The only person in my life I have ever actually felt controlled by is my father.

My mother’s concerns appear to be more valid. She thinks that the BF is taking too active of a “parenting” role in my 4-year-old son’s life too soon. She also feels that he is competing with my son for my attention. She also felt unhappy about an incident where she felt my BF accused my son of lying: my son came into the room and said he couldn’t find his cars, she asked if he had looked on the table, he said yes and they weren’t there, my BF said “I bet they are on that table”.

I would like to know how seriously I should take my parent’s opinions given that it was solicited advice? Also does the fact that my son and I live with my parents and I do have some financial dependence on them factor in? My dad has suggested we slow down and has even begun to suggest sources for new boyfriends. My mom suggests slowing down as well, but just keeping my eyes open. I don’t have any desire to break-up, but should I slow down in regards to my BF and my son? If so, how should I approach it with my BF? Finally what is the best way to begin getting my parents to see the other great aspects of my BF now that my dad has made it clear that he doesn’t have much desire to interact with him?

A: Be careful what you ask for.

You invited your parents to be your eyes and ears to make sure you were not going to choose another unhealthy boyfriend. I hear alarm bells too. There is a saying in Buddhism, “when you pick up one end of a stick you pick up the other.” The fact that your ex-husband is codependent and that you have a more dominant boyfriend now is actually very predictable. The chances are you chose your first boyfriend because he was so unlike your father, so now the new BF seems like such a refreshing difference. I have written about how these choices are made in my Proof Positive column and you can learn more about this process here and here. Making a completely opposite choice usually leaves us in the same position.

It sounds to me like you need to individuate right now. You are in a very dependent situation, have asked your parents to give you feedback about your intimate choices, are reliant on them financially, and your boyfriend has used what is known as an active-destructive comment with your son. “I bet they are on that table,” after what your son said, would be almost the perfect description of a purposefully hurtful comment. Out of the many other more positive comments or interactions that are possible (e.g., “let me help you find them”), he picked the one designed to be punitive. To learn more about this, click here.

I would strongly recommend individual therapy. Your university should have low- or no-cost options available and the counselors are typically very well trained in working with graduate students in situations similar to yours.

You are obviously an ambitious, thoughtful person. You are sacrificing many other options to make the commitment to graduate school and furthering your career. Put that first. Investing in yourself, individuating, and gaining greater independence for yourself and your son need to get the lion’s share of your time and energy. I am joining the chorus of those near you saying go slow with the relationship.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 18 Oct 2011

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2011). My Parents Don’t Like My Boyfriend. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/10/18/my-parents-dont-like-my-boyfriend-2/