I came out a few years ago to my whole family as a lesbian, and everyone was more or less accepting and supportive. My partner and I come to all family gatherings together as a couple and everyone knows we’re planning on marrying someday, but my grandparents continue to call my partner my “friend” when referring to her. While they seem completely fine with it other than this one detail, I can’t help but be deeply offended that she still will not refer to her as my partner/girlfriend. How should I handle this?
Thank you for reaching out, it might help to know that you’re not alone in this experience! Our grandparents come from a very different time than we do. Attitudes toward same-sex couples were so different even 10-20 years ago in terms of rights and acceptance, and in the 30s, 40s, 50s, and even 60s, when many of our grandparents were growing up, it was a drastically different world. As much as your grandparents love you and seem to want to support you, they are carrying a very different perspective of the world that’s been ingrained in them over a lifetime. They may need a bit more time to adjust to a type of romantic relationship that they may not have even knew existed until later in their life.
That being said, have you had a heart-to-heart with them yet about you’re feeling and how you would like them to refer to your partner? (They may not know what’s appropriate or preferred until you tell them). If you have a local PFLAG chapter near you it might be an opportunity for them to meet other families and gain a better understanding of how to support and affirm you and your relationship. You can check out www.pflag.org to find out if there is a chapter near you.
Perhaps you can all meet halfway – try to see the world through their eyes as best you can while you ask them to do the same for you. Hopefully they will begin to use the terms you ask of them. If they don’t, continue to utilize the support system that you do have while continuing to enrich your family by sharing the loving relationship you and your partner have built with them.