Feel-Good Ways to Handle Disapproval

At Kelleher International, we think it’s beneficial to know how to handle disapproval of relationships with grace.

Couples face romantic scrutiny for all kinds of reasons – interracial, sexual orientation, differing religions, age gap, wealth disparity, lifestyle choices.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of sideways glances and disapproving family members, it’s essential to find the confidence to handle it early. 

Whether you’re exploring a new match or are decidedly in an exclusive relationship, this is your experience. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. But when it comes to family, that’s a bumpy road to choose. 

Director of matchmaking, Kimberly Colgate, says, “There will always be critics. And I think there is value in understanding a perspective beyond your own. Discounting the feelings of the ones we are closest to – and that might even know us best – can create more turmoil down the road. I try to encourage clients to handle disapproval by seeking understanding. Why do mom and dad feel this certain way about their partner?” 

So why not consider some feel-good ways to handle the icky situation of disapproval?

Whether from friends, family, work associates, your community, or strangers – if you’ve been targeted once as a couple, you tend to look for it to happen again. That defensiveness can strain all of the relationships in your life, including the one you’re trying to defend.

At Kelleher International, we coach clients through the insecurities that might bubble up trying to objectively handle disapproval while honoring your feelings and the relationship you’re exploring.

One of the best ways to handle disapproval is not to assume the worst. 

For example, if you notice someone observing you and your significant other, don’t assume they see your differences in a negative light. 

Perhaps they’re noticing what a great couple you are. Or maybe they too are in a similar relationship and appreciate seeing more of their tribe out in public. Don’t let it matter what others are thinking. Let yourself smile back and enjoy the attention.

On occasion, that attention could be openly aggressive or mean-spirited. Even then, it’s best not to engage or give any of your energy to a negative situation or person that has absolutely nothing to do with your relationship. Their opinion doesn’t matter.

When it comes to family and close friends, it’s a different story. 

We all have a gut feeling of our family’s take on our significant other. If you sense any awkwardness or disapproval, it’s vital to address it.

“I’m a big fan of the old rule – praise publicly, reprimand privately,” says Kelleher International CEO, Amber Kelleher-Andrews. “Don’t call out Uncle Bob over Thanksgiving dinner but certainly have a heart-to-heart with him when you have a few moments alone. I think the best way to handle disapproval of any kind is to be as open-hearted in the moment as you wish the other person to be. Passing judgment back and forth solves nothing and creates deeper divides.”

So, how do you keep an open heart and mind when someone you love actively disapproves of your romantic partner?

Being raised under the same roof doesn’t mean the entire family shares a standard set of values. That’s why boundaries are your best friend when it comes to family.

If you receive pressure to end the relationship, it probably makes you less likely to want to show up with your partner for family dinners. And if your partner is ignored or openly mistreated at family gatherings, that’s even worse. 

Handle disapproval responsibly by creating some ground rules that openly respect everyone involved.

For example, telling your mom that you love her deeply, but if she can’t be inclusive and kind to your partner, then neither of you will be attending the monthly family dinners. And then stick to that.

It’s not easy to disappoint those closest to us. But walking the walk will oftentimes help them realize how much you love and care for your partner. With loving patience, make room for your family to come around and see the amazing ways your SO adds to your life.

Kimberly reminds us, “Remember that people are often critical of others for their selfish reasons that have nothing to do with you. Maybe Uncle Bob always wished he followed his heart and married for love over convenience. Perhaps Mom is worried about what her friends will think. 

You may not agree, and it could be hurtful, but having this dialogue early on can strengthen your relationship down the road. Often we get swept up in the quest for love and overlook some key fundamentals. Your family may shed light on something you aren’t seeing. So hear them out, and don’t be too quick to defend.”

One of the most important ways to handle disapproval of your relationship is to shelter your partner from the hurtful comments. 

Your relationship needs to be transparent. However, there’s no reason your SO needs to hear the play-by-play of jabs and negative chatter aimed at them. Especially when you’re hopeful your family will come around. If you share every hurtful comment, it becomes more difficult for your partner to “forgive and forget” when the family finally warms up to them.

We can never be certain how the world will react to us, but we owe it to ourselves to be authentic on our journey in life and love. An open-heart and an open-mind are a terrible thing to waste.

If you have wisdom to share to help others handle disapproval of their relationship, please leave a message in the comments section below.

And if you find yourself in love with someone that doesn’t fit into the neat and tidy box you expected, we hope you’ll let your heart take the lead. We’ll talk more about that in an upcoming post.

In the meantime, wishing you luck in love.