In the new movie, "Why Him," Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) witnesses her billionaire boyfriend Laird (James Franco) fail miserably as he tries to win over her parents to ask for her hand in marriage. On screen, it’s a nonstop run of awkward hilarity. But what happens in real life, when you’re the one on the receiving end of disapproving parental units?
That was the case for Sarah, 31, an occupational therapist from Medford, Mass. She had been dating her boyfriend Benjamin for six months when he invited her to dinner at his parents’ home. “I didn’t think there would be any issue since I’ve met my ex-boyfriends’ parents in the past,” she shares. But it was pretty evident, just a few minutes into the meal, that Ben’s parents just weren’t into her.
“They were asking me a lot of questions, and every time I answered, they kind of turned around what I was saying, and it made me look less than worthy,” she explains. And it got worse.
“They started talking about this family event they had coming up. And the way his mother was talking about it, it was pretty clear I wasn’t going to be extended an invitation.”
“There can be many reasons why your new boyfriend’s parents don’t seem to like you, real or otherwise,” says Fran Greene, dating expert and author of Fran Greene, author of The Flirting Bible. “It could be that they are still hung up on the last girl he brought home who seemed like the perfect match for him, which she obviously wasn’t, if you are now in the picture.”
Fran notes that “for some parents, the ones that are more insecure or maybe more controlling, they just don’t want anything to change. Instead of being happy for the addition, they are saddened by what they perceive they are losing.”
And sometimes, it’s because they feel you’ve done an indiscretion to their family unit. “Could be just one incident, but they see everything from that point forward.”
So what can you do?
“Don’t be afraid to own up to it, if it’s truly a mistake,” Fran advises. You can ask you boyfriend for clarification on what upset his parents and work from there.”
Sarah found out that her boyfriend had canceled on another family event, one she knew nothing about. His parents feared she would be the cause of him not attending more family events.
In this case, Fran suggests reaching out to the family and letting them know that you are only interested in becoming a part of their unit, not breaking it up. You can also make it clear, in writing, that you realize just how incredible their son is.
“Why not send them a card this holiday season that says if it wasn’t for them, their son wouldn’t be the man he is today, and for that you are eternally grateful.”
If all else fails, remember, you are having a relationship with your boyfriend, not his parents. “I mean, some parents are just miserable people,” Fran says with a laugh. “Do your best to have a cordial relationship, be friendly and polite, and don’t let it get to you. You don’t want the situation to escalate and drive a wedge between you and your incredible boyfriend.”
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