Dear Liz, how can my daughter handle a delicate topic with her boyfriend (whom she lives with) regarding his parents? He cannot say no to them no matter what the situation is. Every time his parents call him, he does what they want and expect of him. His parents are from the old school and are from the Dominican Republic. They seem to have a different way of thinking. Each time my daughter has approached this topic, he becomes very defensive and angry and an argument ensues. She feels his parents are his number one priority and everything else is secondary. She also feels that she is the least of his priority. Everyone else seems to come first; parents and his guy friends. They both have full time jobs, and according to my daughter, he must see his parents three times a week, which they expect. According to him, by saying no to them, he is being disrespectful. She is an understanding person, but she feels this is excessive. Because of all these commitments, she feels they do not spend quality time alone. I told her she should think about where this relationship is going. Marriage won't solve the problem. I told her it will be the same situation and it won't change. She has discussed the relationship situation with him, and he says he loves her but words are not good unless they are backed up with actions. What should she do? Thanks, Marie D.
Monroe Township / NJ
Thank you for writing in. It sounds to me like a lot of red flags have dropped here on your daughter’s relationship. The cultural family prioritization is something that really stands out. The fact that she feels so little import in his life comes very close to looking like a deal breaker. When couples come to an impasse like this, it is most definitely the time to bear down and make some decisions.
He “loves” her. Yes well, like you said, love is really…. an action word.
I would advise your daughter to carve out some very clear boundaries for herself. If the present situation is not working for her, which it sounds like it isn’t, she needs to step up and change it. Please tell her that “Love” is not a word to be used as a license for poor practice and behavior in a relationship. Love, when successful, is filled with compromise and empathy. If her boyfriend cannot adjust his life to a place where she feels, “chosen” and a “priority” then the relationship cannot work successfully.
I see no reason to imagine this man cannot have a woman he loves in his life, and be devoted to his parents at the same time. It’s called balance. Balance can sometimes take work in the beginning but it is possible.
Your daughter needs to be reminded, that self-sacrifice at the level she is experiencing it, in order to remain in this relationship, is not an answer. It can begin to damage in more ways than one.
Her boyfriend should be confronted with the truth, which is, can he step up and make her feel loved and meaningful in his life? If his answer is, “this is how I love you and that’s all you’re going to get” she should leave. If he stops to think, and considers adjusting his life to making sure she feels appreciated, then they can give that a shot. Otherwise I say WAY too many problems here for her to choose to remain with things unchanged.