Adapted from a recent online discussion.
DEAR CAROLYN: A friend divorced her husband three years ago. He was verbally abusive and had an affair. Since then, she bashes her husband and men in general, bashes men on Facebook, writes stuff for women to group together and stand up to men, etc.
This is making me really uncomfortable. How do I tell her to ease off on her opinions, without ignoring her feelings of what she went through? Not all men are that way.
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DEAR UNCOMFORTABLE: It’s not your place to tell her to ease off on her opinions. They’re hers and she’s entitled to them.
You, meanwhile, are entitled to yours: “Your ex deserves every bit of your anger, but he’s just one man. I expect that if a man publicly bashed all women out of disgust for his ex-wife, you’d be outraged by that.”
I realize this is just another version of “just talk to her about it.” I also realize that someone who has gone scorched-earth against all men is going to receive your message badly — but I believe delivering it in defense of the entire gender she’s maligning, with care to validate her feelings about her ex-husband, is the only right thing to do.
DEAR CAROLYN: My boyfriend really wants to meet my parents. He was divorced a few years ago, and his ex-mother-in-law apparently did a lot to make his marriage difficult.
He says he can’t be serious with me unless he meets my parents. I bring a boyfriend home only if I am serious about him.
He basically admitted if he didn’t like my parents, he would probably leave me.
My parents are lovely people, but a bit elitist, and my boyfriend would not measure up to their standards, which are very different from my own. It would be a tough, judgmental meeting. I feel like we’re not strong enough to take this step right now. Is there a compromise?
DEAR ANONYMOUS: Maybe, but I’m struggling with a bias toward just throwing them all together around a bowla bisghetti and getting it over with.
Your parents are either going to be an obstacle to your relationship, or not. Even choreographing things just so would only delay the inevitable.
I’m also not thrilled with his either-I-like-your-parents-or-I’m-gone attitude. It’s just another manifestation of judging all based on X because one person did X to you (see above). Life just is not that simple, and anyone who sees it as such is, through my X-colored glasses, suspect.
Even if we came up with the perfect compromise here, it would still fail on the most important measure: It’s not emerging from your and his desire to work with each other to ensure you both get what you need. That’s what gets couples through everything — including nasty or elitist in-laws — but right now each of you is focused instead on your own interests, at the exclusion of the other’s.
What strained his ex-marriage, after all? It wasn’t his mother-in-law; it was his and his ex’s inability/unwillingness to work together to neutralize said mother-in-law. Besides — by operating as if other women are as controlled by their parents as his ex was, hasn’t he unwittingly revealed that his baggage is controlling him?
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax. Find her columns daily at www.seattletimes.com/living