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Ask a life coach: I have a niggling feeling about my son's new girlfriend – what should I do?

Life coach Hattie MacAndrews shares her no-nonsense advice for dealing with your child's new partner

Shot of a young couple and their elderly parent spending some time together at home
27 March 2024
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In her new column, life coach Hattie MacAndrews shares her advice on the problems plaguing her clients.

Here she tackles the issue of not being sure about your child's new partner and explains why letting go of perfectionism is key in such situations

Hattie MacAndrews smiling on a sofa
Hattie MacAndrews shares her advice for tricky situations

The Issue: Navigating new partners and perfectionism 

"My two sons are coming to stay for the weekend and my eldest is bringing his new girlfriend home for the first time. I’ve never met her, but I get the impression she is lazy and can be demanding and I’m worried she will expect us to all run around after her.

"I am cooking a big lunch for 16 family members on Sunday and will need all hands on deck to ensure the day is perfect. How do I make sure they help out around the house and that we don’t clash? I really want to like her, and my son seems happy, but for some reason I have this niggling doubt about her in my mind.

The solution: Let go of perfectionism

Ah, the familiar pressure to host the ‘perfect’ family gathering and the multitude of stresses this entails – a sentiment echoed by parents around the country.

What is it about celebrating holidays and get-togethers that send us into a spin? The strive for perfection, the strain of organising and the overwhelming need to try and manage family dynamics and complexities. I’m sure this isn’t your first rodeo, but please believe me when I say your worry is fruitless. What will be will be, and unfortunately – a great deal is out of your control, so let’s start with examining what you can control.

Shot of a young couple and their elderly parent spending some time together at home© Getty
Meeting your son's partner for the first time can be tricky

Setting yourself up for failure

What I pick up from your message, is that your approach to the weekend is setting you up for failure, in more ways than one. Having not met the new girlfriend, I wonder where you get the impression that she’s lazy from? Is this based on feedback from your son, or are you making an assumption? Has he told you as much, and if so, is it important to him?

 READ: How to overcome perfectionism according to a life coach 

Is the niggling doubt specifically about her perceived idleness, or is there something else bothering you about this relationship? It seems to be an enormous waste of your precious time and mental energy to worry about something you don’t know to be true.

I would encourage you to dig a little deeper into the root of your assumptions, as flipping your mindset before she arrives will stand you in good stead for a successful weekend.

I’m sure you don’t want to spend the weekend keeping tabs on every mug she doesn’t wash or plate she doesn’t clear. Mothers are known to be highly (over)protective of their first-born sons, especially when it comes to their choice of women – is there any truth to this here?

Extended family eating together© Getty
Hattie's client wants to have a perfect family meal

Shift your perspective 

You could try shifting your perspective to thinking what a privilege it is that your son wants to come home and spend the weekend with you, and that he’s probably very excited for you to meet his new partner.

Accepting the choices of others

Throughout my years as a coach, I’ve worked with a multitude of women in all sorts of relationships. One thing I have learnt and would love everyone to understand – is that we don’t have to understand relationships to accept them.

Take a glance around your friendship groups – would you have chosen half the men your friends chose to marry? Probably not. Does this reflect on their happiness as a couple? Absolutely not.

In a strange sort of way it’s none of your business. Once you’ve met her, you can start to ask yourself the important questions – do you think she makes him happy? Does she bring out the best version of him when they are together? What she (might) lack in housework, does she make up for it elsewhere?

 INSPIRATION: 5 life coach-approved ways to feel happier - without spending a penny 

It’s also helpful to remember that their relationship might be short-lived, in which case you have nothing to worry about. If it does stand the test of time, you will have plenty of opportunities to bond with her and figure out who she is as a person and what your relationship looks like going forward. Until then, keep an open mind. Do your best to remain kind and receptive towards her and time will tell what comes next

Manage expectations

My most practical advice would be for you to manage expectations before the weekend and set some clear boundaries – predominantly with your own children.

Having a clear-cut conversation about what you are offering and what you expect will stand you in good stead to receive the help and support you will need. Ask yourself what ‘all hands on deck’ looks like in practical terms – are you expecting them to peel the spuds and clean the guest bathroom or just give you a hand with the tidy-up?

Often when kids, despite being adults, return home they quickly revert to childhood patterns and behaviors. If you require more from them, it’s okay (and sometimes necessary) to ask.

 HATTIE'S COLUMN? I ditched my phone for a whole week – here's what I learned 

Delegating will be your friend! This might look like sending a message to say, ‘Everything is organized for lunch on Sunday, are you happy to do your own thing for breakfast? We have bacon and eggs – if you’d like anything else either send me a list before you arrive or can you pick it up on the way.’

It’s then up to your kids to relay this message to their partners. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to hosting family gatherings. I have been for lunches where absolutely everything has been thought of and prepared before arrival, and others where everyone gets stuck in and plays a role. You just find a rhythm that works for you and your family.

Female Vlogger Making Social Media Video About Cooking for the Internet. Culinary Vlog. Baking Blog.overweight  Woman Cooking and Show Baking for Social Media. Video Recording at Kitchen.© Getty
Delegating tasks makes life easier

Forget perfection

Last but not least, I implore you to let go of the pressure to be perfect. It just simply does not exist. You will send yourself into a spin trying to achieve the impossible.

Try and enjoy the day for what it is. The more at ease you are, the better the day will go - and what’s the point in doing all this work if you can’t enjoy it?

You will one day look back at this weekend and remember all the good stuff and happy memories, not who washed which dishes or how long it took to set the table. Zoom out and look at the bigger picture – what a joy to be able to spend time with your kids and have lunch with your family.

Discover more stellar advice from Hattie on Instagram.

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