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Auntie SparkNotes: My Boyfriend’s Parents Bad-Mouthed Me

Dear Auntie,

My boyfriend, “Zach,” and I have been together about a year; we go to the same college. This past May, I spent two weeks traveling Europe with an internet friend of mine who lives overseas, and it was great. Zach was home with his family at the time. After I got back, Zach admitted to me that he got into a blow-out fight with his folks when I was gone, because they insinuated I was cheating on him with my traveling companion in Europe. This, of course, is completely untrue and ridiculous!!


They apparently harped on this for days on end and even told other family members. This caused a lot of strain for Zach and in their relationship, though they have since patched things up. Hearing this, of course, left me aghast, and *extremely* offended because I wouldn’t dream of doing anything like that; I love Zach more than anything and would never be unfaithful. They know I have never been anything but devoted.


They subsequently apologized to him about it and have no idea that I know it happened. His mom has evidently come back around and likes me a lot, while his dad is more stubborn. He went as far as to suggest Zach flirt with other girls present at a family wedding they went to later in the summer. I think his father is suspicious that we are so committed so soon and maybe thinks his son shouldn’t be so monogamous at 21—but why undermine it if he wants to be?


They have invited me to stay with them for Christmas, which seems like a good sign, but I can’t forget that they said this, and I’m concerned about what they think of me. They are a very close family (Zach is their only kid) and having them like me is important. I am even grimly tempted to bring it up, though I recognize that comes from a place of spite. Any ideas as to how to navigate the impending time spent under their roof? I see a future with Zach, so I can’t shun them.


Nope, you sure can’t! Or at least, not without making yourself look like a total jerk—which just adds a whole ‘nother layer of frustration to an already annoying situation. And that’s why, while what I’m about to say is both A) obvious and B) coming too late to be useful, Auntie SparkNotes still has to point out that all this drama could have been avoided if only your boyfriend had been a bit more discriminating about burdening you with the useless information that his family had misjudged you.


Were his parents wrong to say what they said? Yes! Very! Which is why Zach should have (and hopefully did?) tell them to stuff their opinions where the sun don’t shine—but also why he should’ve realized the wisdom of running interference as a solo endeavor, and keeping their insulting comments to himself. Instead, you’re now in the lousy position of feeling uncomfortable and resentful around his family, and all over a stupid months-old error in judgment that they’ve already recognized, apologized for, and long since moved past to the point of inviting you to stay over during the holidays.


Which will be fine, by the way! We’ll get to that part in a second. But if you want an immediate action item to work with, I’d suggest having a straightforward chat with your boyfriend about this. Purely on a pragmatic level, if he wants you and his family to like each other, he shouldn’t be so eager to supply you with reasons to think they suck.


That said, he’s also given you some perfectly good reasons not to think that—like, for instance, the part where they were big enough to own up to their mistake and apologize. That ought to count at least as much in their favor as the original offense counted against them, no? Perhaps it should even count more, considering that the first thing was a stupid snap judgment based on nothing, while the second was the produce of consideration, decency, and a willingness to admit fault. Whatever they thought of you to begin with, they clearly think differently now. And if they’re not clinging to that first, faulty impression, couldn’t you let it go, too?


I think you could, sweet pea. I think you can summon the generosity to forgive them for being wrong, for jumping to conclusions, for making a mistake. And if you just start there, you’ll have such a strong foundation for everything that comes next—which isn’t just forgiveness, but your first steps toward becoming a part of the family. The days you spend there over the holidays will only make things better; not only will they get to know you, and see how happy you and Zach make each other, but you’ll get to know them, too. And once you know them as whole people (and not just as the jerks who said those crappy things about a person they didn’t even know), letting go of that early bad blood will be a perfect New Year’s resolution as you head into 2019.

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