The Washington Post

Carolyn Hax: Trouble with boyfriend’s parents; a schoolboy’s crush


Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

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

I’m in a committed relationship. We’re on the path to marriage.

The problem is his parents: They don’t like me — at all. They’re also highly critical of everything. He tells me they’ve had issues with everyone he’s ever brought home or discussed with them (he’s prone to share a lot).

I don’t need validation from his parents. I also know my boyfriend cares about me deeply and wants a future with me, though I do get worried when he says our future could be in jeopardy if I can’t get along with his parents.

I want to figure out ways to cope with the situation since I’m potentially facing years of alienating his family just for being me. My boyfriend’s strategy with his parents is to answer their every beck and call no matter how outrageous.

Shunned by the In-Laws-to-Be

No, the problem is your boyfriend. He “answer[s] their every beck and call”? “[O]ur future could be in jeopardy if I can’t get along with his parents” — who he admits object to everyone?

It’s a huge problem, too. Towering, even, and it would be even if his parents liked you (though does that combination occur in nature — domineering parent who approves of child’s choice of mate . . . anyone?).

This is where I usually type out a bunch of warning signs and thinking points, but, blame the broken coffee machine, I’m just going to say this relationship is DOA. Until he’s adult enough to tell controlling parents where to stick it, and tell his beloved that he, and no one else, chooses where his loyalties lie, then he’s no good to anyone. Not even himself.

And, until you can recognize that his ultimatum about his parents is the last thing a lover says to you before you say, “Bye, it’s been swell, call me when you grow up,” you’re not yet strong enough for a life partnership, either.

Dear Carolyn:

My 15-year-old little brother called me this morning, really upset. His longtime best friend (a guy) got drunk for the first time and, emboldened by alcohol, called my brother and told him he’s in love with him. My brother was totally caught off-guard. Now he’s unsure what to do. He doesn’t want to lose his best friend, but he doesn’t feel the same way. Any big-sister advice I could pass on?

Adolescent Crushes

Oh gosh this is painful, for both of them. Advise him by asking how he would want to be treated if he had made himself that vulnerable to this friend. That presumably will direct your brother to be honest, kind and forgiving, and not run away or tell a soul besides you or other trusted adults.

They can remain best friends — it’s actually pretty common for one friend to fall for another, gay or straight — but they both will have to be brave against awkwardness and self-doubt, which is tough at all ages, but especially this one.

Please also point out to your brother that, if the friend is closeted or otherwise torn, he’s at high risk of self-medicating; any escalation in the drinking, and your brother must alert some adults.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Subscribe at



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