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BEYOND LOCAL: What to do if your parents disapprove of your partner

There are ways to open up that awkward conversation in a productive way, experts say

Disappointing your family is a challenge many of us have to tackle in adulthood. 

That goes for the rich and famous as well, especially with the recent example of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, says relationship and sex expert Dr. Jessica O’Reilly, host of the @SexWithDrJessPodcast.

While some research shows that parental disapproval of a couple can increase your connection, the majority of studies show that familial support is crucial to happiness, O’Reilly told hosts on Global News’ The Morning Show.

For those like Harry and Markle who are perhaps feeling judgement from the Royal Family, it’s best to surround yourself with other support systems, she explained. 

“They need to strengthen the social support around them from other sources… and derive more influence from those people,” she said.

When your parents disapprove of your partner

It’s a fairly common scenario for parents or family members not to get along with your partner, or not approve of the relationship, said Shannon Tebb, a Toronto-based relationship expert in a previous Global News report. 

“We want our parents and family to approve because this person you’re with is going to be involved in [your life] and you don’t want the tension to rise,” said Tebb, adding that this is especially true if you’re close with your family.

She recommends sitting down with your parents without your partner to discuss why they don’t get along. 

“Find out if their judgement is based on reasonable concern or if it’s bias,” she said. “If you’re partner’s aggressive or controlling, then that’s going to be red flags for your family. But get to the root of the problem and find out why they’re disapproving.”

Then, you’ll be able to ask how your partner can gain their trust, she said. But if your family is being unreasonable, trust your own judgement while speaking to your partner about how they feel as well, Tebb adds. 

“Tell your partner that you’ve noticed the disconnect between them and the family,” she said.

Explain that both parties are important to you and you want to create a way to find commonalities, she said. 

For parents: ask why you’re disappointed

Disappointment is usually derived from your own expectations, rather than the actions of another person, like your child, said O’Reilly. 

“Manage your own feelings,” she said. “If you want to strengthen this relationship with your children… ultimately, you have to adjust our expectations.”

Often parents form expectations on who their children will be, and then feel let down or guilty if they don’t live up to those ideals, O’Reilly explained.

“Parents have to step up here, because you don’t get to decide the life path for your kids,” she said. 

For more information on how to handle disappointed parents, watch Jessica O’Reilly in the video above.

⁠— With files from Dani-Elle Dubé

- Global News