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Dear Christine, Freaked out in Fenton

| October 18, 2015

ccc 2Dear Christine,   

I am dating an amazing woman.  We met just 2 months ago at the Womyn’s Music Festival.   Maybe I’m just overly sensitive to this as my family rarely showed any physical affection but I am really freaked out about my girlfriend’s odd relationship with her brother.   When we’ve been out with him people often think they are a couple and not us!  When he is at our house they seem to have no boundaries when it comes to even private bathroom time.   I’ve made some subtle remarks and she just says her whole family is that way.   I had always wished for a closer family but this stuff is way over the top.  Is this normal for some families?  We are visiting her family for Thanksgiving which will be the first time meeting them.  Perhaps I’ll see how that goes before I make a decision. 

Signed, Freaked out in Fenton

 

Dear Freaked Out,

Boundaries are critical to a successful relationship.  Understanding and accepting each other’s boundaries provides emotional and physical safety for intimacy to grow and deepen. But individual needs of boundaries can be very different.  Think of the Saturday Night Live recurring skit of Virginia and Roger Klarvin, (played by Rachel Dratch and Will Farrell) insist on being overly affectionate in social situations and dominate the conversation about sex and their expanded boundaries, making everyone else uncomfortable.  It’s great fodder for comedy, as we all have been on one side or the other!

You don’t have to have the same open boundaries as your girlfriend and her family, but you do have to be comfortable around them when you visit.  There may be ways to do that without breaking up.  You might need to stay in a hotel and be at the family house for limited times during the visit.  Think about your needs and comfort, share those with your girlfriend.  If any of your needs are nonnegotiables, please make that abundantly clear, as that may be what helps you decide if this relationship is for you or not.  Non-negotiables are those things that you have to have or cannot have to be in the relationship.  Don’t compromise on your needs.

I remember working with a couple long ago.  The husband’s mother would come into their bedroom and climb into bed with them when they visited her home.  The wife found this creepy and uncomfortable, but the husband thought it was normal.  Later, this differing definitions of boundaries was one of several non-negotiables that the wife had tried to ignore to stay married.  They eventually divorced.

Your number one job is to take care of you and your needs.  Likewise, your girlfriend needs to take care of her self and her needs.  What’s left over is what you create a relationship with.  If she’s undermining your needs, it doesn’t bode well for a future together.

Happy Thanksgiving, where ever you celebrate it.

Christine Cantrell, PhD

Christine Cantrell, PhD, is a fully licensed psychologist in private practice in Royal Oak, MI.

Ask Christine Click Here: christineccantrellphd@gmail.com 248.591.2888

Christine’s Website

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