Wow. What month is it? Sorry about that. Well, we’ll just get right to it.
He Says: What’s It Matter What I Think?
My writing cohort and I have both previously mentioned in this blog that we come from large families. Not 18 and Counting Large, but Catholic large. We both have five siblings. In our parents’ defense, us Catholics love our sex and booze and we hate our contraceptives. What do you expect? For those of you that aren’t from large families, there are pros and cons to the large familial coalescence, just as there is with anything. For instance, I have had my own room for exactly 10 months of my life. Exactly. On the other hand, I have been alone exactly 10 months of my life. Exactly. (I’ll let you figure out which is the pro and which is the con). Growing up I always had five friends to play sports in the backyard with at the drop of a hat. On the flip side, I always had three older brothers excitedly ready to pummel me to ground. “You want to catch one? Go deep big guy!” Creamed. Now there is one unique aspect of large families with which I am sure many of our three readers can commiserate. (What’s that? We didn’t post for two months and we don’t have readers anymore? Damn). Dating. In order to set the scene, half of my siblings are married and the other half are not. Half of my in-laws are dating and the other half are not.
Oh the joyful world of large families and dating. When are you supposed to let your family know that you are seeing somebody? When are you supposed to let that person your seeing know you have a family? How do you control that first encounter so that person you sort of like a lot but not quite love yet doesn’t see all the warts your family has? How do you control that first encounter so that family you sort of like a lot but not quite hate yet doesn’t see all the blemishes of this person you think so fondly of? These are some of the difficult questions anyone from a large family must ask themselves at some point. And as a few of my siblings and in-laws can currently attest, these are not easy questions to answer.
Now I don’t know much, but I do know one thing, if you’re from a large family, introducing them to someone you’re dating, and vice versa, can never be a gradual thing. You either do it or you hide the situation all together. There’s no in between. When’s the last time you jumped off a high dive? It’s kind of like that. You can stand in fear looking downward as long as you want, but once you have made the decision to jump, the decision has been made. There’s no gradual plummeting into the blue pool of death below you. There’s no testing the waters. Once you’ve made the jump to introduce your special someone there’s no looking back. For better or worse. That someone will either become attached to your family or not. Your family will either love that someone or not. It’s a wonderful and altogether horrifying thing about large families. What are you gonna do?
I now have been married nearly 3 blissful years. (We’re almost at our three-year anniversary, but the nearly was modifying blissful. Thank goodness for a comfy couch right?) I no longer have to struggle with the question of when I should introduce that special someone. She is now stuck with my family and me, and us her, for better or worse. However, I am now posed with the question from the other side of familial dating universe. (That doesn’t sound right does it?) Being a member of a large family, there’s one question with which I always struggle when I am the introducee rather than the introducer. (Yes, I’m an engineer and a lawyer. I said introducee. I’m a nerd. Get over it). That question?—What do you think?—As in, “What do you think of her?” Or “Soooo…do you like him?” I always have a hard time answering that question for some reason. Maybe it’s because it’s usually asked 30 minutes after being introduced to my sibling’s new someone. Or maybe it’s because what I think shouldn’t matter one way or the other. Now I get the sentiment of wanting your family and friends to like the person your dating. It’s natural. But ultimately, no matter whether you completely respect my opinions or think they are asinine, what does it matter what I think? What does it matter what any of us think? As long as you like this special someone and they make you a better person, then what difference does it make?
Clearly there is a very large caveat in that last question. “As long as they make you a better person.” However, I don’t think it is as large a caveat as some may think. I’m not one to think that I know best and I can see what is best for you. I’m also not one to think that each person has someone with whom they are destined to be. A soul mate if you will. But I am the same person that just said that whoever you are dating (or married to) should make you a better person; and I believe this without question. I guess I’m a hopeless romantic trapped in the mind of a rational logician. It’s a torture I live with daily. But back to the point, I think the pool of people that can make each of a better person is quite large. It takes a lot of effort and dedication between the two individuals, but as long as that dedication exists, then a lot of people can make any one of us better. And if this is the case, if I clearly don’t know what’s best for you and I don’t think there is one special person meant for each of us, then why would my opinion on the person you are dating matter? Unless you are asking do I think this person you’re dating makes you a better person.
