Sometimes, it seems like it's practically in your relatives' job descriptions to hand out unsolicited advice about your life decisionsÃ¢â‚¬”but it's never quite as unwanted as when it's (a) negative, and (b) about your significant other.
In the most recent episode of Girls (you might want to stop reading now if you're a fan and haven't seen it yet), Hannah gets hit with just such a blow from her mother: "You're so special, you deserve everything and more," she says. "He's really nice, but stay open to possibilities."
When Hannah balks at the suggestionÃ¢â‚¬”after all, Adam has really gone above and beyond this seasonÃ¢â‚¬”Hannah's mom goes into excruciating detail about just what she finds so unsavory about Adam. "He's odd, he's angry, he's uncomfortable in his own skin, he bounces around from thing to thing. I don't want you to spend your whole life socializing him like he's a stray dog, making the world a friendlier place for him." Ouch.
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Found yourself in a similar situation? First, resist the urge to get defensive. Instead, calmly thank them for their concern and tell them that you're going to think carefully about what they said, suggests Wendy Walsh, Ph.D., a relationship expert and author of The 30-Day Love Detox; that should appease them for the time being. Then, ask yourself these vital questions to figure out if their concern is legitimate:
Is My Relative Worried About My Safety?
"It's one thing if a family member you're close to tells you they're worried whether you're with the right person," says Rachel Sussman, a licensed psychotherapist and author of The Breakup Bible. "But if they tell you you're in danger or there are control issues or emotional abuse issues, then it really is a responsibility of someone in the family to speak up." Which means these are the times you'll definitely want to listen to what they're saying and probably dump your S.O.Ã¢â‚¬”your safety and psychological wellbeing could depend on it.
How Often Does This Family Member Give Me Advice?
If the answer is constantly, then you can take what they're saying with a grain of salt. But if your sister usually never says a peep about the guys you date and now is telling you she doesn't like the way this one treats you, that's worth paying more attention to. After all, she must think something is seriously wrong with this man (or your relationship) if she's veered from her normal routine of respecting your decisions without commentÃ¢â‚¬”so in this situation, you'll want to seriously consider whether what they're saying has any merit, says Sussman.
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What's Motivating My Loved One to Make This Comment?
Sometimes, the answer is 100 percent concern for you. Other times, though, something else is at play. "When somebody says something negative about someone else, it's almost always about something they feel about themselves," says Walsh. Oftentimes, people make critical comments because you've been spending more time with your partner and less time with them (hey, they miss youÃ¢â‚¬”can you blame them?). Other times, as appears to be the case here, your relative may be trying to prevent you from making what they see as a similar mistake to one they've made (Hannah's father is definitely strange, too, so it seems her mom may be projecting here). Regardless, the answer here will help you better decide how to respond to their concerns: For example, if your family member misses you, you can offer to spend more time with them.
Is Their Criticism Valid?
Hannah's mom is rightÃ¢â‚¬”Adam is odd. But sometimesÃ¢â‚¬”particularly when people are upset with you about something elseÃ¢â‚¬”they're just picking a fight about your partner and there's less substance to their complaints.
And If It Is, Am I All Right With That?
Hannah's mom may have had a tough time dealing with her dad's quirksÃ¢â‚¬”but that doesn't mean that Hannah necessarily needs to dump Adam. As a general rule of thumb, Sussman suggests asking yourself how much this personality trait of your partner's bothers you now; the answer may help you determine whether you should stick with the relationship or not. "Because if it's something that really bothers you now, there's a good chance it's going to bother you even more as time goes on," says Sussman.
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