I’ve been dating my boyfriend for over a year. He’s amazing and I love him. Here’s the problem: I really don’t like his family. They’re all so annoying and kind of rude. He’s close with his brother and sister, but I hate hanging out with them and always try to make excuses not to. But I feel like he might catch on. Should I be honest with him and tell him I don’t like his family?
For all of those potential in-laws who unintentionally obstruct otherwise healthy romances, there are also relatives out there who commit outright sabotage. (Sean learned this on this season of The Bachelor, when Desiree’s brother scared him off during her hometown date. Not that I was watching…) Whether out of fear, prejudice, a lack of social skills, or some combination of all of the above, a family can create an unwelcoming environment that can potentially prevent a relationship from thriving.
If you’d been dating your boyfriend for less than a year, I’d have advised you to not yet broach the topic. But now that you two are pretty invested in one another and you might continue to spend a lot more time with him (and his family) in the future, your feelings need to be addressed.
But rather than complaining about his siblings with general gripes like “your brother is a fat meathead,” think carefully about what it is about them that makes you so uncomfortable. In what ways are they annoying? How are they rude? Try to pinpoint your gripes as specifically as possible, and open a conversation with a positive (“I enjoy ________ about your brother and sister) before diving into what upsets you (“but I have to admit it bothers me when they _______”). Emphasize that getting along with your boyfriend’s family is a priority for you because of how much you love him. Avoid accusatory phrases and tone in favor of a constructive dialogue instead.
Most people cherish their family more than anything in the world, no matter how awful they may seem as individuals. This makes us extremely sensitive when our loved ones are criticized. Just because we can bash our family members doesn’t mean that others can. (“He’s my brother — only I can call him a fat meathead!”) While communication is of utmost importance in any relationship, in this case you must approach it with extreme care. Telling him you simply “don’t like” his family will likely only force him to side with his blood relatives, and will make it much more difficult for him to mediate between both parties.
Ethan Fixell is a writer and comedian from New York City best known as one half of comic “dating coach” duo Dave and Ethan. He is also the creator and editor of ActualConversation.com. For more on Ethan, visit EthanFixell.com…or call his mom, Robin.