I met my boyfriend and began dating him 3 years ago and we are completely in love. He is even helping me raise my (then) 3 year old daughter, he is her functioning father. We have the same life goals, we are building our house together, our families are close, and while I have always wanted to get married, he doesn’t believe in marriage and says he never will. How do I cope with this?
The relationship you just described is one that a lot of people—even married people—would envy. So there’s that! As for your dueling ideologies, let’s start with you. You say that you’ve always wanted to get married. Any idea why? I ask because marriage is an idea so ingrained in our collective conscious that many people want it for no other reason than they think they’re supposed to.
I recommend that you make a list of why you want to get married—to share my life with someone, have a positive male influence in my daughter’s life, a travel partner etc.—and study it. From the way you describe your relationship, I think there’s a good chance that many of the things you want are things that you already have. If you do find that to be the case, then it’s a matter of slowly letting the idea of marriage (but not lifelong love) go. If the list is comprised of benefits that only marriage can bring, then this relationship is, sadly, not the one for you.
As for him. Talk to him about his beliefs. Tell him that you are genuinely curious about how he came to the conclusion that marriage isn’t for him. Maybe he’ll influence your perspective or maybe you’ll agree to disagree. In any case, you are right not to try and force the issue. It seriously sounds to me like you guys are all set up to channel Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell (32 non-married years together).
My brother recently has been borrowing money, a large sum, from our father and has yet to pay it back. Our father does not have a lot of money and he has become ill, now needing this money for extra medical expenses and nursing care.
My brother makes a lot of money, has a rather huge overhead, and lives well. He says that he never got anything, that our parents helped everyone else but him, and that he deserves it. It is true that our parents helped the rest of us in our earlier lives, but that was when they had money and it was in the form of a little bit here and there, certainly not a large sum like he received.
This has caused a major rift in our family and now my other brothers and sisters are all taking sides.
How can we encourage my brother to pay it back, and more than that, how can we mend this rift?
Helpless in Arizona
There are two rather immediate things to consider when approaching this family situation. The first is to respect and make room for the possibility that there may be an agreement or understanding between your brother and father that you know nothing about. Some things are privy to a father and son, and you are not necessarily on the inside of their relationship, even though you do play the roles of sibling and daughter.
Second, and I say this understanding your concern and the weight of any relationship with history, find a way to approach your brother about this situation that won’t be construed as an attack. This is so pertinent in any relationship. If we perceive that we are being attacked, especially by someone close to us, where we are made to feel threatened in some way, then we shut down; we are incapable of staying open to what’s being said or needed. Clearly things are serious if your father is sick, and at the same time, it seems clear to me that there is a lot of undone and hurtful context to your brother’s side of things. Overcompensation shows itself in many forms. Still, there is no right or wrong here, only the feelings and perceptions of each person, and the potential for healing and a coming together. One of the reasons that everyone has an opinion and tends to take sides is because each person feels some attachment to how each other has been treated in comparison to themselves. Family dynamics are tricky this way. We can all be fully loved by our parents, and yet, there is always something in the dynamic to make us feel less whole. That’s our work in this life, to reconcile this experience and to become whole again.
If you can approach your brother with some understanding of his experience, whether you think this is the “reality” of the situation or not, because in each different experience is a reality, you will likely be able to speak to the part of your brother that wants to support his ailing father and family. In order to do this, you must change the perception that your brother is against the family. Ask him how he can help. This will create an opening as opposed to seeking a specific kind of support that is loaded with expectation. If your brother is going to help he will need to be invited instead of demanded of and he will need support from you too. This all requires a lot of humility- on every part. Honestly, it tends to be with family that we are most practiced in humility, egoless love, and acceptance.
Ultimately, you must ask yourself what you really want for your family and then remind yourself of this when you get stuck in the drama. Money can be a problem if you allow it to be, especially when things get tough, but it should never have so much value that it actually has the potential to ruin family relationships. The issue is greater than this; it comes down to the kind of person you want to be and the kind of people you want to call family. How can you all come together, supporting one another and your father, without letting the money call the shots? It’s something to think about.
You can ask Samara and Caroline questions for the Love & Life Column here at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* The ideas and advice presented here are not a substitute for professional advice. Talk to your psychologist, counselor, physician or health care professional for situations that warrant further analysis.