Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“I Hate Spending Time With My Boyfriend’s Friends and Family”

My boyfriend and I have been together for two years; I’m happy with our relationship and see a future. My problem is I do not like the majority of his friends and family. We are both in our early 30s and he has had most of his friends since grade school. All of his friends married at an early age and most are on their second+ kid. Whenever we get together as a group (which is often), my boyfriend and his friends go do “guy stuff” and leave me with the wives. (I am the ONLY unmarried one). I then proceed to sit there, completely bored, for hours while these women drone on about things I have no interest in. None of them work, and seemingly none of them have any interest outside of little Johnny’s potty training and little Susy’s Halloween costume. I try to chime in with topics ranging from the latest celebrity scandal or new fashion trend to current news stories, but I am met with polite nods and the conversation reverts back to kids, homemaking, and complaints about husbands.

As a woman who works a full-time job, has been divorced, and dislikes children, I have absolutely nothing in common with these women, and, to be honest, I wouldn’t hang out with any of these women if it weren’t for my boyfriend. And yet, we (together and also me separately) get invited to EVERYTHING. My calendar fills up with dinner parties, birthdays, and baby showers for these people faster than my actual friends can make plans. These women also have a nasty habit of getting extremely butt-hurt if you decline an invitation. I started lying about work responsibilities and other plans to avoid attending their dull engagements, but due to the nature of their husbands to pop by unexpectedly I’ve gotten caught on a few occasions watching Netflix on my couch on a night I claimed to be working. I feel like I have to hide or fake a smile and deal with it.

My boyfriend’s family is another matter altogether: half are overly conservative judgmental types (I get regular lectures about my social media posts and opinions on everything from gay marriage to lack of interest in having children) and the other half are full-blown drug addicts (loud, draining, and in denial). Every holiday has ended in a blow-out. I am exhausted.

My boyfriend is a kind, caring, hardworking individual. He acknowledges the problems I have with his friends and family and even agrees with my complaints (especially where his family is concerned) and yet, if I suggest we skip a dinner or gathering, he gets upset. He claims he doesn’t know what to do because I “hate” his friends and family and he still wants to see them ALL THE TIME. I’ve been trying to just let him go on his own, but then I am bombarded by texts asking where I am. I don’t understand how people who ignore me so much could possibly be so interested in my attendance at their events. I have half a mind to just tell them I don’t like them, but I don’t want to damage my boyfriend’s relationship with his long-time friends (and I definitely don’t want to piss off his screw-loose family members).

Meanwhile, I have an amazing family (whom my boyfriend loves) and really cool and interesting friends. However, when we spend time with them, we are met with guilt trips. My boyfriend’s mom complains when we leave her house to go visit my family on holidays and, if we tell his friends we have made plans with my friends, they sulk and try to convince us to change our plans. My boyfriend does not stick up for us and instead just ignores their remarks and complaints. I was unaware this would even be a problem as an adult. I am not sure what to do anymore. Any advice would be appreciated. — Over His Friends and Family

While I do empathize with your situation, the thing that stuck out to me the most while reading your letter was your judgmental tone/language and your martyrdom attitude. You act like something is wrong with the wives of your boyfriend’s friends that they discuss their kids so much. Okay, maybe it’s ad nauseum, and, yes, I can see how that would be incredibly dull for you, especially since you don’t have or even like kids. But just because YOU aren’t interested in the topics they’re discussing, doesn’t mean the topics of parenthood challenges and child-rearing aren’t interesting to the people who are, in fact, parents. What you consider “droning on” may just be what other people consider “conversing.”

Furthermore, it’s ironic that you call your boyfriend’s family judgmental when you literally seem to extend nothing but judgment toward them (or, at least, that’s what you’ve expressed in your letter). They’re “overly conservative” or they’re “loud, draining, full-blown drug addicts.” Where’s the empathy? Where’s the effort to find anything good about them or to understand a viewpoint that differs from your own? Look, I’m about as liberal as they come and yet I manage to get along great with conservative family members. I manage to express my opinions without alienating people I care about whose opinions differ from my own (well, most of the time). I’m able to listen to opposing viewpoints with compassion (usually), and, when the opinions begin to upset me, I am able to disengage and turn the conversation to something less polarizing. I, and many others who live in this world with people who hold completely different views, are able to do these things because we understand that it’s kind of a necessity if we have any chance of not walking around being bitter and angry and frustrated with, like, half the people we interact with on a regular basis.

You know what else is a necessity for not being bitter, angry, and frustrated with people you have to interact with on a regular (or even irregular basis)? Not caring so much what they think, and not taking everything they say personally, and not looking for things to be upset about. So your boyfriend’s family gives you a guilt trip any time you want to spend some of a holiday with your family? SO WHAT. That’s what family does! At least, some families. Your boyfriend’s family, apparently. It’s how they show you guys that you are loved and that they enjoy your company and that they will miss you when you leave. Yeah, I can see how it’s annoying, but instead of viewing their comments as “guilt trips,” or even complaints, try to see their comments as their unique expressions of love. It may not be how YOU or your family would express love, but it doesn’t make it less sincere.

So, here’s some concrete advice for you: if hanging out with your boyfriend’s friends is so unpleasant, stop doing it so much. Continue making up white lies about why you have to turn down certain invitations. If you get caught in a lie, just say your plans changed. Who cares if these wives stop liking you? Maybe then you won’t get invited to so many things and you can’t stop lying about why you aren’t available. And when all the couples are together and the group starts dividing by gender, break the divide. Go hang out with the men who are doing “guy things.” You can do guy things, too! What’s going to happen? You think they’re going to tell you to go play with the wives? No. You think the wives are going to side-eye you? WHO CARES!

