March 6th, 2013
If Your Man Doesn’t Take You To Meet The Family It Could Mean…
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.
Just want to throw this in: it’s important to meet your partner’s family at some point, the sooner the better if you plan to get serious about them. How they interact (or don’t) can give you valuable information, and set the platform for important questions you need to ask. A person who is not willing for you to meet their parents, but claims to want a future with you, may be protecting you — or may have something to hide that you need to know. I know that sounds negative, but I’ve seen two women really burned by not meeting the parents before marrying the guys.
As to whether “meeting the parents” has an inherent meaning: As you state, it doesn’t have to. However, as much as we might want to step outside of norms, they are very weighty and ingrained in us culturally. Other than the drop by ‘hey, these are my folks’ that could happen at any point in a relationship, the intentional introduction of your partner to your parents as someone important in your life and maybe your future can be a very powerful statement about how committed you are. Other than putting a ring on it, I can’t think of many other events that have as much possible implied meaning, in the general cultural consciousness. Because of this, I can’t imagine that most women would not be hurt and/or concerned if they’d been in a committed relationship and the partner didn’t want them to
meet the parents, assuming they the parents are relatively normal people.
I think what you are saying is “don’t jump to conclusions just because you have preconceived ideas about what things mean”. That’s wise advice. I would counter, though…”don’t underestimate the meaning of cultural belief systems. They exist for a reason, often proven true over a great deal of time.” The trick is sorting through and making intelligent decisions about what rings true for you, and thinking carefully before you toss conventional wisdom out the window.
I’m saying this because I know that we all have talked ourselves out of a cultural truth to avoid bigger truths…for example “no, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t love me because he wants to sleep with other women” works pretty well when you can’t face your real truth, which is that you don’t want him to do it and it hurts you deeply, and you’re probably going to have to break up.
Hi Sally’s (?) Mom,
Thanks so much for this. I think this is beautifully expressed and very important; I really agree with you.
In my articles I try to take kind of a postmodern perspective–here are some options, but you can never say for sure in general–because I don’t have any specifics to go on–there is no particular situation to discuss. However, I agree that cultural truths–and I would add in cliches, as well–exist and started for a reason, and there is value in paying attention to them. There is also value in perhaps weighing the most logical, simplest, and most probable options over the ones that seem more like excuses. It reminds me of Bayes Theorem of conditional probability, but this probably isn’t the best place to talk about math :)
I don’t really have a coherent point here. Just that I agree with you and these are some things that come to mind.
I have met my fiancé’s family and when I entered their family home it was friggin awkward. He and I are both divorcees and his fam had known his ex since they were kids. Yes- family friends. Imagine- I enter the picture and they are stunned inside. We sat in thr dining room, he kept busy on his laptop, his family sat in the adjacent tv room. The mom stayed in the kitchen- but was verynice to me. The sister’s kid was the only one that went out of his way to talk to me. His dad called him aside to tell him not to bother me. The brother announced he was going to the store and never returned. The fiance’s dad- u could tell he was the domineering leader of the bunch who had final say- the controlling guy with a wife that followed his lead. It was bizarre. They were all nice to me but the tension was high and they politely kept their distance. I saw his parents 3 times in 3 years. They never invite me over ever. Fiance said that the dad refuses to acknowledge me because of his track record w/ women. We just had a beautiful baby. They never even reached out. Fiance having a hard time trying to ask if he can bring us over so they can meet their granddaughter- of whom my family absolutely adores. Fiance still trying to move in with me which he admits he shouldve done months ago. He’s been living w/ parents since divorce 7 yrs sgo. Why is he stalling? Is he hiding something? Whats w/ his family dynamics? Obviously I made a big mistake, did I??
I have been looking for reasons why i have not met my boyfriend of 3 years family. We talk about moving in together and a future. When i bring up the subject of meeting his sibling first it was met with a Well i’ll see if he is busy.
He claims that he had a not so nice childhood, but has told his entire family about me. Asking if he showed any photos he said no his family isn’t like that and they just stick to the basics.
So i get Aaron what you are saying that maybe he is trying to protect me or he is worried that something horrible might be said, but i have had other boyfriends in the past who have introduced me to their family’s.
Thanks for writing this article you have given me a small amount of hope!
Yeah, I think these questions are very complex. People’s families can be sources of immeasurable pain and discomfort and if someone doesn’t want you to be with theirs it doesn’t necessarily mean anything bad about you. It could be the opposite, and he just doesn’t want to subject you to the chaos. This is hard for people who have close families to understand because it seems so foreign to them.
That being said, if you’re planning a very serious future with this man, you should at least know the entire truth of why he doesn’t want you to meet them. Those reasons sound very superficial to me. While they are likely true, they are probably only the tip of the iceberg.
