Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Boyfriend lives with sister and she is against your relationship? Proposed marriage and now regretting it?

DEAR NATALIE: I am in my mid 70s and my significant other is in his early 80s. We are both widowed and have been dating for a few years now. Everything was great. We enjoy most of the same things and always seem to have a good time together. He has sisters and brothers and mostly I get along just fine with them. They are just happy that he is happy again. However, he has one sister who came upon hard times. Since he is comfortable financially and has a big home, he invited her to live with him for free. The problem is, she totally dislikes me. It has gotten to the point that if he wants to call me he has to go out to the garage. I used to visit him occasionally at his home, but I can no longer go there unless I ride past the house to see if her car is there or not. She is not even civil to me. I've told him to talk to her in a nice manner about it and suggest that since I mean a lot to him — his words — and make him happy, she should at least be cordial toward me. He says he did talk to her but nothing has changed. She has told him he could do better than me. A few times he has been extremely upset and said he just can't take it anymore from her, but he still he allows it. I don’t know what to do . Am I missing something? Please help. — SAD GIRLFRIEND

DEAR SAD GIRLFRIEND: It is always sad when family comes in the middle of things for no reason. She should be happy if her brother is happy. The only other thing you can do is make it clear to your boyfriend one more time that this is really upsetting you. But don’t expect much. Family is complicated, and he clearly feels compelled to support his sister by bringing her into his home. It sounds to me that she may have some deeper issues going on and is projecting them on to you. If she is unhappy with her own life, maybe she doesn’t want her brother to be happy, either. I feel bad for him that he feels as though he can’t stand up for himself against this woman that he has taken in out of the goodness of his heart. In any case, plan dates that are outside of the home, or meet up at your space if that is possible. It isn’t a perfect situation, but at least for the time being, it’s a Band-aid.



DEAR NATALIE: I recently got engaged and now realize it was a mistake. I don’t think that I am in love with my fiancé or if I ever was. I felt really pressured by her family to propose, and now I think I want out. Any suggestions? I’m afraid to bring up wanting the ring back, too, which I know she’s going to flip out about. What should I do and when?  — TAKING IT BACK

DEAR TAKING IT BACK: End things sooner than later. If you really did feel pressured into proposing and you’re now regretting this whole situation, you need to tell her. Yes, she is most likely going to freak out. Yes, she probably won’t want to give you the ring back. Yes, she may try to keep it out of spite. You have to decide how much money and sleep you are willing to lose over this. Also meditate on why you allowed someone to push you into proposing in the first place. Are you a people-pleaser? Do you love her but just aren’t ready to get married? Are you going through some other internal struggle but don’t know how to address it? Whatever the situation is, once you end the engagement, you need to take some time for yourself and regroup. Let her down gently, too, and put the blame on yourself. Say something like: “This is such a hard thing to do because I care about you so much, but I rushed this engagement. I realize that I am not ready to get married and need to be on my own for a while.” It won’t be pretty, but you’re doing her a favor by ending things before they go any further. No one wants to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with them.



Natalie’s Networking Tip of the Week: Never treat people as though they are “unimportant.” Sure, there will always be a few VIPs floating around a networking event, but everyone else has value and insight as well. Nurture all connections with the same level of respect and interest.



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