April 15, 2021

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Dear Pepper: Wooing Your Ex’s Parents

4 min read

Dear Pepper is a monthly advice-column comic by Liana Finck. If you have questions for Pepper about how to act in difficult situations, please direct them to dearpepperquestions@gmail.com. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Dear Pepper,

A few months ago, my boyfriend of seven years broke up with me to be with someone else. We started dating when I was seventeen, and he was an important person in my early adult life. That being said, I honestly think that breaking up was the right thing to do, as we’d been drifting apart for a while. The dilemma I’ve encountered has to do with his family. His parents live in another country, where we also lived for a few years, spending a lot of time with them. Based on this experience, I feel a certain level of attachment to his parents.

Here’s my problem: I know for a fact that my ex has yet to tell them about our breakup. He’s told me that he doesn’t want to, as they would be incredibly upset and angry. My ex doesn’t see an issue with this, and has lied to his parents before. Perhaps it’s a little irrational, but I’m worried that he may end up telling his parents that I was the one who broke up with him, or, worse, that I did something terribly wrong that warranted being broken up with—all in order for him to save face.

I’ve been contemplating reaching out to his parents in order to tell them “the truth,” but is it my place to intervene in his family business? Is it worth defending my reputation even though I will most likely never see them again? Pepper, please help me!

Sincerely,

H

Dear H,

There are details you could tell me about your ex’s parents—such as that they would cut your ex off forever if they knew he’d broken up with you, rather than vice versa—that might change my opinion on this, but, based on what I know, here’s what I think.

Your relationship is over, but you still have a shared past with your ex. He had the right to end things, and either of you has the right to cut off contact with the other, but neither of you has the right to dictate the other’s ties to people from your seven years together. You have a long, meaningful history with your ex’s parents, and are entitled to a cordial relationship with them that’s not undermined by lies, or at least a true and honest place in their memories—if (a rather big if) they’re interested in that.

Assuming that you’re still in contact with your ex, you could alert him that you’re planning to reach out to his parents, so he has a chance to come clean with them on his own first.

Next, make a small gesture—a note or phone call. Mention the breakup without saying too much about it, or even admitting you know that their son hasn’t told them about it. Say that you’d like to stay in touch. Then leave the ball in their court.

I realize that you aren’t necessarily looking for a future friendship with your ex’s parents—you only want for them not to remember you as a monster. But I think that—in my experience, at least—the two things are interchangeable. Maybe the value of friendship, for me, is as an agreement between two or more people not to see one another as monsters. You want your ex’s parents to like you. You don’t want to be unfairly tarnished in their memories.

Other advice columnists might say, “What’s the big deal if these random people in another country start to hate you? You don’t want to stay in touch with them, anyway.” These imaginary advice columnists might be right. But to me, devoted dog that I am, it would matter deeply. I do know better, but I still believe, on a gut level, that we exist only in the eyes of the people who know or have known us. And if it matters to you, too, then I think that you should go ahead and defend your existence, in a small, polite, legitimate way, to these people who are woven into the fabric of your past.

On the other hand, if what I’m telling you is starting to feel overwrought and strange, this could be a sign that you don’t need to take my advice at all. The advice that I’ve given here is based on what I think is fair, rather than what I think is necessary. It doesn’t have to be your job to keep old connections alive, or to make sure everyone knows the truth. So, if masterminding post-breakup cordiality with your ex’s parents sounds like something that will give you more pain than joy, just leave things as they are. And wait and see if his parents get in touch with you. They might.

Here’s to new beginnings. Good luck.

Sincerely,

Pepper

Liana Finck
2021-03-05 14:00:00

All news and articles are copyrighted to the respective authors and/or News Broadcasters. LC is an independent Online News Aggregator


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