Tip No. 8: Your girlfriend’s siblings or parents might be totally nuts, but always defend them.
“Always. All a girl wants to do is get along with her family, and if you are on the side of making it easy, you will be loved eternally. It might be easier to condemn them – especially if she’s doing that already – but, remarkably, even if they are murderers, she will find the good in them, especially if you start trashing them. Be the guy who says: ‘Hey, let’s go visit your brother in prison on prison visiting day.’ Most likely she’ll never make you actually do it, and she will always remember you offered.”
I’m back east right now, visiting my family for the holidays. As far as families go, mine’s on the sizable side – two sisters, a brother. My parents are still together. The family is extending into niece and nephew territory. Christmas lists are getting longer. It’s nice to spend time with them, despite the moments that remind me why I moved out in the first place.
My immediate family has always been close, but relatively sheltered from my aunts, uncles, and cousins, many of whom I haven’t gotten to know due to geography- and family-drama-related issues. Both of my grandfathers died before I was born, and I didn’t have much of a relationship with my grandmother on my dad’s side before she passed away. I suppose that’s why I find it strange to become close with a girlfriend’s family, which usually takes on a form completely different from my own.
The idea has always made me a bit nervous. I worry that they’ll think I’m not good enough, or that I won’t be able to relate to them and they’ll think I’m being judgmental, or that they’ll regard me as this temporary presence in her life that shows up at barbecues yearly and largely keeps to himself. I came to realize after my last relationship that not making the effort was a mistake, one that I’m hoping to correct the next time I become involved with someone. When you’re at those barbecues, it’s important to pick up a damn horseshoe and toss it, to not sit there like a lump on a picnic table. More than that, you should look forward to it, because it will mean a lot to her. They’re responsible for who she is, in a lot of ways, and that deserves respect.
On the flip side, I think this is decent advice for awesome women, too. Even though I’ve been in a couple of three-year relationships, I’ve never spent a Christmas with a girlfriend. I think when you’ve reached the point where you’re hopping in a car to make it to at least two houses, which may be located in entirely different cities, in order to avoid the passive-aggressive wrath of the people who gave you life, you’ve reached a level of commitment I’ve never really experienced. That’s kind of a shame. My last two serious girlfriends met my parents a total of one time each. Whomever I’m with next is going to have to step up too.