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My boyfriend's family reunions

Tagged as: Big Questions, Family<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (26 September 2022) 4 Answers - (Newest, 7 October 2022)
A female United States age 30-35, anonymous writes:

My boyfriend and I have been together 3 years and live together. Both 28 and Asian American. I only have immediate family in the USA, whereas my boyfriend’s entire extended family is in the USA.

Long story short, they had their first family reunion last year in which all family members and their partners were present. They worked hard to pick a date that everyone was available. Half of the relatives live in one city, the other half lives across the state in another city.

My boyfriend’s grandpa was so touched and happy that he cried. He passed shortly after and was the last remaining family member from that generation. Soon after, the entire family decided it was important for them to have reunions more often.

A couple months ago, they decided on a two-night trip in the middle of the state, so it was the midpoint for everyone. I could afford it but if I’m being honest, would have rather saved the money. I make 60K which often feels like minimum wage as I’m living in one of the most expensive cities in the world (born and raised here).

My boyfriend didn’t mind if I went or not. So I declined and he told them so. My boyfriend is an introvert whereas his family are all loud extroverts. Usually he spends a little time with them and then goes to relax in his bed. He’s the youngest cousin too if that matters. He only sees his parents and siblings once every few months, on birthdays and holidays. Since he’s not that close with his family, I’m obviously even less close.

Anyway, I ended up agreeing to go because my bf and I had dinner with his mom, and his mom expressed that she would really love it if I came. She even insisted on paying for half. I felt awkward about her paying but accepted because I like his mom and she genuinely wanted me to go. My boyfriend and I had a great time. Everyone expressed that they were happy I decided to join. Which made me feel awkward but I appreciated their good intentions.

After the trip, his family started planning the next trip for winter. It was decided that the trips would be twice a year. My boyfriend let me know the dates and I agreed to go. I assumed the cost would be the same. But he was informed that they decided on accommodation and it’s $300pp, plus more for food. Last trip was $175 including food. Which I think is quite cheap for a trip so maybe my expectation this time was unreasonable?

I love his family but I don’t want to spend $500/year to spend time with them. I work hard for my money and would rather take a trip with my boyfriend or best friends, or save it. Not to mention inflation is insane lately. I also worked hard with my boyfriend to budget for our first vacation together which we are taking this year.

My boyfriend told his family that I’ll skip out this time. They apparently were very disappointed and distraught. Same reaction they had the first time which I honestly find to be very ridiculous because it’s not reasonable to expect everyone to be able to make it every time. Let alone someone who’s not an actually family member, I think it’s natural that these trips don’t mean as much to me as it does to them. My boyfriend supports me but I know he’s feeling the heat from his family. I’m THAT spouse now.

But I’m truly not interested in joining two vacations a year with his family. I would need to take a day off each time as well to make a long weekend. I only get 10 paid days off a year. I actually don’t think I’d want to join EVERY year either because again there are other things I want to do with that time and money. I feel bad for my boyfriend though because his family just doesn’t get it and is giving him grief about it.

I do understand WHY the want me there. I wish I had a big family like my boyfriend and to have these kind of gatherings.

I don’t even know what my question is but knowing everyone is judging me is stressing me out. Should I just let it go and let my boyfriend deal with his own family? And let him practice setting boundaries with his family? That’s something he’s always struggled with but has worked hard on and improved a lot during our time together. I do feel bad about leaving it to him though. Should I be the one to speak up and explain that while I’d love to be there, I won’t be able to make it every year?

A secondary reason i don’t want to go is because I feel like I’m subsidizing his family’s children. The cost of divided equally among all adults. Even though two couples have 3 children each. My boyfriend and I make the least. Everyone else is a lot more established. One couple with kids makes $250/year. This is something my boyfriend and I keep to ourselves though.

