Savvy Minds: Ask Dr. V ~ My Parents Embarrass Me!

Dear Dr V ~

I’m confused about what I should do. My parents are coming in from out of town to visit me next week, and I don’t know if I’m ready for my boyfriend to meet them. We’ve been dating about eight months, and things are going great. The problem is my parents embarrass the hell out of me. I love them but I don’t know how else to put it, they’re just goofballs. And while they’re fine to me (at least now), they fight with each other constantly. Sometimes bickering, sometimes yelling matches, but either way it seems like I can’t leave the house with them without SOMETHING coming up. A week’s a long time to go without seeing my sweetie, and while they have their issues I still love my folks and want to show them around town and make sure they have a good time. How do I get out of this?

Annie

Dear Annie,

Well that’s a lot to pack in to just one question. Looks like we got all the bases covered here: conflict with folks, potential conflict with your lover; it’s a perfect recipe for getting yourself totally worried and stressed. Being in that state of mind of course assures you won’t enjoy any of their visit at all, with or without your sweetie. You’ll be in a perpetual state of emotional anguish, worrying about all the horrible things that could happen. And when you say feel embarrassed by your parents (who hasn’t been at some time? I mean been embarrassed by their own parents, not that your parents have embarrassed everyone personally), I get the feeling that you may take more than your share of ownership (which would be any) for your parents’ behavior. Right off the bat it seems like you’re putting yourself under a lot of pressure. Not only do you have to play tour guide for your folks, it’s up to you to make sure they don’t make jackasses out of themselves or by extension, you.

Were we having this discussion face-to-face, the first thing I would ask you would be if you’d discussed any of this with your boyfriend yet. As I’ve said in the past to other people who have written in, six months is both a not so long time and very long time as far as relationships go. It’s for sure long enough that you guys may be inching out of the honeymoon phase, perhaps even starting to learn how to take care of each other. I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb by assuming you have both discussed your families, at least your parents, at some point, no? Assuming that to be true, wouldn’t it make sense you’ve already somewhat prepped your beau for the untold horror (or laughter, depending on how you choose to see it) that awaits once Mom and Dad step off the plane? In fact, if your relationship is in good working order, your boyfriend’s presence could (and in my book, should) be a soothing, supportive element to the situation, rather than a liability. Think about it; unlike in the past, you now have an unconditional ally in all this shit, so that when Mom and Dad decide to crank up the crazy and rip off the knob, you can turn to your man, shrug and laugh. Alternately, he can be the one to step in and remove you from the Terror Dome if need be: you’ve got a sidekick and an escape hatch.

This of course assumes that your relationship is healthy and functional enough for this kind of loving support to happen. My suggestion to make sure that is in fact the case would be to talk to your boyfriend about all your fears and concerns surrounding the upcoming visit. If you haven’t done so already and are comfortable with it, give him the full history so he can know what to expect and what warning signs to look for. You could even work out some kind of code ahead of time to signal each other when you need assistance.

The other aspect to consider is of course, your parents. Without knowing your family history I can’t say for sure, but from what you say it sounds like there may be some deep-seated resentment, anger or even aggression working in your parents’ relationship. Of course, it’s really none of your business (just as your relationship is none of theirs), but more importantly, it’s not your responsibility. From how your question was written you sound like a mature, well-balanced person. However, I have yet to meet anyone who, when confronted with any kind of ancient childhood emotional baggage, doesn’t at least quaver a little bit, if not fall back into their role in whatever the Family Drama was. So while there is really nothing you can do to “fix” your parents and their issues, I would say you need to be vigilant about not backsliding into your childhood self. When you sense their shit starting to bubble up from the cauldron, try to take a step back. Pretend you’re an anthropologist studying the bizarre culture of a remote and unusually crazy village. It can be very difficult, even painful, to detach from our families in this way, but ultimately I think it’s part of growing into a complete, functional adult. As far as your folks’ propensity to be Goofballs goes… well, if they’re genuine dorks, I think once you resolve the other stuff their goofy antics may well stop embarrassing you and become amusing, perhaps even endearing.

All parents are human beings; therefore all parents make mistakes in their parenting. The bright side to our “issues with mom and dad” is that, barring extreme cases of abuse or other trauma, once we’re grown up we have the power to hit STOP on that internal tape player and put an end to the dysfunctional process. Though you may still be their daughter, you are no longer their child. You are your own person. Let that be a mantra to get you through the visit.

With Love and Light,

Dr. V

Visit Dr. V’s Web site at www.talk2drv.com or her blog at www.findyourselfblog.com; become a fan at:http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dr-V/184750798527?v=wall

Note: All information in the Ask Dr. V column is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnosis and treatment, please feel free to email Dr. V, or consult your doctor.Please feel free to email Dr. V a confidential question (from you or your guy) for posting on this site at DrVenus@TheSavvyGal.com; questions may be edited for grammar and length; emails are only read by Dr. V.

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