How to start talking to your parents about your first relationship

I don’t want answers from the people who were womanising from the tender age of 4 years old, i’m looking for people who didn’t really have much involvement in girls until their teens.

I would like you to say how you told them and how they reacted. I can’t imagine ever telling my parents because my Dad is a little bit of a pervert because he always asks about girls. (Do you work with any girls, what was that girl like that was in your group of friends the other day?)

I’ve only had one boyfriend and I am still with him. We were friends before we started going out so my mum knew him quite well and saw the chemistry between us and when she found out we were finally going out, all she really said was “well its about bloody time!”. It was his family that had a problem with the relationship. I just told her out straight “btw Callan asked me out!” all bouncy and giggly.

His dad is strict and didn’t like the idea of his eldest son having a taste of freedom and wanting a life for himself rather than going down the road his dad set out for him. But many years on, his dad has accepted it and we all get along (most of the time)

(Original post by Anonymous)
I don’t want answers from the people who were womanising from the tender age of 4 years old, i’m looking for people who didn’t really have much involvement in girls until their teens.

I would like you to say how you told them and how they reacted. I can’t imagine ever telling my parents because my Dad is a little bit of a pervert because he always asks about girls. (Do you work with any girls, what was that girl like that was in your group of friends the other day?)

Personally I didn’t tell my parents nor did my boyfriend tell his. To be honest we were really young (14) but our parents found out eventually and because of religious differences, his family still to this day haven’t accepted me it’s been 4 long happy years though

haha, was quite funny actually! We were having afternoon tea at Harrods so they couldn’t flip out or anything, (not saying you have to go there, but pick a good time/place if you need to!) My parents had no idea who he was or anything, so was quite a long chat! But I had to start from the beginning, explain how we met, then individual meet ups etc, obviously didn’t go into too much detail, but I think they took it better because I explained everything and at the end of the day, they’re your parents and you’re almost an adult (maybe?!) so be confident and honestly it’ll be a lot easier than you think.

(Original post by Anonymous)
I don’t want answers from the people who were womanising from the tender age of 4 years old, i’m looking for people who didn’t really have much involvement in girls until their teens.

I would like you to say how you told them and how they reacted. I can’t imagine ever telling my parents because my Dad is a little bit of a pervert because he always asks about girls. (Do you work with any girls, what was that girl like that was in your group of friends the other day?)

I just told them straight out that I had a boyfriend.

I’d been hanging around with him, they’d asked me if he was my boyfriend (he wasn’t at the time) and I denied, and then about a week after he was my boyfriend they asked again when I was talking about him and I said yes. Parents just know stuff.

(Original post by Anonymous)
I don’t want answers from the people who were womanising from the tender age of 4 years old, i’m looking for people who didn’t really have much involvement in girls until their teens.

I would like you to say how you told them and how they reacted. I can’t imagine ever telling my parents because my Dad is a little bit of a pervert because he always asks about girls. (Do you work with any girls, what was that girl like that was in your group of friends the other day?)

(Original post by Anonymous)
I don’t want answers from the people who were womanising from the tender age of 4 years old, i’m looking for people who didn’t really have much involvement in girls until their teens.

I would like you to say how you told them and how they reacted. I can’t imagine ever telling my parents because my Dad is a little bit of a pervert because he always asks about girls. (Do you work with any girls, what was that girl like that was in your group of friends the other day?)

I never told mine until some years had gone by as they would have gone mad due to her race, religion, class and education level.

The first time I told them something about her was over the phone I told them I went on a school trip and met one Swedish girl who had terrible dress sense, told them even took a picture with her, they thought I was crazy and was wasting film. Obviously they had no idea

I finally told them when I graduated from uni and introduced everyone

You’re an adult with your own career, home, and maybe some children. Does your mother still try to control your life and every decision you make? You can set boundaries with a controlling parent without damaging your relationship, experts say.

“I think the key to having a controlling parent is to have kindness and boundaries with them. Be both firm and kind, not disrespectful to them in any way, but to set boundaries in your life and choices,” says Cara Gardenswartz, PhD, a psychologist with Group Therapy LA in Beverly Hills, CA.

A controlling mother may be unhappy when you push back against her advice. Let her know you hear her words, but that you will make the final decisions about your life, she suggests. “They’re used to being in control. Give them the space to share what they think.”

Signs you have a controlling mother may range from mildly annoying comments to frequent arguments. She may often:

  • Offer you unsolicited advice
  • Criticize your decisions about your relationships, career, or money
  • Openly disagree with your parenting or housekeeping style
  • Try to make you feel guilty if you disagree with her advice, or “guilt trips”

When Do You Take Charge?

There’s no specific age when you’re automatically an adult in the eyes of your parents, and the process of taking responsibility for your own choices may be gradual, says Jay Lebow, PhD, clinical professor of psychology at the Family Institute at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Some parents may not want to let go out of concern for your well-being.

“At some point, you become an adult and start to make your own decisions, but your parent gets nervous. It gets thornier when you don’t make good decisions,” Lebow says.

Your mother may want to protect you from negative outcomes, such as trying to control your spending out of fear that you’ll wind up in debt, he says. “A parent may think, ‘Do I let my kid get a bad credit rating?’ A truly controlling parent may have a child who is perfectly capable of becoming independent, but they don’t want to let them.”

Control can start early in your relationship, but it may cause problems for adult children for years. One study published in 2020 followed 184 children from age 13 to 32. Those who had controlling parents in their mid-teens were less likely to be in a romantic relationship or achieve academic success even by their early 30s.

