Shayne on You: Guess who's not coming to dinner?

Dear Maggie,

Help! My fiance wants nothing to do with my family!

Okay, so at the beginning they hated him and did everything they could to get me to ditch him and find someone else. But itís been a few years, and theyíve really come around. Now they really want to be friends, especially since they know heís going to be in my life for awhile, and they want to stay close to me. But he canít seem to forgive and forget. Heíll attend family functions when he absolutely has to, but he mostly finds excuses not to go, or else leaves early. And it hurts their feelings. I know heíll deal with them at the wedding, but at any other time, forget it. How can I convince him that he has to spend time with them if he wants to be with me?



Signed, Flustered Bride to Be

Dear Bride to Be,

You canít convince him that he has to spend time with them because he doesnít. No one has to do anything they donít want to do, and the happiest people I know are the ones who have figured that out. When you do what other people want you to do, instead of doing what you want to do, youíre miserable, and frankly, so are they.

Trust me, your relativesí happiness does not depend on whether someone they donít even like all that much chooses to hang out with them. Really.

This is part of that ďunconditional loveĒ thing that everyone talks about and few people really practice or even understand. ďIf you love me, youíll do this for meĒ is emotional blackmail. And itís very conditional love.

You should never ask someone you love to do things they donít want to do in order to make you happy. Itís your job to make yourself happy, not his. Youíll have a far stronger and longer relationship if you can give each other the freedom to do what makes each of you happiest at all times. Sometimes, feelings of obligation will cause us to do things we might not feel like doing, because not doing them would feel even worse. But the decision must be our own, not our mateís. And it should never be made based on the demands, expectations or guilt trips placed on us by anyone else.

Finally, be aware that if you relax about this and let him go at his own pace, heaping him with gratitude for the times he does interact, rather than griping that itís not enough, he will, bit by bit, embrace your family. I guarantee it. Give him five years, and then take another look at this. Trust me. Itíll happen. And itíll be so much better to have everyone together, relaxed, and wanting to be there, than it would be to force it, and have people huddled in their corners in a room filled with tension and discomfort. Hold that vision in your mind, and relax and let it come, and it will. Promise.

Good luck!

Maggie

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