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Resenting a meet-the-parents makeover

By Andrea Bonior
Andrea Bonior
Andrea Bonior (that's BONN-yer!) is a licensed clinical psychologist, professor, and writer. She completed her M.A. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology focusing on individual and group psychotherapy for young adults and specializing in the treatment of anxiety disorders and depression.

Q: My partner of 18 months and I are gearing up to meet her parents the next time they visit. I have always felt supported by her, but now she is overthinking everything and seems to want me to change my hair, my clothes, and is picking apart little things I do and say. I know she’s nervous, but I shouldn’t have to change for her parents. My parents like her the way she is. And if they didn’t, well, who cares?

A: Whether it’s because she sees her parents so rarely that she feels the need to dwell on minutiae like bangs, or whether there’s a power dynamic that creates a lot of self-doubt, your partner is stressed out about the situation. So try to hear her concerns, if she’s willing to share them. (“I know this visit seems to be on your mind. Do you want to talk about it?”)

And you should tell her specifically why her antics make you uncomfortable: “I understand you’re nervous, but it makes me even more nervous when I feel like you’re trying to change me. I promise to do my best to make a good impression. But I will still be myself, and I think that should be good enough.”

Q: My grandmother was an extremely cruel woman, and never did a kind thing for me while she was alive. Her legacy to me is being hypersensitive about my weight and having issues with my self-esteem. Now that she has passed away and the family is planning a memorial service, I feel it is hypocritical of me to go, but I am under a lot of pressure to do so.

A: Of course, this is your decision to make. But remember that funerals are for the living, too. To the extent that your presence might provide comfort to your parents, siblings, aunts or uncles – who might be suffering more intensely complex emotions than you are – then attending is something worth considering.

Being present at someone’s funeral need not serve as an endorsement of that person’s character. You don’t have to say how lovely she was or that she’ll be deeply missed – and saying nothing is better than launching into a laundry list of the times she picked apart your weight. View this as a time to be with your family. It might even be a moment of unity and compassion that defiantly springs from your grandmother’s cruelty.

Andrea Bonior is a psychologist and author of “The Friendship Fix.”

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