Money a Common Source of Conflict

Many young adults are not yet financially independent even though they are living on their own in a college dorm or apartment, or have a job, Lebow says. This can blur the line between parents and children on who should make decisions.

“You may be in a phase of emerging adulthood. You’re not fully an adult and supporting yourself financially. So, what is the quid pro quo? Parents may feel that they have more say over what you do, and that doesn’t always have to do with money,” he says. “But money can become a tool in controlling your adult children. A young person is supposed to develop and begin to have an independent life. The older person should be willing to let go of control.”

If you rely on your parents for financial support, it can create a dysfunctional dynamic where your mother attaches the right to make certain decisions about your life to the loan, he adds.

When you have kids, your controlling mother may turn into an interfering grandparent, Gardenswartz says.

“It may be very hard for some grandparents to not judge you for how you’re raising your children. They may have a conflict about how you set your child’s feeding or nap time,” she says. If you rely on your mother to help with babysitting, she may not want to follow your rules on when to put the child down for a nap, for example.

Set Your Boundaries

Now that you’re an adult, even if your mother has always been controlling, it’s time to set some boundaries, Gardenswartz says.

“First, use detachment. Don’t get into a battle. Engage your mother in active listening,” she suggests. Active listening means you pay attention to what your mom is saying without judgment. Let her finish what she has to say before you react. “Have the confidence to say what doesn’t work for you and why.”

When you set your boundaries, a controlling mother may simply take the opposite view and dig in. Your discussion can escalate into a disagreement, where it’s hard to find a way to meet in the middle. “That’s where detachment with love comes in. Use an even, measured tone even when your mom is extra anxious or controlling,” she says.

If you want your mom to relax control, make sure you take charge of your own life. Be responsible for your own decisions and mistakes, Lebow says.

“Assert yourself by telling them who you are and what you need,” he says. Express that you have your own values and goals for your life and family. “Be respectful and try not to let every difference of opinion escalate to hostility. You can say, ‘I am raising my child the way I want to, but I realize that you have a different view.’ The job description of a grandparent should be clear: You can offer a little piece of advice, occasionally unsolicited. But you’re not the parent running the show.”

Here are some tips to help you deal with a controlling mother:

  • Don’t always cast yourself as the victim. This can make your mother feel defensive and cause more conflict. Try to use “I” more than “you” so she doesn’t feel attacked.
  • Take responsibility for your own happiness. You can’t blame every mistake you’ve made in your life on your mom’s controlling behavior.
  • Let some differences slide. Minor differences of opinion can blow up into a fight. Consider whether every debate is worth the potential pain.
  • Be willing to compromise. Keep an open mind and ear as you discuss plans or boundaries. Try to come up with solutions that both you and your mother can accept. Summarize it so you both know what you’ve agreed on.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Cara Gardenswartz, PhD, psychologist, Beverly Hills, CA.

Jay Lebow, PhD, Clinical Professor of Psychology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.

Psychology and Aging: “Tensions in the Parent and Adult Child Relationship: Links to Solidarity and Ambivalence.”

Carleton University Institute of Cognitive Science: “A Qualitative Investigation of a Guilt Trip.”

Child Development: “Perceived Psychological Control in Early Adolescence Predicts Lower Levels of Adaptation into Mid-Adulthood.”

Wright Foundation: “Setting Boundaries With Your Parents as an Adult.”

Center for Creative Leadership: “Use Active Listening to Coach Others.”

Housing Authority of the City of Winter Park: “12 Essential Tips to Resolve Family Conflicts.”

Family breakups are often difficult for children.Parents can help their kids by giving them honest explanations and emotional support.

Children of all ages experience a wide range of bewildering emotions when their parents separate or divorce. These may include sadness, anger, fear, jealousy and insecurity. Don’t underestimate your child’s capacity to understand what is going on around them. Trying to spare your child by not explaining to them what’s happening will only cause them more confusion.

If it is possible for both parents together to explain the situation simply, use words the child can understand. You may have to explain several times before the child fully grasps what has happened to their family and what their future holds. Be aware that your child will want the family to stay as it is, so they may not want to hear what you are telling them.

Children may think they or their behaviour are to blame for the breakup. It is important to keep reinforcing that this is not the case.

Everyone grieves in different ways

Grief is the normal emotional response to the loss of something precious. Everyone grieves in different ways. Children, like adults, may grieve inconsistently, seeming fine one day, only to be very upset and depressed the next.

  • Have regular nightmares or difficulty sleeping – they may want to sleep with you
  • Show out-of-character behaviour, such as temper tantrums
  • Start to have difficulties with school work or not want to go to away from the family
  • Exhibit aggressive or withdrawn behaviour
  • Be more fearful than usual
  • Cover up hurt through indifferent or cold behaviour
  • Develop problems with eating, such as going off their food or ‘comfort eating’
  • Have physical complaints, such as headaches
  • Blame themself for the breakup
  • Blame the parent they are spending the most time with
  • Worry excessively, particularly about family members who are upset
  • Regress to an earlier stage of development – for example, thumb sucking or bedwetting.

Everyone needs support

Separation and divorce are emotionally difficult times for everyone. Sometimes, a parent can be so overwhelmed by their own pain that they are unable to support their child. The parent may fail to notice the child’s distress. They may also expect the child to emotionally support them, instead of the other way around.

