Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Hi, Carolyn: Recently I was at a party hosted by my boyfriend’s mother. I’ve been dating my boyfriend for about six months but we have been friends for a decade.
His mother drunkenly confronted me at the party, saying she is dissatisfied with the speed at which our relationship is progressing — too fast — and she doesn’t like the impact it can have on her grandchild (my boyfriend’s child).
While I completely sympathize with what she is saying, we are by no means going too fast. We are in a long-distance relationship and only see each other once a week, if we’re lucky. We are intentionally taking our time because we want his child to be comfortable with us, and for us to be ready for the next step. He has shared custody with the mother so I would have to move in with him, not vice versa.
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While I spend time with his child and we’ve formed a bond, we make it very clear the child has a mother and I’m daddy’s friend. Since we’ve been friends since well before this child arrived, he’s known me his whole life, so I am not a new person being introduced to the mix. A bond has existed for years.
I did advise his mother politely that, considering we live hours from each other and I only see her grandchild maybe once a month, it’s not really shoving the relationship down the child’s throat, and as we’ve been dating for six months and don’t plan on living together anytime in the very near future, it’s not moving too fast. I also told my boyfriend what she said and he was upset that she cornered me, and had this conversation with me and not with him.
If this were to happen again in the future, what should I say? I obviously don’t want to start issues or have her dislike me, but I feel compelled to stand my ground.
Jumping to Conclusions
“(She) drunkenly confronted me”: Please take this as four-word license to ignore this and all future beer pressure. Seriously. If she has something to say, then she can say it sober either to you or her son. Ideally the latter, obviously.
If you’re an in vino veritas subscriber, allow me to suggest a slight edit. What I think people free in themselves with alcohol isn’t so much the truth as a willingness to seek feedback and feelings they deny themselves when they’re more under control.
So you have the flirt seeking sexual attention, the fight-picker seeking confrontation, the attention-hog seeking the spotlight, the brooder just finding a dark corner to get out of feeling anything. His mother, for her part, might just need to feel like she’s in control — hardly an exotic beast for some cocktails to set loose.
If and when this happens again, smile and say, “Of course you’re worried, it’s your grandchild, I’d be worried too.” Zig when she’s looking zag — and for the love of pot-stirring grandmas, stop explaining yourself. Just get away from the conversation at your first even marginally polite opportunity. Your boyfriend’s right. This is his conversation to have.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.