What should you do if you don’t like your son’s girlfriend?

Everyone has their own unique set of quirks, personalities, interests, hobbies and values, so it’s not possible for you to be friends with everyone you meet. Most adults can comfortably get on with people who are not their friends as some people will always remain just as colleagues or acquaintances. But what if the person you don’t get along with is your son’s girlfriend?

“That’s a tricky one, isn’t it? Ideally you should get along with your son’s girlfriend, who could potentially one day become your daughter-in-law, after all. However it’s not always the case, but it’s a good idea to maintain the relationship regardless of how you feel towards her.”

Elizabeth Jane is a respected wellness and relationship mentor and coach, celebrated artist and author of the Amazon best-seller book ‘Free and First – Unlocking Your Ultimate Life’.

Jane experienced a sudden and traumatic divorce after 25 years of marriage and during her difficult and life changing journey of rebuilding her life and finding her new path, she journalled the process translating her insights and learnings into a highly sought-after self help book. Jane now speaks all over the world and shares her insights and tools on how to survive and overcome difficult and challenging life experiences – and how to find joy and in the process rediscover yourself.

She is revered for her ability to help people work on their relationships, either to heal from harmful relationships, or to nurture broken relationships back to health. She explained that there are some steps parents can take to have a better relationship with their son’s girlfriend or daughter’s boyfriend.

1. Dig deep for the reason

Why do you dislike your son’s girlfriend? This is the first thing you need to figure out and do a bit of soul searching. Understanding your reason behind it will help you determine what the next step is to build a better connection with her.

Sometimes we just don’t click with certain people, and you might wonder incredulously what your son sees in her, but be aware of overstepping boundaries because even though he is your son, he’s now an adult and it’s a different relationship to when he was a child. The dynamic of a parent and adult-child relationship is very different, you need to let that umbilical cord out. Controlling your adult children’s choices can inhibit their resilience, development and growth if they are not able to experience life’s challenges for themselves and make their own life choices.

Also consider the possibility that what you don’t like in your son’s girlfriend is something that needs to be healed within you that is being reflected back at you. For example should you find her disrespectful then maybe look closely at how much respect you are giving yourself.

Be fair to his girlfriend and make sure you’ve had a proper conversation with her. Many people often find that having an authentic chat improves their perception of the other person.

2. “She’s not good enough for my son”

If one of the things that you have against your son’s girlfriend is that you think she’s not good enough, you must be on your guard because you could be compromising the boundaries between you and your son.

An enmeshed family dynamic is when family relationships lack boundaries and parents can inhibit their children from becoming emotionally independent. Enmeshment is a dysfunctional family dynamic that tends to span across generations because we tend to create the family dynamics that we grew up with because they’re familiar to us and we feel safe.

As much as families should be close, we also need boundaries in our families to create both physical and emotional space that’s reflective of respect for everyone’s feelings and needs.

3. State your concerns

Communication in relationships is important and you are certainly encouraged to speak to your son about your feelings towards his girlfriend. Before you have that conversation with him, gather your thoughts properly and find the right time and words to talk to him. Have that conversation with him calmly, and just once. More than once is unnecessary. Remember you are purely a guide and it should ultimately be your son’s decision as it is his life.

It’s not a good idea to issue an ultimatum making your son choose between his girlfriend and you. Ultimatums create unnecessary stress and potential divide within families forcing your son or daughter to make a choice. Remember you could stand to lose your child in the process. It’s much better to communicate openly and authentically and share your concerns—once. Part of maintaining your relationship with your son or daughter could be knowing when to drop the discussion. Agree to disagree.

4. Find a common interest with her

If you’ve had a proper conversation with your son’s partner surely you must have found at least one thing that you find interesting about her. Use that as your stepping stone towards bonding with her. Having something in common will likely improve your opinion of her, as well as your relationship with her.

5. When there’s a genuine cause for concern

Abuse can present in many forms, not just physical abuse or sexual abuse. We often think of abuse in relationships as males abusing females but the opposite can occur as well. It can take the form of emotional, verbal or even financial abuse, and it can be extremely subtle.

Witnessing someone with a controlling partner can be difficult for all concerned. Let your son know that you’re there for him. Don’t judge or criticise him. Toxic relationships are imbalanced. One person dominates and the other accommodates.   This is very common in situations where a person may be exhibiting coercive control in a very sinister yet subtle way which is often not noticeable to others.

Parents have an innate ability to see through coercive behaviour and the damage it inflicts before others recognise what is happening.  People that engage in coercive behaviour use this to their advantage to slowly isolate their partner, especially from their family.  Rather than look for ways to bring the family together, they often actively undermine their partner’s family relationships isolating their partner from them.

However, realise that we cannot make somebody see what they don’t want to see. You cannot force him to leave his relationship. However, you can be there to support him by listening to him and when he’s ready, help him to access help.

Being there for your son

Ideally you would get along with your son’s partner and you certainly don’t ever want to be known as the mother-in-law from hell! As adults, we can all take steps towards being polite and interested in each other, even if we are not destined to be best friends. Relationships can still prosper if everyone observes boundaries and remains committed to the person in common, which is your son.

Ultimately working on the relationship you have with yourself and empowering those  relationships you have with your children and their partners with open authentic conversations  can lead to growth for all concerned as boundaries are clearly communicated, with no one’s needs being sidelined.

About Elizabeth Jane

Elizabeth Jane is an Australian artist, author and public speaker. She uses a selection of painting media in her art, including acrylic oil and water colour. Digital and canvas versions of her art are available for purchase through her website.  Jane’s debut book, ‘Free and First—Unlocking Your Ultimate Life’, was written as part of her healing process following her divorce, which ended a 25-year marriage. Jane aims to develop wellness centres and healing sanctuaries focused on helping people to recover from relationship breakdowns and other life issues. https://elizabethjane.com.au