DEAR NATALIE: I have been exclusively dating a lady who I met a number of months ago and we have spoken seriously of a future together. She is close with her parents, who live in a neighboring state, and who visit her and her son about once every couple of months. She has made it clear to me that they are not interested in meeting any man with whom she is involved. We recently set up a meeting for dinner, which she told me she was able to engineer only by telling her parents that I wanted to meet them. She made it clear to me that arm-twisting was necessary. Our dinner was canceled the day before it was to take place due to her mother allegedly enduring discomfort after a dental procedure. I have received no indication that this will be rescheduled and I do not plan to ask.
My lady laughs about the situation, telling me that "This is the way they have always been. It is not you." To me, it is no laughing matter. I find it insulting and humiliating. At the same time, I do not want to hold against my significant other the actions of her parents. I do not know how a couple that is contemplating a future gets over a hurdle like this and it is something I have not encountered at any time in a relatively long life, in which I have prided myself on excellent relationships with the parents of the women with whom I have been involved. Your thoughts would be appreciated. -- MEET THE PARENTS
DEAR MEET THE PARENTS: Some people would consider this a blessing in disguise that the parents don't want to be involved and you don't have to deal with them! All kidding aside, though, this can be an awkward situation if you let it be. People may say, "Take them by surprise and just show up at a family function!" or something of that nature. Don't. Please don't. Clearly they are uncomfortable with their daughter in a new relationship. Perhaps her previous boyfriend or husband was very close to the them and when they split up, it hurt her parents very much. Perhaps they hated the last guy and want nothing to do with her taste in men, fearing you are the same as the rest. It may take time to win them over, but don't push on this topic. Eventually, you will have to meet them, whether it be at a holiday party, at her son's birthday or some other situation in which familial paths cross. In any case, play this one cool. Be friendly and cordial if and when you do encounter them, but remember that you are not dating them, you are dating their daughter. If she isn't bothered by this situation, try not to take it to heart. Sometimes it can be mind-boggling to figure out other people's motives and intentions. Instead, focus on what you can control, which means cultivating a loving and supportive relationship with both your girlfriend and eventually her son. Most likely if you win him over, the grandparents will follow suit. Slow and steady will win this race.
Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: It can be challenging to keep up with everyone important in your life, so take a few minutes at the end of your scheduled time together to set up a time to meet again. Then you have it squared away, and you won’t be chasing each other for months on end.
Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212
(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)