A Piece of Advice
Can I change my parents’ minds about my relationship?
I’m so sorry that your parents disapprove of your relationship. As I’m unaware of the exact nature of your circumstance, I’ve made two assumptions: 1) You’re in an unconventional relationship, and 2) your parents object precisely because it’s an untraditional relationship and not due to a different sort of concern, such as a partner who doesn’t treat you well. If those assumptions are correct, your parents’ difficulty in accepting your partner and your relationship must feel upsetting. It makes a lot of sense that you’d want to find a way to change their minds as research suggests that responses from friends and family members mean the most and can have the strongest influence.
In this context, I’d like to help you distinguish between what you can and can’t control and find a way forward based on what you can do. None of us has the ability to change anyone’s way of thinking – you can’t make your parents adopt a more affirming perspective or act in a more welcoming way; they have to be ready and open to hearing you and altering their behaviour on their own.
Having said that, let’s consider what you can control and what some of your options are:
- Are your parents open to engaging in a calm, respectful conversation about their feelings toward your relationship? Ask them about this. Your parents might not be willing, but it’s an encouraging sign if they are. In that discussion, listen to them and raise questions to understand their concerns. Some experts suggest that even when loved ones’ share particular worries, these could still be prejudice in disguise, so take this into account when you’re talking with them.
- See whether your parents would be willing to get to know your partner. If they are, seek out opportunities for all of you to hang out. Research indicates that when people from different groups (e.g., different sexual orientations, racial groups, or religious faiths) have pleasant experiences together, their views of the other’s group becomes more favourable. Also, if it’s possible, try to arrange for your parents to spend time with your partner more often, as frequent interactions with someone from a different group is also linked to a better outlook toward that person’s group.
- Talk with your parents about your relationship and the strength of your bond with your partner. Studies suggest that when people know someone from a group they identify with (e.g., the same race) has a connected relationship with someone from another group (e.g., a different race), their outlook toward that person’s group is enhanced.
- Remember that disapproval now may not mean disapproval forever. According to research on non-traditional relationships, although family members may initially struggle to accept the relationship, they sometimes have a change of heart over time.
I hope your parents will become more accepting of your relationship, but regardless, remember that their struggle to affirm your relationship is not your fault. In the meantime, you may decide to find friends who validate and support your relationship. Research suggests this is a common coping strategy for couples who don’t have encouragement from their family members. And remember, you and your partner are not on your own; many untraditional couples face parental disapproval of their relationship. But thanks to couples like you, eventually we’ll have a society where untraditional relationships are no longer untraditional.
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