I have another idea: start hosting and/or organizing events (dinner parties, float trips, ball games, picnics, BBQs, whatever) where you invite sets of people from both your and your boyfriend’s friend groups. See what happens when you blend your “really cool and interesting friends” with your boyfriend’s more traditional (or, as you might say, “boring”) buddies. Don’t always invite the same people. Mix it up. See if you can find a good group dynamic. See if some of your friends can bring out the personality of your boyfriend’s friends. Maybe they can even help you see some of the value in these people you have so far turned your up nose at.

What if you hosted a cookie exchange over the holidays and these homemaker women you have nothing in common with introduced you and your friends to some amazing recipes you never would have tried on your own? What if you let them see you in more of your element, surrounded by people you actually really like instead of just tolerate? What if you had the reinforcement of your cool friends to help drive the conversation and keep it veered away from constant kid-related chatter and on to topics more appealing to you? How would that change things? It’s worth a shot. If you love your boyfriend and you see a future with him and the major issue in your relationship is your relationship with the other people in his life, it is worth it to make an effort to bridge the gap.

One more thing: You say you get regular lectures from your boyfriend’s family about the things you share on social media, from your feelings on gay marriage to your lack of interest in having kids. My advice: either stop sharing these personal feelings on a public platform, or block the offending parties from reading your status updates. Also, I guess I don’t know why you need to broadcast that you aren’t interested in having kids (if you do broadcast that). If you are regularly making disparaging comments about children or about parenthood or about how your choice to remain child-free is better than other people’s choice to have kids, I could understand why that might rub people the wrong way.

Basically, what I’m saying in this long response is: Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Or, more accurately: before you wreck your relationship.

***************

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

49 comments… add one
  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark November 10, 2014, 8:47 am

    Yeah, what a bunch of vapid idiots! Who talks about their stupid kids when they could endlessly prattle on instead about the latest important celebrity scandal or up to the minute fashion trend…

    Sorry. LW. But you sure don’t paint yourself very well here.

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    • avatar

      ktfran November 10, 2014, 9:19 am

      Right? I’m guessing these wives aren’t complete idiots. Nor every single one of the relatives. They probably pick up on this LW’s contempt and so they don’t really try to engage. I’m sorry, but if I were around someone who constantly looked down on my life choices or my viewpoints, I would not want to try and friend that person. At all.
      .
      LW, it’s awesome you come from an enlightened, superior family and your friends are intellectually stimulating, but come on. Your attitude stinks. I have a good job. I follow politics. I lean left. I eat out at amazing restaurants, see shows, travel. BUT, I come from a small town where most are conservative and Catholic and I can still talk to everyone when I’m home and I can enjoy their company. As Wendy said, when my Dad, or a family member starts talking BS about something I don’t agree with, I disengage or change the subject.

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    • avatar

      Sunshine Brite November 10, 2014, 9:43 am

      Yeah, I wouldn’t really want to hang out with her.

      I also have politics that disagree with family members but I’m not in your face with it so we’re regularly fighting about social media. Like status updates are what matters in this world.

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  • Amanda

    Amanda November 10, 2014, 9:44 am

    If I, a random internet person, can sense your attitude and disdain through an online advice column…the people around you DEFINITELY can. Look – you don’t have to be BFFs with these people. But, change your attitude! Your boyfriend likes these people. And he likes you. Find some common ground – Wendy’s suggestions are perfect. You might have to go a little out of your way (hey, it’s part of being an adult), but the end result will be worth it.
    .
    Also – huge bonus points to your boyfriend for holding on to friends from grade school. He sounds like a good guy – don’t blow it.

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  • avatar

    Laura Hope November 10, 2014, 9:47 am

    We can connect to anyone, if we try. The trick is to shift your connection (attention) from the mind to the heart. If you can relate to these people from your heart, they will respond and engage with you.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy November 10, 2014, 10:01 am

      Ooh, I like that. And it’s so true.

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    • Addie Pray

      Addie Pray November 10, 2014, 10:17 am

      agreed.

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  • Portia

    Portia November 10, 2014, 9:55 am

    Please take Wendy’s advice, LW. I could probably check off a lot of the same boxes as you (not so hot on kids, liberal with conservative Facebook acquaintances, definitely not going to be a homemaker), but for some reason I don’t have the same annoyance level as you. Part of it might be age (less married friends, less friends with kids), but even then, Wendy has some great ideas for managing your relationships. Especially the Facebook thing: if you don’t already have custom groups for your updates, get on that now. I have a custom group of family members who tend to overcomment in uncomfortable ways, so they don’t get most of my updates. And the family guilt trip thing, please try to see it in the way Wendy frames it. I have family members who would say things like this and it really helped to see it as them showing how much they like you and want to spend time with you.

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    • Portia

      Portia November 10, 2014, 9:59 am

      One last thing: when I’m in a social setting where the men and women start dividing themselves, I usually find myself in the male group and no one has said a word to me about it. If the women are aware that you really have no interest in kids, I don’t think they’re going to try to force you back with them.

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  • avatar

    Essie November 10, 2014, 9:56 am

    Wow. I just…..wow.

    I’m trying not to snark, but with the amount of contempt, disdain and utter superiority just oozing from this letter, it’s hard to know what to advise. Other than to MOA, and leave your boyfriend to the friends and family he loves. Otherwise, he’s going to spend the rest of his life caught in the middle between you and his loved ones, and that’s a hellish way to live. You’re already hurting him, because he can see that you despise these people and detest spending time with them. Just go. Find a guy with friends and family who are up to your standards.
    .
    I’m serious – when you plan a future with a guy, you get the family and friends, too. It’s part of the deal. If you can’t tolerate any of them, then you need to walk away.

