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His family won't accept me

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  June 20, 2011 07:55 AM

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Q: Meredith,

I've been dating my boyfriend for almost a year and we moved very quickly into a serious relationship. It didn't feel quick to us, though. It just felt natural so I went with it. The problem isn't the fact that we were finishing each other's sentences the day we met or that we moved in together after six months because it just made sense all around. The problem is, and I suspect will continue to be, his parents' acceptance of our relationship.

His mother is perfectly polite and never rude to me when I go to visit them, but she has told Steve that we are moving too fast, that we spend too much time together, and that she is terrified I will get pregnant and ruin his life. I have been as warm and as open to her as my family raised me to be, but I have not gotten the same warmth and openness back. I can handle making progress slowly and just being my naturally effervescent self, but I cannot spend my entire life feeling like I'm kept at a polite distance and never really feeling like his parents -- his mother, especially -- see me as an important part of their son's life, rather than a passing phase.

To give you an idea of the familial differences, what impresses his mother is perfect etiquette and a quiet demeanor. My family is loud, often offensively so, and extremely open. Steve's slightly intimidated by my family and their exuberance, but I'm turned off by his family's meekness and formality. I've always known my parents were in love and more in love every day, whereas Steve's always known that marriage means an instant end to romance and passion. My family has never made him feel anything less than totally a part of us, but my hope that I'll ever feel like a part of his family is dying.

He just informed me that his mother is making plans to go on a trip with his father, his brother, and him this winter. I feel hurt and excluded by this. It feels like a deliberate slight, a way for her to say that her family hasn't changed and to minimize the relationship that I have with her son. Even if it is not deliberate, it is still incredibly insensitive. I don't want to alienate Steve or his mother, but I'm also not comfortable with him going on this trip without me for the holidays, or with being excluded from his family life. We're in our mid-20s and his mother is treating this like a high school relationship. I don't know how to bring this up since Steve is fiercely protective of his mother and might not see this as odd. It is strange and DOES make me feel uncomfortable. What do I say that isn't going to hurt anyone's feelings? How do I even bring this up? What do I say to make it not seem like I'm trying to take him away from his family in favor of my own?

– His Family Dislikes Me, Boston, Boston


A: My first piece of advice, HFDM, is to accept that your boyfriend is going to go on this trip without you and that it's not a big deal. I understand that you're offended, but his family needs some time alone with him. And frankly, without you there, his mom will be able to ask him questions about the relationship, which will give him the chance to tell her some nice things about you. Also, if you don't make a stink about this trip, his mom will know that you respect her need for bonding time with her son. Everyone's afraid of losing their kid to a romantic partner. I think his mom is just scared to death of what you represent.

My second piece of advice is to tell Steve that you want to be closer to his family and that you need his help. Rather than giving him a list of gripes about how you've been treated, ask him for advice about how to get to know them better without being too pushy. He'll probably have some good ideas -- and he'll appreciate the request.

My third piece of advice is to be patient. His mom isn't going to fall for you as quickly as you fell for her son. A year isn't a very long time. Reevaluate all of this in six months. And in the meantime, don’t get pregnant and ruin his life. (Kidding.)

Readers? How long will it take for them to accept her? Should she be upset about this trip? Help.

– Meredith


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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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