If you are going to marry this person you should be able to communicate with him, tell you how this situation is making you feel, and get the whole story. Meeting someone’s family is obviously important, but knowing what your relationship means and where it stands seems to be more of the issue here.
Family is different for everyone. For example, I may meet my partner’s great aunt who is super close to her, and she may never meet a single great aunt of mine because maybe they aren’t close to me. This is different than parents and siblings, but if someone has very little relationship with their nuclear family this can seem the same, i.e. “Why would I introduce you to my family if I don’t like them and want to be around them?”
My point is, get clear about what it is you need in this situation from your partner and ask for it. I would assume it’s not the actual meeting but the lack of transparency that is concerning you.
Hope this helps.
Hi I’m 21 years old and I have been dating my boyfriend for over 4 years and I haven’t meet his mom dad sister or grandmother …. His response was ” it’s about me and you” he lives with his mom and sister and he says they all do they’re own thing very separate they live in the same home I don’t want to start a big relationship with them just want to meet them.. As a witness they don’t really talk much his mom will call him out the room to tell him something that’s about it… They know that I’m there and who I am to him but I’m just curious … Need help!!!??
Hello my name is. Sue. I have been seeing someone on and off. Since I was 18 years old. It’s always been a open relationship. He dates other women I haven’t dated anyone. Since we been dating I have never met his mom. I say to him I would like to meet your mom. He would next time she comes into town I’ll let u met her. When she came into town from California, he still didn’t let me met her. He would avoid my phone call and my text messages. Now mind u. All the other women that he has dated has met his mom. But I’ve been dating him on and off again and I never met her??? I keep asking him why don’t u want me to met your mom. He says. Oh baby I’ll let u met her when she comes back to visit. This is starting to hurt my feelings. One part of me is telling myself to be patient he will come around. And the other part is like. This is some bulshit. And just to move on. And never look back again. But it hard I love him. How do I move on when I’m not ready?
I have been dating my boyfriend for 3years also and I have not met his family. A few weeks back I asked him when am I meeting his family, he told me that he will only take his fiance home. I was puzzeld by the response I got and in some way I don’t think the fiance his talking about is me..Simple because of the way he said it, I have taken a decision to dump him but its very difficult for me to do so.
Please give me clearity as to how to go about this and if he is worth my time.
Dump him. What are you waiting for?
Again, everyone has different standards for what family means and who should be involved and not involved. His perspective seems to be that you should get attached to his family and vice versa unless you’re definitely going to become part of it. This isn’t necessarily the best idea or the most progressive, but I don’t think it’s invalid.
I think you need to separate yourself from the particular person in this situation and ask in a general sense: Do I want to be with a person whose value system states that they don’t introduce their partners to the family until engagement? Does that work for me? If yes, than it doesn’t matter, as long as you’re clear this is actually what’s going on. If not, then you need to ask if you can feel comfortable adjusting to this idea.
Also, it might help to think about what you would tell a friend if they came to you with this issue. This will bring out what you really believe, and is a good place to start.
Well sounds like a pretty long time but if he said it like that to you and you didn’t like it , the question is: do you still love him enough to wait and see if asks you to marry him?
I’ve only been dating my guy for only 8 months and I’ve met his family already. It was only because I got invited to his brother’s birthday by his mom is that too soon? Because when he asked me about it he didn’t seem like he wanted me to go. I couldn’t figure out his body language and I still feel like I shouldn’t have agreed to go to his families house since I am still unclear about our future together. Did I make the right decision?
I think there is no right and wrong here. If you felt like it made sense for you to meet his family, and that’s what you wanted and felt comfortable with, and he invited you, that, then, isn’t wrong.
You may be reading into it too much and seeing hesitancy that isn’t there, or he may have felt like he had to invite you so you wouldn’t be upset and didn’t feel right about it.
It’s very hard to know if there is an issue here. I would just say you noticed he seemed unsure about inviting you and it made you feel questioning of the situation. Can he clarify for you?
Also, what are you hoping for here? What would be your best case scenario? If you know that, then you can say if you did something that was or was not in line with what you want.
I have been with my boyfriend fro almost a year and haven’t met his mother yet.Although I’m almost sure of the possible reasons I am still concerned.He knows my family already.Just to make things clear I’m divorced with a child from previous marriage and my present bf has never been married,therefore I assume his mother is not happy about it as my bf has had a very hard childhood(divorce etc)..and probably she doesn’t want him to be with me..don’t know this what I thik as a possible reason not to be introduced.Alyaska
I have been in a relationship with Anhony since we met online in the beginning of 2011. He’s 53 n I 45 now. He have been telling me he lives with one of his brother’s who has kids and thar when he moved in, he agreed not to bring women to the house. He would never tell me exactly where he lives, but I found out. He doesnt know I know even though I gave him a few hints that I knew. He only spent the night a couple of times the first year and keep promising things are going to get better between us. He say he loves me and want to marry me, yet I have not met his family or friends. Just one of his old coworkers when we first go together. He keep using his health problems as an excuss as well as he say his mom is sick with cancer. He say she as well as two of his brothers know about me. I only know what he tells me. What should I do, I do love him. I know he’s been hurt before & has a trut issue. I want to believe him but I am tired o spending weekends & night alone. He’s served in the second golf ward (army for 20 years and worked as a correction officer for about 10 years and now as a security officer. He said he’s working on getting his military &reseve)retirement and once that kicks in, he plan on moving in and marrying me. Should I stay or go?
