Ex and I are reconciling – family disapproves

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Here is the story.

My boyfriend and I were together for 4 years, and lived together for the majority of the time that we were together, aside from a few months in the beginning. He asked me to marry him in front of all of our families after three and a half years. Four months into our engagement he decided that he just couldn’t do it. He didn’t want to be with me forever, and broke things off with me. Since he owned the condo we were living in, I had to move out, and did so immediately. No one cheated, and I recognize now that the relationship failure was both of our faults. I relied deeply on my family through my heartache and talked with them about EVERYTHING, possibly too much! Well, five months after our splitting, he came back to me and said that he wants to work on our relationship and get to know each other again. We are taking things slow, but enjoying each others company very much. I am excited and I think that we both needed that time apart to really focus on ourselves as individuals, and figure out that this is really truly what we want.

I did move across the country to be with him, so my family is nowhere near we, and his family is all here now, where we live. My family is extremely upset that I am spending time with him again. They do not trust him, and do not understand how I can be doing this with him. How I can forgive him. My sister has actually told me that she hopes that it doesn’t work out, and that they (my whole family) will never trust him again. None of them want to hear about what we do together, or how we are doing this. They just want to pretend like it isn’t happening.
I am at a loss. I want to work on this, but my family keeps telling me that he will hurt me again. I understand that there is that risk, but my sister keeps putting in my face that she has done a thesis paper on this type of thing, and it never works out, and that I am giving up everything that I learned about myself in the last five months (which I can confirm I am not, I am happy to still have my independence). I am happy with myself, and I am happy being with “him”.

I am extremely close with my family and the idea that they are not excited about this eats at me everyday, I just wish that they could understand a little bit. I do not expect them to have open arms for him, but at least see my side a little bit and support me in my decision.
Any advice is appreciated. I have been praying about this, and really would like some outside opinions.

A: What a crummy situation to be in. You want your family’s love and support, yet they are unable to offer it. I will say this now, and return to it later — the biggest lesson here is to set limits on what you share with your family about your love life. This is important to remember for the future. As tempting as it is to communicate everything to your family, there is always the opportunity for it to come back at you when you least expect it.

What you need now is damage control. Sit your family down and have a talk with them. Explain that you have three things to say: First, you need them to support you as you find your way in this relationship, and that you appreciated their help in the past, and would like to be able to count on their support for the future. Secondly, I would let them know that he wasn’t the only one at fault for the breakup, that you bear some of the responsibility, and that the two of you are trying to piece things together because you now realize how much you care for each other.

Finally, I would be blunt and tell them that they are distancing themselves from you in a way that is similar to how he pulled away from you. In other words, they are doing to you what he did. You thought you could rely on him, someone you cared deeply for, and he backed away. You thought you could rely on your family, people you also care for deeply, and they are backing away. Ask them to give you the benefit of making your own mistakes and finding your own joy in the world.

Back to my opening statement. The lesson learned here is to limit what you share with your family about how the relationship is going, not going, floundering, etc. You are a grown woman and get to make your own choices and reap the benefits or consequences of them. Your family only wants the best for you, but they introduce their opinions as criticism, which never helps.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 Nov 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). Ex and I are reconciling – family disapproves. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 29, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/11/09/ex-and-i-are-reconciling-family-disapproves/