Forced to Choose

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I have been with my boyfriend for six years and have lived together for the past two. We are both divorced and in our mid 40s. I have two college aged children from my first marriage who live with my ex. My boyfriend has no children (by choice). He and I are both close to his family and we spend time with them on a regular basis. Although my boyfriend is accepting of my boys, he doesn’t have much contact with my other family members. I have an older brother who hasn’t been in contact with anyone over the past 20 years due to a drug and alcohol problem. He went through treatment however and has been clean and sober for five years now. He currently lives out of state but is flying in for Xmas and has asked to stay at our house. My boyfriend was very angry and didn’t want him to stay with us, but eventually said it was ok as long as I took off work and stayed with my brother every day. I have a problem however on Xmas eve. My boyfriend and I normally celebrate with his family on the eve. However, my boyfriend said I can’t bring my brother with as he is an outsider and he can’t bring an outsider to his family celebration. I don’t want to leave my brother alone on Xmas eve but even if I did, my boyfriend won’t let him stay at the house alone. So my only choice is to stay home with my brother. This just makes me feel bad inside, as if my boyfriend isn’t accepting to my family member, even though I welcome his with open arms. I feel so torn between my boyfriend and my brother and don’t understand why my boyfriend doesn’t consider my feelings in the matter. I’m just looking for some advise on how best to handle the situation. I know the right thing to do is to stay with my brother and I will, but I feel it makes me resent my boyfriend for forcing this choice.

A. I have a feeling that this situation is more complicated than you might want to admit. It sounds like there is something about your brother that makes your boyfriend and his family uneasy. Otherwise how do we make sense of your boyfriend not wanting to leave your brother alone in your home? Instead of focusing on the fairness issue, perhaps you should be talking about what your brother would need to do to be welcome – both at the “in-laws” and in the home you’ve made with your boyfriend. If they are still uncomfortable, you’ll need to stay with your brother this year. But maybe if you help them get to know him, it can be different next year.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 23 Nov 2008

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). Forced to Choose. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/11/23/forced-to-choose/