Have you even considered that he may be married?? That sounds like a very sketcy situation to me…
Hi, my story sounds similar to some… I beat myself up about this, it really upsets me. I have been seeing someone for over 2 years. I’m 50, he is 48. He has met my kids(19 and 22), and they get along great. I have yet to meet his children, he has 5, ages range from 21- 13. They live with him most of the time. At first he wanted me to meet them, but I suggested we wait a bit… Now, its been to long. I’ve talked to him, and he agrees we should meet, but it never happens. He also knows how much it hurts me… I don’t feel important enough.It just seems wrong. I know he was nervous meeting my children, but they met. I feel like he may be worried how his ex wife will react, and also how his kids will feel. His ex and he are able to still talk, and raise the children together. But they mainly are with him. My divorce was very messy and I do not speak with my ex, as of now…hopefully one day that will change. I dont know what to think.. sometimes I feel he’s protecting his kids, but they’re not little. Then I start to think he’s embarrassed of me, that he’s not comfortable being with me in public…There is plenty more I’d like to say if I could..I feel I’ve invested alot of time in this relationship and I’m ready to walk… Love to hear what you have to say…
Louise and Jessica,
My situation is similar. I have been with my boyfriend for 3 yrs now, I am 41 and he 42. He has met all of my children, and stays with me thru the week, which took time until he wanted to do that on his own. He gets his kids every weekend and goes to his house with them and still hides me from them. Also his parents. It makes me feel bad and confused. I don’t know what to make of it. I’m afraid he’s embarrassed of me or that he’s worried about what his kids mom might feel. I don’t know, I Just Don’t Understand It And Know I feel unimportant to him because of this. He talks about ushabing a future together and buying a home together when we retire. I just very confused. Anyone have any thoughts?
I am been dating a guy for over two years and I have yet to meet his family. he told me that he isnt close to any of his relatives. He was an only child and his parents divorced when he was a child. his mother recently passed away and he is estranged from his father who lives most of the time in South America. I have asked him to meet my family and he said he will at some point but gets irritated when I ask him too. He is divorced and has a step son and two sons who are all grown. I feel like we dont have a real commitment because he acts like he really doesnt want to meet my family. I feel we have a conflict over our perception of family and that might make or break our relationship.
This article has made me feel better but it’s hard not to think “maybe it’s me”. My bf and I have been together for over a year, we have a good relationship and we’re happy, but I’ve not met his family. I’ve met his coworkers etc but never the family. When we first started dating I would joke about him not meeting mine as they would scare him off (so he wouldn’t think it was a problem with him) but since then he’s met them a few times on a casual basis. He has never even brought up the idea of me meeting his family or even going with him when he goes to see them or have dinner. It’s almost like the elephant in the corner. He told me he’s close with his family, though I know they argue a lot when they’re together. I know he’s a private person and I know there are aspects of his personality that make this very normal, but it’s hard not to think it’s something to do with me when there’s never even an explanation. I know I could bring it up but at this point it’s hit my ego a bit and I’m embarrassed to say anything.
Mine is unusual. My BF and I are both 58 yrs. We are both divorced but his ex-wife left him with their children. A long time ago. He was devastated about it. But 2 yrs ago we had a class reunion and he saw me. He had a crushed on me since sixth grade but I never new this. So when we decided to have a relationship he completely changed into a happier man. Problem is both of his parents are still around. Dad is 94 and mom is 78. I don’t think he wants me to meet them until we are married. I asked him why and he said this is between the 2 of us. We got engaged and we are very happy. But going back to the problem. I wonder why?? First I thought maybe it was me. But also sometimes I think he is protective of me. Sometimes maybe I should just leave it alone because we are both grownups anyway. Who knows. But we still want to be together forever. But the question still remains…..
I have the similar situation to some of the above. Ive been with my boyfriend almost
13 months now and Ive not met any of his family. I have asked him if He would like to come in and meet my family at a casual BBQ to no avail. I even said they wont ask 20 questions and that they are decent and wont nosey or ask private questions about you to your face. That request was only recently, but He said , oh not yet love. Ive dropped hints on him coming to Xmas lunch and meet my parents but He has said that I am nagging (which I do not do I only dropped hints 4 times over two months prior to xmas) I am upset deep down and I am a patient person. He has said He wants to meet my family in time, so I have dropped the subject for now as the more I drop hints the more he digs his toes in the sand and wont budge. So now I just get on with my Life if its meant to be longterm then great but if its not then so be it – its not my loss. It will be his.
