Talking to serious girlfriend about not going to her dad's funeral?
September 30, 2010 7:37 PM   Subscribe

Talking to serious girlfriend about not going to her dad's funeral?

I have been dating a girl for going on a year, and have been friends with her a year before that. Anyway, her dad is terminal and no one is really sure how long he has left or if they do, they are not saying it. However, before it happens - I wanted to talk to her about not attending the funeral but am unsure of how to go about it.

The reason I don't want to go, is the dad is the only person in the family that I even remotely like. Her sister is an extremely toxic person, and has never outgrown her teenager antics (she's in her mid 30s now) - she comes in when she needs her emotional fix and causes family issues then leaves. Her teenage son pretty much hates me as I'm the first serious guy she's dated since the divorce 3+ years ago, so I'm being blamed for causing the divorce and not allowing him to monopolize her time anymore (per kid's therapist). Her mom, I'm still up in the air about - she may be normal and just stressed beyond belief or possibly a basket case. The mom I'm at least cordial with. Heck, my girlfriend is the only one who is normal in her family and I think having her son is the only thing that saved her from falling into the family craziness.

They say funerals are for the living, and no matter how I look at it - I don't see anything good coming from attending besides supporting my girlfriend. I see it causing massive issues, the sister getting a reason for a fix, and the son getting another reason to dislike me. I guess I'm looking for some random outside perspectives and if possible, advice on how to approach talking to my girl about not attending but still being there for her. I don't live with her, nor do I see any of the family. Thanks in advance for any advice.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (90 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like your girlfriend is going to need some serious support when this time comes and leading up to it.

I think you need to go.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 7:41 PM on September 30, 2010 [75 favorites]

I don't see anything good coming from attending besides supporting my girlfriend

That's a lot of possible good.

Make this about her, not about you. Express your desire to support her, then ask whether your presence specifically at the event would be supportive, or whether (because of her son's feelings about you, etc.), the resulting drama might be disruptive. Leave it up to her and approach the conversation with a generous spirit. It's a few hours in your life, and it's the funeral of the father in hers.
posted by salvia at 7:42 PM on September 30, 2010 [30 favorites]

All the reasons you list as problems for attending the funeral will be double-problems for not attending the funeral.
posted by ifandonlyif at 7:43 PM on September 30, 2010 [15 favorites]

I'm sorry but you need to go if she wants you there. That would be the supportive boyfriend thing to do. This isn't about you, it's about her. If she wants you there to support her, you need to just ignore the family drama and be by her side. It sounds like she might need you not only to support her during her time of grief, but also as someone to be there for her as she has to put up with her family. They aren't your family, so just be as cordial as possible for the, what, couple days(?) you have to be around them.
posted by elpea at 7:44 PM on September 30, 2010 [5 favorites]

You go. Period. End of story.

Your job is to support your girlfriend. If you don't go, don't be surprised that when your girlfriend comes out of the fog of losing her father she'll dump your ass for being the clueless, insensitive, selfish clod that you're considering being.
posted by FlamingBore at 7:44 PM on September 30, 2010 [47 favorites]

I don't see anything good coming from attending besides supporting my girlfriend.

There is no other reason. Be there for her. Keep repeating "This is not about me" to yourself until you believe it.
posted by iconomy at 7:44 PM on September 30, 2010 [12 favorites]

I don't see anything good coming from attending besides supporting my girlfriend.

That's not good enough? Really? In her hour of need, when she's going to be feeling profound grief and vulnerability, you don't think supporting her is reason enough?

Look, you can't predict what others will do; you certainly can't control them. But you can say with certainty that your presence will be good for the person you care about, and I think it's a fair bet that your refusal to support her may actually cause some serious difficulties between the two of you. So why borrow trouble? When the time comes, go support your girlfriend, be cordial to others as etiquette demands, and if her other family members are crazy, it's got nothing to do with you.
posted by scody at 7:45 PM on September 30, 2010 [21 favorites]

I really think you need to go, especially because your girlfriend very likely desires support from you. AND you liked her Dad. Also consider the fact that not going could possibly make you look even worse in the eyes of the son and the sister.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 7:46 PM on September 30, 2010

I think the right thing to do would be whatever your girlfriend needs you to do, and suck up your personal feelings. Funerals are for the living, but this one isn't about you, so do what she needs.

