WITH ANGEL DONNETTE ROBERTSON
My father is turning 70 next month, so my mother has planned a party with the extended family. Unfortunately, I have a few aunts who have never approved of my decisions and remind me at every gathering of the mistakes they believe I have made. And, yes, some were mistakes. But most are just different choices than they would have made, such as “settling” for an average-paying job that I love. I have tried defending myself. But somehow that always quickly derails into an ugly argument. How can I convince my aunts to keep their opinions to themselves so we can just have a nice day?
Frankly, you probably can’t.
You can avoid them as much as possible, keeping to a separate room and different groups.
But when you do have to engage in the almost inevitable conversation with them, you should remember that their comments reveal more about them than you. Many of us disagree with others’ decisions, but only a few believe they have a right to offer those unsolicited opinions.
And their judgment reflects their own personal belief system, not yours. Just because money factors heavily into their decisions does not mean it should factor heavily into yours. (And just because money does not factor heavily into your decisions does not mean it shouldn’t factor heavily into theirs.)
So, whenever they approach you, remind yourself, “This is not really about me. This is about them.”
You can also have a few replies prepared for their standard comments. Perhaps you can deflect the opinions then move to a different room or at least a different topic.
If they stray beyond your internal script, you need to take a breath before you respond. That pause may be the difference between another ugly argument and a quick excuse to disappear. You are responsible for your own words, just as they are responsible for theirs.
Finally, you should try to just focus on your father. You already know that you do not want to miss the celebration, but you also don’t want to miss the time with him because you are so distracted by the situation with your aunts. So enjoy the day with him. And I hope you have many more to celebrate in the coming years.
I have been dating a man for almost a year and I am questioning the way he interacts on social media with several women (who are not family). He uses the winky face emoji excessively and consistently “likes” selfies posted by these women. Whenever I try to discuss my concerns, he dismisses me with comments like “we’re just friends.” But to me the exchanges are more than just friendly. Am I overreacting? Should I just accept these “friends?”
Does he interact with his male friends in the same manner and with the same emoji? Does he “like” his male friends’ selfies? If he does not, then why not? Why does he treat his female friends differently than his male friends?
He may feel he has an acceptable answer to those questions. And since he is entitled to live his own life, he gets to decide whether this attention, both given and received, is necessary to him.
However, you get to decide if his consideration of your feelings is necessary to you.
Is asking a significant other to avoid questionable interactions with the opposite sex possessive and controlling? Or is it setting boundaries to create a relationship that is safe for both partners?
Those are questions we can only answer for ourselves and for our own relationships. For you, these interactions are questionable. For him, these interactions are acceptable—at least for himself. You did not say how he would feel if you did the same with your male friends.
However, even if he “knows” he will never cross whatever line he has set for himself, you obviously do not. But you do now know that he considers these interactions more important than you feeling safe in the relationship. He has shown you his priorities.
Will those priorities work for you?
Angel Donnette Robertson is not a professional counselor, but she has a lifelong appreciation for the beauty and complications of relationships.
Have a relationship question for Angel? Contact her through her blog here.
She will select reader questions to answer, along with questions she finds, in upcoming issues of Inside Columbia’s Prime.