Q: My boyfriend and I have been together awhile, but I am having a hard time feeling accepted by his family. He won’t stand up for me when it comes to his mom and sister, and this has caused frequent arguments and even a recent breakup. We both have a child from a previous marriage, which has also caused disagreements and heartbreak. We’re trying to make things work and take things slowly, but I’m afraid this will continue to be a problem. I really want his mother’s blessing, but I’m afraid this will continue to be a problem. What should I do?

A: Kudos to you for taking things slowly in such a complicated relationship. It’s hard enough to make things work with in-laws when it’s just the two of you, but throwing kids into the mix will likely be a problem. The most important key is communication.

If you want things to work with your boyfriend, you have to communicate your feelings to him. You say he won’t stand up for you, so you should talk to him about this and tell him your expectations. Don’t expect him to know what you want, because that’s not going to happen. Also realize that men communicate differently than women, and sometimes they even shut down when it comes to relationship talk. You have to talk to him when he’s ready to listen, and I feel if you’re both trying to make things work, now he might be ready to listen.

Encourage him to talk to his mom and sister about how he feels and about what he expects from them. And when the time is right, go see his mom, talk to her, tell her how you feel about her son and how you’d like her blessing, and have a heart to heart. This might require several instances and even a girls’ date where you can create that special bond with her. As for the sister, the same might work with her. If not, recognize that you two might never see eye to eye, but you don’t have to have a sister’s blessing to make things work with your boyfriend.

A mother is likely to have a hard time accepting her son’s significant other, especially when kids from a previous marriage are involved. Don’t forget that she has likely been hurt from the destruction of a previous marriage, and maybe she’s scared to open her arms to a new person in her son’s life. Be open to what she has to tell you and don’t be afraid to say what you’re feeling. Remember, though, not to play the blame game or throw accusations.

And if she still doesn’t accept you, you’ve done what you could and he has to decide what he’s going to do. But never issue an ultimatum, because a man should never have to choose between his family and the woman he loves. There can be an equal balance, and you can have a good relationship even without the in-law’s acceptance. If they won’t accept you and he wants to make things work, he’ll have to learn to set and stick to boundaries between his relationship with them and with you.

Remember, the best piece of advice when it comes to family is to never complain about your relationship to family. If you have an argument, avoid venting to the family. There’s plenty of open air and stars out there to vent to if you must, but bringing them into your arguments or what’s going on in your relationship will only make it harder on them, and you.

~ Angela Smith, author of Burn on the Western Slope

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