You don't have to be a contestant on a reality TV show to feel pressure to win over your partner's family, although it certainly adds an extra level of stress. If your partner’s parents don’t like you, you might even be tempted to run for the hills — or rather, walk off the set.
When Maddison Prewett reunited with Peter Weber's (aka Pilot Pete) family in Part 1 of the Bachelor finale, his mother Barb wasted no time grilling Prewett about the fantasy suites, stressing what she saw as their incompatible lifestyles. "Peter socializes, he parties," she said. "I don’t want anyone to change him."
If you're made it to the final rose ceremony (or you've deleted your Hinge account), gaining your partner's family's approval might feel like the next step in your relationship. While instantly bonding with your boo's mom may be ideal, Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist and author of Joy from Fear, shares that you don't need your partner's parents' acceptance to make your relationship work.
"If you and your partner are bonded in a safe and healthy way, parents won’t be able to come between you no matter what happens," Dr. Manly tells Bustle. "The more connected partners are, the more likely that non-accepting parents will eventually become more receptive."
While you may want to win their parents over, like, tomorrow, Dr. Manly notes you may have to give your boo's relatives time. "Although this warm-up period can be uncomfortable, having your partner by your side to support you can make all the difference," she says.
When you've found someone you're totally in love with, waiting for their family to warm up to you may feel harder than counting the days until The Bachelorette returns. And if your partner's mom keeps making rude comments about your outfit or their step-dad always forgets your name, you may begin to grow weary of whether putting in the time is worth it. Dr. Manly suggests turning your attention to all the positive parts of your relationship. "The more you focus on the upsides, the minimal time with intolerant or unaccepting parents will seem minor and 'doable' compared to the positive nature of the overall relationship," she says.
Rather than brainstorming ways to finally make your partner's dad laugh or analyzing all of their mom's condescending comments, focus on how in love you are, how hot your boo is, and that romantic date night you're planning next week. While family bonding can be an extra shot of espresso, your relationship is already a giant oat milk latte with the perfect amount of raw sugar.
However, if your partner's parents' comments cross the line (Barb...) or your partner seems completely oblivious to the friction, it's always OK to stand up for yourself. "If a partner’s parents are rude to you and your partner does not notice, take a time-out with your partner (either during the event or afterward) to talk," Dr. Manly says. "Let your partner know how you feel and what you’d like the partner to do to support you."
Whether your SO's father completely cut you out of the dinner conversation or their step-mom won't stop making comments about your dietary restrictions, Dr. Manly says that being as specific as possible about how you feel and what you need can help you partner better support you. Maybe you want them to bring you into the back-and-forth or back you up when their parents say something insensitive or offensive. Whatever the case, being clear about your feelings is key.