View related questions: best friend, cheap, cousin, money, my ex

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (7 October 2022):

It does not follow that because someone is an adult they know how to set good boundaries. I know plenty of adults who melt and obey when anything to do with a loved one pops up, often running around all over the place or spending a lot of money they cannot afford to please them. Sometimes they cannot see what they are doing or how silly it is because they are too keen and too close to have open eyes. You need to decide how you spend your time and money and leave him to decide about his - so long as he does not expect to use your money for any of it.

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A male reader, Fatherly Advice United States + , writes (28 September 2022):

Fatherly Advice agony auntThis sounds pretty familiar to me. Growing up we attended fsamily reunions with my paternal grandmothers family, my paternal grand fathers family, my maternal grandmothers family, my fathers fmily, and my mothers family. when I got married I added two more reunions to the list.

One day in frustration I asked my dad, and boss (family business why I was spending more than my annual vacation time going to events I had little interest in. His advice was simple, " you have to choose what you want to do". So I started going to only the events that sounded fun. 25 years later, I may attend as family reunion once every other year. But I go camping alone every year.

Sure they are worried that I don't show up for things, I'm much less connected than my brothers and sisters.

My advice to you is not the same as my dad's, but similar. First prioritize your vacation time. Don't let one family claim a disproprotionate share. First priority is your relationship with your partner. You should have a vacation just for youu two every year. Second, don't be guilted into attending more than you can afford. Chose the event with his clan that you can handle financially. Then stick to your guns.

His family will have lots of fun and connection even if you and introvert partner aren't there. They will also quickly notice that youare only willing to spend up to said amount. They will quickly adjust their expectations to match your willingness. But if you continue to give in, they will continue to push. Your replies to badgering should be a loving, "I'd like to come, but that's just not in the budget. We will see you at the other event."

Obviously his siblings are also strugling to afford this as they are pushing a share the expenses idea. Stop keeping it to yourselves, let them know you can't afford their party.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (28 September 2022):

All families are different. In order to be a member of a family you have to make compromises. But they too need to do the same.

You say you don't want to join every year. Does you bf feel the same? Is he going to the family reunions out of obligation or does he really want to do so?

I think you should be honest and direct. If you want to explain (which I don't see why you should) do not only list financial reasons as your primary worry, because maybe they will decide to "help you out" (and then neever let you forget how they did YOU a favor!).

I understand that you don't want to pay for anybody's kids. Maybe your bf should become more independant when it comes to is family and attend the meetings once a year. Honestly, if they are pressuring people to attend, they obviously have a problem. I would never want to be a part of a family like that. He defnitely needs to set some boundaries too.

Now, I have a question. Have you ever asked them for help, financially or otherwise? If you have, they may feel they have the right to expect things from you( which is by no means ok).

Support your bf but be firm. He needs to deal with this. And the sooner the better. If they are as traditional as they seem, things will get worse if you get married.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (27 September 2022):

You should really not stress so much about this. You are overthinking this. This iscreally a non -issue. It's nice that this extended family is so close knit that they want to make all these reunions,giid for them if it works for them. But it does not work for you. You don't have enough vacations , you don't have enough money, and most of all you have different priorities. These people are either arrogant or very naive if they think that *their* priorities should be on top of everybody "must do " list. Even more so , considering that you are not even married yet ! , and that your bf is not close to his own parents and siblings, imagine to the cousins and uncles etc. I think your first mistake was refusing to go the first time but then immediately caved in because someone else preferred so. Now they know that you are a bit of a pushover and that insisting a bit is enough to make you do what they want.

Are you familiar with the British saying " never explain, never complain, never apologize "? Exactly that. Choose what you are going to do and stick to it. Smile, thanks profusely for the invitation, and decline. Rinse and repeat as necessary. They will get tired pretty fast to try and interfere if they see you mean business.

Of course you have to let your bf on his own , if so he wishes to do. But do not worry about him taking the heat. He is not a child, he is a man. He should be able to set his own boundaries and to deal with his own family, - and if he is not, it's high time he learns. I think you are being too motherly with him. You are his gf, not his mom, you should not even attemp of sparing him any annoyance, any discussion,any unpleasantness. He can handle it.

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