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newyorkgirl12's avatar

My lesbian girlfriend vs. my family?

Asked by newyorkgirl12 (119 points ) 3 weeks ago

Hi there. I need some advice from someone on the outside looking in. A little bit of back ground. I am in my early 40’s and dating my first girlfriend, the love of my life for 4 years now. We share a beautiful life together and a beautiful home and are very happy and in love. Our only problem in our relationship is my family.

I came out right away to my family and although it was hard for my parents at first, after a few months they came around. My four siblings claimed to be ok with it as well.

My family seemed to be accepting at first but over time they showed signs of disrespect towards our relationship. They have been rude to my partner on several occasions and don’t find anything wrong with this. My siblings have shushed my girlfriend while she was midsentence, they have shot rubber bands at her head and then denied it. They have posted hurtful gay cartoons on Facebook and feel I shouldn’t be insulted because it is only a joke. We walk in the room and they don’t talk to us, we can cut the tension with a knife.

My parents and my siblings think we are making a big deal out of nothing and we should get over it. They want us at family functions, they just don’t want us to talk or stand up for ourselves. While my parents don’t necessarily take part in the problems, the fact that they think I should just get over it is hurtful.

My main concern is this, my girlfriend thinks I should give up my family and never see or speak to them again. I feel that that is a bit harsh and that she shouldn’t want that for me. I believe we should all sit down and discuss the issue. If they still do not understand that they are hurting us, then by all means we can go our separate ways but I feel that we should at least try.

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23 Answers

lillycoyote's avatar

While I think completely giving up your family and never seeing or talking to them again is extreme and I understand your girlfriend’s side, she’s getting the brunt of the crap, it’s really too much to ask of you, to completely sever ties to your family. However, you have a right to expect your family to treat you, your girlfriend and your relationship with respect. Perhaps if you let your family know that unless they can do that you will be limiting your contact with them. There is a middle position and they may come around of they see you are serious about demanding respect and they won’t get to see much of you until they do.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Congratulations! You have now shown, with commodious detail, that lesbian couples put up with the same sort family shit that straight couples do!! If nothing else, it means that – at least in family crap – lesbians have reached complete equality. This is exactly parallel to the problems that straight couples have when the new bride doesn’t like that her new husband still calls his mother.

Now to the matter at hand.

This really isn’t about the your being lesbian and the family being jerks. Not at the core. That’s a side issue – a big side issue – but not the center of it.

This is a power struggle. Your girlfriend is (possibly) jealous of the relationship you have with your family (no matter how wacko they are). She is forcing you to choose between her and them. This is much more about her insecurity (although your family’s behavior feeds into it).

Rule 1: NEVER EVER let yourself get forced into something. Responding to an ultimatum is like paying off terrorists – once you do it, they’ll make up another ultimatum and force you to do it again.

Rule 2: Girlfriends come and go. Family is forever. Even obnoxious families.

Rule 3: Ties, once broken, are incredibly hard to fix.

cookieman's avatar

they have shot rubber bands at her head and then denied it.

^^ So, we’re talking about very mature people here? ~

I think you have the right approach. Arrange for everyone to sit down together. Not to talk it out or argue. This is for you to explain how you expect you and your girlfriend to be treated. Start with reassuring your family that you love them and you’re sure they love you, howeverthis is what needs to happen to continue a relationship with you.

If they fail to do so, contact will be limited (perhaps via phone, eMail, etc.).

If they continue to treat you guys poorly after that, let them know that you will consider severing ties with them entirely.

Make sure you are clear that the ball is in their court. They have the power to fix this.

longgone's avatar

Wanting your family in your life is completely understandable. However, I’d worry that a talk may turn ugly very fast.

