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Carolyn Hax: She’s accused of ‘splitting up the family’ for avoiding abusive uncle

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)
3 min

Dear Carolyn: It has recently come to light that my uncle, who has made me uncomfortable for years, inappropriately touched two women in the family on two different occasions. I don’t want myself or my young daughters to be around him. But my aunt (his wife) and her sisters (including my mom) are distraught about my splitting up the family and want me to at least continue to have a relationship with my aunt. Am I cruel for not wanting to be around either of them? Any insight would be appreciated.

— Sad Southern Belle

Sad Southern Belle: Your uncle’s actions are the ones “splitting up the family.” Not yours.

Your aunt’s decision to stand by her husband has consequences, too. I’ll grant that can be a complicated one, very difficult for someone like me to judge without knowing the nuances. Her decision to blame you for those consequences, though, while letting herself off the hook is due for a hard rethink.

If other members are as invested as they profess to be in protecting the family’s interests, then they will eventually figure out they misidentified the real threat to its overall health.

Or they won’t. So for you, I can advise only that you keep doing what you believe necessary to honor your integrity and protect your kids.

Dear Carolyn: I love my boyfriend of two years, he has a great daughter and is a wonderful father to her. He works hard and owns his own business — which is just him. He says he is happy with his life right now.

The problem is I’m not happy with OUR life — he has no friends, he never leaves the house unless it’s to pick up his daughter from school or walk the dog. We go out with my friends only if I arrange it.

He isn’t currently bringing anything to our relationship, and I don’t know how to address this gently, that if we are to continue, he needs to bring more. I am struggling to connect to someone who doesn’t do anything outside of this little insular world.

— Struggling

Struggling: He, um, brings himself to the relationship?

If that is indeed “nothing,” then you have left the sphere of fixable things.

If you misspoke — if you meant to say, he brings nothing socially, then, okay! Please just say that. Even just like that: “I love you, but you bring nothing to our relationship socially right now, and being social is important to me.” The straight truth isn’t just for you. It lets him know his options, while he still has them.

It’ll go even better if the truth includes your awareness of the mental weight of his other commitments. A single parent and sole proprietor is on the spot for it all, every day, all the time. It makes sense (to me) that someone in his position who apparently also isn’t naturally outgoing would delegate the social stuff to his partner.

As that partner, you would have to agree to this, of course, so we’re back to the part where you tell him you don’t want to cruise-direct everything and want some help.

But that’s only if you embrace having a less-than-outgoing partner in general — because happiness with “this little insular world” is at least partly a matter of disposition. So even if he agrees to contribute more socially, he might be the same happy little insular guy, just with “make dinner plans” on his new biweekly to-do list.

If that’s good for you, great — but think all that through before you ask for a change.