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Carolyn Hax: Longtime boyfriend hides their relationship from his parents

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Carolyn Hax is away. The following is from April 2, 2008.

Dear Carolyn: I have been dating my boyfriend for about a year and a half. He is Asian and I am White. For whatever reason, he still hasn’t told his parents about me. We argued about it over Christmas but he said he didn’t want to tell them.

After several arguments, we finally set a deadline when he would tell them, but as of today (just two days left) he has not. I have dropped a few hints the past couple of days but have not flat-out reminded him. If the deadline comes and goes and he still hasn’t told them, what should I do? By the way, they are not totally oblivious to me. I have met them and they are aware that we are friends.

— M.

M.: You’ve been together for a year and a half, you have argued about the parent issue openly, and the sum of your insight into his behavior consists of: “for whatever reason …”?

Either he isn’t talking or you aren’t listening. Or both.

There’s room for speculation about “old world” parents and dutiful sons, but that would be the equivalent of letting your cancer run its course while I treat your paper cut.

I see so little honesty here. That’s the cancer.

Obviously there’s his unwillingness to be honest with his parents. Then there’s his failure to be honest with you about his reasons. You, meanwhile, have failed to demand honesty of him in any real or productive way.

I sense you don’t know how. It’s not about lobbing words; “Respect me by X date or else” breeds only resentment or ridicule. Only deeds are effective: no respect, no you.

Instead of establishing consequences without ultimatums, though — the healthy thing — you’ve done the opposite, and made an ultimatum without consequences. You’re asking what to do next, meaning you not only resorted to a threat, but it was an empty one, too — meaning you weren’t honest with him. Most important, you haven’t been honest with yourself.

What do you need from this guy, why is it important, why do you think it’s missing, why do you regard him as the best person to provide it, are you being realistic, what are you prepared to do when and if he doesn’t come through?

The relationship you need right now — urgently, it seems — is with your own mind. Please step back from the issue of what he tells his parents and try to see whether the relationship itself is working. Start with a new definition of “working”: He’s open with you, you’re open with him, and each of you likes what you see.

Dear Carolyn: Is simply “not going” an acceptable way to decline a wedding invitation from a friend you never wish to speak to again? I’m ready to end things, but I don’t want it to be formal. It seems like it’d be too much energy wasted on someone I don’t want around anymore.

— Unsure, N.Y.

Unsure, N.Y.: I hear you. After responding to even one wedding invitation, I need a nap.

If you want to be so rude that your friend is grateful to be expunged from your life, then your wedding no-show will suit. But if you have any plans in the near future to regard yourself as a gracious or decent person, then I would suggest sending a brief note expressing that you decline the invitation with regret and wish happiness for them both.

Advice columnist Carolyn Hax and cartoonist Nick Galifianakis have collaborated on their Washington Post column for 25 years. (Video: Allie Caren/The Washington Post, Photo: Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)
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