I’ve been dating my boyfriend on and off for 5 years, and we have been in a serious relationship for the past two. He has a daughter, she was born a month before we met. I have never met her, what could that mean? In the beginning he would say it was to protect her from finding out mommy and daddy aren’t together, now whenever I bring it up he states he does that wantto have to explain where her friend went if we were to break up. My confusion is why would he focus on us breaking up? I’ve never met anyone in his family except briefly saying hi to his brother the first month I knew him. I trust us, but I have a very doubting opinion. What could this possibly mean? I always seem to think it has something to do with myself. Not being good enough or something. (Thanks for the article, my boyfriends name is Aaron also.)
I’ve met my boyfriends parents for a whole twenty minutes. A single time. He says we can’t be in a relationship because his mom is over protective and worries. One day I put a picture of us innocently kissing more of a peck. She freaked out. Yet she knows we’re together. These people don’t know me and never took the time to do so. He says he sticks up for me but they had to of come up with these preconceived notions before supposedly knowing so much about my past mistakes. Aka my boyfriend ran his mouth to them. Also. He refused to tag pics on Facebook. Said he never got the notification. They were in his inbox lol. Lastly he has pictures of someone he works with and that’s ok!?
my bf and i we’ve bn together for 2 and half we have a 3months old baby now i never met his family,and he has 2 kids from the previous relationship and they are dervoced kids do come visit him and i can see him if the kidz are there,and thay havent met their small sister,and again he does want to pay the damage as my culture require for been pregnant before marrige, but he supportes my baby,but am confuse i dont know if he loves me or what course he call and visit me now and again, but to be honest am not happy in this relationship and i love but am not feeling the love from his side,at time i feel like bumping him,then again i think of my daughter growing up with out a father, please help what should one do
sometime i feel very sadness i been coming to 1year not yet meet him parents.don’t know what happened away don’t want to meet me and don’t accept me.malaysia and singapore a same human blood don’t away think of past now is now.over is over.
so i am waiting for charge to meet he parents.i hope one day can accept me as soon as possiable must give them sometime no fault them.
I recently broke up with a boyfriend after 15 months who would not invite me to family functions or allow me around his kids. He kept telling me the relationship would get more serious as time went on but we are both in our 50’s. He catered to his ex and lived with his parents to cater to both her and what she wanted for the kids. I eventually had a fight over this, and he walked out saying there was too much drama. My kids are grown, and the ex is gone, so there is no drama in my life. Good luck to the next one I say.
My boyfriend and I have been together for 8 months and have been living together for 5. We have a great relationship, have lots of fun together and are very comfortable. We’ve both been married before, me for the majority of my adult life, him – not so long. His history with women hasn’t been great, his relationships have been..well..terrible, and from what he’s told me, “things just seem to go downhill after I introduce a girl to my parents.” So, my thought is, he’s trying to protect our relationship; however, I am not the girls from his past and would like an opportunity to show that. I love him very much and this wasn’t a relationship I was expecting but I am in it for the long haul and know he is as well. Could he just be scared of what his parents will think of me? That they won’t approve? Is he trying to spare me? His family obviously knows about me, I have heard my name in his conversations with them. How can I put him at ease that this relationship is totally different than those he’s had in the past and meeting his family could be a great thing?
I been dating him on and off again since I was 18. I am now 37 years old
I have been with a guy for three years, neither have I met his parent just his brother, now I am pregnant and still no signs, should I be worried because I have introduced him to my parents and he doesn’t show any signs of introducing me let alone talk to them about the pregnancy.
My boyfriend and I have been together for 3 years,but unfortunately I have never met his parents and when ever I talk about it he keeps postponing.
It’s killing me. I can’t even bring it up with him because I don’t want to make him feel bad about it. I’ll just keep suffering alone in silence. He talks about a future together, but sometimes I think he wouldn’t notice if I were gone.
It is nice to see that it isn’t just me. My bf and I have been together for almost 3 years… pretty much as soon as he got divorced. He’s older than I am, and his parents are almost 80 and very Catholic, so they’re still mad that he got divorced, and have told him (two years ago) that they don’t want to meet me. He spends holidays with them, and every time we fight about it. He knows that I’m done with this…no more separate holidays. I don’t think he’s ever going to make an effort to fix things; he cares way too much about what other people think. He thinks he’s doing the right thing for them. He’s also said that if he pushes them to meet me, they’ll think that it’s because we’re getting married, and he’s not sure he wants to get married again. Ugh.