The girlfriend's dilemma: A family fable to start the new year
The girlfriend had been living with her boyfriend for nearly seven years. They lived a good life. He owned a successful business he’d built up himself. She worked at a highly respected international environmental organization. She was extremely cool—bright, funny, well liked by all. Neither was young anymore. They’d both been married once, and though they loved one another, they hadn’t yet gotten over the bad taste their previous, difficult relationships had left. So, while they didn’t rule out tying the knot someday, they weren’t in any hurry to head back to the altar.
There were many reasons for this besides the failed first marriages. He had two college-age children, a boy and girl or, as was the case, a young man and young woman. The daughter was still in college. The son was more of a free spirit who worked part-time for his dad, went to community college a bit, lived with them and was making a name for himself as one of the premier DJs in the area.
She had no children. Nor had she been around to help raise her boyfriend’s. By the time they were involved the children were fully formed. This led to several key issues.
Since she was the live-in girlfriend, the two children deigned to listen to her as they would any adult, but not as their parent. The daughter breezed in and out of the townhouse they lived in as she saw fit, often with friends from school. She largely took care of herself, worked hard in school and in the summer, and caused no one any problems.
The son... well, the son was another story. It’s not that he was a bad kid. Not close. Big-hearted, happy, good-looking. He didn’t have a malicious bone in his body. He just didn’t have a plan. Girls loved him. He worked enough to get by. His gigs kept him out at the oddest hours, and he’d traipse in sometime between 2 a.m. and the time he had to show up for work at his dad’s place.
This all concerned the girlfriend. It created an air of instability in the house, and she often felt as if she was a distant last place to everyone else. Her boyfriend put his children’s needs first, even though they were old enough to be on their own. The crazy hours the son kept, the girls coming and going... the girlfriend could only hope he’d had the right conversations with his dad about everything from STDs to prophylactics because she couldn’t tell him anything. Even though they all liked one another a lot, she was more like a big sister than a mom. And because of all this, even though she loved her boyfriend, she was thinking of moving out and getting a place of her own.
So when the son started stirring early one morning the girlfriend knew something was up. And when he walked to the stairwell and looked down at her, she wondered what he was going to say. And when he yelled, “Hey R——-, do you know how much the morning after pill costs?” she nearly choked on her breakfast.
A million thoughts went through her mind at once. What’s been going on upstairs? Doesn’t he know better? Does he know anything? Has his dad ever talked to him about sex? Should I? I just want to scream at him. Didn’t he use a condom? What girl was up there last night anyway? Is she still here? Was there more than one? If I say how much the pill costs will he think his dad got me pregnant and I took it? If I say I don’t know will I sound like an uncool idiot? I can’t deal with this before work. It’s even before my first cup of coffee.
Just then, luckily, thankfully, the sister, who was home on vacation called out, “$20!” and he said, “Thanks” and went back into his bedroom to sleep.
The girlfriend was left dumbfounded.
What she thought, for a moment as she drank her coffee, picked up her keys, her pocketbook and headed out the door, was “I’m not his parent. I should never be put in this situation in the first place. I have to move out.”
But then she thought again, and she realized something. He had asked her. He had opened his door and asked her, maybe flippantly, maybe on the spur of the moment, a personal, important question. A question that exposed himself to her. In a way, he was saying, “I need help. I need your advice. I made a mistake, and I acknowledge that you’re the adult around here.”
Sure, she was bailed out by little sis. But she was also included in the family circle. And so she decided to stay, and the son eventually got his own place, and while they’re not necessarily living happily ever after, they’re a whole lot closer to it.
This year, may we all find ourselves in the right place, surrounded by the ones we love.
And that’s the good word.
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