For a backstory, my boyfriend just recently graduated and moved to college, because he already had a rocky relationship with his parents. He was on the edge of getting kicked out of his house several times because his parents are bipolar, so he eventually made the move to live on campus himself. They have always controlled a lot in his life.

I already had a rocky relationship with them since they are so uptight, but then they found out that my boyfriend and I have done some sexual things together (But not actual sex, and by reading the messages on his phone) and confronted the both of us about it as well as dragged my own parents into the mix. It became a huge ordeal, and now things are worse off than before.

I can't even think about them without getting upset, and I don't know what to do with the holidays coming up. Any advice, suggestions, thoughts?

  • 4
    Hi Caroline! Welcome to IPS. Right now your question is too broad to be on topic for this site, because it's unclear what you'd like to achieve. Do you want to tell them you'd like to cut off contact with them? Would you like to tell them their invading behaviour hurts you and your boyfriend? Is this conversation something you'd like to have alone or would you like your boyfriend to participate?
    – avazula
    Nov 19, 2019 at 6:30
  • Do you have to spend time with them in holidays or what else could be a problem for you in this time?
    – puck
    Nov 19, 2019 at 18:02

1 Answer 1


Rocky relationships with boyfriend/girlfriend parents can be quite an ordeal. I didn't experience them much first hand, but I have had relatives that did.

First, these are your boyfriends parents, so you need to remember he loves them. If he still deals with them, and apparently you are going to spend holidays with them, he loves them. You may wonder how wise is to love toxic people, but that is not the point, as far as my experience has shown me, people love their children/parents/relatives despite terrible things. And even when they walk away from those toxic people, they still love them.

Why do I point out that he loves them? Because I think it is important to remember it, when you are talkign with him. Saying that they are awful people won't actually make him feel better, even if he says so. In some lower level he will feel bad.

Don't focus on their perceived hate. Even if they really do hate you, it doesn't mean you are deserving of hate. It just means in their world view you have done something rather offending. Their hate is a projection of their inner world, not a reflection of you.

You and your boyfriend need to be allies. If your boyfriend doesn't defend you and the unity that is a couple, your relationship doesn't have a good future. You may stay together but you will always suffer. Take it from me, I know several people in my family that went through this. He has to understand that you and your relatioship together have to be respected. That doesn't mean you have to shut off the parents, it means you have to set boundaries. And you need to work with him for the unity of the couple too, not against the parents, but for the relationship. THey have the right to do whatever they want, you have the same right (of course in legal and ethical bounds) You shouldn't go out of your way to put your bf against his parents. You need to be a team that defends, not that attacks. Attacking in a relationship is the end of the relationship.

You shouldn't demand him to attack his parents, if they are mean to you he has to protect you, defense is not the same than attack. If he fails to protect you and the relationship, he can't not excuse himself saying "they are my parents". Because you are his gf. If he makes such excuses, you are in for a world of suffering.

So you guys have to defend yourlseves but you can not attack them? How do you even accomplish that?

Bellow I proceed to explain.

Don't antagonize and set boundaries.

It seems a bit contradictory, but it is not. For example, you said they are uptight. That is antagonizing. Just because someone sees the world in a different way than you, it doesn't mean they are uptight. Maybe if you saw the world in the exact same way, same experiences, memories, you would feel and act the same than they do.

Then, how do you set boundaries? Well, you and your bfs are adults and you don't have to discuss your sexual encounters with anyone you don't feel like it. So when they start talking about that, you say something like

I am sorry but I don't feel comfortable discusing my sexual encounters with your son with you. It is a private matter, and I would really appreciate if we could change the topic

And you could suggest some nice topic, like how nice was the meal.

There is an old saying:

Don't do unto others what you don't want done unto you.

It is funny how you probably don't like your bf's parents telling you how what you do is wrong, or irresponsible, or something of the sort, but you have no qualms doing the same to them, for example saying they are uptight. That kind of behavior is the root of conflict in many families. Remember you are your own person, and as long as you are not doing anything illegal you don't have to explain anything you do in your private life to anyone. Remember also, they are their own person too, so extend to them the same courtesy you want extended to you. Don't comment on their opinions or actions, those are theirs. If they ask, you can then give your opinion, but be careful. Otherwise keep it to yourself.

When you are young, in front of the "parents" or any older authorative figure, you feel the need to defend and explain yourself. Repress it. You don't have to explain anything. Specially your sex life.

You can share things, don't justify yourself. For example if you move in with your bf, you can share it with them. Telling them how happy you are with each other and how you feel is time, since you have been together X time and you basically spend so much time togehter is the same. But if you move with him and they start demanding you explain why, and saying how it is a bad idea, you don't have to explain anything. It is a toxic way of interacting. To foster a healthy relationship with them, you should show good will by sharing good news, and boundaries by stopping their demands of explanations or intrusion in private matters.

