I understand the party is not the place for “coming out,” but until her father knows about us, I will always be excluded from events that he is attending and I’m feeling…uncomfortable about that. I don’t like keeping secrets and I’m being excluded because my girlfriend is keeping one from her dad.
I’ve been treading lightly on this so far, but I’m not sure if I should ask her to consider bringing “us” up with her dad. She’s said she feels OK to some extent because her mom and stepfather know about us, but I still remain a “secret” to a significant relationship in her life. Would she keep things from ME in the future from fear of those consequences? — 58 and Kept a Secret
If your biggest concern here is that you’re wondering if your girlfriend would keep things from YOU in the future if she feared the consequences, consider that she has particular reason to fear her father that she (hopefully!) doesn’t have in regards to you. You say her father is “incredibly controlling, abusive and volatile.” You, I hope, are none of those things. On top of those traits, her father is also in a position of power because he supports your girlfriend while she deals with legal trouble and raises her 9-year-old daughter. If she only had herself to worry about, that would be one thing. But she has a daughter and, for whatever reason, is relying on her “incredibly controlling, abusive and volatile” father to help support them. That’s a really vulnerable and precarious position to be in, and, while I certainly understand your frustration in being excluded from events in her life and being kept a secret from her father, I think you would do well to continue treading lightly here and be careful not to push someone who seems to be sitting on a foundation that sounds particularly imbalanced and unstable.
That said, after eight months I’d say it’s reasonable to broach some discussions with your girlfriend about the status of your relationship and where you both see things going. If she sees you in her life for the foreseeable future, does she have some idea when she’ll have independence from her father and not rely on him for financial support? Will you be in a position to support her if he cuts her off because he doesn’t approve of you? (If you aren’t, then you really, REALLY need to tread lightly; if you are, that gives you a bit more leverage). As two divorced people, does either of you have interest in getting married again? What about living together? Once you have some discussions and clarity about these topics, you will better be able to gauge when your girlfriend thinks she’ll be in a position to tell her father about you (and deal with the consequences of sharing that news with him).
In the meantime, think about the consequences YOU face in being too pushy on this issue. While it’s understandable that you want to be “out” with your girlfriend, consider that pushing too hard and too fast might cost you your relationship (and consider that, if she does acquiesce and tell her father about you, she may face dire consequences, especially if he’s abusive as you say he is). Think about what it is that being “out” means to you — would it prove her love to you? Validate your relationship? Give you a sense that she’s serious about you and sees a future with you? Figure out what it is you need in your relationship right now that you think being fully “out” will give you and consider whether there’s anything else that would give you the same result without sacrificing your girlfriend’s current financial support, relationship with her father, and, potentially, her well-being. And then communicate that with her. And let her know you understand her predicament and you plan to be patient with her, but that eventually you will need to be a full part of her life, and not hidden away during family events, if you two are to continue a committed relationship together.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].