Ask Wendy

My Boyfriend Doesn’t Like My Family

Tuesday, August 15, 2017
boyfriend meets mother of girlfriend at door
Hey Wendy,

My boyfriend never wants to attend my family functions. I was raised in a huge family, and spending time with them is important to me.

In the last six months, my family has had multiple gatherings for the holidays and for my sister’s wedding. When I ask if he wants to come, he says “sure,” but then always has an excuse not to come a day or two ahead of time. He’s met them and things seem fine otherwise.

I don't expect him to go to every family function, but I hope I don’t have to go to all of them alone. Any advice on how to handle this situation?

If hanging out with your boyfriend and your family together is important to you (as it is for most of us), you want to tackle this head-on. Pick a time when you’re both hanging out and it doesn’t seem like much is happening and say, “Hey, there’s something that’s important to me that you don’t know about. Is now a good time for me to tell you about it?”

Wait… Get his buy-in for a meaty conversation. If your boyfriend says, “Sure!” say something like, “Spending time with my family and with you at the same time is important to me. When we’re all together, I feel loved and with everyone who matters most to me, I need that. I don’t mean every week or every time I see them; I do mean once every other month or so, and for the important events. Are you willing to do this with me?”

Next – zip it. Listen to what he says. If he starts out defensive, interrupt him to assure him that he’s not in trouble. He didn’t do anything wrong. And you’re talking about what your life will look like with him going forward. Then, answer any concerns he has.

When/if he agrees, awesome! Thank and love him up for that. Then ask, “Is there anything you need from me to help with this?” Don’t be surprised if his answer is, “Yeah, will you tell me what’s important and what I can skip?”

If he disagrees, well… now you know.

Now, there’s a million reasons why he might not want to go. Maybe he’s nervous about blowing it with you in front of your family. Perhaps Aunt Martha’s wandering eye freaks him out. Maybe he just doesn’t like your brother’s politics and biting his tongue is too painful. Or maybe this is a red flag – not wanting to be with your family may be the start of trying to separate you from them and those you love. That’s what an abuser will do, and that can be a slow creeper. I’m not saying your guy is a bad guy, but if you’re newly dating, this is an eyes-wide-open moment. The “why” will be most telling here.

Going with you is a gift. And it might be a gift he’s not willing to give. You need to be ready for that. Part of dating is sorting out “is this the right person for me.” If family time is important to you, and he’s unwilling to accommodate your request, you’ll need to check with yourself and see if you’re able to go without that integrated family connection for him, without holding it against him.

Good luck!

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