You may be in a committed relationship, but you’re hardly the only woman in your man’s life. A smart man I once knew (possibly my father) once told my boyfriend that a relationship is never just between two people. When you choose a person, their family comes along with them. Every sweet family tradition, every old family grudge, every awkward family photo and sibling rivalry becomes a part of your relationship and a part of your life. Here’s how to make sure those relationships stay as healthy as possible:
Take your time
Relationships of all kinds take time. You’re not going to start out as everybody’s favorite girlfriend at the first family dinner you’re invited to. Take it slow and evaluate the family dynamic before you dive right in.
Put yourself in their shoes
How does your dad act around boyfriends and husbands? Your brothers? This exercise will be less relevant if you are an only child, so I’ll put it this way: you’re a new person entering an established family. Do you know who he brought home before you? Are they used to meeting girls and never seeing them again, or is this a sign that you’re The One?
Set some boundaries
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a sister who wants to imagine her brother in bed with a chick, let alone acknowledge the fact that he has had sex. There is also a shortage of moms who want to rehash the details of your failed relationships. Know your audience and reveal only what they need to know about you.
Don’t take it personally
Is his mother overprotective? Do you get the feeling that his sister is secretly in love with him? Nothing you can do about it. If they’re standoffish to you, I can nearly guarantee that the ghosts of his girlfriends past would tell you they went through the same thing. The good news? It’s exhausting to be cold, mean or aggressive. Eventually, they’ll tire from the Mean Girls imitation and warm up to you. Or at least get lukewarm toward you.
Don’t let it come between you
His family will always be his family, but there’s a reason why baby birds leave the nest, why kittens eventually open their eyes, why tiny sea turtles have to make their own way to the sea: you can’t marry your mom. It’s not his fault his mom is the Mayor of Crazytown and his sister serves on the City Council. There’s no need for your to turn your ally into your enemy.
It’s not all bad, of course. What are you experiences with your guy’s “other women?”