Posts Tagged ‘parents’

RHOC: The key to winning over someone’s kids

July 16, 2012

There’s an art to stepping into a family — and by that, I mean that dating someone’s parent is dicey. It’s awkward enough when you’re first meeting someone’s family — their parents, their siblings, their relatives — but meeting someone’s kids is a whole different ballgame. And one preconceived notion that I despise, as the child of divorced parents, is that all kids will automatically dislike their parents’ significant others.

I do think it’s easier for people who meet the kids when they’re young — the older that the kids are, the more attached they probably are to the idea of their parents as a solid couple. You don’t want to be seen as the wrench in the relationship, but, on the other hand, young adults can probably perceive problems in their parents’ relationship and wouldn’t necessary jump to blaming the newbie.

Anyway, this is all spawned from watching The Real Housewives of Orange County and seeing Vicki try to urge a relationship between Brooks, her boyfriend, and her children Brianna and Michael. The way that Brianna describes Brooks — pompous, intrusive, condescending, evasive — are all the exact qualities you don’t want to portray. If ever there was a harsh critic, it’s someone’s kids — you don’t get brownie points for impressing them with your worldliness.

Because really, kids are just looking for their parents to date people who are friendly, funny, and genuine. I think this is who everyone wants to see their friends and family date, but adults often don’t realize that kids 1.) don’t seek an authority figure and will immediately reject someone who tries to adopt that role, and 2.) aren’t impressed by arrogance. It’s not a job interview where you need to brag about yourself to win the employer over — it’s more about sitting back, listening, observing, and feeling out when the time is right to add your two cents.

That kind of sounded harsh but… it’s true. In my experience, I’ll respond far better to someone who is just friendly and not abrasive — people who want to belittle me, tell me what to do, or make obvious attempts to assert their dominance in the food chain? Yeah… not interested. This is what Brianna was saying — families already have these set traditions and routines, so the best way to get on the kids’ good sides? Act like any guest — don’t try to take control; don’t try to rewrite the traditions.

There’s definitely some finesse to finding those spots — when to speak up, when to ask questions, when to take a backseat. But Brooks being more concerned with flaunting his wealth and ownership of Vicki than really getting to know Brianna and trying to organically find a place in their family? That’s not going to rub any of her kids the right way. Be sincere and genuinely nice; understand that it’s not your job to replace anyone; and don’t act sketchy. Brooks? He won’t tell anyone his job. You only get one first impression, and trying to avoid talking about how you make money is an instant red flag… even outside the OC.

So should kids be blamed for not being welcoming enough to newbies? Is it the children who are being stubborn because they don’t want their moms/dads replaced? I don’t think so. I think this is the misconception, but that reality shows these newbies have trouble establishing a space in an already existing family unit. And I get that it’s a tough thing to navigate. But I can assure you that treating kids with disrespect, attitude, and self-centeredness isn’t the proper path. Maybe they’re just trying to make a splash, but try wading into the waters instead of attempting the cannonball… and then bellyflopping.

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Teen Mom: Is it wrong to date while still living with an ex?

January 21, 2011

Living with an ex isn’t easy, as Kailyn discovered this week on Teen Mom 2. She lives with her ex Jo and his family, shares a car with her ex, and relies so much on his family that she is constantly walking on eggshells when in comes to her personal life. When Jo found out she had a new boyfriend, he was furious, and his family followed suit — and from the looks of the previews for next week, they are kicking Kailyn out. But is this fair?

You can read Kailyn and Jo’s back story here. Obviously they are in a predicament, because Kailyn has nowhere else to live, Jo is the father of their baby, and Jo’s family has established that they think of Kailyn as family. His parents seem to be mad because they considered the break-up something temporary — Jo seems to be mad for other reasons, particularly that he thinks Kailyn is disrespecting him by dating someone else while living under his (parents’) roof.

