Your BF? He’s just OK

I asked my mom what she thought of my boyfriend and she wasn’t very enthusiastic. Can I make them get along?

Don’t seek their approval, says our elder. Trust your own choices.

Dear EWC

I’ve been dating my current boyfriend for about seven months now and things are going really well. We’ve met each other’s families. So he has been over to my house a good few times and he gets on well with parents. I just asked my mam today what does she think of him and she just said, “Ah he’s alright.” That actually stung me. For years I have always tried to get my parents’ approval on everything: my job, getting my driving license, doing well in school. It seemed like everything in my life has to be based on whether or not they will be proud. I’ve read articles online and everyone either says that it’s my life and I choose how or who I want to spend it, or come up with ways to get my parents and boyfriend to get along. By the way, I’m 22, he’s 23, and my parents are very old fashioned and don’t want to spend ‘quality time’ with him. Can someone please help? Should I just break from this whole ‘will they like it if I done this’ thing? Because after all it is my life I suppose. And thank you in advance for anything.

Folk replies

Recently, you were surprised — and stung — to learn that your mom isn’t as fond of your boyfriend as you are. But, if you think about it, there is no reason she should be. He is your boyfriend, after all, and this means you are the person with whom he needs to be compatible. Plus, since you are the one who has been dating your boyfriend for seven months, you know him way better than your mom does and are thus in a far better position to judge his virtues than she is.
Although your parents have met your boyfriend quite a few times, they never said anything negative to you about him. If they had, you would not have been as caught off guard by your mother’s comment that he was just “alright.” What this comment says to me is that although your mom finds no serious fault in your boyfriend, she is not particularly impressed or excited by him either. But this is not at all an unusual way for a mom to feel. Regardless of whom they bring home, most moms believe their daughters could have done ‘better’. They believe this because they think no one is quite good enough for their wonderful daughters. What I’m saying is that your mother’s assessment of your boyfriend probably does not reflect her feelings about him as accurately as it reflects her feelings about you. She thinks so highly of you, in other words, that there’s no way your boyfriend — or any boyfriend — could ever measure up. Naturally, you would have liked your mom to have enthused more about your boyfriend. But, being the old-fashioned type she is, enthusiasm is probably not her style. But this doesn’t mean you have to take her implied criticism to heart or forego making your own choices because of it.

I think you need to ask yourself a question: Why at age 22, are you still craving your parents’ approval? Wanting your mom to be proud of you is one thing, but getting upset by her saying merely that your boyfriend is “alright,” is quite another. The reason why your mom’s comment stung you like it did could be that you still feel like a child around your parents. In other words, you may still feel your parents have control over you. But actually they don’t. Even if you are still living in their home, you are a full-grown woman.
I understand that you would prefer to receive approval from your parents rather than criticism. But your mom did not actually disapprove of or criticize your boyfriend; all she did was fail to ooh and ahh over him. You may have read more into her comment than was intended because you care so much about what your mom thinks. But what about what you think? What about what you feel? Why do you elevate your mom’s opinion of your boyfriend over your own opinion of him? It might help you to ignore your mom’s comment if you remind yourself that her opinion is not necessarily correct. Just because she thinks your boyfriend is just “alright” doesn’t mean that he isn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread. You may think you don’t believe what your mom said about him, but if what she said didn’t touch a nerve, it would slide right off you. Since what your mom said to you upset you, then a part of your mind is probably believing that maybe she is right. This is why if you really, truly want to be your own woman and own your own life, you can’t look to your mom or your parents for approval; you have to give it to yourself instead. You have to, in other words, honor your own choices.

The nicest part of being an adult is having these choices. What this means is that you do not have to ask your parents’ opinions of your boyfriend or your job or anything else about your life — unless you choose to. The way I see it, your boyfriend is your boyfriend. And if you know what you think of him, you shouldn’t need to ask your mom what she thinks of him. Trust me: The more secure you are in your own choices, the more secure your parents will be in them too. By asking for their approval you make yourself seem unsure of your choices, and they sense this doubt. In short, if your relationship with your boyfriend is going great, let your parents know how happy you are with him. Knowing how great you think he is will boost his value in your mom’s mind.

I hope this helps. I am always here if you’d like to talk more about this. Please try to write back to let me know what — if anything — you decide to do. I will be thinking of you.

Letter #: 454788
Category: Family

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