When your girlfriend is always listening to her parents, validating your feelings is important before frustration leads to anger and resentment. Your girlfriend may be part of a toxic or enmeshed family unit and may require therapy to break these unhealthy habits. Practicing acceptance can help you deal with the situation.
When your girlfriend is always listening to her parents and following their instructions in all things, it may burden your relationship with her. A relationship between two people should be built on love, trust, and the ability to live in partnership with each other. Having a third party’s or parties’ input meddling in your affairs can be a challenging situation to overcome.
Adults that always seek the advice of and listen to their parents can be a frustrating dynamic in any relationship. There are many reasons for this scenario, from being raised in a dysfunctional family to a person not reaching a certain level of maturity or that parents, being parents, are sometimes a little over-protective. Whatever the reason, there are ways to deal with the issue in a healthy way.
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Potential Reasons Your Girlfriend Always Listens to Her Parents
While you may be frustrated that your girlfriend always seeks the advice of or listens to her parents, no matter how it affects you or your relationship, there are plausible explanations for why she acts this way. Let’s quickly look into why she’s behaving in such a manner. It could be due to being raised in the following ways:
Your Girlfriends Was Raised in a Narcissistic Family
Narcissistic families can maintain grown-up children in a “childlike” role. In these situations, the parents are pretentious and have persuaded the kids that they, the parents, are smarter and more experienced than the child(ren), who is/are now adults.
These adult offspring of narcissists frequently find themselves leaning back to their parents for guidance or approval in a way that makes them seem much younger than they are, even as adults who should have detached by now.
Your Girlfriend is Enmeshed with a Parent
Enmeshment is a different harmful dynamic in which an adult’s childhood bond with one parent was stronger than that with the other parent. Like a surrogate spouse, the child is frequently the parent’s confidant and a major source of consolation and assurance.
Healthy boundaries between parents and children evaporate when they are intertwined, and the parent tells the child whatever is on their mind without recognizing that the knowledge is improper for the child’s stage of development.
- Families with divorce, high levels of marital conflict, alcoholism, or parents with narcissism or borderline personality disorder frequently experience this dynamic.
- Another example is the “parentified child,” when a child takes care of their parent physically and emotionally as if they had switched positions.
- Then there is the entangled relationship, in which the parent continues to treat the child as a baby even as she matures into adulthood, keeping her close by insinuating that she cannot function on her own, either explicitly or implicitly—for example, by doing everything for her, thus implying that she is unable to do things on her own—which frequently results in them becoming adult babies.
Your Girlfriend is Codependent
Because codependent persons have a propensity to create and grow dependent on toxic, emotionally damaging relationships, codependency is sometimes referred to as “relationship addiction,” according to Mental Health America.
Signs that your girlfriend may be codependent:
- She values others’ approval more than valuing herself
- She struggles to identify her emotions
- She finds it hard to make decisions in the relationship
- She finds it difficult to communicate
- She lacks trust in herself
- She has poor self-esteem
- She fears abandonment
- She has an obsessive need for approval
- She has an unhealthy dependence on relationships
- She has an exaggerated sense of responsibility for other’s actions
Suppose any of the above realities rings true in the case of your girlfriend constantly listening to her parents. In that case, we suggest some therapy to disentangle her from those behavioral patterns, thinking, and actions.
Validate the Frustration
Frustration, anger, and resentment are some of the emotions you experience when your girlfriend always listens to her parents. A relationship should be a loving partnership, where you make decisions together and not be dictated to by external parties. Here are some tips on handling such a situation:
1. Communicate Your Feelings
Don’t allow your feelings to bottle up. It’s not healthy; it often leads to resentments and can lead to angry outbursts as your frustration level hits the roof.
You will have to communicate your feelings from the start or when you start to notice that your girlfriend is always listening to her parents or often overrides your input when making decisions in your relationship.
Tell her that her behavior and actions are frustrating and make you feel “less than” in the relationship. When she is aware of your frustration and inner feelings, she can’t get angry when she keeps on doing it in the future. Having communicated how you feel, you are then allowed to detach from certain situations where boundaries are being overstepped.
Communicate to her that you want her to make her own decisions in the future, and allow her the space to find the courage to break free of this annoying habit. Be supportive, as detangling herself from her parents may be difficult and lengthy.
2. Build a Healthy Relationship with Your Girlfriend’s Parents
Getting to know the people your girlfriend listens to no matter what is a good idea. The interaction of building a relationship with them will give you some insight into their relationship dynamics.
Her parents may be over-protective due to her being involved in bad/toxic/abusive relationships in the past, and like any good parent, they may just be looking out for her. Showing them that they have nothing to worry about by introducing yourself into their lives might solve the problem in the long run. Trust is earned, and until they trust you, they may continue to tell her what to do while she’s still willing to listen.
When the relationship is settled, healthy, and strong, you can talk directly with her parents about certain scenarios where you feel the parents should give her space to make her own decisions. Setting healthy boundaries with them is also an option, but it will only work if you are dealing with a normal family.
When it seems that your girlfriend is unwilling to change this habit, and it looks like she will continue to listen to her parents for whatever reason, it might be time for you to change your strategy and start practicing acceptance.
Acceptance means that you face reality. Instead of demanding that things be the way you want them to be, it is a willingness to experience things as they are.
What Acceptance is Not
- Agreement: You don’t have to agree with what is happening with your girlfriend and her parents, but you accept it for what it is as struggling against it is useless.
- Weakness: Accepting life on life’s terms takes a lot of courage.
- Defeat: Accepting that you can’t change your girlfriend and her parents opens up other opportunities where you can spend your time and energy.
- Quitting: Acceptance is shifting your focus from what you cannot change to areas you can.
The Benefits of Acceptance
- Less Pain: Whatever you refuse to accept is a source of pain where nonacceptance increases the discomfort – Suffering = Pain x Resistance.
- Move On: By accepting what happened, you can move on rather than being mired in regret over what may have been.
Three Ways to Practice Acceptance
- Practice Detachment: Once you have done everything in your power to change your girlfriend’s situation, of always listening to her parents, take a step back and allow the situation to unfold naturally. By detaching from the situation, you become an impartial observer, and if your girlfriend changes her ways, you’ll be fine, and if she doesn’t, you’ll also be fine.
- Practice Letting Go: When you find that you are having a hard time letting go of a situation, or a preferred outcome, you can start to practice the art of letting go. Instead of putting your mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, and financial well-being at risk, ask yourself if your life won’t be better off if you just let this go?
- Practice Fortitude: It is unreasonable and pointless to worry, whine, or dwell on things we cannot control or alter. On the other hand, we may start to alter things when we concentrate on the factors we control, such as our attitude, how we perceive events, habits, thinking patterns, and behaviors.
By practicing acceptance in your situation where your girlfriend is always listening to her parents, you can avoid emotions like frustration, anger, and, most importantly, resentment from ruining your life and indirectly your relationship with your girlfriend.
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You may feel powerless when faced with the situation explained above. The only one who can change the situation is your girlfriend, who may not want to do it, or for some psychological reason, be unable to do it. That leaves you with practicing acceptance to maintain some form of serenity while dealing with your girlfriend and her parents.
After earning his Master of Social Work from the University of Toronto, Stuart gained experience working with families in community mental health settings and in the child protection sector. Since becoming a father himself, Stuart now works in private practice offering psychotherapy services. FatherResource is an opportunity for Stuart to share what he learns on his journey as a father with a larger audience.