The Lower Brain: I Love My Girlfriend But Her Family Sucks

Photo: KatarzynaBialasiewicz (Getty Images)

In this week’s installment of The Lower Brain, Sara Benincasa gives a guy who can’t stand his girlfriend’s family some scripts for addressing the tension.

Dear Sara:

I really love my girlfriend a lot, but her family is a true pain in my ass. They’re racist and sexist, and they treat her like shit. They are seriously verbally abusive and growing up they use to beat her. I don’t know why she insists on continuing to talk to them, but she does. It’s incredibly frustrating to know that I have to deal with these people at the holidays. They know I can’t stand them. I’m not fake and I don’t pretend to like things or people when I don’t. I love her and I’d do anything for her, so I continue to let them talk to me, but it sucks. I don’t know what to do.

Fed Up With The Family

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Well, it seems you’ve got a decision to make. She’s never going to choose you over her family. And if she does, she’ll resent you until the end of time. And that will totally blow up your relationship eventually. If you can’t see fit to compromise with these people, you may as well quit the relationship now and be frank about it.

If you choose to marry this woman and have kids with her, you will indeed have to deal with her family. If she’s so enmeshed with them that she can’t see that they are abusive to her to this day, well, you can’t break that bond. Nor should you try. It’s a waste of your time.

Photo: Serge Krouglikoff (Getty Images)

Here’s one potential way to address it: “I love you, but I don’t see a future for us simply because I can’t deal with your family. I have tried. If I felt they treated you with the respect and love you deserve, it would be easier to deal with their racism and sexism. But they don’t. And you continue to engage with them, and family bonds are powerful. So I’m taking myself out of the game, but I’m letting you know honestly why I’m doing it. I really wish you the best. This is deeply painful for me and you deserve a good man. I wanted to be him but I can’t sign up for a life with them, too.”

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Here’s another way: “It’s them or me!” (Spoiler alert: she will choose them. Trust me.)

Here’s a third way: “I love you. I really struggle with your family. I know that’s no surprise to you. I’m not going to sit here and pretend I enjoy them. I would like to build a relationship of mutual respect with them, but I don’t know that it’s possible. So I’m not sure what you want me to do. I feel I should be honest because our relationship is important to me and I don’t want to be passive-aggressive. Maybe we could see a therapist together to talk about strategies.”

Regardless, good luck to you. Take care of your own health and wellness first. You can’t fix her or them. You can just do what’s best for you.