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  • avatar

    jlyfsh November 10, 2014, 10:00 am

    So yeah I do agree with Wendy’s advice and I think you need to take a look at your attitude. I do think that you and your bf need to come up with a fair number of times to spend with both friend groups and families. You should be able to hang out with both and learn to ignore them if either one complains about you hanging out with the other group. I also would block those people from your fb like Wendy said.
    .
    I will say that the LW might have just been asked when they’re having kids. I know my husband and I have been asked and yet there are many friends and family who just won’t stop asking and pushing. So in that respect I feel for the LW assuming she isn’t letting it be known that she thinks her position is better and not just different.

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  • Miss MJ

    Miss MJ November 10, 2014, 10:03 am

    So, in the one hand, I understand to a degree where this LW is coming from (not her attitude, though!). My husband has a group of friends he’s had since high school or before and we are the only couple among them who do not have and are not going to have kids. Most of the wives don’t work. And, yeah, most of the conversation turns around their kids and more “domestic” stuff and their husbands, etc. Oh, and some of the wives are super conservative/religious, so church comes up a lot, too. I have no kids, work full time and am far from conservative or religious. On the surface of it, I should have nothing to talk to these women about. And yet, bizarrely enough, we manage to hang out when our husbands hang out and have conversations in a wide array of topics. Sure they talk about their kids. And then we talk about recipes (I love to cook), football, what’s going on in each of their lives – illnesses, promotions, new houses, etc. – pets, gardening, vacations, current events and so on. Hang out with these people alone less, LW, since they drive you nuts. And take Wendy’s suggestion to host your own parties. (Tip: get a babysitter for the kids to keep them out of the way at your place.) But also, just because these women may be stay at home moms and you’re a career woman doesn’t mean that you have nothing in common. Make more of an effort to find it. Surely someone as interesting as you can find something mutually interesting to talk about. And quit bitching about his friends’ wives to your BF. Seriously. As for his family members, you’re just gonna have to suck it up and deal like pretty much everyone else in the world has to do on some area with the “in laws.” They (like the friends) come with your BF.

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  • avatar

    Sunshine Brite November 10, 2014, 10:03 am

    I didn’t like my husband’s friends at first. I still have my issues with them but we’ve found a happy medium of doing things with them together and me just opting out. Them wishing me well as I introvert out at home. Which happened because I made an effort to look past the things I thought sucked about them (and I’m sure what they thought sucked about me) and tried to find the positives. Even if the only thing I found at first was that they’d been friends with my husband since toddlerhood and nothing else, that was enough for me to care about what this person was all about to at least try and chip away at my negative views.
    .
    I wouldn’t be surprised if your boyfriend stopped seeing a future with you if you don’t start being more inclusive towards his family and friends since they’re such a big part of his life and always have been.
    .
    What are your motives? Like, why are you so annoyed that they’re all married? I know you try and bring up conversations but what they are already doing is conversing. Maybe they just don’t want to get into it if you are bringing up news stories and you have differing viewpoints like different sociocultural aspects of events. Why don’t you talk to them about work or what’s going on in your life rather than what’s been happening in some celebrity’s?
    .
    I don’t know if you see how nice it is that you’re getting invited out separately from your boyfriend with these friends when all you do is shit on their lives. Maybe not in front of them, but people tend to give off a negative vibe when they feel it. Maybe your friends need to get their act together and make some plans or you need to chunk out some personal time for yourself. I tell my friends the truth when I just need to unwind in a non-group way.

    That’s too bad you can’t navigate getting along with conservative family members to the point of agree to disagree and discuss other things at get-togethers. Plus, with holidays, you don’t necessarily have to bring up someone’s chemical dependency even if it’s obvious. It doesn’t help the issue but it doesn’t sound like your place except how it affects you.

    It doesn’t sound like they ignore you at all. Really the only relationship that would be damaged if you tell them that you don’t like them isn’t yours and theirs, but yours and your boyfriend’s. He isn’t going to want to stay with someone who so blatantly disrespects the people who’ve been with him through everything vs the last couple years.

    The guilt trips are funny. I ignore those too. I get them from family and friends occasionally as does my husband. BECAUSE PEOPLE WANT TO SPEND TIME WITH US. And you apparently. It’s annoying but it’s how some people show they care. Just ignore it and do your own thing, see people as often as you’re comfortable and don’t if you don’t. I don’t know what you expect your boyfriend to do, do you seriously want to put him in a position of telling his family and friends that he’s chosen to keep someone in his life that hates everyone else he loves?

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  • bagge72

    bagge72 November 10, 2014, 10:04 am

    I can’t believe so many people like you and want to hang out with you, how do you handle it! Have you ever thought that your boyfriend thinks your friends are boring drones, but hangs out with them without complaining, because it means something to you? It seems you are the one making everything miserable, because you don’t want to hangout with anybody who isn’t like you. If that is the way you want to go through your life it is best to find somebody who shares the same values as yours, and can distance himself from any friends and family that share an opposing view, or has kids. You just have to realize though, that being in your 30’s means your friends are going to be the ones with the kids soon, and that is what they are going to be talking about with each other when you hang out with them.

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  • Addie Pray

    Addie Pray November 10, 2014, 10:18 am

    What Wendy and everyone else said.

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  • avatar

    jamie5015 November 10, 2014, 10:33 am

    My boyfriend and I have been together for 5 years. His best friends from high school basically are his family (calls them brothers, kids call him uncle, etc). I don’t have ton in common with them, given the long shared history, inside jokes and that everyone is married and has children. It’s gotten easier as the kids have gotten older and more self-sufficient, as our social events are now more adult oriented and we can bond over wine and cheese 🙂 I do my best to endure the brother that annoys me the most – because he is the one boyfriend is close to. It’s really just his style to be kind of loud, annoying and ‘out there’ so he doesn’t seem to mind when people with spar with him or just ignore him. I feel like the best solution has been time to find my place in the group, occasional activities without children (small groups of 2-3 couples) and ducking out when I know I’m tired/cranky and not feeling social. It is a balance that keeps me involved in the family enough but not overkill – and lets my boyfriend know I care about him and his friends/family.