But Jo broke up with Kailyn, which makes a big difference when it comes to the question of whether it is disrespectful or inappropriate for her to be dating while living with him in his parents’ house. Kailyn shouldn’t feel so reliant on his family that she remains in an unhealthy relationship for fear of retribution, but it would be presumptuous for her to break things off with Jo and then expect his family to babysit every night of the week while she hangs with her new beau.

Because Jo ended things, his parents really shouldn’t have so much animosity toward Kailyn — they are mad at her for moving on, but shouldn’t they focus more of that disappointment toward Jo? Also, when you end a relationship, you can’t be mad when your ex starts dating other people. Should Kailyn be forced to stay in relationship limbo, with Jo basically controlling every aspect of her love life because (1) he doesn’t want to date her but (2) doesn’t want her dating other people? Definitely not. Jo’s parents are the ones who truly have the last say because they own the house, but their son broke up with Kailyn — why punish her for it?

Things get messy when you are living with an ex, but when you are the dumper, you need to have some sympathy for the dumpee and even make some sacrifices (e.g. give up the bed and sleep on the couch for a while …) — as long as the dumpee wasn’t cheating or abusive, in which case, go ahead and have no sympathy. You also need to communicate and create ground rules — e.g. no bringing significant others back to the house — that allow for civility and respect, and you can’t assume one of those rules is going to be “no dating other people.” If you both agree on that rule, then great, but you can’t expect to break up with someone and then also prevent them from dating other people.

And, even though Jo’s parents think them being together is best for the child, they can’t force the relationship to work (definitely not by kicking Kailyn out for dating other people, at least). I’m sure they think they know best, but a child having two parents together is great in theory — not so great in practice when those parents do nothing but fight and yell at each other all the time, teaching the child that that is how a healthy relationship functions.

Additional commentary on ’15 Ways to Predict Divorce’

May 20, 2010

This Daily Beast blog on “15 Ways to Predict Divorce” had some … interesting things to say on how to predict divorce (read Anna North’s two cents at Jezebel for a full and insightful analysis), but I have some additional observations about some of the circumstances author Anneli Rufus said were predictions of divorce.

Example 1: If you argue with your spouse about finances once a week, your marriage is 30 percent more likely to end in divorce than if you argue with your spouse about finances less frequently.

Rufus attributes this excessive arguing to money woes — that’s one possibility. The first thing that actually popped into my mind was that couples who are more argumentative are more likely to get a divorce because both parties speak their minds and aren’t going to be submissive to one another. I think it’s probably weird that was my first thought.

I mean, it’s obvious if you don’t have financial woes you’ll have one less thing to fight about, but arguing less about finances might mean you argue less about a lot of things — maybe you deal with problems in a manner other than arguing, which is probably a lot more healthier and calmer than just ripping each other’s heads off. Not to mention less stressful.

Example 2: If your parents were divorced, you’re at least 40 percent more likely to get divorced than if they weren’t. If your parents married others after divorcing, you’re 91 percent more likely to get divorced.

Rufus cites Divorce Magazine’s  (yes, there is a magazine about divorce) publisher, who says that witnessing parental divorce reinforces our ambivalence about marriage. I think more than that, though, it’s not that we are ambivalent but it’s just the norm — it’s not as taboo.

My parents are divorced, and it’s not that I don’t take commitment or marriage as an institution seriously — it’s just that I’m not morally opposed to divorce because I can understand that two people grow apart over time. I can’t imagine my parents actually being married, and knowing they are both happy without each other gives me some piece of mind that divorce isn’t going necessarily ruin a person’s life.

Also, the publisher — who says,  “In most people’s minds, it’s easier to get a new car than fix the one you’ve got,” — makes it seem like people who get divorced give up. I disagree, because it implies that every marriage with problems is fixable. Sometimes a broken marriage is beyond repair — children of divorced parents don’t think spouses are “disposable,” but I think we’re realistic about the fact that people can change and grow apart.

