Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Attachment to boyfriend's family may signal another problem
Rather be a daughter than a girlfriend: Is it possible to break up with my boyfriend, "Eli," but keep a relationship with his family? My relationship with Eli has gotten terrible and turbulent, but his is the family I've always wanted. His parents treat me like I'm their own daughter, I hang out with his siblings, I'm included in their family events, and I spend lots of time with them even when Eli's not around.
I know I need to break up with him, and I know he won't move on unless I cut him out of my life, at least for a while, but I can't even imagine just cutting off the people I've really come to think of as my family.
Don't people who divorce stay in touch with the other family? How can I make this work? I don't, don't, don't want to lose the people I love. I'm 22, and I've been with Eli and his family for two years.
Carolyn: Where's your family?
Rather be a daughter, again: My family and I are in a rough patch right now . . . in fact, they don't care for Eli at all and are pretty upset at how much time I spend with that family. We have a pretty turbulent relationship, and I know that's probably the root of my reluctance to give Eli the boot.
Carolyn: Ding Ding Ding. I figured there was some refugee stuff going on. Which means, of course, your attachment to Eli's family probably isn't as purely wonderful as you imagine it to be.
You're not coming to them in strength as an equal; you're seeking shelter in them. Any time there's a need being filled by someone, it may feel good at the moment, but the need is still there, lurking, not getting resolved.
To wit: The word you used for two of the most prominent connections in your life is "turbulent."
Better to address the underlying issues head-on, and then worry about the relationships later. Make sense of yourself and your family dynamics, and maybe you'll need Eli's family less, even if they stay in touch.
Meanwhile, you have common ground with your folks: You both agree Eli isn't good for you. Please see this as a chance to invest in your family ties.
Don't rely on 'baby' to make your relationship better
Anonymous: I'm 40, been with my boyfriend a year-and-a-half. We love each other, and we argue kind of a lot. We both want children. We are having sex without protection. (He is willing to get married tomorrow.)
My therapist thinks I should be more deliberate about choosing to commit. Is my behavior going to hurt us badly, only a little, or possibly not at all? I think I want "a baby" to be the reason for him to become more responsible, as opposed to my "constant nagging and negotiation."
Carolyn: "A baby"? Are those air quotes?
Stop it! Your boyfriend is who he is. Deal with it. Either accept him as he is, or leave.
You're not the last word on responsible behavior, either: You're the one trying to shift your problems onto a baby, knowing full well s/he might get stuck with bickering/nagging/irresponsible parents. So selfish, and so unfair.