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  • Lyra

    Lyra November 10, 2014, 11:13 am

    But…you’re not as happy with your relationship with your boyfriend as you think you are. His friends and family are a huge part of who he is, that is pretty obvious from this letter. They will always have a place in his life. Even if you find them “boring”, they are part of his life. A BIG part of his life. Your attitude says a LOT more about you than it says about them. I have friends who have had kids and yeah I can’t always relate to them all the time because of that (talk of midnight feedings, tummy time, etc.), but we’re still friends.
    .
    You will only build resentment with your boyfriend if this keeps up. I guarantee it.

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  • avatar

    RedroverRedrover November 10, 2014, 11:28 am

    I agree with the bad attitude, but I can kind of see LW’s point. If we hung out that much with my husband’s friends, I bet we would have never gotten married. The first summer we were together, we hung out with his friends constantly. And if I didn’t go, it was the same barrage of wondering where I am. To make things worse, that summer I was travelling to Europe all the time for work (not exciting trips, either, boring work ones where all I did was sit in a conference room all day), so I was always jetlagged. I think the entire summer, I didn’t have one weekend to myself, between work travel and hanging out with his friends. And it wasn’t just a few hours with his friends, it always had to be a trip to camping or a cottage or something, because some of them still lived at home and the ones who were couples wanted to get away so they could sleep together. So the entire weekend was taken up, AND it required travel, which I was heartily sick of by that point.
    .
    My point is, at the end of the summer, I would have sounded like this LW. My husband’s friends are fine, but they’re not my friends, you know? They’re just not the people I would have picked. They’re nice and we get along, but there isn’t that connection the way there is with the people that I chose to be my own friends. Plus there are some things about them that I really don’t like, that would have made me drop them as friends if it was my choice. Mainly that two of them were constantly sleeping with married men and they all thought that was fine. It’s wearing, when you feel like you can’t get out of it, and it’s taking up so much of your time. The resentment builds up, no matter how good a face you put on the outside. Luckily for me, winter came along and put the kibosh on all the camping. And by the next summer everyone had their own place so they weren’t always pushing to go away for the weekend. If that hadn’t happened, I don’t think I would have stayed with my now-husband.
    .
    So my advice is this. If you really can’t stand these people, then you should leave. If you marry this guy, this is your life. Make an effort first, as people have said above. But if you’re too far down this rabbit hole and there’s too much resentment for you to climb out, then I don’t think there’s much you can do. You certainly can’t force your boyfriend to spend much less time than he does, because this is how he’s set up his life and he likes it this way. Asking him to choose between a girlfriend of two years and the friends he’s had since he was a kid isn’t going to go well for you. Even if he did pick you, he’d be miserable, and you’d still have his family to deal with anyway. So you either try the suggestions that Wendy and others have given, or you leave this guy and find someone whose lifestyle meshes better with your own.

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    • Lyra

      Lyra November 10, 2014, 11:45 am

      I can kind of relate to her too, but the fact is that she’s choosing to be all “woe is me” about it. I definitely agree with your last paragraph.

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  • Astronomer

    Astronomer November 10, 2014, 12:38 pm

    Oh, man. I can totally relate to hating getting lumped into “The Wives” with my husband’s friends. And man, I hate baby talk and all the poop, feeding, naptime, preschool talk that goes along with it. I just can’t understand that mentality, and someone has my permission to shoot me if I ever can.
    .
    However, two things make The Wives tolerable. The first is when I step back and look at how much these people love my husband. They’ve all been friends forever, and it’s so obvious how proud they are of him and how much they enjoy being around him. It’s lovely and inspiring. And even though I am making very different choices for myself, they want to love and accept me, too, just the way I am. They listen when I express my wants and desires, even if they’re just as mystified about me as I am about them. The point is they’re good people, and they love my husband so much they’re willing to put up with me. The least I can do is show up sometimes, listen back, and try.
    .
    The second thing that has gradually made The Wives tolerable is that several of my “cool and interesting” friends in the last few years have suddenly switched camps to become homemakers and mothers themselves. And wouldn’t you know it? They’ve ended up exactly like The Wives in terms of their interests and conversational skills. I had to choose to learn how to relate to them, too, or risk losing them down the rabbit hole of domesticity forever. And dammit, I don’t want to have to make increasingly younger friends every few years. So you know what? It doesn’t kill me to look at baby pictures and talk about poop and breastfeeding schedules and so on. In fact, I’ve learned a lot because it turns out The Wives are willing to answer all kinds of gross and weird questions about babies and pregnancy and whatnot. (Don’t ask about the mucus plug. Just don’t.) That can make conversation way more fun.
    .
    Also, my husband and I secretly can laugh about a lot of this later, and then high-five while yelling “CHILDLESS BY CHOICE!” as we sleep until noon on the weekends. Knowing we’re a team and on the same page regardless of what it seems like everyone else is doing makes everything worth it.

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    • avatar

      RedroverRedrover November 10, 2014, 12:46 pm

      I was gonna chime in and say it happens to everyone when they have kids, but you got to that conclusion later in your story. 🙂 But also, it’s not just “the wives”. Plenty of husbands do it too. Maybe not when they’re around just the guys, but when they’re with women with kids, they loooove talking about their kids. Just last Friday I went to lunch with a couple of guy work friends who I haven’t seen since I had my kid. And yeah, it was pretty much all we talked about. And I saw it back before I had my kid, too, when my group of friends was all starting to have kids. Not only could you not talk to the moms, you couldn’t talk to the dads either!
      .
      It’s possible that where I live (relatively left-leaning) and the class we’re in (relatively high-earning professionals) has something to do with it, but I find that the dads are very very involved. When I pick up my son from daycare, probably half the parents are dads. I took him for a walk down in the trendy area near us on Saturday morning, and almost all the parents I saw were dads. Playground is half dads, if not more. Parents walking babies in strollers is probably 30% dads. The times they are a’changin’!

