March 6th, 2013
Aaron Steinberg is my resident “dude” in my new, “Ask A Dude” series. Where all us ladies get to have our questions answered by a super cool guy, who is totally in love with his girlfriend and thinks about relationships all the time (score!). Check the bottom of the post to ask your own question!
Q: What does it mean if he doesn’t take you to meet his family?
A:It can mean all sorts of different things when a guy doesn’t take you to meet his family. He may not believe you have, or will ever have, a serious relationship. Or perhaps he really likes you but had a traumatic childhood and he wants to save you and himself from it. In the photo above, I wrote some options that came to mind (obviously there is overlap, but I just wanted to demonstrate how I think about things).
If you haven’t met the family and it concerns you, in my opinion you have two good options. First, you could assume and trust that your relationship is solid. If he hasn’t taken you to meet his parents, it’s because he is protecting you, and likely himself, from having to interact with them. Maybe they treat him like shit, or maybe he has no relationship with them at all and he doesn’t know how to tell you either of these things. He isn’t ready, but he’ll talk about it when he is. Second, you can ask him about it.
Some psychotherapists, psychologists, and coaches use a principle that there isn’t a right or wrong way to be or think, except in really extreme circumstances with more established moral clarity. They lead the client through processes to find out what works best for him or her—James Kepler, a body psychotherapist, talks about this in a really useful way in his book Body Process. This principle applies to option two above and to many other relationship situations.
When not meeting the family, most women feel naturally inclined to make the guy or this situation wrong—and I’m not picking on women; we all make things “wrong” when they don’t meet our expectations—and then approach it with that orientation, i.e. they want to fix or understand the problem. However, depending on the circumstances, not meeting his family at this point could be exactly right. Notice that “I haven’t met his family” has no quality of rightness or wrongness until you apply context, feelings, beliefs, and biases, both personal and cultural. Combining this and the understanding of the above principle from psychology, we can approach the conversation with the guy in two non-confrontational ways.
Option 1: you can simply say, “I’d like to meet your family.” There is no judgment in that sentence, just your desire. He may still get triggered because of the social connotation, but that’s not your fault and you can then tell him you weren’t making him wrong, you just simply want to meet his family. Option 2: you can say, “I notice I haven’t met your family, what does that mean?” Again, you are simply stating a fact and asking his thoughts. Again, there is no judgment. If you have actually removed your judgments of right and wrong before having this conversation, the technique works much better—people can sense bullshit quite easily. Even if you think one is right and one is wrong, you don’t know what he thinks and his opinions are valid. Go into the conversation open.
Whenever I give answers like this, invariably a girl responds something like: “Yeah but guys don’t like it when you ask their feelings. They’ll get upset or won’t want to talk about it.” To that, I say: “That’s absolutely fucking ridiculous.” A person is entitled to get mad or not talk about anything they want, but that certainly doesn’t mean that you have to pander to his needs and check your own at the door. You can set standards for what you need and find a guy that actually meets them, or close enough to them that you can both compromise healthily to meet each other. People can only treat you like shit if you let them, if you stay there by their sides when you’re not getting any of your needs met (or if there’s violence, but that’s a whole different story).
If you’re dating or having sex with someone, I think you have a right to talk about important issues. If you can’t talk about whether you want to have sex on the first date—as our dating rules tell us we shouldn’t—how the hell are you going to deal with an unplanned pregnancy when that un-discussed ravaging of each other on the first date goes too far? We have incredibly misguided dating norms. Screw the norms; follow your own needs and be open to learning.
Aaron F. Steinberg is a life coach specializing in one-on-one poker psychology and romance coaching. He loves both because money and love are such challenging and important topics for most people; they are amazing avenues for spiritual and psychological work. He has a CPCC life coaching certification from the Coaches Training Institute and is a Master’s Candidate in Integral Psychology at John F. Kennedy University. While Aaron has written for various blogs, currently he doesn’t have a website, so if you’re interested in working with him you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org–he’d love to tell you more about what he does and give you a free sample session. He happily lives in Oakland, CA with his girlfriend.