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Parents Don't Like Boyfriend

Group Therapy: Boyfriend Is Shy, Parents Think He's Rude

This question is from a Group Therapy post in our TrèsSugar Community. Add your advice in the comments!

My boyfriend and I have been dating for three years [since] I was 18 and he was almost 20. We have an amazing relationship and interpersonal chemistry that grew out from hard work, minor heartbreak, and love. In our first two years of dating, only my mom and older brother knew we were dating, for my conservative dad would not have taken kindly with me dating in college.

After our second-year anniversary, we took a break for a Summer and got back together. My boyfriend and I slowly worked out our relationship, going on dates acknowledged by both my parents and having him over for dinner. He has since become almost part of my family, even to the point of helping to cook for our Summer barbecues and fixing the home computer. Nonetheless, he still feels incredibly shy and quiet around my parents. For example, my parents would inquire about him and his school life, and he would not really ask anything about theirs or start any casual conversations with them.


At our house Christmas party, upon arrival, my boyfriend did a general "hi everyone" greeting to all of our guests in the house but did not personally greet my parents and each of our relatives and family friends since he said he did not know our guests well enough to greet them. My parents took issue as they perceived his actions to be disrespectful and unappreciative.

On the other hand, my boyfriend says that he cannot easily relate to them unlike with his friends' parents whom he can easily greet and chat with. I love him very much, and I don't want this to hinder all the love and care we give to each other after all these years, but I don't want to let down my parents and relatives with my boyfriend being perceived as bad-mannered and rude. I want to help him out as well as help out my parents with this particular issue.  How do I best navigate and correct this?

