DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently started dating a man, and we go through the same trials and tribulations as any normal couple. However, none of my siblings approve of this relationship. He has not met my family yet, but I am anxious for when that day comes. My boyfriend strongly believes that he does not have to win over the approval of my siblings, and that my parents' opinion is what matters the most. His family bond is completely different than the bond I have with my family, so I can see where he is coming from. It is crucial to me that all of the people I love get along. How should I handle this situation? -- Us Vs. Him
DEAR US VS. HIM: You have challenges on both sides. Your siblings haven’t met this man and have already judged him. He doesn’t care to win them over. They are at odds before even giving each other a chance. Your job is to work on your family and on him to let both camps know what you want and need and to present to them ideas on how you can all get there.
With your family, invite them to trust you and to assume the positive about this man. Ask them to be welcoming of him when they do meet. Tell them enough things about him for them to feel at ease. You should also let them know that he comes from a different kind of family background, and it may take a while for him to engage in the ways that you and your family find natural.
With your boyfriend, introduce him to your parents first, as this is where he feels he has to be on good behavior. Let them get to know each other. Over time, make it clear to him that because of the way you grew up, your siblings are key to your life, too, and it is important to you for him to grow to know them. Introduce him to the rest of your family. Make it clear to him that you cannot have a future with a man who is not willing to embrace your whole family.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My friend is causing emotional stress to every woman he dates. I know from observing him that he still has feelings for his son's mother, with whom he was in a relationship for five years. He typically denies this and strings along the women he dates.
As a woman, I dislike that he does this, but being that he is a friend, I want to help him. How can I offer tips without overstepping my boundaries? -- Advising a Friend
DEAR ADVISING A FRIEND: People often don’t listen to advice about relationships until they are ready and have asked for it directly. For this reason, your advice should come only when your friend agrees to receive it.
Decide when what you observe about your friend’s behavior is too much. If his behavior toward women offends you or makes you feel uncomfortable, you can tell him your honest feelings. If you feel you need to distance yourself from him because you can’t stand to watch him hurt others’ feelings, you can tell him that. You may even need to step away for a while. Your actions of self-protection may provide the wake-up call he needs.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)