Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Be clear about how you feel, but take multiple photos of family
Family photo: My father expressed his wish to have a family portrait through my sister, who has made all the arrangements. My sister had asked if I wanted to have my boyfriend of 6 1/2 years in the photo, and I said I wasn't sure how he felt about being included. Upon asking him, he seemed fine either way.
Then my father calls and gingerly asks how I feel about including him. That told me he did not want to include my boyfriend — without having to come out and say it. I agreed to exclude him, but felt very hurt by it.
Issues run deep here, as I often feel left out because I'm the only unmarried sibling (I am 40). This is a chance to stand up and insist my boyfriend be included, but I'm really torn. When photo day comes, I'm going to be burying all of my negative feelings just to make Dad happy. Any advice?
Carolyn: Deep issues, yes, but the best approach might be the pragmatic one: Does he belong in a portrait? Is this a fine-for-now relationship, or an important one?
Figure that out, then be honest with your dad.
For example, "I actually don't want Boyfriend in the picture, but I felt pressured to exclude him, which bothers me. Did I read your intentions correctly?" Or: "I feel hurt that my companion of six years wasn't welcomed in as so many others have been" — whatever accurately reflects your feelings.
If you're clear with yourself first about how you want your boyfriend treated, then your family will better understand how to treat him. Wanting him included just because you're tired of feeling left out, when you haven't made up your own mind on him, invites awkwardness.
Re: Family photo
Anonymous: Why not get one shot done with the boyfriend? They could also do one with just parents and kids (no partners/spouses). This doesn't have to be so black-and-white.
Carolyn: True, thanks. Also helps to keep it from being a Statement.
Anonymous 2: My extended family has a long-standing tradition (long before Photoshop) of positioning boyfriends, etc., at the end of pictures, so that if the relationships fail, we can turn the ex into a pole. There are a few family photos with suspicious white poles framing the shot.
Carolyn: When "pole position" isn't coveted. Thanks.
Anonymous 3: They're snapshots in time. Families are always changing — that doesn't mean the people who die or break up weren't a part of the family. I promise, that an estranged person's presence will not "ruin" the photo.
Carolyn: Agreed. But it's worthwhile, at every portrait opportunity, to grab one or two shots of just the nuclear family. Make a habit of it, and feathers likely won't ruffle. You'll be grateful for it later.
Family photo again: Well, after reading the replies, I feel better. And for what it's worth, I have been discussing marriage with said boyfriend (who does refer to me as his future wife). Thanks for the chuckle.