He Loves Her – We Loathe Her
What happens when your son or daughter announces their engagement and you’re not happy with their selection? Perhaps you don’t think their prospective partner can look after them in the style they’ve become accustomed. You may not like their personality, their background or their job. Whatever the reason, you’re likely to spend many years with this person so it’s something you need to tackle.
We asked Relationship Counsellor and Psychotherapist Dora Oliver for advice on this tricky situation.
“In many cases parents have an ideal partner they imagine for their children so when an engagement is announced with someone who is far less than the ideal, it can be difficult to accept,” said Dora.
“The most important thing is to look at your child and see if he or she is happy. If they are happy then it’s time to take some steps to build a relationship with your future son or daughter in-law. Remember – this person is likely to be the parent of your future grandchildren so it’s important you do your best from the start,” she says.
Dora has five suggestions for building a relationship with your future in-law.
1. Find common ground for conversation. There’s normally at least one thing you can find in common such as food, movies, going out, culture or sport.
2. Avoid talking about topics that are obviously points of conflict such as politics and other contentious issues where you may have different and fixed opinions.
3. Be proactive in organising outings and show that you’re interested in forming bonds with this person.
4. Never talk about the other person behind his/her back – especially directly to your son or daughter. If you have an issue – communicate directly.
5. If you get invited out by the couple, always try to accept – even if it’s not somewhere you find ideal.
If you are still finding this person is “pressing your buttons”, then it might be time for some self-reflection.
“Sometimes we choose a partner because they remind us of either our mother or father. It may be that your child has chosen someone that reminds you of yourself and this ‘looking in the mirror’ can trigger quite strong emotions. So it might be time for you to seek some counselling to sort through these issues,” said Dora.
Another feeling that parents may experience is jealousy – attention being taken away from them and being placed upon the new partner. It is also possible that parents may feel envious of their children’s lifestyle and their relationships, especially if they feel that they have missed out on these positive events in their own lives.
This is when individual or couple counselling can be useful and positive in order to help your relationships with your children and with their partners move forward.
The moral of the story is, “if your child is happy with their partner then it’s up to you to learn to be happy with them too.”
Dora Oliver can be contacted on 0418 824 794 to seek further personal help and advice on this or other life’s issues.
She works out of a Private Practice in Malvern, VIC.
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