Updated: Sep 8, 2019
As a parent of grown children, the topic of significant others is a hefty one. I was a single mother, so the four of us were and are very close. My three children are now all grown and out in the world on their own which is amazingly wonderful, but now that they are adults, we are realigning boundaries. Our tribe of four is bound to expand with significant others and eventually partners and families, so how do we love and support each other but at the same time call bullsh&t when necessary? This is not only a family issue, but a friend issue. There are plenty of times people are not going to like significant others of family or friends, so how do we all navigate this without blowing up relationships/friendships forever?
There is a great article at The Everygirl, brilliant advice regarding friendships and how to manage significant other issues. Families are a bit dicier. We unwittingly drag all of our past emotional baggage with us into the current situation complicating it even further. I had a situation with my son a few years ago when he was dating a girl who was fine, not great, but fine. The problems began when she started to make a very aggressive push towards marriage. She worked hard to separate him from his friends and his family. They began to spend all of their time with her friends and family and it felt very out of control. Should we say something? Should we let it run its course? My son is one of the most thoughtful people I know, he truly sees the good in everyone. He wanted to make her happy and did not see how manipulative and selfish she was or what was happening with his friends and family. It became something that we all talked about all the time, we just couldn't talk about it with my son. We were all worried that if any of us said anything to him about her, we would lose him and yet, if we said nothing, we would lose him. Good/bad, right/wrong, I finally decided I had to say something. It happened over the holidays. She had graced us with her presence but was horribly rude and obnoxious and I literally snapped and asked them to leave. She huffed out and my son and I stood there in tears. I explained that we loved him with all of our hearts, but that we were not going to put up with her deplorable behavior any longer. She was hurtful, rude, selfish and it was breaking my heart to see her treat him and us this way. He and we, all deserved so much better than this. I was not issuing an ultimatum, but a wake up call. I asked that he please talk with each of us in his family, talk to his friends and when someone shared an opinion about her, listen. We loved and cared about him, we wanted him to be happy and to be loved for the amazing person he was. She was not respectful of him, his family or his friends and no one should put up with that, especially not from someone who is supposed to love you. Obviously, it was a mess. I was scared to death that I had lost him. Later that night, we had one of the best talks we had ever had. He knew she wasn't the right one for him, but he was having a hard time finding a way out. Knowing how his family and friends felt gave him the strength and ability to have a super uncomfortable conversation and end it with her.
The happy ending to the story is that the terrible girlfriend went on to snare another in her trap and is engaged to be married. Go her. The happier end to the story is that my son met an amazing girl shortly thereafter and is the happiest I have ever seen him. They have a healthy, happy relationship based on love, respect, kindness, fun and yes, family and friends.
So, the moral to this story is SAY something. If someone means enough to you that if you don't say something, you could lose them, say something. Be kind and share your feelings with them so that they can not only hear the words, but understand that the intent is rooted in your love for them. Remember that you can't unhear words, so be thoughtful and focus on the goal - happiness.