It is important to find support for yourself – through family members, friends or professionals – so that you can look after yourself and also feel strong enough to support your child. Your child may also need professional support and counselling.

Explaining a breakup to your child

  • If possible, both parents should explain the breakup to the child, particularly when breaking the news.
  • Reassure your child that the breakup is not their fault in any way and that both parents still love them.
  • Tell your child, in as much detail as you can, about their new routine: where they will live, who will take them to school and so on. It is a good idea to wait until you think they are ready to hear this information.
  • Allow your child to ask as many questions as they want.
  • Answer truthfully and honestly. It is OK to be upset.
  • Use age-appropriate language.
  • As the child matures, you can explain the separation in more sophisticated ways.
  • Be prepared to explain the separation to the child again and again.
  • Seek professional advice if you feel it is necessary for yourselves or your child.
  • ‘Sometimes mums and dads stop loving one another. It’s really sad when this happens.’
  • ‘Dad/Mum has stopped loving me and doesn’t want to go on living with me, but that doesn’t mean he/she doesn’t still love you and wants to go on seeing you. So we are going to work out how to make this happen.’

Helping your child to deal with their feelings

  • Encourage your child to talk about their feelings openly and as often as they want.
  • Tell your child that it is OK to have a range of different feelings and suggest appropriate ways to express these feelings. This may include writing down feelings in a diary or releasing feelings through physical activity such as running or gardening.
  • Share your own feelings – for example, cry together.
  • Be prepared to constantly reassure the child of your love for them and the love of the other parent.
  • Arrange as much contact with the absent parent as possible.
  • Try to maintain some kind of regular routine to give your child a sense of security.
  • Remind your child that their painful feelings will lessen with time.
  • Read child-oriented books on separation and divorce together.

Don’t criticise the other parent

A breakup is a painful event. Each parent may have grievances or complaints about the other. It is important that the child does not become involved in these grievances, as this adds further distress for the child. Your child may feel pressured to disapprove of the other parent in order to secure your ongoing affection.

Regardless of your feelings towards your ex-partner, your child still loves them and deserves an untainted relationship with them. Don’t criticise the other parent, their parenting style, household set-up or other things about their life. Don’t use your child to ‘spy’ on your ex-partner.

Where to get help

  • Maternal and child health nurse
  • Parentline Tel. 13 22 89 Tel. 1800 050 321 Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm, Saturday, 10am to 4pm
  • Other parents
  • Family and friends
  • Your doctor
  • Professionals such as counsellors

Things to remember

  • A child can experience grief, anger, sadness and confusion over the breakup of their family.
  • They may blame themselves.
  • Find sources of emotional support for yourself, so that you have the strength to help your child.
  • Avoid criticising the other parent in front of your child.

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Services include parent education to maternal and child healthcare, child care, crisis support, child protection, family violence and relationship services

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How to start talking to your parents about your first relationship

Your in-laws are a crucial part of your spouse’s life. This makes them a crucial part of your life as well. No one ever said it was easy to balance your needs with the needs of others — especially the needs of an entire new family. But creating family harmony is possible — and it’s very much worth the effort.

You realize it won’t be easy to build bridges — and rebuild some that have been burnt — but you also realize that it’s a valuable way to spend your time. The return you get on your investment will last the rest of your married life. Here are some ideas to get you started.

1. Work With Your Spouse

This is the key rule, numero uno, the whole enchilada. As my wonderful husband reminded me last night, dealing effectively with in-laws all starts with first working conflicts through with your spouse. Remember, you’re in this together.

Never put your spouse in a situation where he or she has to choose between you and a relative. If you do so, you’re putting your spouse in a nearly impossible bind. Instead, try to understand the bond your spouse has with his or her grandparents, parents, and siblings. If possible, try to support that relationship. Even if your spouse has parents from hell, they are his or her parents.

2. Set Boundaries and Limits

No candy before mealtime for the kids? No loans for in-laws? With your spouse, decide what’s important and what’s not.

For example, we let our kids eat anything they want anytime. Want ice cream ten minutes before dinner? Fine by me…as long as you eat a reasonable dinner. But we’re really, really picky about school work. I don’t think it has dawned on my kids yet that there is a grade below “A.”

Working as a team, set your family values. Then communicate your values to your in-laws. All of your values and all of your in-laws.

Speaking of boundaries, don’t make promises that you can’t keep. Remember Neville Chamberlain, Hitler, and Poland? In an attempt to achieve “peace in our time,” British politico Neville Chamberlain gave Poland to Hitler as part of the British appeasement policy. Remember how well that worked? Hitler just kept right on seizing chunks of Europe. Placating people to keep the peace rarely solves the problem — especially if your in-laws are tyrants.

3. Enforce the Boundaries and Limits

Without being as inflexible as a teenager, stick to your guns. For example, if you don’t want drop-in company, tell your in-laws that you’d prefer that they call before they show up at your doorstep. If they ignore you, don’t answer the door the next time they just happen to drop-by. Even if they do have a lemon meringue pie.

Are your in-laws toxic to your relationship? Watch the video for the warning signs:

4. Communicate Directly

Whenever possible, avoid communicating through a third party. Don’t ask your spouse to talk to his sister about something she did that hurt your feelings. Talk to your sister-in-law directly.

If something bothers you, address it as soon as possible. Sometimes it’s a genuine problem; other times, it might be a misunderstanding.

Tori married into a family whose members had been born in Germany. Every time a family member went into the kitchen, he or she shut the door — often leaving Tori out. For years, she stewed over the situation. Finally, she got up the courage to ask her mother-in-law why she closed the kitchen door.

