September 3, 2018

I Have Concerns About My Boyfriend’s Family: What Should I Do?


Q. I recently met my boyfriend’s family and here is something that concerns me. His parents are divorced, he was two older sisters and an older brother. Both his sisters are divorced and his brother is separated from his wife and is looking to file for divorce. No one in his family has had a successful marriage. In my family, it’s the exact opposite, my parents have been happily married for 25 years. My grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and other relatives (except a couple of them) have all had great marriages.

I have been together with my boyfriend for 2 years and our relationship is really great. Though we haven’t discussed marriage or future plans, I definitely see a future with him. How worried should I be considering no one in his family has had a successful marriage? How important and crucial is his family background in terms of making a decision on whether I should be marrying him or not?

A. Dear Worried about his family,

I am impressed!

Most people never even consider their partner’s family of origin when planning for a committed relationship. It’s actually a very valid concern.

The divorce rate is much higher for people who come from divorced families. These individuals lack a model for a successful relationship. Given that the family of origin is the single biggest socializer for relationships, it’s a serious loss.

Secondly, they have less faith in marriage as an enduring institution.

So when troubles arise, as they inevitably do, they are quicker to give up and leave, rather than trying to work it out. All of that being said, it’s not a given that people who stay together necessarily model good relationship skills either. There are reasons why people stay together (religious, financial, children) that may not teach family members how to have a successful relationship.

I don’t mean to scare you. Not at all! You and your partner have been successful for two years.

That’s a pretty good track record. There is sound research that can help you understand if your relationship is operating in a healthy way. You need to be talking openly about everything- your hopes, your personal and relationship goals and any concerns either of you may have. Red flags would include avoidance of conflict for the sake of peace, and any kind of criticism and/or defensiveness.

If it were me, I’d want to get some pre-marital counseling.

You can learn so much about your self, your partner and any deficits that either of you might bring to a marriage. Pre-marital counseling is probably the best investment that anyone can make for themselves, their relationship and ultimately any children that might come.


PS You don’t mention your ages in your letter. Why, after two years of dating is there no talk of marriage? Could he be gun-shy given his upbringing? Ask him!

About Sally LeBoy


Sally Leboy is a licensed Marriage and Family therapist, practicing in San Diego County for over 30 years. During this time, she has developed a particular expertise and reputation for working with relationship issues.

In addition to relationship issues, she works with individuals and groups with problems of anxiety, depression, stress, and life transitions.

To know more about Sally Leboy, visit her website

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