When you have family members who don’t support your relationship, it can be emotionally draining for you. But it can be a tough experience for your partner, too. When you build a life together, your family drama is something that affects you both. You might feel a need to protect your partner from the negative energy of your family. For the sake of your union, it’s important to ensure (to the best of your ability) that your partner never feels the unnecessary wrath of homophobic family members.
Talk About It
Both you and your partner should discuss your boundaries. Perhaps he or she has really thick skin and has no problem enduring the family barbecue. Or maybe they never want to hang around your family unless things begin to improve. It’s important for you to gain a mutual understanding of what’s acceptable. Don’t just assume. What’s comfortable for you might be frightening for your partner and vice versa.
You should also talk about your feelings. How does the homophobic family make you feel? What effects has it had on you? You need to be honest with your partner. A lack of communication around the topic can cause relationship stress. Once you have these discussions, then you can mutually come up with a plan of how to handle different situations.
As simple as this sounds, it’s difficult to do, especially if you have kids. Before you met your partner, you established long, meaningful relationships with various members of your family. It can be tough to throw them aside, but you have to do what’s best for you and your partner, especially if your family is the one who is causing the issue.
If you’re invited to family weddings, holidays, or events, consider turning them down. Especially if your partner isn’t invited. You don’t want to attend these events solo and make your partner feel that they aren’t valued (unless you have talked to them and they are truly okay with this). You also don’t want to place your partner in the crossfire between you and your family. Exposing them to open prejudice, rude comments, or even possible violence is never an alternative.
Instead, devote your family time to those who have been supportive and loving. You should consider only bringing your partner to positive family environments where they’re included and welcomed (not just tolerated).
You might not always have a way to avoid these homophobic family members. When you encounter them, they might introduce your partner as your “friend”. Talk to your partner and decide ahead of time what you want to do. You don’t have to stay silent because you don’t want to rock the boat. You can choose to correct them with the right terminology. Minimizing your partner to “friend” status is a subtle display of homophobia. It can create an upsetting experience for your partner. It is okay to stand up for them if you feel that it is important to do so. It is also okay to not address those issues if that is the agreement that you and your partner come to.
Don’t Ask Your Partner To Pretend
Some gay people feel it’s best to ease their partner into the family as a friend. After initial meetings take place, they later reveal their partner’s true identity. You never want to do this unless your partner is completely on board. You’re essentially asking your partner to step back into the closet after building a life together as an out couple. You really have to decide if this is worth it for relationship.
Homophobic family members present a challenge because they almost force you to choose between the love of your partner and the love of family. But in order for your relationship to survive, you have to do what’s right for your relationship with your partner.
If you want to talk out the pros and cons of various decisions, please call to make an appointment. You can come in alone or with your partner.
**It is important that when you reach out to a therapist that they know about LGBTQI issues. It is not your job to educate your therapist. If you find a “gay friendly” therapist or a therapist who is in the LGBTQI community, they are more likely to know how to guide you through the process. If you need tips on finding a gay friendly therapist in Long Beach or elsewhere, check out this blog post.