You are not overreacting. But, you may have to realign your expectations. (Artwork: Tess Emily Rodriguez)
She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
I have been in a same-sex relationship with my partner for just under two years now. We are in our mid-20s and have known each other almost our whole lives.
She came out in college, and her parents were not supportive of her lifestyle choice. My experience coming out was the opposite, and my parents are very supportive and loving.
Flash forward to now — we are in a very serious, committed, and loving relationship. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been with a partner and excited for our future together.
BUT her parents, more specifically her mother, seem to have these microaggressions towards our relationship and I don’t know how to handle it.
She has older siblings who are either married/in long-term relationships with kids. It is no question that the SO’s are invited to family dinners, to be in the family picture at Xmas time, introduced as so-and-so’s husband/girlfriend and given a card on their birthday. Obviously, the first year we were together I was totally fine with being excluded, but as time goes on, I just feel like this is never going to stop.
The big deciding factor for me was at a family event I was introduced as her daughter's ... *awkward pause* ... friend. Apparently, her mother always does things like this and tries to present a picture of a ‘perfect’ family to the world … but like everyone at the party knows her daughter is gay?! So what’s the difference being introduced as the partner or GF of her daughter!?
My girlfriend was pissed off too, and we spoke to her mom and told her the proper way to introduce us. She says she’ll try to do better in the future, but I’m skeptical.
I don’t want to rock the boat, but I feel like because we are in a same-sex relationship we aren’t as valued in her eyes.
They don’t seem to think we want to get married or are capable of starting a family. I fear for the future of awkward introductions and misunderstandings about our relationship.
What should I do?!? Am I overreacting, and should I let it be?
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Okay. My answer is two-fold.
You are not overreacting. But, you may have to realign your expectations.
This situation sounds sucky. It’s hard enough dealing with our own complicated family relationships, let alone someone else’s. While I think it’s part of being in a partnership to be there for family events which may not always be the most fun, this is another level of standing by your woman. There are a few things to consider.
Her parents’ (or mother’s) attitude and crappy behavior is on them.
This is about their baggage, their dogma. I know it must feel challenging not to take this personally, but it’s not about you as a person. This is 2018. They do not sound like particularly evolved people. And that’s unfortunate, but that’s not on you.
There’s no point in trying to sort out why they’re homophobic.
I mean, we could be here all day talking about religion or generations or culture or whatever. As I said, it’s 2018. Not down with making excuses for anyone too stubborn or ignorant to open their hearts and minds.
You can absolutely set boundaries with her parents.
It sounds like you did this by letting her mom know how you expect to be introduced. However, you may want to get even more specific regarding wanting to be treated the same way the rest of the significant others are treated. Now, for the future, you and your girlfriend should decide what to do if — okay, probably when — her mother does the crappy introduction thing again. Because it’s okay to…
Remove yourself from the situation.
Your girlfriend is unlikely to want to cut ties with her family, or she probably would have done so already. However, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to make your own boundaries for how much interaction you want to have with them if they continue treating you this way. I certainly wouldn’t want to spend time with people who treated me like that.
It’s worth weighing the family factor as you plan for the future.
When you marry someone (and more so if you have kids with them), you inherit their extended family (unless they are estranged). I do think it is worth considering this if you are making a lifetime commitment. What do you want your future holidays and family gatherings to look like? And, keep the communication about this going with your partner as you move forward.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I'm not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I've gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, recovery, friendship, sex, consent, what I’m watching, Aegirine, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me at email@example.com. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo