Dear Wayne and Wanda,
My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost two years and he doesn't like hanging out with my family. Whenever they are in the same room he will just stand there and not talk to them. He also makes excuses why he can't come with me to hang out with them.
Ever since I moved out on my own, I’ve grown closer to my family and I want him to also. I’m always hanging out with his family and he is a big family man so I don’t understand the issue here.
My whole family keeps telling me that they like my ex better because he would hang out with them and talk to them and be with them even when I'm not around. I don't know what to do.
For some of us, meeting our significant other’s family isn’t intimidating or scary at all. It’s exciting! It’s fun! We see ourselves as that person who so easily clicks with moms, dads, and siblings alike. But timeout: a lot of people don’t feel that ease when meeting a partner’s people. Meeting the parents, the brothers and sisters, and all the other extended kin can feel intimidating, scary, suffocating and worse. So let’s start by extending your boyfriend the benefit of the doubt.
You’ve been with him two years; he must be happy with you! Maybe bonding with your family is simply stressful and difficult for him. My advice: Create some deliberate and intimate opportunities for him to get to know family members on an individual basis. Mom loves to brunch? Make a reservation for just the three of you. Your dad is super into movies? Set a film date and then carve out time after for the three of you to have beers or coffee and chat about the experience.
And by all means, shelter him from the feedback that they’re missing your ex. Poor guy is already struggling; the knowledge that they miss your last beau would just amplify the anxiety and pressure. Likewise, assure them that your selected mate is a perfectly mature and amazing dude, and encourage them to relax their standards a bit and allow him time to form relationships with him in a substantive and meaningful way.
He loves hanging out with his family. You love hanging out with yours. So why not bring them all together, let everyone mix and mingle, and have a big family lovefest complete with potato salad?
It’s summer — the perfect time, and excuse, for a big barbecue. Barbecues are natural fits for community, conversation and comfort. You can host so it’s on your home court and thrown under your rules, which will add elements of ease to what’s become an anxious situation for you, your boyfriend and your parents. Suddenly, the only pressure on you guys is having enough chips in the bowls and ice in the coolers.
Perhaps after everyone shares food, shares stories, and gets along fine for a nice chill afternoon — the way most adults do every day — your boyfriend will see that this isn’t so hard, your parents will see that your boyfriend isn’t so bad, and everyone will see what an amazing party planner you are!