My mom wasn’t exactly thrilled when I started dating my now-husband, Chris.
Despite the fact that I was clearly into him, she’d change the subject whenever I mentioned him and encouraged me more than a few times to “see what else is out there.” She was subtle about it at first but cranked up the heat once we became more serious.
It was weird: Chris did everything right. He was polite, kind, and, most importantly, treated me well. But she couldn’t get past his long hours as a chef, the gauges in his ears, and the fact that he didn’t have the same level of higher education that I did.
When Chris and I moved in together after a year of dating, it was on. She refused to set foot in our apartment when she came to visit, even though she lived hours away, and even once asked my brother-in-law to set me up with one of his friends—right in front of me.
Chris was aware of my mom’s issues with our relationship but didn’t let it faze him. He was incredibly patient with her comments in a way that I’m not sure I would be if roles were reversed. But while he didn’t seem to care, I did. And it bothered me more as time went on.
Things finally came to a head at my cousin’s wedding, of all places. After my mom made a few loaded comments about Chris over the passed hors d’oeuvres, I pulled her aside and told her she needed to stop. She refused, and I stormed out. It was beyond dramatic, and our relationship was strained for months after that.
Eventually, the criticisms stopped, mostly because my mom realized we weren’t going to have a good relationship if they continued. She slowly warmed up to Chris over the years, but I could tell she still wasn’t convinced that he was the one for me.
I came home one day to find my mom in my apartment, cooking with Chris. They laughed and chatted, and when she hugged him, I nearly passed out.
What had happened? Earlier that day, Chris had asked my parents if he could ask me to marry him. Apparently seeing that Chris was serious about a future with me was what it took for my mom to finally see how great he is.
My mom’s 180 isn’t uncommon, according to licensed clinical psychologist Kelly Tonelli, PsyD. She says that parents typically come around on their child’s significant other after that person shows a big commitment like a proposal. “The concern might have been that the partner would never commit,” she explains. Time can also help resolve any issues they had with an S.O., as well as just create a general acceptance that they’re part of the family now, she says.
I have a lot of friends who have struggled with the same issue, and apparently we all failed on one major factor: We tried too hard to bring our parents around. Tonelli stresses that it’s important to not force things, which I definitely did. I would often slip little factoids about why Chris was so great into conversations with my mom and set up opportunities for them to be alone, even though she clearly wasn’t feeling it. “You cannot make your parents like someone,” says Tonelli.
Thankfully, it did. The proposal definitely helped, but now that we’re married, my mom treats him like her own son. She makes big gestures, like going to events at his restaurant and talking up his accomplishments to everyone she sees. But I really notice the little things she does for him now, like how she stocks her fridge with Chris’s favorite beer when we come to visit, invites him to swing by for coffee on his way to work, and calls him to chat when I’m not home. Little gestures like that are what my mom always does for my sister and me, and it means so much that she does them for Chris now, too.
Korin Miller is a writer, SEO nerd, wife, and mom to a little one-year-old dude named Miles. Korin has worked for The Washington Post, New York Daily News, and Cosmopolitan, where she learned more than anyone ever should about sex. She has an unhealthy addiction to gifs.