Carolyn Hax: With long-distance future in-laws, try to narrow the divide


(The Washington Post)
Carolyn Hax
Columnist March 13

Dear Carolyn:

My boyfriend’s parents are against our relationship. My boyfriend (31) and I (26) have been on and off for three years but have remained best friends since we met. He is from England, and they have a real problem with the idea of him settling in the Midwest. They also say he “needs to travel more,” “Your 30s are the new 20s,” stuff like that.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

Also, he hasn’t had the best history with women; they usually walk all over him. I don’t think they will ever be okay with any woman he chooses.

A while back, I wrote a letter to his mother, mostly to break the ice, but she didn’t even respond.

We are moving in together in a couple of weeks and plan to marry sometime soon after. I want to start a family with this man. We are head-over-heels in love and have been fighting it for some time now because of them.

Seriously, this is the kind of love Disney makes a movie about. I can’t walk away (we’ve tried), but it’s very difficult for me to imagine my children’s grandparents hating me. What do we do?

A.

First on your to-do list: Understand. Appreciate their position. Disney’s rough on mothers.

Imagine your someday child, imagine spending 31 years with vaguely pleasant hopes of a close relationship with that child and his family as an adult, imagine imagining what it will be like to hold your grandchild and watch him or her grow up.

Now imagine putting all of that an eight-plus-hour, $1,000-plus flight away.

Not everyone travels well or can afford it, and those ranks thin further as people age. Yes, people settle worlds away from their nuclear families all the time — always have. And there are more ways to stay in touch now than ever. But it is still not unreasonable for your boyfriend’s parents to grieve their son’s decision to put down roots overseas.

It’s his life, though, obviously, and of course they have the option of accepting this development with gratification for their son’s happiness and all the good sportsmanship they can muster. Apparently they’ve declined this option, and that’s unfortunate.

But it’s also not over, and that brings us to to-do list Item 2: Be patient. You may have been in this relationship for years, but the off-and-on nature of it allowed his parents to tell themselves it might not last — thus allowing them to postpone facing the reality of you. Now that you’re moving in and planning to marry, that starts the clock on their absolutely having to deal with it. Give them a chance to.

And, Item 3: Get out of the hyperbole business. Maybe you’ve left out something crucial, but I don’t see how we got from “30 is the new 20” to their “hating” you. From now on, adopt the mantra, “They don’t hate me, they hate the distance” — and dedicate yourself to not being the wedge between them. Their relationship is for them to work out, but you can help that cause (as well as your own and any future children’s) by making a long-term commitment to patience and understanding. And travel: Be the woman who encourages their son to stay close to them, vs. the woman who took him away.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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