What it Means When a Parent Won’t Welcome Their Adult Child’s Romantic Partner.

First hint: Doing this is the opposite of loving your child.

Everyone either knows someone to whom this has happened or, has sadly experienced it themselves.

The parents who reject, refuse to accept, dismiss, disrespect, or who are even downright mean to their adult child’s romantic partner.

Sometimes it’s subtle, it’s done behind their adult child’s back. It’s sneaky and manipulative, done in such a way that they are able to then throw up their hands to their grown child when confronted and shrug, “what? Who, me? I never did that! I would never do such a thing, come on.”

Other times, it’s overt. Cutting their adult child’s partner out of photos, refusing to speak to this person, doing things on purpose that they know will upset this person, or being aggressive or bullying towards them, etc.

And then it may also be a combination of the two, subtle and overt.

To act in such a way says many things about that particular parent(s), none of them good. And it could be just one of these issues or, more likely, it is several.

Childish and immature.

Emotionally healthy parents know that once their child is grown, they need to let go of their child. That the boundaries and expectations they have with their child shift. Their child is now an adult. An adult who is going to make decisions of their own, which their parent must step back and respect.

Emotionally healthy parents further know that their child will likely fall in love. And that, if and when they do, healthy parents want and support that for their child.

Parents who refuse to welcome their adult child’s partner are childish and immature. Those who try to undermine things or who have much trouble with this are not granting their grown child respect or allowing.

Jealous.

Some parents get strangely jealous of their grown child’s romantic partner. This sort of ties into immaturity. This seems to happen, more often than not, with mothers of their sons, instead of with fathers and daughters. (There is a reason that in literature, movies, and television, the possessive, jealous, nightmare mother-in-law comes up so often). Though, of course, it can happen with both sexes.

This seems to happen when the mom in question doesn’t have a lot going on in her life. She may not have a particularly healthy marriage with dad. She may not have many friends or much in terms of hobbies or passions. She doesn’t have much going on that is fulfilling her (which is, by the way, her own issue to address and solve). And so, she latches herself onto her child emotionally. This is unhealthy and inappropriate.

Possessive.

“No one is good enough for my baby” is a mindset that falls into this theme. Further, these parents tend to want their child all to themselves. They don’t want to share. This is akin to an abusive spouse who tries to isolate their partner from friends and family. It’s toxic and unhealthy behavior.

Unhealthy attachment to their child.

Some moms or dads have unhealthy neediness or attachment toward their child, so they struggle with letting go as the child gets older. They have trouble reconciling with the fact that their child is now a grown-up, with their own life, their own relationships, their own agency, all apart from the parents. Again, this unhealthy attachment often happens when the mom or dad is not especially happy with their spouse and may not have a lot of other things going on in their life.

Unkind and unloving.

If a parent does not even really try to accept or truly invite in their grown child’s partner and is outright disrespectful and unwelcoming? This will hurt to hear, but it’s likely that your parent is not an especially nice person deep in their heart.

Whether they still “do nice things sometimes for other people” or not, here is why, if they behave this way with their child’s love partner, they are not kind.

Because, to reject and refuse to welcome the person their child loves and has chosen is also, indirectly, a rejection of their own child.

It’s saying, “I will not even try to accept, welcome, respect, or validate what you love.”

It is not being kind, respectful, or loving to your own child to refuse to welcome or be good to their partner. Instead, this is the opposite. It’s a form of withholding love, from both your own child and from their partner.

It’s cruel. This is a direct form of meanness to your own child.

And it’s a way of trying to make your child choose. By refusing to accept and welcome their partner, you put your adult child in a horrible position of having to decide: spend time with my parents or my partner. Have the back of my parents or my partner? And no loving, mature, good-hearted person or parent does this. Period.

More people than we imagine deal with this heartbreaking scenario, either with their own parents, or the parents of their partner. It’s an immensely difficult one. And one that will be deeply painful for the child of the parents causing the problem.

Ultimately, though, a healthy adult will not choose their toxic parent in such a scenario. They will not allow their toxic parent to cast out, ostracize, or dismiss their romantic partner. Instead, if the parent will not welcome this person? The toxic parent will be cast out. And this is because they forced their child’s hand by putting them in such a position, of feeling as though they had to choose (since the parent wouldn’t accept the partner). A loving parent would never put their child in such a position.

Note: this is all based on the premise that the adult child’s romantic partner is a decent person. Obviously, if the romantic partner is a bad person, this changes everything. If the adult child’s romantic partner is physically or emotionally abusive, if they cheat, lie, or do other things to harm their partner, then yes, this changes things. In which case, the parents should speak out to their grown child about their concern and rightful dislike of this person. When you see someone you love in an unhealthy relationship, you should not just silently accept it. On the contrary, you should voice your concern, and with specifics.

But, my article is based on the idea that this is not the case. Assuming the grown child’s romantic partner a decent and good person to their adult child, then there are zero excuses for this and it should not be tolerated.

A potentially helpful script for adults who are dealing with these types of parents is something along these lines: “you will treat my romantic partner with love and respect. You will welcome them into your home and help to make them feel comfortable and welcomed. If you do not? Then I won’t be coming over here much anymore and this will create a huge rift between you and me. Because you will not put me in such a position, of casting out my romantic partner and so then, I feel forced to choose. If you make me choose, I will not choose you. I will not choose the person who puts me in such a cruel position, because this is not you loving me as my parent. This is you treating me with the opposite of love.”

Fervent writer. Ravenous reader. Impassioned with words. Relationship researcher. Social Scientist. Social Justice Advocate. Author. www.brookeenglish.com

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