“Why, to keep in the heat,” she answered. “We always did that in Germany.” Closing the kitchen door had nothing to do with Tori. A cultural misunderstanding had caused years of distress for her — which neither her in-laws nor she ever realized.

5. Know Yourself

Shakespeare said it a zillion years ago, and the advice still holds today: Don’t try to remake yourself into the person your in-laws want. For example, what if they’re looking for little Susie Homemaker and you’re a high-powered corporate attorney? You’re under no obligation on your day off to bake Swedish rye bread and churn your own butter. Get a manicure and call for some take-out instead.

6. Get With the Program

Not every father-in-law lives to snake out your kitchen sink; not every mother-in-law dreams of baking cookies with her grandchildren. Put away the stereotypes and adjust your thinking to the reality of the situation. Don’t expect what people can’t deliver.

7. Learn to Cool Off

I tend to jump in where angels fear to tread. It’s always headfirst, too. Fortunately, my husband is far more levelheaded. Many times, the best thing to do is nothing. Time heals many wounds — and wounds many heels.

While we’re at it, play nice. Spare your in-laws the insults and character attacks. For example, Jack’s father-in-law once called his son a knee-jerk liberal. “I had it on the tip of my tongue to call him a “bloody fascist,” Jack said. “Fortunately, I bit my tongue-even though he really is a fascist.”

8. Be Mature

Your parents have to love you; it’s in the contract. But your in-laws don’t. Accept the fact that your in-laws aren’t your parents and won’t follow the same rules. Try to think “different” — not “better” or “worse.” To make this work, give in on small points and negotiate the key issues.

Learn to see the situation from your in-law’s point of view. And even if you don’t agree, act like a big person. For example, I hate pork. I never eat it; I rarely cook it. Nonetheless, for years my mother-in-law would make a pork roast when we came to her house for dinner.

After wallowing in more pork than Congress produces, I came to see that she was trying to please her poor pork-deprived son. Big deal: I learned to have a salad before we ate at her house. My husband porked up in peace and the only one to suffer was Babe, the poor porker.

9. Be Kind

Even if you have to grit your teeth, try to say something nice. And if you really can’t say anything nice, shut up and smile.

10. Keep Your Sense of Humor

A very dear friend tells this story: “When I was pregnant with my first child, my father-in-law bought me a special gift: My very own funeral plot. ‘Why a funeral plot?’ I asked him. ‘Well,’ he replied, ‘you might not make it through the birth and I thought you should be prepared.'” I probably would have slugged the codger upside his head; my friend, in contrast, laughed and thanked him for his gift.

P.S. She and all her children are fine.

Do you only see your in-laws on holidays? Or maybe holidays are just super stressful? Check out our tips for dealing with in-laws on festive occasions.

How to start talking to your parents about your first relationship

Do you and your partner avoid certain topics because the conversation will become heated? Maybe you dread discussing parenting techniques or how much services for your child cost. These tips can help ease tough talks.

1. Give up the need to be right.

Even before you ask to sit down for a talk, remind yourself that it’s all about finding a solution to a problem. And that the solution will likely affect your whole family. So it doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong. What matters is that the two of you are working together to improve things. Also remember that the best and most creative solutions often come from embracing different points of view.

2. Choose the right time to talk.

Nobody likes being buttonholed right when they walk in the door from work or when they’re in a rush. Instead, chat when you’re both at your best. Ideally, try to talk after you’ve both had a chance to unwind and can focus on your conversation. Even if you’ve set up a time in advance for your discussion, it’s a good idea to ask, “Is this still a good time to talk?” If necessary, find a better time. Your conversation will benefit.

3. Start the conversation positively.

Show how much you appreciate your partner’s willingness to talk about the difficult topic and to work with you to find a solution. You might say something like, “Thanks for talking about this issue with me. It’s really been weighing on my mind. But I always feel better when we can think things through together.”

4. Stay focused on the problem at hand.

This is not the time to bring up your relationship’s ancient history or other problems. But even if you stick to the topic, your partner might not. To keep things on track, you might say something like, “Let’s talk about one thing at a time,” or, “I’d be happy to talk about that issue tomorrow. But let’s work on this problem today.”

5. While your partner is talking, just listen.

Listening is key to making difficult conversations work. And that means truly hearing what your partner is saying when you’re having a discussion. Try to stop yourself from interrupting. Don’t start thinking about your next comment while your partner is mid-sentence. Stay present and try to absorb your partner’s comments before you start talking. And try to keep from making hasty judgments.

6. Reflect what you hear even if you don’t agree.

One way your partner will know that you’re really listening is to reflect back what you’ve heard. You might begin with something like, “Let me see if I fully understand what you’re saying….” Experts call this skill “reflective listening.” It can help keep stressful situations from escalating and get things back on track when participants are getting upset.

7. Fight fair.

Nothing kills a productive conversation faster than accusations. Don’t accuse your partner of causing the problem or of avoiding the issue. Try not to assign blame. And avoid statements like, “You always do this?” Why? Your partner is likely to feel defensive and may even counterattack. And that will probably shut down your conversation and halt whatever progress you two were making.

8. Try to find something you agree with.

Maybe you strongly believe the opposite of what your partner is saying. But is there any crossover in your feelings? Even a little consensus can help you both feel like you’re beginning to contribute to a solution. “I know you think we shouldn’t let Lily play until she’s finished her homework,” you might say. “I agree that her homework is very important, and she needs to get through all of it. I just think it’ll be easier if she gets a break in the middle.”

9. Take a time-out if you must.

No matter how hard you try, your discussion may reach a point where it’s too heated to continue. Consider setting up a time-out signal before you start. Or say something like, “Let’s stop for now,” and set a time to speak again within 24 hours. When you’re both calm, try approaching the conversation once again. If challenges persist, you might want to see a professional like a minister or a therapist to help you work through your differences.

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About the author

How to start talking to your parents about your first relationship

About the author

Lexi Walters Wright is the former Community Manager at Understood. As a writer and editor, she helps parents make more informed choices for their children and for themselves.

Reviewed by

How to start talking to your parents about your first relationship

Reviewed by

Elizabeth Harstad, MD, MPH is a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital.

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The Family Relationship Advice Line is a national telephone service that helps families affected by relationship or separation issues, including information on parenting arrangements after separation. It can also refer callers to local services that provide assistance.

Who can call the Advice Line?

Anyone can call the Advice Line about family relationships.

This includes parents, grandparents, children, young people, other family members or friends.

Other people who may be offering advice or support to families can also ring the Advice Line to get information.

What can I expect when I call?

When you call the Family Relationship Advice Line you will be able to talk to someone who can help you work out what information, support and services you need.

This may include:

  • information about services to help maintain healthy relationships
  • advice on family separation issues
  • information about the family law system
  • guidance on developing workable parenting arrangements after family separation
  • advice about the impact of conflict on children
  • telephone-based Family Dispute Resolution for people who need assistance resolving disputes over parenting arrangements
  • referral to Family Relationship Centres and other dispute resolution services, and
  • referral to a range of other services to help with family relationship and separation issues.

Referral to other services

During a time of family breakdown, many people are faced with a complex mix of emotional and practical matters.

The Family Relationship Advice Line will help you sort through these issues and refer you to other services that can help. This might include services from Centrelink, the Child Support Agency, or a legal service. It might also include services that can assist with counselling and support for you or the children, or help with accommodation, mental health issues or drug and alcohol abuse problems.

The Family Relationship Advice Line can also provide assistance and referrals for families dealing with violence or child abuse issues.

Do I have to give my name?

You don’t have to give your full name when you call. However, you will be asked for some general information, plus a few details to help identify you if you call again. This means that you will not have to repeat the same information each time you ring.

If you prefer, you may elect not to provide any identifying information.

Calls to the advice line are confidential

If you contact the Family Relationship Advice Line, you are able to receive help anonymously. However, when you call, you will be asked for a few details to help identify you if you call again.

This information is treated confidentially. Your family or friends will not be told that you have telephoned the advice line. Alternatively, you may choose not to provide any identifying information and be treated as a new caller next time you call.

How to call using the National Relay Service

Callers who are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment can call through the National Relay Service:

  • textphone or modem users: phone 1800 555 677 then ask for 1800 050 321
  • voice-only (speak and listen) users: phone 1800 555 727 then ask for 1800 050 321
  • computer or mobile phone users with a connection to the internet: go to http://www.relayservice.com.au and select ‘Make an internet relay call now’ then ask for 1800 050 321 . That web site also details how to use instant messaging through MSN or AOL to make a call.

How to call from overseas

To call the Family Relationship Advice Line from overseas, phone +61 7 3423 6878. The phone company you are using to make the call will charge you for the cost of the call.

Case Study 1

Susan has just told her husband Michael that she no longer thinks their marriage is working, and says she wants a divorce. They have two children, Tyler aged 9 and Clara aged 12.

Michael doesn’t know what to do, so he googles ‘divorce’ and sees a link to the Family Relationship Advice Line. He calls 1800 050 321 , and speaks to a Family Relationship Advisor, who tells him about the separation process, parenting after separation, and services such as counselling and Family Dispute Resolution he can use. The Family Relationship Advice Line gives Michael the contact details for his local Family Relationship Centre.

Case Study 2

Adisa and her family came to Australia as refugees. The war they lived through has left a mark on the whole family. Her husband has frequent nightmares. He is tired and irritable in the days after the nightmares. Adisa is worried about her children, who say they feel different to the other kids at school.

Adisa feels her family is falling apart and doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t want to talk to her friends about it, as the community might find out that she and her husband are having troubles, and her husband might get upset.

She phones the Family Relationship Advice Line and finds out that she can get help over the phone without providing her full name. She is referred to a counsellor, who explains that they will not contact Adisa’s husband or tell her community leader about the support she receives.

Introducing a new love interest to your mom and dad is nerve-wracking, whether it’s the first or ninth time you’ve done it. What if they don’t like your new boyfriend? What if your new girlfriend doesn’t like them?

We can’t stop you from bringing home a stinker, but we can try to help make this meeting go smoother—and keep the peace if it doesn’t.

Orchestrate a few mini-meetups

If you live far from your parents, FaceTime them while you’re hanging out with your boo. Swivel the phone a little and let your latest beloved wave or say hello. Boom, now they’re acquainted, kind of.

Do a little work on your own when they’re not around, too. Start peppering their name into conversations when your mom calls so your parents get the idea that this new person is becoming a fixture in your life. Text your parents photos if you, say, go on a cool date. The more serious your parents think the relationship is going into the big meeting, the more likely they are to like the person, and the less likely they are to think it won’t matter if they don’t.

