Your adult child is dating the person of their dreams. You don’t have to like ’em, but for the love of your kid, here’s how to cope.
Let’s face it, you did your best raising your kids. You tried to make sure they could follow their dreams, successfully join the workforce, be free to speak and make up their own mind and make responsible grown-up choices.
And when they bring home a person you can’t stand, it’s hard to swallow.
So what do you do? You can’t choose for them, but you can try to understand your own feelings about this person, which may help you cope.
And if that fails, there may be at least some positives you can focus on with the person instead.
One of the first things you can do if you don’t like your child’s choice in a mate is to figure out exactly what you don’t like about them. Understanding your holdups may help you determine what the best next steps are or if you should just let it be.
As much as you may want to, you’ll likely find it beneficial to your relationship with your kid and their significant other to avoid confronting them about their choice.
A confrontation, particularly one that ends in an argument or negative takeaways, can end badly for you and amplify your child’s attachment to their newfound partner.
If they’re just irksome
You’re not going to like everyone. Some people don’t click well together, and it could make you wonder what anyone sees in them.
In these cases, it’s probably best to let it be. Your child may also feel you’re overstepping the boundaries of a parent-adult child relationship.
One thing you can ask yourself is how well do you really know this person? Have you ever had a sincere conversation with them? A 2018 study indicates that after having a conversation with another, people are often more liked than they perceive.
In other words, maybe talking with your adult child’s partner more may improve your perception of them.
Need some conversation pointers?
- How to Have Productive, Insightful Conversations: The Vertical Questioning Technique
- 45 Conversation Starters to Bolster Your Bond with Your Friends and Family
- And if things really aren’t taking off, you might try:
4 Steps to Help You Appear Interested Even If You’re Not
If they’re controlling
Your open and engaging child might suddenly say they need to check with so-and-so before agreeing to go to lunch with you.
Or their interest may have changed to “whatever so-and-so wants to do.” You may see it plainly, your kid’s love interest is controlling them. Just because you can see it doesn’t mean your child will. Confronting them will not likely end well.
Watching your kid with a controlling significant other can be challenging. Often, controlling people fear losing power and a need to influence the world around them. This need can extend to their relationships.
It could also be a warning sign of potential future abuse.
You may find it helpful to establish open communication with your child about your concerns. If they feel comfortable talking with you, then they may seek advice if they need it later.
If you suspect they’re abusive
Abuse can take many forms, including physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, and financial. Sometimes it can be very subtle. Your child’s partner may be overly jealous, disrespectful, or belittling to your child.
You may find it helpful to provide emotional support for your child. Emotional support in these situations can include:
- remembering you can’t rescue someone who doesn’t want to be rescued
- avoiding judging, criticizing, or shaming your kid
- continuing to be supportive of their needs
- avoiding speaking negatively of their partner
For tips on domestic abuse, you can visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
You can also contact thehotline.org for help.
Nobody’s good enough for my kid!
If you feel this way about your children, you may need to take a step back. You may be in an enmeshed family dynamic where your and your child’s boundaries are blurred.
When this dynamic is in play, you may find yourself:
- feeling in charge of their well-being
- spending too much time involved in their decisions
- feeling the need to know everything about their day-to-day
When it comes to managing your relationship with your grown child, there are some things you might find helpful to keep in mind. This may be particularly true when you are forced to interact with their partner. Here are some tips for doing just that.
Find something interesting in your adult kids’ love interest — focus on that
If you look hard enough, most people have at least some redeeming qualities about them. If you haven’t gotten to know them well, you might take that time to improve your opinion of them.
You may find a common interest to bond over or at least something that you can learn more about.
In a 2016 study, researchers used social media accounts to determine how shared interests and common life points affected participants’ relationships.
They found that having shared interests, among other factors, can help predict the likelihood of a good relationship.
It’s possible, then, if your adult child’s partner is not your preferred person, a common interest may help bridge a gap.
Ultimatums are demands that cause unneeded stress in your relationship with your child. It gives them a nonnegotiable choice of “it’s me or them.”
If you force them to choose, there is always a chance they’ll choose their partner over you no matter how tight your bond is with them. Instead, you might try to openly communicate your concerns.
State your concerns calmly and assertively — once
Ultimatums are a bad idea because they disguise pressure and entrapment as assertiveness.
You may find that stating your concerns to your child calmly and assertively might help. But the key is to do it only once.
After that, you could come across as nagging or place them in a position where they feel they need to choose between you and their partner.
Know when to drop the discussion
Even though you raised them from babies through adulthood, the fact is, they’re now adults. You need to treat them as such, especially if you want to maintain a good relationship with them.
Part of navigating the relationship with your adult children is learning when to drop a discussion. This applies to their personal relationships and other topics that may upset them or you.
If you two can’t see eye to eye, it’s probably a wise idea to move on from the discussion before it becomes an issue.
If there are grandkids in the picture, focus on them
Grandchildren can be a blessing in more than one way. When you really don’t like their mother or father, you can focus all your attention on them.
This does not mean ignore or be rude to your child’s partner. Rather, when you visit, focus your attention on spending time with your grandchildren. They will likely enjoy the attention, and they may make being around your own child’s mate more tolerable.
If you don’t like your adult child’s partner, it’s a good idea to figure out why. If you find them bothersome and chafing, it might be best to ignore your feelings and focus on the fact that they make your kid happy.
You can try to find a common interest with them or focus on any grandchildren you may have instead.
If they’re in a controlling or abusive relationship, you may find it helpful to show your child you’re emotionally there for them.
You can express your concerns, but you may find it best to drop the conversation if they are unresponsive. By respecting their current state, they may trust you enough to lean on if they need help leaving their relationship in the future.