Is there anyone who might be willing to sit in on that talk with your siblings? A favourite aunt with sage advice? A respected family friend? If all else fails, even a session of family therapy could be worth considering.

dappled_leaves's avatar

I agree with @longgone. Too many people at that sitdown, and your SO has already had it up to the eyeballs (justifiably) – that’s a recipe for disaster. It sounds to me like there are specific people you want to keep in your life. Can you talk to them, make them understand why family gatherings are just not worth it for you anymore? It should be entirely possible to keep them close, while distancing yourself from those who don’t respect you. That would be my choice. I mean, I’d go to weddings and funerals, but forget the big family dinners. Make some new traditions with your girlfriend. You’ll feel much freer and less stressed out.

cookieman's avatar

@longgone: I like the idea of a mediator.

marinelife's avatar

I think a compromise course would be best. It sounds like you need a break from your family. I think that would be good for you and for them. You have tried talking to them and they are not receptive. Leaving the problem dynamic for a time sounds like a good solution. I would put a moratorium on family get togethers for now. If the family asks why you are not coming to gatherings be calm and tell them: It is because you all don’t treat me or X with respect. Unfriend the people who post hurtful things on Facebook.

Your girlfriend should not have a say in whether you maintain a relationship with your family as long as you stand up for the two of you and defend her from their abuse.She should not be advocating for a permanent break.

elbanditoroso's avatar

With all respect to the Pollyannas in here, mediation and sit-downs are going to fail.

Girlfriend has already staked out her position. She’s not going to back down. It would make her look weak, and she has already made the point that the family is the problem. There is nothing she can gain—and a lot she can lose—with a “mediation” whatever that is.

Family has already shown that they don’t care by their repeated actions. And even if one or two people in the family changed behavior, you’‘ll never get all of them in multiple generations – to change their minds. Family also has nothing to gain by being nicer to girlfriend, and what they would lose is their freedom to be nasty to the two of them.

The middle road isn’t going to work. Plain and simple.

longgone's avatar

^
“My girlfriend thinks I should give up my family and never see or speak to them again.”

While this could be a sign of a very controlling person, it doesn’t have to be – at all. The girlfriend may have simply tried to be supportive.

chyna's avatar

They have posted hurtful gay cartoons on Facebook and feel I shouldn’t be insulted because it is only a joke.
I am not gay, but out of my 150 or so friends on facebook and having been on the site for at least 4 years, no one has ever posted a gay cartoon that I have seen, so I would take them posting a hurtful gay cartoon as the attack it is meant to be. I would block or unfriend these people.

As to the question of how to deal with your family, I would just tell them if they can’t treat you and your partner with respect, you will limit your visits and when you are there, if you or your partner is disrespected, you just get up and leave. No discussion, just leave.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

@elbanditoroso Already has this all wrapped up.

GA and GA again.

tinyfaery's avatar

Okay. How about a word from a gay girl that actually shares your experiences and truly knows the difference between normal family issues and issues that surround coming out and living in a hetero-normative world, where ignorant people try to tell you being gay is a non-issue.

It sounds like your family has issues with gay people in general. It sounds like they don’t respect you or the person you love. What happens to your relationship with your family and the woman you love teeters on your choices.

If your family doesn’t respect your choices they do not respect you. If they don’t respect the person you love, they do not respect you. Thing is, you teach people how to treat you.

My advice. Talk to them and tell them how you feel. When they start to tear you apart (and that might happen) tell them they have no right or reason to treat you as such, and let them know that if they do not treat you how you want to be treated they will no longer have you to kick around. This talk need not even mention your girlfriend. This is about you and your relationship with your family. Don’t even bring her up and if they do, adamantly tell them that the talk is about you not her.

Now, as far as your girlie is concerned, she has been putting up with your family abusing her for four years. She has the right to be angry at you and at your family.

Unfortunately, many LGBTQ people have to let go of their birth families just to survive; that’s why we call each other family. I hope you don’t have to go that far. Decide for yourself.

My instinct is telling me that your girl isn’t controlling, she is just fed up with the abuse from your family and with you doing nothing about it.

Get off your bum and start working to fix these problems. When your girl sees you are standing up for her and yourself she probably won’t be as reactionary.

