Dear Carolyn: This week, a co-worker died in a motorcycle accident. I didn't know her well, but she was very well connected and her death directly impacts many people in our office. I wanted to go to the funeral to show my support for the family. The victim's brother works in our warehouse, and I see him frequently.
When I told my girlfriend I was going to attend the funeral, she did not understand why and was even offended that I would even consider attending. She tragically lost her mother five years ago. I lost my aunt three years ago, also very tragically, and a childhood friend this year to what seemed to be an opioid overdose. My girlfriend compared the death to these and is critical of the fact that I would consider this death tragic in any way when people die all the time and it's a fact of life. In her opinion it's insulting to attend this person's funeral because I did not have a personal connection with the victim.
My moral compass (and the consensus of my co-workers) is telling me I should be there. My girlfriend is highly offended that I would consider, and I am torn between attending the memorial and offending my girlfriend. What do I do?
Torn: Check your girlfriend's brain for loose hardware?
Attending a funeral does not commit the deceased to your inner circle of intimacy. Therefore, going to the funeral of a colleague you didn't know well does not devalue your presence at the funerals of the people you love most, or cheapen your (or her) feelings for these people or your (or her) grief at their deaths.
I assume that's her objection, but I freely admit I'm just groping around for some interpretation of her fury that makes the remotest bit of sense.
I also feel compelled to type out loud that I find it bizarre and surreal that anyone would require you to justify your impulse to be there, and that you'd actually comply. Funerals honor the dead but also comfort the living, so it's perfectly customary to go to a funeral when you know the survivors better than you know the deceased. Yet she is "highly offended" that you would make this extremely common, utterly unexotic gesture of decency and goodwill?
To quote my then-toddler: What the fox?
The funeral will have come and gone by the time this column sees daylight, so attendance itself is a moot point. But you can still get to thinking, please, the sooner the better, about the broader implications of being with someone who feels as entitled as your girlfriend does to wedge herself into your professional relationships, public gestures and "moral compass."
How often does she use these outsize emotions — or just the threat thereof — to influence your decisions? What other parts of your life does she presume to control in this way? What other things that aren't (even a little bitty bit) about her does she take personally? How routinely does she lasso your planets and anoint herself the sun?
I think the terrible news of your colleague has exposed your girlfriend as bad news. But don't take my word for it; use the Mosaic Method (mosaicmethod.com). It's a threat-assessment tool to help spot dangerous or controlling people.