Guest columnists and contributors are generously sharing their talents and insights while I’m taking some time to care for my new baby. Today’s letter is answered by prolific DW commenter and social media consultant, Sarah Huffman.
In the past, he’s accused her (to me, not to her face or to the rest of the family) of stealing his hat, his pen, and his sunglasses (all on different occasions). There has never been any evidence of her doing this, and she doesn’t have any history of stealing from anyone else. I don’t know why he thinks of her like this. She is a nice kid — a little rambunctious sometimes, but overall really nice. I feel now like I don’t want my boyfriend around her because I am worried he will accuse her of something else. She lives close by so in the past we have seen her fairly regularly; my boyfriend gets along with her well and with my other nieces and nephews, but I don’t understand why he would be so irrationally paranoid about a kid. It makes me worried about having kids with him in the future.
This seems like a really stupid thing to disrupt a relationship over, but I don’t know what to do. I’ve told him many times that all I want him to say is that he trusts me about my niece, and he basically responds by saying that he trusts me but not really because he thinks I’m blinded about my family’s faults. What should I do? — Niece Vs. Boyfriend
I’m going to try to make this sound as polite as possible. Sometimes, kids are little assholes. They just are. They steal. They lie. Of course, this is not to say that I believe your boyfriend. He could be completely wrong. To be honest, I was absolutely on your side about the whole thing and ready to completely believe your version of the story…right up until I read those four damning little words: “…a little rambunctious sometimes.” “Rambunctious” is parent code for “my walls are covered in blood and crayon.” I have an Aunt who used to say that her son was a little “rambunctious” and he once tried to set a cat’s tail on fire.
When you ask your boyfriend why he accuses his niece of stealing, how does he reacts? Does he just look at you with his eyes popped out repeating “I just know she did it…,” or does he actually present a reason like, “She was the only person in the house besides us, and I distinctly remember the glasses missing right after she left”? Also, what do you mean that there has “never been any evidence of her doing this”? Does that mean that his stuff really isn’t missing? If his stuff is still there then your boyfriend is a nut job. But if your boyfriend has even a slightly presentable argument, then it’s at least worth it to acknowledge that.
You may never be able to resolve this issue between your boyfriend and your niece, but to get past the argument, you are going to have to realize that you could be wrong. That’s all your boyfriend probably wants to hear — that you might believe him. I’d wager he’s probably more upset that you would pick the niece’s side over his than he ever was about his sunglasses or his computer. If it were me I’d say something along the lines of, “Ok, you know what? I could be completely wrong about my niece. She could be stealing from you and she could have been the one to mess up your work. But she’s my niece, and it’s only natural that I won’t want to believe what you think about her unless I see some solid evidence. So convince me reasonably that my niece did do the things you’re accusing her of, and then we can have a conversation about how to talk to her and her mom about the situation. Otherwise, I need you to let it go, because it’s making me uncomfortable.”
If you’re still worried about whether or not your boyfriend likes to harbor grudges against kids, then watch how he acts around them. You shouldn’t be wanting to restrict his time with your niece. In fact, you should be pushing for more time to see how they interact. Does he punish her more than other kids? Does he always look to blame her for things when they are clearly not her fault? Does he get angry whenever your niece is mentioned in conversation? Is he accusing her more after you express your concern and his accusations are becoming more and more unreasonable? If any of these things are true, then you really need to take a good look at the man you want to be your future children’s father. You said they get along well when they’re together, so that’s a good sign, but spend some time really looking at their relationship for yourself.
No matter what, be open with him that it makes you nervous when he makes accusations against a kid without having proof. A decent guy would be chastised if he knows he set off his girlfriend’s creepy meter and will probably wait to tell you about your niece stealing again until he can prove he’s right. If he’s not a decent guy, well, his actions will explain that for him.
* Sarah Huffman is a social media consultant who is freelancing art and photography along the way. She lives in Hollywood with her boyfriend, David, and their two cats, Mia and Daphne. She likes spending her free time spying on the neighbors through her window and ruining her boyfriend’s Netflix recommendations by watching bad reality wedding shows and movies starring Sarah Jessica Parker.