The mother tongue
I am a 28-year-old man in a two-year relationship with another (recently out) man my age. The problem is that his family is Mormon. Some are supportive or neutral about our relationship. His mother is negative. When we started dating, she didn’t want me at her house. When we got engaged, she told my partner that looking at his engagement ring made her physically ill. He isn’t Mormon anymore, but she still says he is choosing to be a bad son. She doesn’t speak to me, except for a brief “Hi.” She barely knows me, but tells him I’m controlling. My partner visits his family often. At least half the time, he prods me to come along, and I force myself to go. He thinks that if I act nice and polite, eventually, his mother will see that our relationship is healthy and be more supportive of his homosexuality. I think she is set in her ways. Should I respect my partner’s wishes and try to win his mother over, or bring up my feelings in hope that she will stop saying hurtful things?
Try a third option: Learn the mother tongue. Your future mother-in-law’s first language is religion. The best way to communicate with her is to study the aspects of the Mormon faith that address love and contemporary relationships. Begin with the documentary Families Are Forever. It chronicles “a devout Mormon family living in a conservative community … who went door-to-door to stop same-sex marriage in support of California’s [Proposition 8] and whose lives were turned upside down when their 13-year-old son admitted he was gay.” The video is one of the resources listed on the Family Acceptance Project website, a research, intervention and education initiative at San Francisco State University (http://familyproject.sfsu.edu). FAP describes itself as helping “ethnically, socially, and religiously diverse families to decrease rejection and increase support for their LGBT children.”
Understanding how to communicate with your future mother-in-law allows you to see her through the eyes of your heart (precisely how you wish her to see you). Yes, she may be unkind, critical and unwelcoming. Yes, those behaviors may be the opposite of everything that you have understood to be Christian. Her religious convictions have resulted in her fear of eternal damnation for her son, fear of shame for her family and worries about her own failure as a mother. She is critical because she believes demeaning you will protect her son from a relationship that she imagines is dangerous to his soul. A shift in her heart is out of your control. That means transformation is on your to-do list, not hers. Continue to be a sweet partner to your man by participating in family visits. Talk to the openhearted members of his family about the FAP and the Families Are Forever documentary. Patiently balance the desire to share your feelings and your partner’s desire to prove to his mother that your relationship is a blessing. Stop trying to control this woman, even if she is incapable of ending her attempts to control you and your fiancé. Your future mother-in-law may never completely embrace you, but don’t let that stop you from being the face of real love to her.
I think my girlfriend is cheating. She says I’m paranoid. What are the signs?
Betrayal is not always obvious. Ask yourself: Is your girlfriend suddenly emotionally distant? Is her attraction to you waning? Does she disappear without notice or explanations? Does she receive phone calls at odd hours and take her phone into another room or outside to respond? One or two affirmative responses may just mean that your relationship needs nurturing. A conversation is overdue. Your girlfriend’s answers will either set off alarms or mend your heart, and hers.