Respect, empathize, show compassion

Respect: Be respectful, saying they are uptight, is disrispectful. Remember they are your bfs parents, you shouldn't go around saying they are uptight, not to your bf, not to anyone. You can say, they have certain opinions that go against your values and create friction, but that is another thing, saying someone is uptight is basically clasifying the whole person in a group without giving us much background or justification. It is an insult, don't insult them, it fosters conflict. Don't let them insult you either. If they call you names, you just say:

We can't have a productive discussion if you insult me, please refrain of calling me names otherwise I will have to step out of the conversation. And if they continue insulting you, you excuse yourself and leave. If you are with your bf you can tell him and you two can leave. But it is important to do everything in a calm controlled way.

Demand, politely, respect, as I said, you should tell them, in a respectful way, that you don't feel comfortable discussing certain things with them.

Keep the high ground no matter how the discussion develops, if you are always respectful and demand respect in a polite manner they deauthorize themselves by attacking you in disrespectful ways. And they know it. Even if they don't show it, they know it.

Something triggered my curiosity, how did they read the messages on his phone? That is a violation of privacy. If they start with that, you point out that reading someone elses private messages is not right, and again you go back not wanting to discuss private matters.

In any case your bf has to be more careful with his phone. Your bf is an adult, it is not a child anymore, they shouldn't be reading his cellphone, and he should be more careful with it so unwated eyes can't check his private matters.

Empathize: you said they are bipolar. Well, how much do you know about people that are bipolar and what they have to go through every day? You should read about it, and you should try to understand the special challenges they face in every day life. When at work, when learning new things, dealing with new people, raising a child, etc.. This will equip you better at the moment of talking with them, you will understand better why they do certain things. This doesn't mean you should let them bully you or your bf, but it means that when they do things that make you feel bad, you will feel less hurt if you understand where they are comming from.

Try to understand the root of the conflict with your bf, why did they want to kick him out? Saying "they are bipolar" is hardly an explanation. Was he rebelious? Did he do something that went against their beliefs? Maybe they are very religious and he is not. If you understand that, you can interact around those issues better.

Also think of how they see you, so far you are the person that has brought their son into practices that they don't approve of (that sexual thing that you mentioned). They have a different believe system than you and probably what you did, or what they think that you did, signals them you are not to be trusted. You of course know they are wrong, but try to inhabit their shoes for a second, if someone did things that go against your believes, and they made someone you care for do them, how would you feel? Show them you are to be trusted, and you are responsible. They will feel more inclined to realize they exagerated.

Compassion. Be compassionate, with yourself, your boyfriend and his parents. What do you I mean? Well no one is perfect, and we all make mistakes. You love your bf, he loves you, he loves his parents. Do you think his parents dont love him? Even if they did bad things, if they are still involved with him, they most likely love him. Just some people don't know how to love in a healthy way.

Understanding this, and their bad behavior, doesnt mean you have to turn the blind eye, it means you know what they are doing what they are doing and maybe you can help them do it in a better way.

I know you are young from what you say, but young doesn't mean inmature, show them you are mature, act in a mature responsible way and it will help you not only in this relationship, but in life in general.

What do I mean with "act maturely"? Don't insult them, take responsibility for your actions. So if you did something wrong, apologize; demand respect in a respectful manner. And if they are attacking you and disrespecting you, despite your efforts asking them not to, and if they don't stop, step away. If you analyze this, they probably acted in an inmature way. We all do at one point or another. The important thing is to learn and get better.

Analyze the whole situation

You say you can't even think about them without getting upset. That is interesting, why? Try to trace everything that happened that lead to that, and in each step try to understand what everyone was feeling and doing. It helps if you write it down.

For example, and this is just an example because I don't really know the circunstances, but to give you an idea on how to proceed and think the whole situation. Your bf now lives on campus because they said many times they were going to kick him out. Now, I am making this up, but imagine that they thought that by threatening to kick him out they would get him to do better at school because he was doing bad, and he did pass the tests, but instead of thanking them, he moved out. In their mind they were doing the right thing and now he has done the ultimate disrespect. They were obviously wrong in their ways and right in the intentions. They wanted him to do good in school, they used a very poor system. If such was the case, he just needs to do good in school and doesn't need to say anything to them. Actions speak louder than words. However, if they try to discuss it, he can tell them that each time they threatened to kick him out, he felt very stressed and it was hard to study. So he felt that if he was on campus he could focus more in his studies, also because he was saving time with the commute.

If you write everything down in this way, it will help you see the point of view of each part and why each part may have acted in the way they did. It can also help you feel better and make a plan on how to act. If you encounter any specific thing you want to deal with and you don't know how to you can make another question in this site.

All of this seems a lot of work, and it is. This kind of situations are always a lot of work. It is not fair, it would be nicer if it were not necesary to do any of these and if they respected you and didn't interfere in your private matters. These are the cards that you have been dealt, if you love your bf and want to continue your relationship with him in a healthy succesful way, is going to take work.

Take into account that even if you always take the high ground and you always give respect and demand it in a polite way, they may still act badly. There is not warrantee for things to get perfect, they most likely never will be. But if they see they can not bent you out of shape and make you act irrationally, they will eventually settle for a more pacific interaction otherwise you and you bf will cut short the interactions with them more often, and they will be effectively shutting themselves out of the relationship with their son.

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