Dear Surly Amy,
So, I’m in a relationship that is not traditional. My boyfriend of 5 years does not work and keeps up the house, while I am working on my PhD and working full time. We don’t want to get married and we do plan to have children one day.
The difficulty comes from my family who has vocally decided he is not a “man” because of our reversed traditional roles, they also are openly critical because he is Mexican, making jokes about how they won’t be cooking any beans and rice for him, etc… :(
When the mention of children comes up, my family is up in arms because we’re not “doing it right”. They openly discuss how they cannot have respect for him because he stays home. It doesn’t seem that anything I can say or explain to them can get them to give him an ounce of respect.
Any advice on how to get my family to show him, myself, and our relationship more respect?
~Pants Wearing PhD
Dear Pants Wearing PhD,
Ultimately, it’s your life and you need to to be at peace with whatever decisions you make for your love-life and your future family. If you are happy with your choices than approval from others won’t seem that important.
I see a lot of parents and extended families who can’t accept the choices made by their sons and daughters. I usually run across this attitude because of freedom from religion decisions and not so much from gender role and race issues but it ends up being a similar situation. The only worthwhile way to garner respect (if ever) for your decisions will be to show your extended family that the new family you are building is a happy, healthy, stable and loving one. One that works for you and your partner. This will undoubtably take time.
However, if they are ultimately unwilling to accept your partner because of race issues then you will probably be faced with a very difficult situation. You can politely but firmly ask them to keep their opinions to themselves but if children are brought into the mix I think it would be best to not expose them to any type of criticism based on their race. Perhaps tell your family that if they can not treat you and your partner (and potential children) with respect and acceptance then you will have to limit your time spent with them.
As for the working situation, I’m sorry but I have to ask this. Why are you working on a PhD and working full time? Many universities don’t even allow that. You mention that you don’t have children now, so what exactly is your boyfriend doing all day? Gender role reversal is one thing and not a big deal but we all need to pull our fair share of the weight. One very important part of a healthy relationship is being able to work together as a team. One of the reasons your family might not have respect for the boyfriend (race issues aside) is the fact that it seems like you are doing all the work. One would have to assume that if children were brought into the mix, you would be expected to do this work too. This is not ‘right or wrong’ but could lead to a very unfair and difficult situation for you to handle in the future especially when times get tough and that will lead to relationship trouble.
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