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph November 10, 2014, 12:40 pm

    Forget the friends for a minute, and let’s focus on the family…
    I definitely come from the opinion that if you marry the guy, you marry his family. And I would expand that to if you are going to be in a long term relationship with a guy, you are also in a relationship with his family. Maybe they really are that bad (hyper conservative drug users, that is) but it doesn’t matter. You love your boyfriend and he loves his family. You’re stuck with them as long as you stick with him. That means spending (some) holidays and (some) birthdays and (some) events with them. Suck it up and deal or break up with him. Full stop.

    Now as for practical advice on how to deal, I do have a few suggestions.
    1. Stop being friends with them on facebook. Just do it. Yeah it sounds like they may have hurt feelings over this, but let them deal with their feelings and just be clear that your boundaries require you not to get into political discussions with them over facebook posts and that’s the end of it. Do not engage them on the topic, just restate the same line, and change the subject.
    2. I do think that this crap with his mother gettting weird about you spending holidays with your family is bullshit, but you really need to enlist your boyfriend on this. He is the one that needs to say “Mom we love spending Christmas with you, but LW also loves her family and wants to spend time with them. We spent Thanksgiving with you and will be spending Christmas with LW family.” Or whatever it is. Divide the holidays how you want, make the guidelines or plans (our rule is only Christmas or Thanksgiving with his family and the other one we stay home, my parents get a Jewish holiday or other event of their choice), and then stick to them. But the important part is that your boyfriend be the one who breaks the news to his mom and stands firm– it needs to come from him, not the witch who’s taking her baby boy away.

    If you can’t do these things, then break up with the guy.

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph November 10, 2014, 12:45 pm

      As for the friends, Wendy is spot on. You don’t have to hang with the wives when the group splits off, you don’t have to go to every event and you don’t even have to have a good excuse (vague work reasons and then, if caught, say you ended up getting the night off are fine). You do still have to tolerate these people occasionally for your boyfriend’s sake, but you definitely do not need to go to every baby shower and tupperware party and dinner invite.

      Again I suggest making boundaries/rules and sticking to them. If your boundary is “one dinner party per month” then show up to that dinner party and try to have a good time, then beg off the rest. Maybe by freeing yourself from the constant onslaught of events, you’ll find that the one you do attend is not so bad.

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      • avatar

        RedroverRedrover November 10, 2014, 12:50 pm

        Totally agree with limiting time. See my post above where I was spending all my free time with my husband’s friends. Getting a break from it makes it a lot easier to enjoy it now during the times that we see them. In fact I even find myself missing the get-togethers!

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  • FireStar

    FireStar November 10, 2014, 1:34 pm

    I see two issues here. (1)The monopoly of time that his friends and family seem to take up and (2) the actual interaction with them when the LW spends time with them. I have sympathy for the first point and you and your boyfriend should work out between the two of you how much time is spent with each other’s sides and by yourself so there isn’t a constant sense of burn out around one particular set of people. Maybe both of you attend two events per month per side together? Anything more than that the other person is on their own. And the answer isn’t a white lie when asked about your absence it is “sorry I can’t make it – I have plans” plans with your friends, your family, your couch, a bottle of shampoo – whatever – plans. Maybe if they are not in your face 24/7 you can look beyond your differences to see them as nice people and realize that feigning interest in what Jimmy dressed up as for Halloween won’t kill you but will make your boyfriend happy. I’ve been at events where the men peeled off and left the women – none of whom believed in working outside of the home or furthering their education short of finding a husband – and I managed to find something to chat about even when they were looking to me horrified because I didn’t have children yet. Are they my kind of women? nope. Would I pick them if I had a choice? nope. Did it kill me to smile, nod and throw in random occasional question when I couldn’t care less about the answer? nope. And 9 times out of 10 at the end of the night I’ve had a few laughs… and learned the name of the website that ships lipstick, coconut sugar and diapers for free.

    Also cookie exchange? I have never heard of that but I am so doing that this Christmas!!!

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  • avatar

    catz47 November 10, 2014, 1:55 pm

    LW, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe you ended up coming across a little more… strongly than you meant in your letter. I can see how it would be exhausting to constantly have to either go to these functions, or make up excuses to not go (which is understandable, and if you have to make excuses because you’ll be bombarded with messages and texts asking where you are etc… sometimes it’s easier to just make something up). When I started dating my now husband I was kind of in the same boat as you, we had to go to family dinners every Sunday, from morning to night, and all of his family members were chain smokers and I’d be left to listen to his Grandma and Mom complained about this that or the other… anyway, not a fun atmosphere and not how I’d choose to spend 50% of my days off! What changed was that I gradually stopped going every Sunday… I went maybe every other weekend, then sometimes once a month. They DID ask my husband if I hated them (yeah, they’re dramatic) and at first he wanted me to go back to attending every Sunday, but I finally made him realize that it just wasn’t the same for me to hang out with his family as it was for him (NOT a relaxing atmosphere for me), and I only had so many days off and sometimes I wanted to just be alone (I never discouraged him from going, which I see you do with your boyfriend). He gradually realized this AND also started fielding their questions and complaints about me not being there, and either told them I was busy/tired/working or changed the subject. Your boyfriend needs to get on the same page as you and realize where you’re coming from, and not that you HATE his family/friends (or if you do… don’t tell him that!) but that you like your alone time or hanging out with your friends, that it’s just more relaxing for you. Make it less about his friends/family and more about YOU and why you’d like some time away from these gatherings. If he’s really hurt that you can’t/won’t go to EVERY engagement you’re invited to, this may just not be the relationship for you.