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Join The Conversation
BiWife BiWife 6 years
I don't see what the issue is for your parents. Did they expect a formal greeting line like at a wedding where you stop & chat with each family member? Why must one be the life of the party in order to not be "rude"? There's nothing wrong with being quiet & he did make simple group gestures of social formalities. The family of your significant other can be extremely intimidating, especially if they're disapproving. They need to back off a bit if they want to be able to see anyone's real nature. Giant family gatherings are also quite awkward for a significant other. There's a ton of names, family ties, etc, to keep track of and everyone always seems engaged with one another so it can be tough to get a word in edgewise without being looked at as rude for trying to be too familiar with extended family. Talk to both your fam & your bf. Get them to loosen up a bit, get to know one another in smaller settings, and build his confidence.
Dragonflye Dragonflye 6 years
Um, I kind of think that he IS bad-mannered and rude! And he should be polite enough to talk to members of your family, whether he is shy, afraid, or whatever! Especially if you see long term potential. What would he do at your wedding? Ignore half of the room?? It's just not a practical plan to duck in, say "hi" and run out of the room. Personally, if someone in my family were dating someone like this, I would think him weird or rude too. I think the onus is on him to get the courage to do something about this social anxiety. Either joining Toastmasters or some other kind of group to teach him the art of small talk. Getting everyone to tiptoe around the issue is not helping him.
Pistil Pistil 6 years
Obviously you want a good standing with the parents, but why bend over backwards to impress anyone? He's not actually rude, just quiet. If this is really going to strain your relationship, better luck finding someone your parents approve of. I don't think you should feel like you have to "fix" the person you're dating.
HollyJRockNRoll HollyJRockNRoll 6 years
My boyfriend is like this. You have a conservative family and that can be scary to the non conservative, plus he is dating you which raises the stakes. Tell your parents to back off, that he is shy, and to see his actions as a sign he's a stand up guy. This is more of your parents problem, not your mans.
totygoliguez totygoliguez 6 years
I would have gotten the same impression if I were your parents. I understand some people are shy, but he should have tried more to make your parents like him and make casual conversation with them.In my experience, there is nothing you can say to your family to change the impression they have about someone. Every time my brother defended my sister-in-law, my mom would say that " she doesn't show it." And to be honest, actions do speak louder than words. Some people say you don't marry the family, but they are wrong. You have to be straight with him and tell him that your parents think he is rude. Ask him to try harder to get your parents to like him. For example, every time I met a parent, I ask my friend or bf to tell me something not too personal about her parents and them I start by saying," Your daughter told me you had the flu. How are you feeling?" and then I start a conversation about the flu and tell them anecdotes.
moredom moredom 6 years
Everyone's comfort zone is different. He's a young man - still maturing and growing, himself! And it sounds like your parents body language make him feel even more self conscious and uncomfortable (they've already shared their displeasure with you). I'm sure it projects. Your parents seem to have a lack of respect for you and those you love. I find the fact that they pick your boyfriend apart to you is "disrespectful and rude." As your elders, why wouldn't they lead by example and help him out?!. You are a well-versed thoughtful young woman. It's time for mom and dad to appreciate you and your decisions.
postmodernsleaze postmodernsleaze 6 years
Make sure you let your family know that he is incredibly shy and does not mean to come off as rude. I am a very shy person and have gotten the "she's a bitch" comment a lot because of it. I try really hard to be aware of my body language when I'm at things like parties. I might feel comfortable with my arms crossed, kind of quietly hanging out by the wall, but it comes off as rude. I try not to do that. If someone starts talking to me, I usually bounce back their questions so that I'm not standing there being really awkward and quiet trying to think up something of my own. For example: Them: "So what are you majoring in at college?" Me: "I majored in elementary education and just graduated. How about you? Going to school at all?" See? No need to think up something of my own, which can be hard for a shy person. I just bounce back exactly what they've asked. Anyway, those are a couple of my tips for trying not to seem rude because of shyness. It took me awhile to kind of socially train myself, but I got there. I haven't gotten the "bitch" comment in several years! It's a terrible blow to the self-esteem when people assume that you are mean and rude. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten the comment, "I thought you were such a bitch before I got to know you! You're so nice!" So please let your family know that he is shy and it's really hard for him to initiate conversation.
gingirl gingirl 6 years
I had this same exact problem. My boyfriend is very shy, whereas my family is very outgoing and LOUD. It's taken him quite a while to get used to it, but I had this same problem at parties. Especially on my father's side, where manners are important above all else. I figured the best thing to do was to take him by the hand and say "Baby, I want to introduce you to some people." Because he wasn't comfortable doing it himself, and I understand that; walking into a room full of people you don't know is intimidating. It worked out pretty well. We did like a circuit around the room, and after he had been introduced to everybody he felt more comfortable starting conversations with certain people from there on out. Just keep reminding your parents, that he does have good manners (why else would he fix their computer, lol) and he is very appreciative. As a previous poster said, his actions around them should speak louder. They know he's shy, that's not something they should give him crap about. But try and stick by his side more at parties, or places where he doesn't know anybody. He's gonna need you to do introductions and to help him feel as comfortable as you want him to be. It'll get better in time.
AgainAnew AgainAnew 6 years
I think it would be very intimidating for a boyfriend to interact with a family like that, one that watches what he does and takes offense if he doesn't act properly. They should take into consideration the fact that he doesn't know everyone and is at a large family function. And he knows your father didn't know you dated previously. That situation would make me uncomfortable as well. Just try to make him feel as comfortable as possible and over time he will loosen up.
medenginer medenginer 6 years
Actions speak louder than words. If he's willing to do things for them then they need to realize he's not rude just perhaps introverted. I hate it when I feel forced to make conversation and especially when you know it's not necessarily genuine. It might also be a case of no man will be good enough to suit them but your parents won't say that. I would try something with less people like a dinner or an activity and not force the issue.
missmaryb missmaryb 6 years
Maybe you can tell your parents that he likes them and enjoys hanging out at your house, but he's just very shy and has a hard time opening up. Are they understanding? If so, that should be enough. He may always feel shy around them. Only he can change his shy ways if he wants to. You can tell him it bothers your family, but you can't force him to be something he's not.
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