Dear Wisdom Circle,
I don't have kids, but my partner, Brenda,* is a single mother of three adult children who have their own children. I see her only on weekends — we live far apart — so I would like our limited time together to be just ours. But when I'm at Brenda's house, her kids walk in without warning. And when she's at my house, her family constantly calls. (During one visit, she got a dozen calls in two days.) I genuinely like her family but think their calls and visits are intrusive and disrespectful. Brenda doesn't see the problem, and I'm feeling resentful. Any suggestions?
— Hopeful Romantic
Illustration by Jason Schneider
The Circle says
Response #1: Blaming her kids won't help. Maybe you both have different needs and can compromise. Or maybe your partner isn't ready to commit to you and is using her family as a buffer. Try taking her on a camping trip where there is no phone reception and see what happens.
Response #2: My husband has four adult children who call at all times of the day and night. I eventually got him to set some boundaries (no calls before 8 a.m. or after 11 p.m. unless it's an emergency), and I've asked him to set more. It's difficult. I just hope his kids will recognize that even though they are very important, we have a life beyond them.
Response #3: Your partner is the one who should set boundaries with her family, and she's not doing it. If you've voiced your feelings and she's still resisting, you have two choices: Extricate yourself from the relationship, or keep silent and accept what you cannot change.
I tried to get Brenda to compromise during a recent weekend visit, but she accused me of trying to turn her into a loner. When I got home, she had e-mailed to say that I'm negative and unforgiving — and that I need to "look within" to fix my problems. I guess it's done. I still don't know if my request was unreasonable. [Editor's note: At press time, the relationship appeared to be ending.]
Adapted by Karen Westerberg Reyes
* Names and identifying details have been changed.
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