    P.S. I feel you on the ‘guilt trips’ to spend more time with the family too… I’ve spent the past 5 Christmases with my in laws and every time we left to go to my family’s they tried to get us to stay another day (8 hour travel between the 2 families). When we told them we’d be doing Christmas with my family this year, my MIL actually suggested that my husband spend Christmas with them and I can visit my family alone. Yikes.

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  • avatar

    csp November 10, 2014, 2:07 pm

    LW, I do think some people are getting a little harsh about your motives. Whatever your opinions of people, you feel like his life and friends are taking up too much of your time. I get it. I had to explain to my friends and family that I only have 8 days a month to myself. So if we spend two saturdays with his parents and two with his friends, that leaves zero for you.

    I dealt with this when my husband and I were first married. First off, his family would guilt us about holidays like New Years Day which I don’t feel is a family holiday. What I found out was two things. The first was that if they said “We missed you or it won’t be the same without you,” it really means that they are showing they care. It doesn’t mean they are disappointed. Second, you need to negotiate that your time isn’t like a game of shotgun with the car. Just because someone plans something first, doesn’t mean that they can take all your time. I dealt with this with my inlaws. They would call Thanksgiving in September. I was like, you don’t just call things but we need to balance both families.

    I think this is more about you balancing your relationship rather than the family and friends. Tell your boyfriend that you will give his friends a certain allocated amount of time. Then if he wants to hang more, just allow him to go alone and don’t apologize for it. Learning how to set boundaries while being nice is one of the most important things you can learn.

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  • avatar

    Kate November 10, 2014, 2:56 pm

    Well, as to the tactical issue here, I think people have given you lots of constructive advice and restrained from being harsh while – necessarily I think – calling out how you’re coming across in your letter. Which is really *really* bad. And I say that as someone who (like many people here) can actually relate to your woes.

    But look, beyond that, a couple of people have alluded to what I think is the bigger issue here. This stood out to me from your letter: “He claims he doesn’t know what to do because I “hate” his friends and family and he still wants to see them ALL THE TIME.” I think your relationship is on shakier ground than you want to admit. These types of things, like a major disagreement about how to spend time, or where to live, are a HUGE deal. It’s not like “My relationship is amazing and great except for this one thing.” A fundamental difference in lifestyle preferences is not “just this one thing.” It’s kind of… everything.

    Maybe you can reach some sort of compromise, but for there to be any chance of that happening, your attitude is going to have to change. You can’t keep blaming your boyfriend and his family and his friends for all your relationship problems. You’ve got to actively work on a solution, and part of that will mean some change to your own viewpoint and behavior. You might be able to temporarily strong-arm your boyfriend into spending less time with these people than he’s comfortable with, but you know that’s going to blow up on you and he’ll end up resenting you and being upset that he can’t do what he wants to. You say you’re happy with the relationship and see a future, but I actually would not be surprised if he’s seriously questioning the future. He sounds pretty upset and stressed out about this whole thing.

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    • Astronomer

      Astronomer November 10, 2014, 4:16 pm

      Yes, this! Just as much as all these people have your boyfriend’s back, you have to also recognize that your boyfriend has theirs. It sounds like he’s choosing them regardless of what you want him to choose, so you have to learn to deal with them and play nice if you want to stay together.

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  • Fabelle

    Fabelle November 10, 2014, 6:19 pm

    I think people are being harsh. The lw sounds, judgey, sure, but she’s frustrated and I have sympathy because there’s nothing worse than friend groups where there’s an obvious gender divide and “well, were all friends because our men are friends!” thing going on. Especially when those people are boring. Yeah, yeah, she can try to make a connection anyway…but her bf wants her to hang out with these people constantly, it seems? Making a connection to people you have no connection with is exhausting.

    With my sympathy paragraph done though, I don’t have actual advice. i do like the idea of doing your own hosting, inviting your own friends, but if that’s too much boat rocking, then i’d say its a husband issue.

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    • Cassie

      Cassie November 10, 2014, 8:40 pm

      Sorry to post on yours Fab, but… what’s up with the comment page two? Why isn’t it loading on the main page with the other comments? Do I just talk/write too much? (Don’t answer that last one.)

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      • Fabelle

        Fabelle November 10, 2014, 9:40 pm

        Oh yeah, I noticed that and it confused the shit out of me. I thought it was just my mobile being wonky.

        Also, I meant “boyfriend issue” not “husband” issue (not that I’m rereading..)

