Navigating my relationship with my parents

Today I received an email from my father that has me sitting here confused and conflicted and acutely wishing my life was simpler. Of course, if my life was simpler right now, I’d just end up finding a new way to complicate it, because that’s the kind of person I am and strive to be.

Dear Kitty,

This year, I am writing to all of you separately, personally.

It is my hope that everything to do with med school is progressing positively. You’d realise that I did not say much about your decision to choose psychiatry. For me, our responsibility as parents is to give you opportunity. Interestingly enough, at some point, I wanted to be a psychologist, then psychoanalyst! Once you graduate from med school, you are free to do whatever you choose with your life. We will always be there to guide, protect and advise.

Where are you going to live after med school? Where will you go?

Your mom and I are now in a position to relax some more, travel and enjoy the rest of our lives. Part of it is also making sure that our children’s future is secured. You should let us know what your debts are from school – I hope to pay them all off when you graduate in May. So you can start from there debt free.

And what is happening between you and Ember? I have stayed away from that topic because for me, it was med school first. Now that May is approaching, I would like to know what your plans are. What responsibility is he taking? You cannot just “be together” like that.

In the end, I just want you to be secure, independently happy and for you to know that there is opportunity for you to be all you want to be.

Much love,
Dad

Overall, this is actually a very happy and pleasant email, or at least, it should be. My father and I were never close, though we’d like to be. We’re very similar people, in that we’re very reserved, quiet, and stubborn; along with being of different generations and genders, it’s not been easy for us to connect, and it’s really only lately since I’ve been an adult that he’s tried to make occasional gestures at building a relationship between the two of us. Before then it was more just occasional lectures (like when my parents told me I needed to switch my major, and I did. From Theater and Psychology to Economics and Psychology, until I dropped Econ so I had room for pre-med) and admonishments (“you really should spend less time on the internet”).

But I am still highly uncomfortable with how little my parents know about me, and I really don’t know how to respond to his question about Ember. I don’t want to lie and say we’re planning to get engaged soon, but I want them to be warm toward him during my brother’s wedding in April, and my graduation in May. Ember and I will be talking (hopefully tonight) about how I should approach this.

I’m quite tempted to at least come out as bisexual, just to begin preparing my parents for exactly how unconventional their daughter is (at least, in their eyes. My life is actually rather tame beyond the bisexual and poly thing). Earlier today, before this email, I was already thinking about coming out as bisexual after a conversation I had in the comments of this blog post. So maybe it’s time?

Right now though, I wish I had either of my partners here to sit with for a little bit to help smooth my currently frazzled edges. Thankfully, I’m fairly good at self-soothing (I have to be; I spend so much time alone!), and I’ll get a chance to talk to them later today.

6 thoughts on “Navigating my relationship with my parents

  1. Oh, man. The old “When is that no-good boyfriend of yours going to propose already?” Ugh.

    I don’t know if it would be helpful in your situation, but when my folks started in on the micromanaging of my relationships I just told them firmly (and more than a little frostily): “That is between my partner and I, and I’d appreciate it if you’d stay out of our relationship. We are doing what works best for us.”

    You have every right to “just be together like that” if that’s what makes you both happy. (Seriously, what does that even mean?) You have every right to be poly, and bi, and as weird as you want to be. Your parents don’t get to decide that, you do.

    Best of luck to you. I hope it all works out.

    • Thank you for commenting! :)

      Yeah, I’ve been getting this from my mother for years now; this is just the first time my father’s joined in. I used to be able to deflect my mother with vague reassurances of “Oh, don’t worry. We’re talking about it” or “We’re not sure/We’re not ready/etc” but ever since my last older brother got engaged, my mother has been turning up the pressure and pestering me about it more.

      My parents are very traditional (and Roman Catholic), and although they’re very Westernized and liberal in some ways, in other ways they very much have a “Parents know best and should be obeyed” stance. They’re also very conservative when it comes to relationships, and are vehemently against living together before marriage/engagement. I know I have every right to do what I want, but they only sort of believe in that. I’ve never really fought back in any way before, so at 26, I’m trying to figure out how I go about defying my parents for the first time. =/

      So while a “My life is my life. Please stay out of it” approach makes sense, it would be a pretty big affront to my parents. My life isn’t just my life, in their opinion. Still, I probably am eventually going to have to say something to that effect, because there’s no way they’re going to approve of some of the other things I intend to do with my life (like maybe having children with someone else’s husband. Scandalous!).

      • Hello, other pea in my pod.

        Ditto on the Roman Catholic parents who think they’re “so progressive” because they don’t actively hate homosexuals, they magnanimously tolerate them; and on the late bloom with regards to rebelling against said parents.

        I highly recommend Captain Awkward in this situation – especially this post: http://captainawkward.com/2012/01/05/2005/

        The original question is on the subject of naming babies, but the advice given is solid gold. I also find the Captain to be highly encouraging and empowering overall – good luck NOT spending your entire weekend reading the archives. :)

        Defying parents is hard and it sucks. On the plus side, if they’re as conflict-averse as my parents, they will try to talk you out of it for approximately ten seconds, then go retroactively deaf and pretend they never heard you say That Rebellious Thing in the first place. Plus – it’s not like you’re being polyamorous AT them. If they can’t be accepting and supportive of the way you live your life, then it is officially none of their business – no matter how much that offends them.

        • Thank you so much for linking that post! That was excellent advice that I think I need to keep around and refer back to often. There is indeed a high chance that a good chunk of my weekend has now been lost to reading her website. =D

          My parents are fairly conflict averse in the end, I think, but there will be a lot longer than ten minutes of trying to talk me out of it. I expect extensive and recurrent lecturing, and perhaps talking behind my back and complaining about me to my brothers, but I’m hopeful that they will eventually be able to enjoy being around me without feeling compelled to remind me every five minutes how incorrectly I’m running my life.

          Heh, in fact, you should see the latest email thread within my immediate family about naming children. Two of my brothers just had kids and my father had a very specific view about how that should go. One of my brothers deviated slightly in the end, and I know my parents weren’t thrilled about it, but that brother is extraordinarily stubborn so I don’t think they complained much.

  2. Welllllll thats interesting. I have not delved largly into y relationship with my in laws. It isnt something that I have discussed really even with myself yet. (Maybe I will go blog about it now.

    When we sent a coming out letter to his mom, she just assumed Bugg was the one dating CxD. Still thinks myself and CxD are straight arrows.

    Thats an entire other can of worms..

    • Ouch. Good luck with that! And I’m definitely interested in seeing a blog post about it.

      Ember’s parents still seem to like me well enough, but Catalyst’s parents, though they like me, have decided that disapproving of our relationship means they don’t want to see me again. Sigh! We’ll see how/if that changes if we ever have kids, because they’re not seeing their grandkids if they don’t want to see the mother.

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