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I am 30 years old and have been with my wonderful boyfriend for over a year. I really think he is the love of my life, we get along greatly, and we have projects for a life together, although everything for now is limited to words and dreams, because we haven’t the financial opportunity to marry, buy or rent a house yet (we both live with our parents).
All is well, apart from one thing: my parents. They absolutely do not actively get in the way of this relationship, but they refuse to meet him; just once, we went together to the theatre to see a show in which my brother acted (because my brother specifically invited my BF too), and for all the evening they didn’t exchange one single word with him. The reason behind this attitude is that – gasp! – he is ALREADY my THIRD serious boyfriend, and they are, and I quote, “tired of meeting and grow fond of guys that are destined to be dumped anyway” (because the two previous relationships were both ended by me).
I find this very offensive for many reasons: first of all, the previous relationship were ended because I was not happy and both the previous boyfriends brought lots of problems in my life, so I don’t understand how a parent would cast this up at their daughter instead of being happy for her to have ended an unhappy relationship; should I have endured fake and rotten relationships just for saving the face?
It’s not that I enjoyed ending those two previous relationships, nor I have done it light-heartedly. Secondly, they are making me feel like a whore, like having had two serious relationships in ten years (they were both long stories) equals to sleep with a different man every week. And finally, they said that they never wanted to meet any future partners, neither mine nor my brother’s, but I found out that my mother had my brother’s last girlfriend at home.
I guess the different treatment is because my brother was always dumped by his former GFs (so he is a “victim”), while I am the shameless meneater. My boyfriend is a very good-spirited person, and he says this situation doesn’t bother him at all, he says that my parents have all the rights of taking their time, and he regularly brings me vegetables from his garden to present my parents with; I wish I could have his same optimist and positive attitude about this situation, but I can’t, because I feel bad for him and I feel like I was a criminal of some sort.
My BF’s parents, on the contrary, love me to bits (and I love them), they welcomed me like a daughter of their own, and are a very close, affectionate family. My family, instead, has a history of endless conflicts, difficulty to express our feelings, and my mother and father are estranged, although still living under the same roof.
Do you have any advice? What do you think? Is this a problem of my parents who are unable to be affectionate? Or am I just overreacting and should I just get over it and live my life without caring what they think of me? Sometimes I wonder if they’d rather I kept a boyfriend I was unhappy with, just for the “image,” and end up like them, full of anger towards each other. If I had a daughter, all I would wish for her was happiness, regardless of how many men it takes before finding it.
Please forgive my not-so-good English (I am Italian but love your column and always read it), and the length of the letter.
“The Shameless Meneater”
Dear Shameless Meneater,
I think your parents are trying to protect themselves and avoid being hurt. Why don’t they just tell you this? Well, as you say, your family members don’t express their feelings well.
They probably have not told you how hard it was for them to see your previous relationships end. They have not told you how much your happiness means to them, how their hopes for you have soared and then been dashed, how they have gone through all your intense emotions right along with you, and now how they fear it will happen again and they just can’t handle it.
They may seem gruff and unfeeling but this is just a pose. They’re trying to protect themselves.
They may think that as parents they should stay out of your business. They may think burdening you with their emotions is wrong. They may think that telling you how hurt they have been is selfish and not right for parents. They may also know, deep down, that how they are handling this is silly and foolish, that refusing to meet him is not ideal. But it’s the best they can do right now. It’s the best they can do.
I think when we are young and in love we do not understand how attached our parents become to our partners. Their situation is not easy. They become attached but have no say. They have to stand on the sidelines. They have no involvement, and yet they have all the emotions.
So I suggest you respond with kindness. Tell them that you understand. Tell them it’s OK if they don’t want to meet him yet. If you show some leeway, they may become less rigid. Take an attitude of relaxed confidence. Take the pressure off them.
It would be great if everyone would show patience, but you cannot control anyone else. You can only show patience yourself and hope that it becomes contagious. So have patience with your parents. Ask your boyfriend to have patience with your parents. And know that your parents are doing the best they can.