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  • Cassie

    Cassie November 10, 2014, 8:36 pm

    I do think that you and your boyfriend need to sit down and settle out a plan and a compromise for how you two are spending your time with friends. I see that as a larger issue. If all your time is being taken up by his friends’ events, and that leaves you no time for your own friends’ gatherings, then that’s just… not cool. And, if you’re getting harassed about not going to events when you do go to the majority of them, that’s also not cool. I think you and he need to agree to a specific number of events that you will attend with him, and then the rest of them you can freely decline. (Except phrase it not that you don’t want to go, but you are neglecting your own friends, commitments, and self.) For example, you and he will attend 3 gatherings per month together with his friends, you and he will attend 3 gatherings per month together with your friends, and then the rest of your time is free for each of you to do as you please. Then, if anyone asks, you can say, “I’ve got other commitments,” or, “Sorry, I’d love to attend, but I’m booked that day.” You don’t have to be any more specific than that, even if your commitment is to your couch and DVR. And, if they find out and are butt-hurt about it, well, then they can be butt-hurt about it. And they can learn to get over it.
    .
    That said, these friends have been in your boyfriend’s life since pretty much forever. They’re here to stay. You’re going to have to learn to get along with them, even if for the fact that they are important people to your boyfriend. I 100% get how, as someone who does not have children, it can be like nails on a chalkboard listening to people sit and talk about kids nonstop. But, see, you have to take an active role in changing that.
    .
    As a teacher, I have had the joy of sharing an office one year with 5 other women who were mothers to young children. And, much like your experiences, every single frickin’ time we were in the office at the same time, all they would talk about was their kids, daycare, pregnancy, childbirth, etc. I get that it was what they had in common, but it wasn’t interesting to me (and often times horrifying), and I wasn’t able to participate in conversation much. So, I could have done what you did and moped and/or changed the conversation to a monologue about my interests. Instead, I started asking questions to find out what else they were interested (as individuals and as a group). I made an effort. And I found out that we had a number of tv shows in common, one gal also did kettlebell, a few others had traveled and hoped to do so again some day. And then, I would ask further questions about these interests. Pretty soon we had conversations about mutual interests because I took the time to make the effort. So then the balance shifted to 60% mom-talk, and 40% other common topics, and that I could handle.
    .
    Did they end up my Best Friends Forever? Um, no. But I’m glad I made the effort if for no other fact then I was stuck with them and it made the experience more enjoyable. And, guess what. As long as you remain with your boyfriend, you’re stuck with these people too. Your boyfriend and his friends and family are a packaged deal. So I suggest you make the best of it, and start making the effort. Ask them questions, and keep asking until you find some commonalities you can converse about with them.

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    • Cassie

      Cassie November 10, 2014, 8:43 pm

      *than

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  • Cassie

    Cassie November 10, 2014, 8:37 pm

    I do think that you and your boyfriend need to sit down and settle out a plan and a compromise for how you two are spending your time with friends. I see that as a larger issue. If all your time is being taken up by his friends’ events, and that leaves you no time for your own friends’ gatherings, then that’s just… not cool. And, if you’re getting harassed about not going to events when you do go to the majority of them, that’s also not cool. I think you and he need to agree to a specific number of events that you will attend with him, and then the rest of them you can freely decline. (Except phrase it not that you don’t want to go, but you are neglecting your own friends, commitments, and self.) For example, you and he will attend 3 gatherings per month together with his friends, you and he will attend 3 gatherings per month together with your friends, and then the rest of your time is free for each of you to do as you please. Then, if anyone asks, you can say, “I’ve got other commitments,” or, “Sorry, I’d love to attend, but I’m booked that day.” You don’t have to be any more specific than that, even if your commitment is to your couch and DVR. And, if they find out and are butt-hurt about it, well, then they can be butt-hurt about it. And they can learn to get over it.
    .
    That said, these friends have been in your boyfriend’s life since pretty much forever. They’re here to stay. You’re going to have to learn to get along with them, even if for the fact that they are important people to your boyfriend. I 100% get how, as someone who does not have children, it can be like nails on a chalkboard listening to people sit and talk about kids nonstop. But, see, you have to take an active role in changing that.
    .
    As a teacher, I have had the joy of sharing an office one year with 5 other women who were mothers to young children. And, much like your experiences, every single frickin’ time we were in the office at the same time, all they would talk about was their kids, daycare, pregnancy, childbirth, etc. I get that it was what they had in common, but it wasn’t interesting to me (and often times horrifying), and I wasn’t able to participate in conversation much. So, I could have done what you did and moped and/or changed the conversation to a monologue about my interests. Instead, I started asking questions to find out what else they were interested (as individuals and as a group). I made an effort. And I found out that we had a number of tv shows in common, one gal also did kettlebell, a few others had traveled and hoped to do so again some day. And then, I would ask further questions about these interests. Pretty soon we had conversations about mutual interests because I took the time to make the effort. So then the balance shifted to 60% mom-talk, and 40% other common topics, and that I could handle.
    .
    Did they end up my Best Friends Forever? Um, no. But I’m glad I made the effort if for no other fact then I was stuck with them and it made the experience more enjoyable. And, guess what. As long as you remain with your boyfriend, you’re stuck with these people too. Your boyfriend and his friends and family are a packaged deal. So I suggest you make the best of it, and start making the effort. Ask them questions, and keep asking until you find some commonalities you can converse about with them.

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    • avatar

      hazel January 3, 2017, 5:24 am

      I agree with this piece of advice- try as hard as you can to find some common ground with these women, even if you have to instigate it by bringing along some fun group activity or game some of you could play together- I’ve certainly experienced the reaction of “well what’s the point of you, then” when in large groups of women who all have children and think I have nothing of interest to offer at all in the face of their great and all consuming human experience. Nothing I say or do interests them and I can see why, they have a huge thing in common which occupies nearly all their time, it is like being the only scaffolding engineer at a party of neurologists you have novelty value at best which soon wears off. So you maybe have to work extra hard to find something to bond over….just keep listening and smiling and sooner or later something is bound to crop up- it does get a lot better as their kids grow old enough to do more universal activities- even a nice long hike with moms and older kids is better than sitting about feeling like Lucy Lemon.

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  • avatar

    Amy January 1, 2017, 10:27 pm

    Wendy, what HORRIBLE advice. Not only are YOU being judgemental towards this letter, but you basically are just dissmissive of the real issue at hand, that this woman needs to get the fuck away from this boyfriend and his trashy family and the idiot stepford wives of his friends. Women who only talk about child-rearing are an embarrassment to all that we’ve fought for.

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    • avatar

      MissDre January 2, 2017, 9:56 am

      I’m pretty sure your judgemental attitude is an embarrassment to all that we’ve fought for. We’ve fought to give women the right to CHOOSE their paths in life, not to FORCE them into submitting to your idea of what women *should* do.
      .
      Believing that all women should adhere to *your* standard is no better than the patriarchy we’ve fought against, even if you do believe that women should be educated and travel the world and whatever else the opposite of a stepford wife is.

