When you become a parent, you magically develop a sixth sense for knowing when your child is up to something (like raiding the cookie jar) or getting into danger (like skateboarding down the stairs). That psychic ability doesn't go away once a child grows up; if anything, it becomes keener. And when your son or daughter chooses a spouse or partner who might not be the best fit, you as a parent have a way of spotting relationship red flags that might be otherwise overlooked.
Let's be clear: We're not talking here about the hyper-critical moms who find fault with everyone you bring home, even if they're so good and thoughtful that they'd put a saint to shame. Or the overprotective dads who believe no one is good enough for their little girl and mutter threats like "You'd better treat her like royalty" right up to and including the wedding day. No, this is about normal, concerned parents who watch the way their children interact with their SO's and get an uneasy feeling in the pit of their stomachs.
When we're in the throes of love, it can be hard to realize the signs that a relationship isn't as healthy as it should be. But just as our parents learned to tell when we were sick just by a touch on the forehead or a look in the eyes, they can also be pretty good predictors of the health of a partnership or marriage. These are just a few of the trouble signs a mom and dad can notice about a partner. If your folks mention any of these topics to you, it may be time to take a difficult but necessary look at your relationship.
They Roll Their Eyes A Lot
Parents are good at noticing body language that a lovestruck child may miss. And to an alert mom, seeing your partner quietly rolling their eyes at you sets off her inner alarm — as well it should. According to relationship expert Dr. John Gottman, eye-rolling, sarcasm, and sneering are all signs of contempt, which he said is the biggest predictor of divorce in married couples. Why? Contempt shows a lack of respect for the other person, and a relationship can't survive without respect. It's also a passive-aggressive move, because your partner is expressing their feelings without actually telling you what the problem is. If your folks tell you, "I don't like the way s/he's treating you," you'd do well to take them seriously.
They Forget Their Manners
After years of teaching their own kids how to be polite, you'd better believe parents notice when current or potential in-laws are rude. If your partner forgets to shake hands, doesn't offer to help clean up after dinner, or cracks inappropriate jokes, your folks will start to wonder what kind of person they're letting into the family. Worse yet, from a parent's standpoint: not being considerate to you. When your SO neglects to thank you for bringing them a drink, or checks their texts while you're struggling with the baby carrier and diaper bag, your mom is likely to worry that you're being taken for granted.
They Bounce From Job To Job
Naturally, parents want their children to be financially secure, and that includes marrying someone with a steady, well-paying career. So if your sweetheart is between jobs, or if their current position doesn't seem to match their age or abilities, your folks may worry about how this will play out in the long run. Before you argue with them, take a step back and ask yourself: Is your partner's job situation a temporary setback, or something that's likely to drag out? Are they actively looking for work? How many jobs has your honey had over the last few years? Matchmaker Rori Sassoon cautioned to Insider that changing jobs too frequently can be a sign of personality issues or other problems that could affect your relationship over time.
They Trash-Talk Their Own Family
Your mom may be delighted to hear your partner praise her cooking or the way she decorates the house for Christmas. But if they go on to say, "My mother could never be bothered to put a decent dinner together," or, "Our holidays were pretty lame when I was growing up," it might make your mom feel a bit uneasy. As Self noted, people who totally disrespect their own family might very well go on to do the same thing to yours. Or maybe your partner actually had an abusive or neglected childhood, in which case it might be advisable for them to seek professional help to learn how to build a healthy relationship with you.
They Keep Looking At Their Watch
Your family is on their best behavior, but your SO still acts as though they'd rather be somewhere else. They give one- or two-word answers to your dad's questions. They keep checking their watch or looking at the door. They retreat to the den with their phone while everyone else is still having coffee in the dining room. Or they even make excuses not to accompany you to family events.
Your folks can tell when someone isn't into them, and if this is a continuing issue, it can affect your relationship with both your family and your partner. For situations like this, ask yourself what you're willing to put up with, recommended relationship columnist Carolyn Hax in The Seattle Times. Are you okay with having your SO stay home all or most of the time when you're with the folks? Or do you want a partner who's "an eager addition to your family, instead of an alternative to it?" These are some questions to ask, she advised, and depending on your answer, it may be time to work things out with the help of a counselor.
They Try To Limit Your Visits Home
When your mom or dad remarks that they never see you anymore, take a minute to figure out why. Is it just a case of life getting in the way — late hours at work, kids busy with sports tournaments? Or is it because your spouse or SO is guilt-tripping or threatening you out of it? A partner who deliberately tries to isolate you from your family and friends is a huge red flag, psychiatrist Gail Saltz, Ph.D., told Redbook. "[It's] very controlling behavior and can be a sign of a potentially abusive relationship." If this sounds all too familiar, it's time to seek help ASAP.
After a very frustrating first birth experience, this Deaf mother wanted a change. Will the help of two Deaf doulas give the quality communication and birth experience this mom wants and deserves? Watch Episode Four of Romper's Doula Diaries, Season Two, below, and visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for more episodes.