Lately I’ve been texting this girl that I seem to like. Yet whenever I imagine us in a relationship I get concerned. And it’s that way not just with her but with any girl I really like. I just turned 22 in February and I’m still in College and have never experienced anything sexually. Never a first kiss, nothing.

I’ve been doing some self reflection trying to figure this out, but I don’t think it’s the fact that I’m new to these things. I think it maybe has something to do with my family situation. My dad, my sister and I aren’t close at all, we rarely even talk to each other, and we live in the same house! My brother and my mom and I have a decent relationship but for some odd reason we don’t feel comfortable expressing our love for each other. We do all love each other as a family, but after some arguments and some bad experiences with each other we seem to have grown apart to the point where it almost feels like were all strangers. The only member of my family I have a perfect relationship with is my little brother who is about to turn 9.

I look at how dysfunctional my family is everyday, and the thought of one day having to bring a girl home who I really like or a girlfriend to introduce or worse, her parents wanting to meet my own, scares me to death.

My parents are always arguing about stupid things, my brother and sister are always arguing, the dog is barking and it really is not what I want for my future girlfriend or even wife to have to see or deal with. My mom is overweight and has bad eating manners, my dad comes home from work and watches tv all day in the second living room all by himself. And my brother and sister lock each other up in their rooms and have zero respect for my parents. I can’t stress enough  how dysfunctional this family is, as of late there hasn’t been any horrible events, but in the not too distant past there has been many bad experiences. My dad has hit my mom before. Things of that nature. My parents provide food, and a roof over our heads and there is nothing lacking in that regard, but emotionally we just aren’t there for each other.

I feel the only way to fix our situation is to spend some time away from each other. That’s why I’ve been trying to save up so that I can move out soon, because I’m nothing like them. I’m an honest person, and I live my life well. Everyone that knows me is always shocked when they see who I live with, because they wonder why I didn’t turn out the same.

Anyways, if I was to tell my parents I had a girlfriend that I really cared about I would feel extremely vulnerable. They wouldn’t change there ways, not even for me and my future, or for the person I care about. And that would hurt me every single day. I hope this is making sense, it would be like a constant slap in the face, it would be like collectively they would be saying “we don’t care about you and your girlfriend, we’re just going to continue our old ways”. And my dad and mom would continue to under-appreciate me and all that I do, and  I just wouldn’t feel comfortable telling my parents about a girlfriend.

This is probably why I also feel odd when it comes to having a girlfriend I really like. I don’t want you to think that I can’t express love, I can and I do it all the time, for my friends and professors anyone else I care about. (Fortunately outside my family, I have plenty of good friends) That’s not the problem. I just can’t with my family, except for my little brother. It just feels “awkward” and strange. I can’t even tell them happy birthday, or happy mothers day etc.

After writing this, I take back what I said about feeling odd having a girlfriend, I’ve now noticed that’s clearly not the problem, the problem is my family, and the vulnerability that comes with them knowing something like this. I would just feel odd and guilty after having treated my girlfriend very nicely, and then I can’t even say a simple “hello” to my own sister or my own dad. I’d feel like a hypocrite, or something.

I’m afraid that the only way this family can be saved is by all of us siblings moving out, and living our own lives, and just not seeing each other for a while, then we can come back and really “start over”. Or maybe this just can’t be fixed.

I apologize for the rant, but I just wanted to be as detailed as possible so that you can clearly understand what’s going on  here. None of this will stop me from being in a relationship with someone special, but what should I do when it comes to telling my parents? And can this dysfunctional family be fixed?

Finally, have you ever heard of a situation like this before? I truly feel alone on this one.

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7 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    Jose, this is a lovely email. You should have a girlfriend. You should give the girlfriend this email, so she understands, and you don’t need to introduce her to your family.

    You will save up money to move out. And having a girlfriend will make you feel stronger to save that money and get out. You don’t need to fix your family. It’s time in your life to move on — grow beyond your family. Later, you will come back to them and things will be different. For now, just worry about yourself.

    The girl you are texting with would love to read this email. It is vulnerable and honest and sweet and smart and it’s everything a girl wants in a boyfriend. You are a great guy. Just keep being yourself and get out of your parents house as soon as you can.

    In the meantime, you don’t need to bring your girlfriend back to the house.

    Penelope

    • Steve White
      Steve White says:

      Excellent advice.

      What I read between the lines impacts me more than your verbal skills (something to which I attach an unusual degree of importance).

      This word nerd is interested.

      // Steve in Toronto //

  2. jessica
    jessica says:

    The only thing I’d add to P’s response is that at first I thought you already lived away from your family and her suggestion is spot on. Here’s why: Your tone in regards to them was appreciative and caring when you are viewing them from a distance. Then as it is revealed you still live with them, the feelings of how you actually feel about them right now comes through. They are completely valid feelings, by the way. You’re trying to separate and still be respectful, but that’s hard to do being in the same house with others that are not respectful of your life and your choices.

    In the 20s, people move away from their original family unit and emotionally separate (somewhat) to grow and become an individual. It’s normal. Then, as P says, you come back later and rejoin the family in a different life position. It’s a difficult time, but if you have a good head on your shoulders it can be a fun, liberating, and exciting time. A time in which you build your life.

    Focus on that: building your life. Get a girlfriend or 8 and grow with each one. Don’t bring them home. It’s your life and time to make it!

  3. ruo
    ruo says:

    Jose, the same thing is happening to me right now to a lesser degree from the opposite side as the girl version of your described situation with nuances. I’ve already moved out for 10 years and found someone im happy with, but struggles to involve my boyfriend with the family or maintain my family relationship still.

    On the good days, my family is cordial and respectful towards us. On the bad days, my family does not hold back on their comments. It hurts a lot. But the good thing is the hurt is a shorter moment when you’re on your own. I then actively tell myself to move forward to tomorrow. New day. We can’t run away from the pain family brings onto us but we can face it better with other supportive relationships in our lives. Taking time to find and maintain those new relationships is going to be good for you.

    Moving out will help you compartmentalize the family dynamic to limited hours when you see them. It will overwhelm you less.

    As for your guilt on how/if/should you fix the family dynamic – it’s a courageous thought. It’s worth fighting for. Do this when you have a very stable personal life outside your immediate family.

    I want to point to one of P’s older posts that stuck with me. This is the quote: “Long-term repetition of low-level trauma is worse for someone’s personal development than a one-time huge trauma.”
    http://education.penelopetrunk.com/2013/04/04/how-to-get-confidence-to-go-against-the-grain/

    My interpretation of that is unhappiness from family dynamics from young age to adolescence to now moving forward to the next part of life takes huge, huge amount of effort that looks invisible to most people. Do the work on yourself and it will pay off. I’m so happy for you that you’ve found a girlfriend to want to bring home. Savour the happiness she brings. Move out and move forward.

  4. Jason
    Jason says:

    Hey, are you me!? I’m in almost the exact same situation, minus the violence at home. My parents have finally agreed to get separated so hopefully once my mom (who is depressed, and always make me feel horrible about myself and reduces my confidence) moves out, things will get better.
    Have you found any closure or new insights regarding this situation?

  5. Brooked
    Brooked says:

    I can totally relate to this !

    I have been with my boyfriend for over a year and a half now and he is upset by the fact that he has not met my parents and that they dont even know he exists. I live in a different city now – but I cannot bring myself to reveal this personal important part of myself to them nor do I even see the point.

    I moved away for university and my relationship with my family has really improved. I am sure it will for you too

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