Family matters

Happy Friday. This letter is about family ties.
I saw something in your letter from Tuesday that made me think about my current relationship. The writer noted that "friends/family loved him; loved us." How important of a factor do you think that is? My girlfriend and I have been dating for a few years. We live in the Boston area but both are from different parts of the country, so we do not get to see our families too often. But it is clear that there are some tensions when it does occur. For a number of reasons, and some definitely justified, she does not like to be around my family (maybe not everyone, but a few members and because of that it really stresses her out to go visit my family or when they all come to see us). And while my family has never said anything expressly to me, I do get the feeling that they (at least some) think I should be dating someone else. At the same time, I am not comfortable around her family - again it isn't the entire family, but certain members I feel have never been friendly towards me. I should note that as far as friends, all my friends like her and I believe all her friends like me. But is this family situation a problem that should impact the long-term status of our relationship? I like to see my family, and she likes to see hers, but it seems we always do so separately just to avoid a possibly tense situation.

– Does Family Matter, Brighton

DFM, my answer is: um, yes and no. Family approval is important, but many couples survive without it. There’s no way every single person in your family is going to like your significant other. And there’s no way you’re going to like all of your in-laws. Life just isn’t that awesome. If you can put up with the majority of her family members and they can put up with you, you should be able to survive the turbulence. After a while, her family should accept that you’re not going anywhere. They should begin to appreciate your loyalty. I do have to wonder why your family doesn’t approve of your girlfriend. Would you consider asking them what they think? Perhaps they have legitimate concerns. Or perhaps you’re being paranoid and they love her. Readers might disagree, but I’m all for putting it on the table and saying, “Um, why aren’t you nicer to my girlfriend?” If you’re serious about her, you should let them know what you think. Make them deal with it. My advice is to stop avoiding the discomfort. Tackle it head-on. Visit the relatives – even the ones you dislike – with confidence. The reality is, you’ll see them more and more as you get older, especially if you have kids. If you and the girlfriend really make each other happy, the people who care about you will learn to deal. Ideally. In the end, if you’ve tried everything and the family problems are still awful, it will be about how much you want her in your life. If you love her no matter what, the family becomes the “no matter what.” But don’t give up just yet. Readers? Can it work if they don’t feel comfortable around each other’s families? What’s more important – approval from family or friends? Should they confront the bad family feelings or ignore them? Share thoughts (and your fabulous in-law experiences), please.

– Meredith