Example 3: If you’re an evangelical Christian adult who has been married, there’s a 26 percent likelihood that you’ve been divorced—compared to a 28 percent chance for Catholics and a 38 percent chance for non-Christians.

The divorce rate tends to be higher for non-Christians because there isn’t any religious ideology that holds them back from divorcing. Other studies have shown that cohabitating couples are more likely to get divorced, but one theory behind that was that the same people who don’t believe in divorce (likely for religious reasons) probably don’t believe in living together before marriage (for religious reasons).

Example 4:  If both you and your partner have had previous marriages, you’re 90 percent more likely to get divorced than if this had been the first marriage for both of you.

This interested me because it does seem like round two would be more successful — but it isn’t entirely surprising. Getting divorced the first time is difficult — I’d imagine the second time around it would be easier. You’re less likely to put up with someone’s BS because the threat of divorce doesn’t scare you — you’ve been through it already. It’s like getting your first tattoo — once you know how it feels and what the pain is like, getting another one isn’t as big a deal.

Glee: The fine line between being a guy and talking “guy”

April 28, 2010

What’s a blogger to do when 16 and Pregnant is over for this season? Discuss Glee, of course. And not discussion of its songs or dance numbers, but the topics it sheds light on. Last night, the topic that most struck me was the relationship between Kurt and his father.

Kurt — the only openly gay main character on the show — often has funny one-liners or is drooling over Finn, but last night we got to see the struggle that is likely common in a lot of households: the struggle between parent and child to form a connection or bond; in this case, the struggle between a straight, masculine father and his gay, feminine son.

The dichotomy has been addressed on the show before, as his father was more proud of him than ever when Kurt was a kicker on the football team. But on last night’s episode of Glee, the tone was more serious, as Kurt tried to get his dad and Finn’s mom — both who were widowed — to start dating in order to get closer to Finn. The plan backfired, however, as Kurt’s dad took an interest in Finn that he had never showed in Kurt before.

Kurt’s dad and Finn were able to talk sports, which hurt Kurt because he has never been able to have that kind of relationship with his father. What really stood out was when Kurt’s dad commented that he knew it had offended Kurt, and he said that it was “just guy talk” and Kurt replied, “I’m a guy.”

The line is powerful — Kurt’s father assumes there is this understanding between himself and his son that involve “guy things” — e.g. sports — and “non-guy” things — like singing and dancing. This is interesting (1) because Finn is also in Glee Club and therefore is also interested in a “nonguy” thing and (2) Kurt’s father is admitting that he doesn’t view his son as a true “guy.” It’s not that whatever guys talk about is consequently “guy talk,” it’s that there is a predetermined set of topics that are socially deemed masculine.

I was glad to see this topic discussed because Kurt’s homosexuality is often thrown into the shows in a comedic light — but for Kurt and likely many gay men, there is nothing funny about not being able to form a bond or connection with your father. And for Kurt, whose mother died eight years ago, his dad is his only parent. Though his dad has shown support by coming to his musical events, Kurt yearns for that true interest and father-son bond that comes out of interest rather than obligation.

And though Finn also sings and dances, his masculinity is confirmed by his interest in sports. He is still a true “guy” in this regard — what about the guys, of any sexuality, who aren’t interested in those typical “guy” things? They often have to constantly overcompensate or prove their own masculinity to fit in with “the guys.”

This episode shows the difference between sex and gender — biologically, Kurt is a man (we assume he isn’t transgender or intersex). But socially, he is not considered a man — his gender is not entirely male because he doesn’t take interest in the things that society deems “masculine,” such as sports.  

At the end of the episode, Kurt thanks Mercedes for singing “Beautiful,” which is an acknowledgment that Kurt has been feeling ugly for not meeting up to the expectations of a true “guy.” He obviously yearns for his father’s acceptance, and it’s tough to watch his dad so easily and eagerly accept Finn while Kurt has been trying his entire life to become close with his father and gain his acceptance.