Every month, Thomas will be answering your pressing relationship Qs. If you've got one, email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask away!
Hey Thomas . . .
The guy I'm seeing refuses to meet my parents. We've been dating for around four months and I've met his family three times! But every time I try to organise something with my parents, he pulls out last minute. They're really important to me and the more he puts it off, the more it's making me worry about how committed he is to me. He's met my brother, but that's all.
Am I in the wrong here or is family fear a real-life male problem?!
Confused and Close To Breaking Point.
Hey Family Feud,
Well, what a situation you've got on your hands, I don't envy you.
Look, family is important. Trust me, I know. I come from a Greek family and for the first 15 years of my life I never met anyone who wasn't a blood relative — my first girlfriend was my second cousin. I joke. But seriously, I understand where you're coming from.
Let's deal with the first dating nugget you dropped — you've been seeing this guy for around four months, which is a tricky time period, depending on your dating style. Things can either be casual and kicking along or getting serious. But either way, it's still kind of early days, so be careful not to read too much into it just yet.
The thing that makes it weird is that he has introduced you to his parents plus he's hung out with your brother. So it's clear he doesn't have a problem with the concept of family. Maybe if his parents had been wiped out in a Bruce Wayne-style tragedy it would make more sense. But you've met them and they're alive and well. So . . .
It could be that he is nervous or has been burned in the past. My first "proper" girlfriend took me home to meet her parents and it was beyond traumatic. We were in our final year of school and her mum asked me if I planned to "enter her daughter while on Schoolies." Then her dad made the entire family score me out of 10! There was a lengthy discussion about my hair, tattoos and whether or not I had "funny teeth." I just sat there letting the criticism wash over me like Dettol over a wound. Eventually I got a seven, but still — bizarre and scarring. I didn't even want to meet my own parents after that, let alone anyone else's.
The point is, parents are scary. You're essentially meeting two strangers and saying, "Hey, you know that thing you made, loved and raised? We do sex now and it rules."
That said, I do appreciate that his fear of your family is causing you to question the commitment. So here are some tactics that may sort your situation:
Option 1: Next time you want to invite him somewhere, frame the invite so it's coming from someone else in the family. "Hey babe, mum really wants you to come over for dinner," or, "I don't know how to tell you this but Grandma is sick, we don't know how long she's got left . . . and she's keen to meet you." It's universally accepted that a third-party invite from a girlfriend's family is near impossible to turn down. Need proof? My girlfriend's mum once asked me if I liked her succulents — which is a weird question in retrospect — and I said, "Of course I do, I'm a huge succulent fan," even though I'm not. Now we go on bi-monthly shopping trips to Flower Power and she calls me her "Succulent-in-Law." Pls, send help.
Option 2: Bring in the brother. Take advantage of the fact that your brother and your boy have a pre-existing relationship and get him to do the dirty work. Send them out for beers and word your bro up that you want to get to the bottom of this problem. He'll probably blow it but at least you're getting him involved.
Option 3: Suggest a mutual parent meeting. Host a lunch where he brings his folks and you bring yours — maybe safety in numbers will get him across the line. That way you're also knocking out two birds with one stone. Word of warning though, this will undoubtedly be the most stressful lunch of your entire life and will probably come to a mortifying end when someone's mum has too much sauvignon blanc and says something mildly racist.
Option 4: When it comes to matters of the heart, honesty is the best policy (followed closely by manipulation and mind games). But in this case, I think maybe you might be best placed to simply say, "I really like you and I love that you've introduced me to your family. I've tried to repay the favour but the more you duck and weave it, the weirder I'm feeling about it." Chances are this will lead to an honest conversation about the reasons behind the delay and BOOM — I'd be surprised if you're not out to dinner singing "We Are Family" within the next fortnight.
Option 5: Ramp up the major family events but stop inviting him. If he's really serious about you, then he'll start to freak out. Be sure to tell him that there's something important on — "I can't hang out this weekend, my uncle is being knighted" — but don't extend the invite. Soon enough it'll trigger concern on his end and I reckon he'll bring it up.
Let's be honest, with these five foolproof options you really can't lose, and your biggest concern now should be what happens when your crazy family scares the love of your life off for good.
But hey, what are families for?