Every kind of ‘unconventional’ relationship comes with the added challenge of judgement from others. As someone in a long distance relationship, you’ll no doubt be familiar with the stereotypes about LDRs – such as that they ‘aren’t real relationships’ or that they ‘can never work’ – even though, in reality, plenty of LDRs are successful and lead to marriage or lifelong partnerships.
If your friends and/or family don’t approve of your long distance relationship, it can be quite an isolating feeling. After all, this is the person you want to spend all your tomorrows with and who you’re probably hoping will become part of your family eventually.
So what should you do?
Here are 10 dos and don’ts to improve things when your family don’t approve of your long distance relationship.
1. Do listen to what they have to say
If your family are concerned about your LDR, it’s easy to dismiss it outright. But it could make sense to hear them out, so that you can reassure them (or consider their concerns, if they seem legitimate to you).
What are their particular worries? You might already have a hunch about it, but their misgivings could come from all kinds of places – including things that have nothing to do with your partner as a person. Perhaps they’re worried that the country you’d be flying to to meet your partner isn’t safe. Or maybe they’re not sure if your partner is genuine.
Whatever the reason, knowing what they’re concerned about will make it easier to address their reservations.
2. Do be honest with your partner about it
If you’re not honest with your partner, it’s just going to make them suspect that something is up – and their imagination may fill in the blanks. For example, if you put off introducing them to your family again and again, they might think you’re not serious about them or that you’re embarrassed about having them as a boyfriend/girlfriend.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be tactful. Just let them know that your family are sceptical about the long distance thing but that you hope they’ll come round with time.
3. Do give it time
If your family are hesitant at first, that might just be because they don’t know your partner or the situation that well. That can happen with regular relationships too. Over time they might warm up to the idea, so give it a while and be patient.
4. Don't keep your relationship a secret
There are times when not bringing your family into your relationship choices makes sense. But if your long-term plan is for your partner and your family to get along, it’s not going to help if you pretend your partner doesn’t exist.
However, do introduce the subject in the right way. If you bring up the fact that you’re in a LDR with a tone that suggests that they should be concerned, you might end up creating that feeling where it wouldn’t have come about otherwise. Just approach it as you would with any other type of relationship. It might also help to mention some of the great things about your partner before mentioning that distance is involved – start things off on the right foot!
5. Do accept that you can't change everything
As with everything in life, there are things you can control and things you can’t. Perhaps your loved ones may never come around to the thought of you dating someone who lives elsewhere, no matter how great they are or how many times you try to get everyone together for a wonderful Zoom call.
Instead of dwelling on it, try to see the big picture and be grateful for all the ways your LDR enriches your life.
6. Don't constantly complain to your partner about it
If you do this, your partner might start to feel like a burden. Or they might resent how much your family’s attitudes seem to be affecting you and your relationship together.
Whilst you should be honest about what’s going on and feel free to open up when things are getting you down, don’t make your family’s disapproval the subject of every conversation.
7. Don't stay with someone who isn't right for you just to prove a point
Most relationships – long distance or not – are not going to last forever. Unfortunately, this means that whenever a relationship ends that your family didn’t approve of, they may feel justified in saying ‘I told you so’ – even when there’s no logical reason for it (after all, even the most conventional relationships are more likely to end than to continue forever).
This might make you want to cling on to a failing relationship even more than you normally would, because you don’t want to deal with the judgement that you know would come if you ended things.
In the end, though, staying with someone who isn’t right for you will only make things worse. Try not to let the fear of judgement be a factor in your decisions about your relationship.
8. Do ask your family how you could reassure them
If your family doesn’t approve of your relationship, what would it take for them to change their minds?
This is a very fair question and worth asking them outright. Chances are good that they’ve not really thought about it much, but asking should get them thinking. They might realise that their disapproval is based on some untrue assumptions – or, it might turn out that they just want to meet your partner in person before being really enthusiastic about the two of you being together. Either way, you’ll be a step closer to bridging that gap.
9. Do make shared friends
Having family (and sometimes friends) who disapprove of your LDR can be isolating and can really take away from the two of you feeling good about your relationship in general.
As I’ve mentioned before, a good way to counter this is to consciously make the effort to build a shared social circle of friends who appreciate you as a couple. So, get out together and meet some new people!
10. Do introduce your partner to them - even if it means FaceTime
Unless your family are dead set on not meeting your partner, organising a time to introduce everyone to each other can go a long way towards diminishing their misgivings. You can either do this in person, during one of their visits, or via video link.
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