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      • avatar

        anonymousse January 2, 2017, 1:11 pm

        Parents talking about their kids with other parents are an embarrassment? Maybe it’s the only thing they have in common? Maybe they are asking for advice, or looking for reassurance.
        Raising kids is not an embarrassment. Tearing other women down because they do “something” is. Shame on you.

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      • avatar

        anonymousse January 2, 2017, 1:11 pm

        Oops, sorry Dre. I didn’t mean to reply to your comment!

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover January 2, 2017, 1:13 pm

      Women like you are an embarrassment to feminism. I’ve been a staunch feminist for almost 25 years. I have a degree in electrical engineering and work for a major tech company. All of my friends are career women, many of them in STEM. And guess what happens when we get together? We talk about our kids! Do you have kids? Do you have any idea how all-consuming it is when they’re young? They take over every moment of your life. Maybe you should wait until you actually have some experience of what it’s like before you go around judging women for not being what YOU think they should be.

      And by the way, guess what our husbands talk about when we all get together? Holy shit, they talk about the kids too! Because they do childcare as well! Who woulda thunk it?

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    • bittergaymark

      bittergaymark January 2, 2017, 4:53 pm

      Well, not everybody can be a classy brat like yourself. For the sake of the world, don’t ever have any fucking kids. One of you, sweetie, is more than fucking enough.

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    • avatar

      dinoceros January 2, 2017, 6:36 pm

      What? I didn’t realize the point of feminism was to ban women from talking about parenting. If that’s all you’ve been fighting for (and when you say “we,” I’m curious about how much activism you’ve been involved in), then it’s unfortunate you’ve been ignoring more impactful issues. Also, I don’t think there’s anything less classy that referring to other people as trash.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros January 2, 2017, 6:42 pm

    When you date or marry someone, you get their friends and family. That’s just how it works. I’m not really sure what type of solution you’re looking for. He’s not going to drop them all, so that’s not happening. I think the options are either avoiding them and therefore ruining the relationships with them (which I think is a bad call if you plan to be with him long-term) or just dealing with it. Maybe if you actually act interested in his friends’ lives and like you like them, they might actually like you and be more interested in talking about your topics of interest. It’s your choice whether you want to just go and nod or whether to actually try to be friends with them and hopefully make things better. You seem to be assuming that because they are boring to you that they are bad people all around, but it’s pretty kind of them to invite you to things. Think of all the letters where someone’s partner’s friends ignore them.

    As for the family, again, you get the family too. In life, you either have to put up with the loved ones of your partner or you have to pick out partners based on what their family and friends are like.

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    • avatar

      Ron January 2, 2017, 7:00 pm

      And now you understand why feminism hasn’t had more success than it has. Too narrow, insular, and focused upon white academic and upper middle to middle class women. Even back in the day when we were more involved (20-40 years ago) it was the same problem: few minorities, almost nobody below middle-middle class, almost all suburban, not projecting an air of inclusiveness, lots of in-rhetoric and purer than thou thinking to get past. The movement had energy and then it sort of faded. Many young, rural, lower middle-class and poor women and a lot of progressive men just don’t identify with the movement today.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy January 2, 2017, 8:24 pm

        Agreed. That was definitely an uppity, over-educated white lady commenting like that, for sure. Smug and out of touch.

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  • avatar

    Carrie February 27, 2017, 12:28 am

    It sucks to be involved with someone who seems like a good fit outside of the package of their social circle. I just ended a relationship where love was not enough and I am confident that my lack of fondness for at least a handful of his closest friends and his determination to spend excessive amounts of time with them to the exclusion of my family, friends or general interests was a big factor. Lots of remarks in these comments focus on how the girlfriend here needs to make more of an effort but I think if the relationship were to last, which I suspect it won’t, the boyfriend would need to grow up from the selfish little boy he is to a man who puts his partners wishes, needs and desire to feel at ease on par with his own. A woman who is treated with thoughtfulness, consideration and care by her partner has a MUCH easier time being cool and relaxed and chill in the infrequent uncomfortable situation she is in socially because she wants to support her partner and she knows that being friendly and pleasant and open is just part of it. Doesn’t it seem like the conflcit here is really between the girl and her man/boy and that his constant insistence that they do his thing with his people is driving her to dig in her heels against them? That’s the way I see it and from my experience I’d suggest dating a different man whose considerate behaviors toward you will naturally elevate you to be the best, most open and tolerant and accepting, version of yourself. Good luck!

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    • avatar

      Carrie February 27, 2017, 12:40 am

      P.s. Before he passed away I was married 8 years to a wonderful man. My subsequent miserable experience dating my own man/boy was so awful and baffling to me that I’m still trying to recover from it. I can tell you with certainty that there are at least some quality men in their 30s who have those wonderful long-term childhood or other close friends that they enjoy spending time with when possible but who don’t hang out with them regularly because they are pretty busy being productive, working, contributing to their household and being a great partner, spouse and/or parent. That is the kind of partner I hope to find again and had I not experienced one first hand I can imagine I would fear that they didn’t exist.

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  • avatar

    Mags March 21, 2017, 11:43 pm

    Wow, so much criticism for the poster. I for one think there is a valid concern and attacking poster is unwarrented. If a person is more of an introvert, they may find it hard to interact with people they have fewer things in common with, and if regular interaction is sought, it can become overwhelming and embittering. Clearly poster has reached personal limits and resentment sets in because her personal boundaries are shuttered. Not everyone can build friendships easily and consistently with people thrust upon them. If you are a person who easily finds common grounds with others, more power to you, but it can be very difficult for others.
    Poster should look to the inside and start following inner voice and enforcing personal boundaries – i.e. Do not do what you don’t want to do. Only then resentment will disappear and with a comfortable frequency of interaction, she may even start to see value or enjoyment in it.

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