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I have been dating my girlfriend for about 1 year now. I love her for her caring nature, intelligence, and sense of humor. However, since I met her parents about some months ago, they have much more involved in our relationship than I would like. Questions have arisen such when are we setting down, how our relationship is doing, and whether we have committed yet to each other yet.

This degree of involvement makes me feel uncomfortable, and sometimes the behavior/attention given by my potential future mother/father in law feels controlling. I love my girlfriend, and we get along very well, but just want to develop our relationship at our own pace. We are both in our late twenties. I don't think a little bit longer until we marry will make a difference. I am invested in her, and while I understand family may eventually come into the picture, I don't want to be involved in too much of an family affair. I grew up in the United States and she is originally from Eastern Europe.

Update to answer questions in comments

To answer the questions posed by @MlleMei, my girlfriends parents say that it is about time we settle down and consider marriage. When I see them, they often push for details such as what we talk about when we see each other, and stated how they themselves married at a young age. When I deflect by stating how I would like to go at our own pace, they still state that we should consider settling down soon, and that benefits are greater. Its almost like they don't trust our relationship, and downplays what I say.

Marriage is a big step, and I want to be sure that I will be happy with my choice of who to marry. I want to marry someone because I truly love that someone and know that person well, not because of pressure to settle from outside influences. I will need to live with this person, not them, and feel my potential mother / father in-laws should understand what I say is not about them personally.

Question

Without alienating my potential future in-laws, how can I communicate the desire for my girlfriend's parents to be less involved in our relationship and give us more space to develop individually?

And how can I communicate that while mitigating the risk of being perceived as rude or insensitive?

Perhaps could this difference in thought be due to a culture issue?

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    Have you talked this over with your girlfriend? How does she feel about it? – AsheraH Feb 10 at 9:04
  • I'd also like a response to AsheraH's question. Since those are her parents, her feelings/thoughts/actions on the subject are important and relevant. – MlleMei Feb 13 at 15:36
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When parents show such interest, it's not because they necessarily want to interfere with your life, it can also be just because they want both of you to be happy, therefore, they ask as if you were already part of their family, one of their children. It's not to be taken at 1st sight like a bad thing. But you need to make sure, or you could make a big mistake, and ruin the relationship. You walk on eggs here.

How can you do that? Listen to the way they respond to your answers. For instance, if they ask something that you think is so personal that you don't want to discuss it with them (like if they were random stangers), and they push for an answer, then, it gives more hints.

But, if you vaguely answer or deflect, and then, they acknowledge, and stop asking, then you know more about their intentions. In one case, they're highly curious / too inquisitive. And you'll have to deflect one way or another, and set boundaries. I'd recommend talking about that with your SO before, and you both decide what's the best way to (re)act. If they just ask things and take your answers as such, then you're part of a "normal" household :) and you're now in a nice "adoptive" family.

So, to answer your main concern about how can I communicate the desire for my girlfriend's parents to be less involved in our relationship and give us more space to develop individually?, I'd say that you need to understand first what they want to achieve, and why they ask (and the way they ask!), before communicating about what may not be an issue right now. It may make you feel bad, but it's not an issue yet. Because they may think that they're nice showing concerns about you and GF, and asking those questions. So, be careful. You need to know more.

That's why deflecting most of the questions that make you feel uncomfortable is the best way to communicate I know (for now, level 1) if you don't want to upset her family. If it doesn't work, you'll have to reach level 2. That's my advice on this, based upon personal experience (with both kind of potential or already future in-laws, the good and the bad ones). The "nice" ones respect what you say, and don't push, while the "bad" ones, well...

What I did was, always talk to GF first, then stick to what was decided with her. And if the "degree of involvement" (that makes you feel uncomfortable) persists, and becomes a real problem, then, and only then, set boundaries, depending on the level of the question, and of your discomfort. Way too broad right now to be answered, maybe if you need help with a real situation later.


Background: 1. I'm European, lived in many countries in Europe, and fairly knows about American culture. 2. I saw this happening much more before you reach 30, far less after that, like if you finally were a adult, in their opinion :)

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It's not controlling - it's really normal and should be expected. They are invested in your girlfriend's future as well.

We have a number of posts here on dealing with intrusive questions from friends and family. Some do suggest ways to ask them to back off a little, but in reality the best option is what most people do and just be honest and open.

Check with your girlfriend to understand her opinion, as it could be that she wants things to move faster and wants to encourage you. Or she could feel the same as you. Without a consistent message this will be difficult

So tell them you are taking it at your own speed and won't be rushed, and just treat their interest as positive. If they want to encourage you in to their family that's probably a good thing.

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There is a cultural factor which was not discussed: you were raised in the US, she and her parents are from Eastern Europe.

The behavior of parents is typical for Easter Europe. Maybe it is typical (to a lesser extent?) to other people as well.

How to deal with the specific problem: the best trainer you have is your girlfriend. She know the culture and she know her parents. She is the best advisor you can get.

How to deal with the bigger problem: again, you girlfriend is your best ally. She is probably able to explain you the cultural differences between the two worlds. You both have to be very open to discuss everything which is not familiar. Search (on the internet or in books) how to deal with your specific mix of cultures. Do not think that something should be obvious.

Bottom line:

  1. tell them that they are in their rights to ask such questions. Be simpathetic to the fact that their daughter is now with you. Tell them that you feel really uncomfortable about their "pressure" (just please use nicer word, I cannot find one now).

  2. Even more important: solve the problem! :) They want some information. Give them the information! Even if you only have a part of information. Even better: tell them things before they have a chance to ask.

  3. They lived a longer life than you with their culture. They have a specific age. They lose a daughter. Accept the fact they will still ask questions. In Eastern Europe, asking those questions is the most natural thing for the old - at the same time being very annoying for the young. Of course, the young will become old and they will close the circle :)

Note: if they ask you about marriage and stuff, it is a sign that they already trust you with the future of their daughter. Even though annoying as it is, you should be proud, in a way.

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