DEAR NATALIE: I’ve just started dating someone new that I’m really excited about. We’re keeping it casual because he just got out of a long term relationship, which works well for me. He still lives with his ex-partner in the house they own together. Based on what my date has told me, they have a neutral relationship that doesn’t bother them and living together feels fine. I don’t think the ex is getting in the way of our relationship developing, and I want to have a good relationship with him, because he obviously played a big part of his life – and he’s still around. We’ve only had a couple of interactions at their house so far and he seemed a little passive aggressive. I can handle it for now, and I don’t feel like it’s my place to encourage him to figure out if one of them will move out of their house any time soon, so I guess I’m just curious how you would handle this. I don’t expect him to love me, but I do hope we can keep the peace. How should I handle this with my date, and with his ex? –WHY YOU GOTTA BE PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE
DEAR WHY YOU GOTTA BE PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE: If we looked up the definition of “awkward” in the dictionary, my guess is that this would be it. Let’s take a step back and look at it from the ex’s perspective. He is still living with his ex-partner – who has moved on already. He hasn’t yet moved out of their shared place (for whatever reason) and I’m sure that feels uncomfortable. There could be lingering feelings – conscious or not – creating even more tension and frustration. And then you walk in the door. All things considered, it sounds as though they are both trying to handle this as maturely as possible. So what can you do to make it easier on yourself and everyone involved? Stay out of it as best you can. Obviously, you may be in the house from time to time, but perhaps date nights should be at your place or out in public until they start to figure out how long this situation will last. If it’s a few more weeks, great. If not, you may want to talk to him so he can communicate to his ex about a schedule that works for everyone. And keeping it casual makes a lot of sense… especially while they are still under the same roof! Just another reason we need more affordable housing…
DEAR NATALIE: Next month I’m going on vacation with my boyfriend’s family. He was raised really Catholic, and went to religious schooling all through college, and has since moved away from the church. His parents and siblings are still incredibly close to their religion, along with some political views that I find to be… unsavory. His approach is to keep things chill and say very little, but recent political events have had him a bit more on edge about wanting to open up conversations with them. He doesn’t have a temper, but some of them do. I want to be a supportive partner and be able to stand by his side and support him in communicating about our shared beliefs with his family. This issue comes up especially around abortion. I’ve had more than one (they don’t know this) and know that they don’t “believe it is right.” I’m especially nervous that this will come up and I’ll lose my temper on behalf of all of the women in my position. How can I communicate with them… without getting excommunicated? –SPEAKING MY TRUTH
DEAR SPEAKING MY TRUTH: What are the three things they say we should never speak about at the dinner table? Religion, politics and sex. Abortion fits into that trifecta of disastrous table talk. I recognize your desire to stand your ground, but I have to ask you, would you rather be right or be happy? The reality is, you aren’t going to change anyone’s mind on this, just like they aren’t going to change yours. If they bring up an unsavory subject, change it. Deflect and redirect. Your desire to defend your partner is admirable, but for the sake of your mental health, what will be accomplished by fueling the flames? It can be hard to be the bigger person here, and you may be asking why you have to be. Well... you don’t. But what kind of a relationship will you have if you engage with them and cause everyone to lose their temper? If they bring it up, remind them that they are entitled to their beliefs – as are you – and that it may be better for everyone’s sake if that rock isn’t overturned. If they don’t like that, you can distance yourself. And if they ask why? Tell them that unless they can respect you the way you respect them, there won’t be much of a future to speak of.
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