First things first, thank you for this blog. You have been a life-saver many times in my love life or lack of – I love your insight. Okay, back to me. I’ve been dating this man for a while now. He is 30 and I am 26. He was quite the party guy before we met. His family has a lot of money and he has a good job. We have encountered typical issues (nothing unsolvable) and we generally don’t fight. We truly try to communicate and solve them as opposed to arguing them out.
Anyway, last weekend, I met his whole family at a party at their ranch. It was a little overwhelming at first because there are a lot of them! After about an hour, his cousins arrived and all the men went to the bar, did shots and drank the rest of the night. I sat at one of the tables with his sisters and female cousins. It seemed as though the women and men were divided and everyone accepted it. After a while his sister-in-law told me that if I saw myself in this family, I better get used to the men leaving the women alone as they drink away. Now this shocked me a little because he is always such a great gentleman to me, opening doors for me, holding my hand, etc. I don’t know if this situation is even worth dwelling over or bringing up, or if I am being completely neurotic.
Our relationship has been great thus far and I have no major complaints. And after reading your wife’s article, I became more self-ware; from making a big deal about nothing to giving mulligans.
We’ve talked about the future and although he makes me very happy, I don’t know if being left alone at parties is something I can accept. But, I am also open to considering that I am wrong and should drop it. Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks again for your hard work in this blog 🙂
I’m glad you brought up the mulligan thing, coined by my then-girlfriend in 2007. Basically, it means that you have to let a lot of little things go within a relationship, especially when they’re not intended to hurt you. Giving lots of mulligans to an otherwise great boyfriend is the best way to maintain a partnership – and vice versa. Anyone who has ever been micromanaged and criticized to death can appreciate it when a partner lets something go just to keep the peace.
Anyway, I’m not going to entirely defend the “doing shots with cousins” thing, because it’s easy to spin this as rude, disrespectful, and inconsiderate of you as his girlfriend. Should he be more attentive to you? Probably. But it’s important to consider a man’s intentions – not merely his actions – don’t you think?
His family dynamic has existed for WAY longer than your relationship.
If he’s thoughtful, generous, attentive, and chivalrous 99% of the time, but checks out at his once-a-year family reunion, is this worth breaking up your entire relationship? Once again, I’m not suggesting that it’s ideal, nor am I encouraging him to ditch you. I’m only telling you something you already know: his family dynamic has existed for WAY longer than your relationship. If his cousins drink shots, and their dads drank shots, and their granddads drank shots, he’d be hard-pressed to tell his male relatives that he was going to excuse himself to sit next to you while you chat about the Real Housewives with his sister-in-law.
As always, we have two choices: try to change the world or try to change ourselves. When I visit my wife’s family, they have the same dynamic for every party – it involves a lot more booze than food, a lot more unhealthy food than healthy food, and a lot more waiting around than provocative conversation. Am I sometimes frustrated that I can only get cheese and crackers, beer, and recaps of that week’s Saturday Night Live episode? Yeah, sure. But it’s not MY party. At my parties, we serve four courses, sit at the table, and talk about relationships, politics, and child-raising. That’s the dynamic I want. I don’t get to determine what my wife’s family does when I visit for Thanksgiving, Christmas and various birthdays.
So what do I do? I go with the flow. I grin and bear it. I remember that these are nice people, warm people, generous people, family members – and that although we have different ways of socializing, it’s not my place to impose my values on them. If you had to be abandoned by your shot-doing husband every Friday, I might consider a serious conversation, or even a breakup if it was that bad. But just because he doesn’t see the need to babysit you at a family function, I wouldn’t make that big a deal about it. Especially if he’s great the rest of the time.
I can’t tell you the number of women that have said they prefer “men who don’t need to be babysat” at a party.
Finally, in case you took offense to that babysitting comment, I can’t tell you the number of women that have said they prefer “men who don’t need to be babysat” at a party. If you’re secure and you have a personality, you should largely be able to fend for yourself at a family function. If you’re insecure, you’ll get upset if he talks to his family 50% of the time instead of spending 100% of it holding your hand. In other words, one can never win when dating an insecure person – male or female. Be the bigger person, Alex. Make the best of it. Or hell, go have shots with the boys. Sounds like more fun to me.