Got siblings? Try them first. When you and the new partner are out at a bar, text your brother and ask him to come by. Have the new partner in the passenger seat when you swing by to drop something off at your sister’s place. Let them know your new sweetie means a lot to you, but don’t plan out big elaborate introductions; keep the sibling meetings more casual. You already know they talk about you to your parents, so for once, let that work to your advantage. Let them express how happy you are or how great and chill this new person seems.

Prepare. but not too much

Let me tell you a story. When I started dating my most recent boyfriend, he told me his parents would love me, but the real key to our meeting going well would be if I got along with their dog. I’m not a dog person, but I went into that household determined to win the schnauzer’s affection. At first, the fluffy tastemaker seemed to hate me. He barked and growled and I, in turn, panicked. Eventually, he chilled out, and when my impressed boyfriend asked how I’d won him over after dinner, I gleefully said, “I fed him grapes under the table!”

Dogs can’t eat grapes. Did you know that? I didn’t. In my eagerness to befriend the family pet, I nearly committed a caninicide. I cried in another room while my boyfriend’s patient—but alarmed—mother rang the vet, just in case.

Certainly, my nightmare scenario was attributable to a general lack of dog-related knowledge, but it was also a result of nervous over-preparing. A little less worry going in might have reduced my anxiety to a level where I wouldn’t have resorted to bribing the pup with treats, poisonous or otherwise, in a bid to win overall familial approval. (The dog is totally fine now, two full years later, and we really all did get along!)

Whitney Bibeau, a 29-year-old tattoo artist and DJ based in New Jersey, agreed completely that rehearsing or fretting too much ahead of the fateful meet-up is a bad move. To her, an introduction isn’t just for the parents’ sake—your partner’s comfort and needs should be prioritized, too.

“They shouldn’t have to subject themselves to or put themselves in a position to be uncomfortable,” she said, especially if your over-prepping is coming from a well-founded concern that your parents might not approve of their child’s new partner. “I have absolutely no intention or desire to bring my partner into a potentially unsafe space or any space where they would be less than fully received.”

Bibeau detailed how she’s brought a number of boyfriends around her blended family, who live in a small town in Maine, and never had an issue. Recently, though, she brought around a girlfriend—now her fiancée—and didn’t receive the same warm welcome her previous male partners were given, at least from part of the family.

Let’s talk about that.

Don’t let familial disapproval derail the relationship

Bibeau said that while there’s some value to be found in a parent’s criticism of a partner, parents may not know who their adult children really are and could even be operating from a place of racial, religious, or sexual bias. The faction of her family that hasn’t accepted her fiancée, she pointed out, is opposed to her same-sex relationship and would be opposed to any same-sex relationship. The disapproval has nothing to do with her fiancée as a person. She hasn’t let the iciness interfere with the happiness she’s found and advised anyone worried about a parent-partner meeting—or anyone whose meeting didn’t go well—to not give up on a relationship just because of familial friction.

“I’m super set on knowing who I am and knowing what I need and what’s good for me now,” she said, and that self-acceptance has come as a result of her hard work, not anyone else’s. “Make sure you are solid about who you are. You don’t need to prove anything to your family. Truly, if you’re happy and if it’s working for you and your life, then that’s really all that matters.”

If peaceful coexistence between your parents and your partner is really that important to you, though, don’t give up. Ask your parents exactly what it is they don’t like about your mate. If it feels safe, broker another meeting. One bad experience doesn’t have to set the tone for the whole relationship, but also be mindful of whether you think their negative opinion is in good faith. If it is rooted in racism or homophobia, for instance, you have the right to object and take the steps necessary to protect yourself and your partner. Only you know what that looks like, whether it involves keeping the parties separate or a more definitive cut-off, and whatever choice you make is the right one for you. Trust yourself!

Remember, they love you

Your parents and your partner might be different in a lot of respects, but they should have one important thing in common: They all care about you and want you to be happy. If your girlfriend is acting uncharacteristically weird during that first meeting, remember, she’s just nervous. If your parents are being overly critical, remember they want what they think is best for you. Don’t be harsh toward anyone as long as they’re giving it their best effort. It can be hard to accept a child is grown enough to be in a relationship and to cede the primary nurturing role to a newbie, so keep that in mind, too.

If you’re still on edge, it’s understandable. For reinforcement on this point, look to Raheela Mahmood. Mahmood—or Mama Jee on social media—is known for comedic viral videos with her son Wajeeh West, in which she jokingly talks about arranging him a marriage to a nice Desi women, leaving little time to celebrate, say, his graduation from law school or any other non-wedding milestones.

In real life, of course, she doesn’t actually feel that way. If your parents have pressured you or made you nervous about showing up with a partner they don’t like in the past, remember that seeing you happy can change everything and you might have been blowing their comments out of proportion in your own anxiety.

“Just remember when you’re bringing anybody to meet your parents that your parents love you above and beyond so there is no need to be nervous at all,” Mahmood gushed when approached for some motherly advice. “No matter what you do or who you bring, they will always love you.”

She added in a few more practical tips, too, which serve as a nice closer here: “Just keep calm and don’t look at the girl or the boy again and again. Just keep smiling at your parents and everything will come along, Inshallah.”

Introducing your boyfriend to your parents for the first time doesn’t have to be a stressful situation. Of course, you want things to go well and for everyone to like one another. And it’s perfectly natural to worry that the meeting will be awkward or that someone will say something that totally embarrasses you. However, keep in mind that if you do a bit of pre-planning and try to remain calm and composed yourself, it’s likely that the introduction will go smoothly. In fact, everyone might just have a good time together.

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1 Get Everyone in the Know

Before your boyfriend meets your parents, give him some essential background information about their personalities, their likes and dislikes, and anything else that could come up that might be a deal-breaker for your parents. For example, if your parents are very loyal to a certain political party and your boyfriend votes for their political opponent, perhaps he shouldn’t bring that topic up. Likewise, give your parents some background information about your boyfriend, building him up in a positive light and explaining his various characteristics, hobbies and personality traits that made you fall in love. Not only does this help everyone avoid any touchy subjects, but it also creates common ground between them and gives them something to talk about when they meet.

2 Set the Ground Rules

Discuss your parents’ ground rules with your boyfriend before he meets with them. If he breaks any rules, while they may get upset with you, it will cast him in an especially bad light. That’s because you’re they’re child who they love, but he’s simply their child’s romantic interest. For example, if your parents don’t drink alcohol, let your boyfriend know this so he doesn’t ask for a drink or order one with his meal at a restaurant. Or, if your parents are sticklers for proper etiquette and your boyfriend’s signature fashion item is a particular hat, you can ask him not to wear it or remove it when he meets your parents. Further, if you’re both staying at your parents’ house, you’ll want to let him know the rules of the house such as no loud music or noise after a certain hour. It’s all about staying in your parents’ good graces.

3 Fun for Everyone

Where you introduce your boyfriend to your parents can make or break the meeting. If you decide to let them meet in a restaurant, be sure to choose a restaurant and cuisine that’s appealing to everyone. If the food leaves a bad taste in your parents’ mouths, your boyfriend might do the same. In fact, you might want to skip the structured restaurant idea all together and opt for a first meeting that involves an activity. Again, choose something that everyone can enjoy. For example, if your parents and boyfriend all appreciate fine art, a casual afternoon perusing an art museum or gallery can be fun and low-key. This type of meeting can also help eliminate awkward moments of silence since everyone can just naturally discuss the art exhibits. Additionally, your parents will see that they have something in common with your boyfriend, which, according to a 2013 Psychology Today article, will help forge a positive connection.

4 Bring a Gift

Gifts are a universally recognized token of goodwill — and giving one to your parents can help show that your boyfriend is responsible, generous and thoughtful. Help your boyfriend pick out something that your parents will appreciate, and then have him wrap it and give it to them when he first meets them. While this isn’t necessary, it’s a small way for your boyfriend to show your parents that he’s invested in getting to know them better — and also invested in your relationship.

You’re madly in love with your significant other. You’re building a life with them, you’re both making plans for the future, and, naturally, you want to introduce them to your family. However, your dreams of having cozy and idyllic Christmases and Thanksgivings with your folks and new love are quickly dashed when you realize your parents don’t like your partner.

The revelation might be jarring, especially as an adult. It’s one thing for your parents to critique your love interest when you’re a teenager; however, their disdain for your current sweetheart can be especially hurtful when you’re a grown-up. After all, you want your parents to respect your choices in life, but you also want them to love and respect the person you’ve chosen to be with.

“I have worked with many couples who have navigated dating or marrying a partner against their parents’ wishes. I won’t sugarcoat the stress: It’s taxing, frustrating, and downright [exhausting],” Nicole Arzt, licensed marriage and family therapist, tells HelloGiggles.

So how do you deal with your parents disliking your partner?

The first step, according to Arzt, is adjusting your expectations. “Most people assume their parents should be happy, that this should be a time to celebrate. We want the picture-perfect wedding with the overjoyed mother and proud father. We want the TV family. Unfortunately, this may never be the case,” she says. Instead, Arzt says it’s important to work towards “a place of acceptance, even though that can be a lengthy process.” Part of that process includes establishing boundaries with your parents.

“A lot of times we have messy boundaries with our parents, so they do not know what is appropriate and what is not,” says Tracy Crossley, a behavioral relationship expert—which is why she says the more you treat yourself with respect, “the more your parents may choose to respect you, too.” Ultimately, it’s not only about making a commitment to yourself but also trusting your own decisions. You can convey to your parent(s) that you love and respect them, but you need to do what works best for you.

Adds Arzt, “Boundaries can be whatever you need them to be, but they should honor the integrity of you, your partner, and your relationship. To uphold boundaries, you may need to set limits in what you choose to share with your family. You may need to walk away from the scene if they start insulting your partner.”

Communication also plays a vital role, particularly between you and your partner and especially if you’re the one who isn’t being accepted by your partner’s parents.

“Having an open and honest discussion with your partner is key here,” Cheryl Muir, a dating and relationship coach, tells HelloGiggles. “Talk about your concerns with being disliked by their parents. Talk to them about their childhood. Did they always have a solid relationship with their parents, or has it been fraught? How much weight will they give to their parents’ approval or disapproval of you? And, finally, do their parents have legitimate concerns, and, if so, does your partner agree with these fears? Ultimately, you will reach a decision about whether or not you both feel this is something you can overcome together.”

Because as much as you might want to think that love conquers all, parental disapproval—including the fallout—can last for many years if not properly attended to and communicated with your partner, with or without the aid of a therapist.

“You do need to engage in open conversation as often as possible,” says Arzt. “Couples therapy can help navigate some of these obstacles; you can learn how to communicate more effectively and gain insight and tools for managing stress.”

