NOTE: This archive only contains Carolyn Hax columns through March 2011. Her more recent columns are located here.

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By Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 20, 2007

Dear Carolyn:

Can a relationship be successful with my family and significant other at odds? This recent development leaves them with opposing ideas of independence vs. loyalty. My family is concerned that issues from my parents' marriage will replay themselves, and they act accordingly toward Significant Other. S.O. is offended that they don't approve when he was once so widely acclaimed, and will be civil but not warm to them. I can see how they reached different conclusions based on different experiences/upbringings, and I don't want to lose one to enjoy the other.

The Liaison

Your parents' issues didn't by any chance involve communication, did they?

Certainly two parties of good character can see the same situation with different eyes. Certainly someone who loves both parties can feel a debt of loyalty to both.

Certainly this is what you're hoping I'll say?

I'm happy to deliver, but for one hitch. Well, two hitches, but the second is technical, so I'll get to it later.

First: Two parties of good character who merely disagree won't pressure someone in the middle to choose sides -- and there has to be pressure from both here, or else keeping one wouldn't cost you the other.

That both are applying pressure means both feel wronged. Which always means either that one party is right, or that both parties are right/wrong/a little of both.

And that says -- to whoever hasn't gotten up for a refill and never come back -- that it's time for you to stand up to someone, for something. If your family is in the wrong for judging your boyfriend unfairly, or if your boyfriend is in the wrong, taking offense at your family's valid concerns, then your playing the middle isn't an act of love; it's an act of cowardice. You need to stand up for what's right.

If both parties are equally right/wrong/both but they're too stubborn to see that, then you need to stand up for yourself. The best -- in fact, maybe the only -- antidote to unreasonable people is to live your life as far out of their reach as possible. Family can be overruled, tuned out or outgrown; boyfriends can be dumped.


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