A gay couple embracing.

How to Handle Your Partner’s Unsupportive Family

While negative attitudes towards gay people are slowly changing towards more positive ones, not everybody is on board yet. Even if your own family is supportive of who you are, not all gay people are as lucky—and this can be especially painful and awkward if it’s your partner’s family that is promoting hate. In situations like these, it can be difficult to know what to do, since you want to stand up for your partner, but don’t want to interfere with the bonds he or she has with relatives. If you’re worried about how to navigate a delicate situation like this, use these five tips for dealing with a partner’s unsupportive family. 

Make your own family available.

They may not be biologically related, but that doesn’t mean your own relatives can’t treat your partner like one of the family. Obviously nothing can take away the hurt of being rejected by the ones who are supposed to love you unconditionally, but showing your partner what a supportive family is supposed to look like can make a world of difference in terms of dealing with that pain in a healthy manner.

Don’t engage with the hate.

It can be really tempting to give your partner’s unsupportive family a piece of your mind, but in the long run this won’t help anybody. In situations like these, aggression tends to only breed more aggression, so it’s highly likely that you’ll just end up shouting over one another. Homophobia is a position that is deeply rooted in ignorance, and trying to reason with people that espouse this attitude is destined to be counterproductive. Don’t be afraid to stand up for your partner if his family is attacking him directly, but trying to start a debate about the morality of being gay won’t do him any favors.

Realize that they’re not monsters.

Even though their actions may promote hate and sadness, your partner’s family members are still human beings, and it’s likely that they think they are acting in the best interests of your partner. It can be easy to demonize homophobic people and write them off without a second thought—however, this is likely to harden their hearts more than they already are. You have no obligation to accept what your partner’s family thinks about gay people, but don’t let those thoughts obscure your view of their humanity.

Be patient.

While you may think that there’s no hope for your partner’s family, people’s attitudes about gay people can change from good to bad. However, it’s highly unlikely that this change will take place overnight, so you’ll need to show some patience. As long as you give them time to think about their beliefs and continue to show them kindness, they may eventually see the error of their ways.

Don’t be ashamed of yourself.

In order to survive unsupportive family members some gay couples attempt to minimize the seriousness of their relationship by referring to one another as merely “friends” or “roommates.” While this tactic may help maintain the peace for awhile, chances are you’re not fooling anyone. Additionally, this approach only plays into the homophobic idea that you should be ashamed of being gay. One of the best ways to change negative attitudes about gay people is to simply live your life as who you are—a person who loves and is deeply committed to your partner. 

Last Updated: August 20, 2015