Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Ask Natalie: Mother’s new boyfriend hit on you and mom defended him. Now what?

DEAR NATALIE: My mom’s new boyfriend is disgusting. I was at her home for dinner the other night and he had been drinking beer and started commenting on how hot I was -- in front of my mother. She tried to laugh it off, but I was horrified. I told him he was disgusting, he needed to apologize and to never speak about my body again. He just shrugged and didn’t say anything else. She then got angry with me! She told me I was “disrespecting her relationship” and that I needed to “know my place.” My place? My place has always been that I pick up the pieces after her relationships fall apart. I am so angry with her. I moved out of her home a few years ago because of this kind of stuff, but at this point in my life, I really don’t need to deal with her drama. I do love her, but she makes it very difficult to have a relationship with her. Now she is basically telling me that I can’t come over unless I apologize to her boyfriend for being rude. I refuse to do that. So, we aren’t speaking right now. Any advice on how to move forward? -- BOYFRIEND OVER DAUGHTER

DEAR BOYFRIEND OVER DAUGHTER: This is so much deeper than this incident. It is obvious that you have danced this dance with her many times in the past. I also find it horrifying that he not only spoke to you in such a disgusting way, but that she defended him instead of you. Unfortunately, I have gotten many letters over the years with this similar theme. I applaud you for standing up for yourself in a very uncomfortable situation. Your mom’s boyfriend should be ashamed of himself and he absolutely owes you an apology. Your mother should have stood up for you and called him out on his behavior, but my guess is that she is an insecure woman who needs to have a man in her life -- no matter what. I have no doubt that this has led to tensions with you and her in the past and will continue to do so unless she decides to take a long hard look at herself in the mirror. But because you don’t have control over her behavior, you can only work to protect yourself.  Moving out of her home, standing up for yourself and creating boundaries is necessary so that you don’t become too entangled in her relationships. It is not your job to swoop in and clean up her messes or ease her broken heart. That is not the job of a child. I would recommend that you speak to a therapist so that you can discuss your relationship dynamics in a place that is free from judgment or shame. It is not easy dealing with a parent who needs parenting and that can often impact your relationships with others. Give yourself some space from her. You have every right to take this time and reevaluate what her role should be in your life based on her behavior. She has to earn a relationship with you as an adult. If she thinks you will just continue to be abused by her emotionally, then maybe she needs to see what life is like if you aren’t in the picture, instead.  

DEAR NATALIE: I am a 34-year-old single guy and I have serious reservations about the concept of marriage. I recently broke it off with my girlfriend of two years because she wanted to get married and I wasn’t ready. I feel that when people get married, they get into sex “ruts” and the passion dissipates. I was already starting to experience that with my ex. There is no mystery when you are together after a certain amount of time, but I am concerned about how this outlook could affect my future. I don’t want to be that loser who wakes up in his mid-fifties and has never had a real relationship. I do want a family in the near future. She just wasn’t the right one and it ended very badly. She said that I am a total “commitment phobe” and just using sex as an excuse. Any thoughts? 

— SINGLE GUY IN THE CITY

DEAR SINGLE GUY IN THE CITY: I would encourage you to reevaluate what it means to have a life partner. What does that look like for you? When you aren’t having sex, what are the other 23 hours of the day like together? Sex can be an important component to a romantic relationship -- I am not trying to downplay it. But, it is not everything. If you really want to have a robust and meaningful connection with someone, passion is part of it, but it isn’t all of it. What do you have in common? Do you both want children? What are the deal breakers? What is your vision for the future? What are your shared dreams? These are some of the big questions that can make or break relationships. Passions can ebb and flow through the years, but liking each other will get you through the tough times. If you are serious about settling down with someone, you need to contemplate what that looks like. Are you afraid of committing to someone because … finish that thought. Only you know why you really decided to end things. My guess is that your ex is correct. Sex was an excuse to end things but there was something else that wasn’t gelling for you.  Explore that, sit with it and recognize your role in keeping things exciting for your partner, too.

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