I’ve been dating my boyfriend for about three months now and we recently met each other’s families. I really like his brothers, but his father has been getting on my nerves. I was offended once when he started talking about how firefighters are brainwashed to take an ax to the door every time they get a call, even if it’s not necessary. I don’t think he realized that both my grandfathers were firefighters and my father currently is a lieutenant in the fire department. I tried to not get offended by his statements, but we were in the car for a long drive, and I really didn’t want to sit there and listen to anyone talk badly about my father’s job. I respectfully told him my opinions, but I don’t think he really listened.
I also realized that he has a tendency to make remarks that are demeaning to women. He walked into the living room and asked how I was at sewing. I told him that I wasn’t that great at it and he said that he needed a button sewed onto his pants. My boyfriend said, “Dad, I know how to sew,” and his father replied that sewing is women’s work. The next time I was at their house he asked me if I could help his son clean up the house. I told him that I’m a pretty messy person (which is actually true) and he remarked, “Oh, that’s a shame,” but dropped it. He’s made a few jokes that present women in a negative light and I find them very unfunny. (I don’t laugh when he makes them, so as not to encourage them).
I know my boyfriend really values his father’s opinions and respects him, but I really am getting sick of all the rude things his father says. Should I ask my boyfriend to talk to his father about it when I’m not around, or should I say something the next time the problem arises? What stopped me before was that his father told me from the beginning that I’m going to have to get used to his jokes. I don’t want to look like I don’t respect him, but at this point I feel like he’s not respecting me. I’ve always heard that when you get involved with someone, you get involved with their family as well and I would really like to be able to go to my boyfriend’s house and not dread running into his father. — Father Doesn’t Know Best
Wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in a world where we were guaranteed to like and get along with everyone in our significant others’ lives? Unfortunately, that’s not the way the world works and for most of us there are going to be people who are close to our loved ones who make our skin crawl. It’s bad enough when those people are friends of our significant others, but when it’s a close family member, that creates a dynamic that can be a real buzzkill to a budding relationship. Fortunately, FDKB, you have a choice here. You can let your boyfriend’s father get under your skin and slowly destroy the relationship you have with his son, or you can decide to ignore him and try to limit your interaction with him as much as possible.
What you need to understand is that your boyfriend’s father knows he’s obnoxious. People like him live for ruffling feathers, and new blood — like you are right now — is exactly the kind of audience that invigorates them to dust off all their lame old jokes and “radical” remarks. And as long as you give them a reaction, they’ll keep it up, because a reaction — any kind of reaction — is just what they’re after. So, if you want him to cut it out, don’t engage him. Do not feed the beast. Give him a blank look the next time he makes one of his “jokes.” Shrug off any radical remark he makes and change the topic. And do not ask your boyfriend to talk to his dad on your behalf. If your boyfriend had the power to change his father’s behavior, he would have done so a long time ago. The only thing talking to your boyfriend about his dumb dad will do is embarrass him further and put him in an awkward position of defending his dad’s lame behavior.
Look, it’s true that when you get involved with someone you get involved with his family … to an extent. But there’s no reason you have to spend every minute with that family. You don’t even need to spend a lot of time with them. You’ve only been dating your boyfriend three months, after all. Quit going over to his house where you know you’ll have to deal with his father, and spend more of your time at your home or out on dates, or hanging out with friends who don’t push your buttons. If things progress with your boyfriend to the point where you simply can’t avoid his father, learn to manage your expectations and accept that he will never be the kind of person you would actively choose to have in your life on your own. We don’t get to choose our own families and we definitely don’t get to choose our significant others’ families, so learn to let go, grow a thicker skin, and quit giving him the kind of reaction that keeps him coming back for more. With luck, he’ll eventually grow bored with your stone face and quit trying so desperately to tick you off.
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at [email protected].