Managing the stress of disapproving in-law is something that Dr. Anjhula Mya Singh Bais, a psychologist and trauma specialist, knows too well. Having lived with the disapproval of her husband’s parents for a number of years, she tells HelloGiggles that the rejection will deeply hurt those whose parents are rejecting their partner. “Parents and immediate family are primal, evolutionary, hardwired concepts in our brain (e.g. we need to be approved and accepted by them or that means we won’t survive).” While she adds that you will ultimately survive, your value system of what worked before may not.

“It’s important to be future-focused, no matter how much guilt is used to tie you back to your family of origin,” Dr. Singh Bais says. “Your partner or spouse is who you might marry, may have children with, and who will most likely outlive your parents. [I believe] it’s better to have an unhappy parent than an unfriendly spouse. If it’s too toxic, be prepared for emancipation. Otherwise, enforcing boundaries is effective.” For example, Dr. Singh Bais suggests not attending birthday parties, not exchanging holiday email greetings, and limiting visits to certain times and places.

If conflicts arise, Muir says it may be worthwhile to have a face-to-face, sit-down conversation between you, your parents, and your partner.

“It would be key for one or both parties to have some experience with healthy conflict resolution and to act as a mediator—ideally, this would be the partner who has the disapproving parents,” she says. Also, setting ground rules—what type of language and behavior is and isn’t allowed—would be another key factor, as well as allowing each person to speak for a set amount of time.

“In the end, the mediator will find some common ground and ask whether the parents and partner feel they can work through their differences,” Muir says.

However, it’s also important to remember that the sting of disapproving parents might never wane. “It took me a while to realize that there is a difference [between] respecting a right versus liking or loving someone,” says Dr. Singh Bais. “It is perfectly okay not to like or love someone, but respecting a person’s inherent right in life is important. Reframing it as such provides liberation and is like a breath of fresh air.”

She adds that “it is fine to be incompatible with other people, including parents. It’s not a rejection but rather a reflection of different wavelengths. If inclined, one can toggle between the two, all the while knowing that as an adult, you’re the architect of your destiny.” This means you get to decide what is and what isn’t acceptable in your life, and, most especially, who you choose to love.

How to start talking to your parents about your first relationship

Men are more trigger happy when it comes to sleeping with a new partner for the first time, saying “I love you” and moving in together

“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage”, goes the old nursery rhyme. But when exactly? New YouGov data shows how long Britons think couples should wait to hit nine relationship milestones – and how long they actually wait.

How long should you wait before having sex with a new partner?

The most common answer is that you should wait a month or so, with just over a fifth of Britons (22%) being of this opinion. Of course, principle and reality don’t always line up. While only one in six Britons (17%) say it’s ideal to sleep with a new partner within a week, one in four people in a relationship (24%) did.

How long should you wait before saying “I love you”?

When it comes to saying “I love you” to a partner for the first time, a fifth of the public (21%) think the ideal time to wait is three months, which is the most frequent answer.

Around a quarter (24%) are at ease with wearing their heart on the sleeve and say you should go for it even if it’s only been a month or less. But it seems many struggle to contain their feelings – a third of those in a couple (35%) had already let the words slip by this point.

Also, a word of warning for the 11% of men who are on board with saying “I love you” within two weeks: only one in twenty women (5%) share the enthusiasm.

How long should you wait before meeting your potential in-laws?

One in four Britons (25%) say ideally you should give a new relationship three months before meeting your partner’s close family. While this is the most common response, just under a quarter (23%) think it’s fine to do it sooner.

How long should you wait before going on holiday with a partner?

A quarter of Britons (24%) say the optimal time for a first romantic holiday with a new partner is six months in, with it being the most common answer. But one in seven people (14%) are more optimistic and believe a month is plenty of time.

How long should you wait before moving in with a partner?

Three in ten people (29%) say couples should wait a year to move in together – the most popular response. But a quarter of men (24%) would be happy to go ahead after six months, compared with one in six women (17%). Among Londoners, who pay the most rent on average, 11% would be happy to move in with a partner after only three months – the highest of any region.

On a national scale, only one in fourteen people (7%) believe moving in together within three months is a good idea. That’s not to say it’s doomed – twice as many people in relationships who live together (14%) had a joint address by then.

How long should you wait before getting engaged?

Most people (58%) think waiting about two years to get engaged is sufficient, although younger Britons are less likely to think so. Only two in five 18 to 24-year-olds (41%) believe it’s long enough, compared with 62% of those aged 55+.

While new couples tend to go through the initial milestones faster than what some would consider ideal, the opposite occurs with big life decisions. While only 3% of Britons believe you need to wait five years or more to get engaged, this was the case for one in seven people who are or were engaged to their partner (14%). 

How long should you wait before buying a house with a partner? 

The most common answer among Britons is two years (23%), although in total only around half of the public (47%) would feel it had been long enough at this stage. After three years the figure rises to three in five (60%).

A quarter of those in relationships who own property (26%) waited five years or more, even though only 7% of Britons believe it’s necessary to hold off for that long.

How long should you wait before marrying someone?

One in five people (21%) say two years is the ideal time to date before marrying. But even after three years, only around half of Britons (53%) would feel it had been long enough. Young people are even less convinced, with only 39% of 18-24-year-olds believing three years sufficient time to know someone before signing the papers.

How long should you wait before having a child with your partner?

A majority of Britons (54%) say waiting four years to have a child together is enough, with the most frequent response being two years (23%).

Two fifths of people in relationships who have children (44%) had been together with their partner for at least five years before having a baby, despite only 13% of the public believing you need to wait that long.