Hax: Look to yourself for answers

The Washington PostSeptember 26, 2013 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: I’ve been dating an amazing man for about 10 months. He’s 15 years older, has been married before and has kids. I’m in my mid-20s and this is my first serious relationship, so we waited to see whether it could be serious before mentioning anything to my parents, whose permission we’d like to go forward.

Problem: When I brought this up with my parents about six months in, they exploded. They hate this/him. They are now pretending I never mentioned anything and are trying to set me up with other guys. There have been tears, yelling, guilt-trips and all kinds of meanness directed at me, and my guy is losing heart. Do I keep trying to build our relationship? Or is breaking up the more humane thing to do until (if?) my parents get on board? We both believe that marriage is between two families.

SELFISH TO NOT BREAK UP?

No wonder you’re attracted to an older man; your parents are acting like children. They’ve also trained you to look to Daddy for answers, in service of their beliefs, versus looking within for answers that honor your own. So I’m staying out of it except to offer these thought-starters:

(1) How much do you owe people who have resorted to “tears, yelling, guilt-trips and all kinds of meanness directed at me”?

(2) The idea that “marriage is between two families” is lovely and, to a degree, true — but how much of your day-to-day life involves your parents? What percent of your life do you think they get to decide?

(3) Your six-month silence says you knew your parents would flip — yet you got involved with this man anyway. To what part of you, to what belief, were you giving voice when you said “yes” to that first date?

Because your parents’ behavior has apparently been so bad, and because your tie to them is, at least in part, one of obedience in the face of their control, and because you’re so torn, I don’t think the answer to your question is about staying with or breaking up with your boyfriend at all. It’s about your own emotional health.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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