Do what you have to do. Block on Facebook. Go to a family function with your girl and the moment the abuse starts tell them you won’t be treated this way and leave. Make them work to include you. This is their folly, not yours.

Sorry to say, but if your family can’t and won’t work to respect you, you might have to let them go. But, really, they are letting you go and they don’t deserve to have you if they can’t treat you as you want to be treated.

On the flip side, if you continue to allow your family to walk all over you and you allow them to treat you and your girl disrespectfully, you might lose your girl. And she would be the one in the right. She doesn’t deserve the shit she experiences and if you do nothing about it she will leave you.

Good luck. Thousands and thousands of people have been in your shoes. Sometimes things work out. Sometimes they don’t. Just decide what kind of life you want and work at getting it.

ragingloli's avatar

Tell them to change their behaviour, or you disown them.

newyorkgirl12's avatar

Thank you all for your input, each of you have some good points. It is all very sad, especially since I have supported each of my siblings in their life. I’ve thrown bridal showers, weddings, baby showers, Christenings, 1st birthdays, and house warming parties. It is a shame that they do not support me right back. I always say I wish I had a sibling like me!

One more thing that I would like to share, my girlfriend has been nothing but kind and generous to each of them from the beginning and she and I have been more than generous to each of their young kids “our nieces and nephews” along the way. My girl is a great person and anyone that calls her friend has a friend that will always be there but she doesn’t take any to keep it clean baloney from anyone and certainly not theirs !!

KNOWITALL's avatar

You choose your mate not your family, if she’s not welcomed & treated well, it’s a dealbreaker. Sorry they’re not nicer.

janbb's avatar

My humble suggestion is that you sit down either with each of your sibs alone or en masse but without your girl there and lay the terms of service out for them. If they don’t change their behavior, they won’t see either of you as much or get your sisterly goodies.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

If you feel this union of yours is a forever deal, then distancing yourself from your family may be inevitable. Your family is your family forever, so you have to think if way in the future your chosen mate will be there as your family ought.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Some good answers here. If I bring the love of my life to my family, and they dis her, I might give them one chance to explain their thoughts, one on one with me. After that, if they kept it up and dis her, fuck them. I’m picking the person I want to live the rest of my life with. They had their chance to accept my choices. If they can’t accept that, they’re telling me they don’t accept me. Screw em.

zenvelo's avatar

Your family is not only disrespecting your girlfriend, they are disrespecting you!

So they ought to be told “you can choose to support me as my family, or not support me. If you support me, you will quit acting this way; if you do not support me I am out of your life.”

The family is acting like a bunch of asshats, and they need to take responsibility for not accepting you as you are.

LornaLove's avatar

Great answers, I agree wholeheartedly with @zenvelo it is you that they are not respecting. That goes for your siblings too. Whether you are gay or straight, the same rules apply. Courteous behavior is expected, as opposed to childish rubber band behaviour. As for facebook, you don’t have control over what people post. Nor how they think and feel about you or anyone for that matter. Take it as a gift, a sign that really, these people are not the types you want to hang around with, block them. Stick around with people who inspire you, support your relationship and have manners.

rojo's avatar

Ya, I gotta go along with most of the above. Who your significant other is, or what sex they are is not the catalyst for the abuse. Even if you were straight and married to “hunk of the year” I think you would still catch crap. I think this has more to do with you than who you are with. Shut them down. You don’t deserve this kind of disrespect. God I hate that word, even if it is the only one that works but don’t dump them. Force them to learn some manners.

newyorkgirl12's avatar

Thank you all so much for the advice, it has REALLY BEEN VERY HELPFUL. I definately agree that at the end of the day, they are not showing me the same respect that I have showed to them and their relationships!! This is the core of the issue! Thanks again!

KNOWITALL's avatar

Frankly I think the fb posts show anti-LGBT sentiment. I live in homophobe central & no one does that.

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