What to do when family is not welcoming

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Nice Advice, by Leah Albert

Dear Leah,

Leah Albert

Leah Albert

My girlfriend and I are getting serious and I’d like to take her to meet my family, but my family isn’t the most welcoming. How do I help explain this to her without giving her the impression that they won’t like her? And what if she decides she can’t stand them? Could it be the end of our relationship?

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— Family Troubles


Dear Troubles,

Fortunately family isn’t usually a make-or-break deal for a relationship, especially if relatives live a good distance away. You can avoid them throughout the year if they are not the most pleasant companions.

With this first visit, you should definitely warn your girlfriend about the behavior she may expect. If you’re honest and sincere about the situation up front, she won’t be trying to guess if there is something wrong or if they don’t like her for some reason.

You could try to help break the ice by interviewing your girlfriend before your visit to determine if there are any commonalities she shares with your family members. She will be looking to you to bridge any gaps that exist and help the conversations flow if they start to become awkward.

Please do try to encourage some alone time, where you two can re-engage with each other during the visit. A walk or a visit to a coffee shop are always good reasons to get away. She will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

In general, people aren’t always the most welcoming, especially to strangers and people they consider to be outsiders. This isn’t a mark against your family — perhaps they are shy or aren’t good at small talk. Their behavior may be temporary, until they get to know her better.

Who knows? Maybe she will help warm them up over time and create a more welcoming culture for your family.

It’s best to be honest, but please don’t complain or belittle your family members to your girlfriend. This could color her opinion of you in negative ways. You aren’t in control of how they choose to behave, but you can control your actions and attitude. What will impress her most is your ability to maintain a sense of calm, inner strength and perhaps even some compassion.

You are taking the first steps to possibly start a life together — the impressions you make in these first few years can set the tone for many years to come.

Family is an important part of any relationship — if there is an opportunity to strengthen the bond somehow, please strive to do so, not just for you but for your girlfriend. Life holds many challenges and the more people we can call on for support, the better off we are.


Leah Albert is a fictitious character. She likes wine and writing. Don’t ask her to be a matchmaker. Do send your questions to Leah at theniceadviceleahalbert@gmail.com.