So what’s my point? Well, I can tell you this. The point is most certainly not to argue whether there are soul mates or not. The point is also not to say that if you’re not becoming “a better person” because of who you’re with then it must be that person’s fault. Because, to be honest, it’s most likely your fault. My point is also not to say that I don’t like when people ask me if I like the person they are currently head over heels about. I don’t mind the question at all. So what is actually my point? In all likelihood, I don’t have one. But this is not anything new. I can say this, however. Think about the people around you. Think about your family. Your friends. Your spouse. Your boyfriend. Your girlfriend. Think about the people that are special in your life. Reflect on the ways that they make you a better person. I’m serious. Reflect on how the people in your life make you better. After you’ve thought about those people that are special to you, think about yourself. How do you make all those people you just reflected on better? What do you do to move them forward in this human experience? I think this a valuable exercise. Why do you spend time with the people that you do and why do they spend time with you? This is a very honest reality we all should be willing to face. Ultimately, I think it will force us all to cease being the self-centered individuals that drone through each day. And more importantly, you will most likely realize how much those around you actually do for you. You’ll realize how much of a better person you are because of others. This is something we should never forget. And if after all that thinking you are still wondering what I think about that special someone you are dating, then feel free to ask. I just can’t promise I’ll have an answer.
She Says: Family Member Dating Decisions
For the last year, I’ve been working with a great guy we’ll call Marvin. As we’ve become better friends, he’s often shared stories about his great family – particularly about his brother who he considers a best friend. More recently he’s started to fill me in on his brothers upcoming wedding, in which Marvin will be the best man. Unfortunately, Marvin hates his soon to be sister-in-law.
“How will you be the best man in your brothers wedding when you hate his future wife?” I ask him.
“Well, he’s my brother and I want to support his decision,” Marvin rebuts.
“But you don’t truly support the decision because you don’t think he should marry this girl. You think she’s a nightmare. In fact, you say your whole family thinks that. Why don’t you tell him to lose her?” I inquire.
It seems Marvin, regardless of what I say, will not back down. According to him, he’d rather deal with this “nightmare” than confront his brother with his concerns about the upcoming nuptuals.
This mindset and family dynamic intrigues me to no end.
What happens at Christmas? Family vacation? Or on a regular basis when you have to deal with a new family member? After all, joining a new family as a friend, girlfriend or boyfriend, or fiancé can be challenging enough getting to know everyone and find your place – even when things click and everyone is nice enough that each can manage to get along well.
Honestly. Could you imagine being an outsider coming into a family you despise? Or being a family trying to get along with an outsider who gets under everyone’s skin?
Because I’m pretty cool, I’ve always gotten along well enough with other families. I, however, was once the culprit of bringing a boyfriend into my family that many people struggled with. My youngest brother to this day still throws his fist into his palm a couple of times, ready to punch out a few lights at just the mention of his name. My family, though, knew deep down that I would not end up with this individual because one, I was too smart to spend the rest of my life with a &($@*# and two, because I knew how disruptive he was to my family.
And I can truly say that the two instances go hand in hand when anyone considers bringing a new person into a family. Are they a genuine person? Do they respect the general values that healthy families hold? Will they make an effort to find a common ground with your siblings, parents and extended family—even when they enjoy doing the exact opposite activities that your family does? Are you happy spending time with that person in a way that makes your family happy to see you with them?
I remember when I first started dating my now husband. The biggest concern my parents had after meeting him was that he would scoop me up and move me to Minnesota. (And that he had really big ears, but that’s a blog for another day).
Point being, he effortlessly fit in. And when there were slight differences, he worked to make those differences virtually non-existent because really, what’s the point of creating drama with people I care about? It would do nothing but drive either he and I apart, or my family and I apart. And you simply don’t create unhappiness for people you care about.
And so from personal experience, I can say I have been on both sides of the situation and watched siblings and sibling-in-laws in the very same spots. Thankfully, we’ve all seemed to come out of it on the right side – mainly due to the right kind of support and encouragement. And maybe because they know if they brought a “nightmare” into the family, there would certainly be words, and maybe a few less than friendly socks to the face.