How to improve relationship with disapproving future in-laws: My boyfriend and I have been together for a bit more than two years, and we’ve been living together for a year and a half. We are both in our mid- to late-twenties. Our relationship is strong, and really, it is not at issue. The problem comes in with his parents.
posted by redfishbluefish to Human Relations (25 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I am from the US; my boyfriend is not. His family is very traditional, and very close-knit – by this I mean that three generations live under one roof, and his other set of grandparents live adjacent to his family. Boyfriend has visited my family a few times and everyone gets along famously. My family approves and thinks he’s as amazing and wonderful as I do. Both my boyfriend and I value family strongly.
But, his family literally detests me. Not because I’m bitchy or controlling or anything, though I certainly have my faults. It’s because I’m fat. I’m significantly overweight, and I’m working on it, but it’s been a lifelong struggle for me, and it probably always will be. I have never had much success at enduring weight loss, despite my efforts. (To give you a rough idea, I’m 5’6”, 240 lbs. The lowest weight I’ve ever achieved is 198 lbs, and that didn’t stick for long.)
Here’s what happened: several months ago I traveled overseas to meet and visit my boyfriend’s family for two weeks. Everyone was very hospitable. They cooked amazing food for me, drove me around their beautiful country, and in general were very polite, if reserved. But near the end of my visit, after meeting his parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, I couldn’t help but notice that no one was interested in me at all. There certainly is a language barrier for the older members of his family, but among his parents’ generation and younger, everybody speaks English quite well. (I learned a bit of my boyfriend’s native language before I went, but it did not help much with conversation.)
One morning, I overheard an argument between my boyfriend and his parents, and the only bit I could understand of it were the words “the girl” repeated over and over. My fear was that his parents were telling him I was wrong for him because I’m American. If only that were true! It turns out that his father expressed that he had hoped to approve of his son’s choice, but upon viewing me when I arrived at the airport, he immediately disapproved. Aesthetically, I’m disgusting to him, and he can’t imagine that his son would want a heavier woman as his wife. Further, he believes that I’ll be unable to produce healthy offspring. His mother was apparently a little less harsh, but she, too, believes that I’m unsuitable because I am fat. They told him that he needs to dump me (“she’ll find someone suitable eventually”) and find someone else. Someone thinner, I guess.
I later learned that boyfriend’s grandmothers also cornered him on this subject with similar opinions, as well as his grandfather. Boyfriend’s sister (my age) agrees with her parents.
My boyfriend says that he simply told them that his feelings towards me weren’t going to change, that he wasn’t going to dump me, and that there was no need to “defend” me against this attack because I don’t have to “make up” for anything. Our relationship hasn’t been weakened by this, and we continue to discuss getting married within the next couple of years.
Boyfriend has since visited his family again, whereupon they continued to push him on the issue, telling him to stop seeing me.
My question is this: How do I proceed with his family, if and when my boyfriend and I get married? I hate knowing that his family is unhappy with him because of me. I truly don’t want to be the wedge that separates him from his family, but at the same time, I have no desire to interact with them at all. Whenever he speaks of his family, I get this bittersweet feeling—I would love for them to approve of our relationship, and I’d love to get to know them better, but his family currently has no desire to do so. Will it ever happen? And how can I deal with the fact that I simply don’t respect them as much as I should?