I don't think there's any delicate way to bring this up beforehand.
posted by padraigin at 7:46 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

In my observation, people tend to be really inwardly focused on their own grief at the funerals of their immediate loved ones. While this could save you from the presence of her other family members, I really think you need to put your girlfriend first here. Going through a terminal illness and the death of your father isn't just sad; it's life-altering. You don't even have to talk to anyone, but your presence (which could be just a few hours) could make a HUGE difference in a life-changing time for your girlfriend. I urge you to reconsider.
posted by mynameisluka at 7:46 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think it's kind of strange to be backing out of a funeral before it's even been scheduled. While your girlfriend's family sounds like kind of a horror show, ultimately your role in this is to support her. If she wants you there, you need to be there. If you're looking for an out, you could ask her (at the appropriate moment...let's wait until the body has cooled a little) if she would like you to be with her during the funeral activities, or if she thinks your presence might add too much drama to the solemn occasion. Let her make this decision.

And, if she does want you there, at least use it as an opportunity to pay respects to the one family member she has (-had) who you had much affection for.
posted by contessa at 7:47 PM on September 30, 2010

So, you'd rather be unsupportive to the woman you love on one of - if not the - hardest, saddest days of her entire life, than spend 4 hours with a group of people you don't like?
posted by tristeza at 7:47 PM on September 30, 2010 [17 favorites]

This is not about you. If she wants you to go, then either go, or seriously rethink why you two are together.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:48 PM on September 30, 2010

So her family hates you, basically? And/or vice versa? And you think NOT going to the funeral is going to help? No. Sorry. That will only make things worse. You put on something nice, you go, you tell good stories about Dad to anyone who will listen (start thinking of some now!) and offer your shoulder to anyone who needs it. You never know, you could build a bridge that will last a long time.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:48 PM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

I don't see anything good coming from attending besides supporting my girlfriend.

You don't need any other good to come of it. The reasons you list for not going are completely selfish.

And guess what? This is not about you.

Don't be that guy.
posted by kestrel251 at 7:49 PM on September 30, 2010 [11 favorites]

suck it up.

You need to attend, this is NOT about you.
posted by HuronBob at 7:49 PM on September 30, 2010

> They say funerals are for the living

They are indeed. You're among them and you said that you like her father. Funerals have a way of helping people become aware of and channel grief that they might not have been aware of. Go to the funeral and put on your blinders.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:49 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

A funeral is not a party or Christmas or a high school reunion. It's definitely not about you. You need to be there whether or not you get any fun out of it. Just go when the time comes, be respectful and quiet, and be there for your girlfriend. No one will be thinking about you.
posted by anniecat at 7:51 PM on September 30, 2010

Let me add to my previous remark....

20 years ago my son died...I swore I would never attend another funeral...

but, that was the selfish side... as people in my life lost people they loved, I realized that I had a responsibility to love them, support them, and be there for them.

You have the same responsibility to someone you love.
posted by HuronBob at 7:52 PM on September 30, 2010 [6 favorites]

I don't see anything good coming from attending besides supporting my girlfriend.

Uh, damn dude. That's cold. You go. Maaaan.
posted by xmutex at 7:52 PM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

Oh for the love of god, your post was so insensitive and selfish that I felt the need to repeat what others have said. In most cases, supporting your significant other is the ONLY reason to attend a funeral. What other reason can you possibly need? If you really need this to be about you, well, I'm guessing her brother will "hate" you more if you don't go, and since the mom is still up in the air, not going is almost certainly going to secure you solidly in the "insensitive jerk" pool.

That being said, it could be that she doesn't want you to go because of the disruptive family issues as well. That's her call. You don't get to try to convince her one way or the other. If you don't go even if she wants you to, you'll never live it down, and might get promptly dumped. This isn't an annoying family dinner...this is a FUNERAL.
posted by lacedcoffee at 7:53 PM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

posted by murrey at 7:53 PM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

They say funerals are for the living, and no matter how I look at it - I don't see anything good coming from attending besides supporting my girlfriend.

Nothing ... besides supporting your girlfriend. Hmm, isn't that enough? Think about it.

In fact, isn't that more important than whether you like her family or her family likes you? (And let's get real here -- I'm pretty sure you're using "her family" to mean some of her family members, not all of them who will attend the funeral.) People often aren't fans of their significant other's (or spouse's) family, but they still go through with important social events and try to be reasonably pleasant and make the best of them. This is not some bizarre masochism -- it's a sensible, practical way to go through life.

You're imagining what things will be like if you go, but you don't really know what it'll be like. People tend to be on their best behavior at funerals, so they might be relatively easy to deal with. You might be able to improve your standing with the family without much effort.

As the Rolling Stones say: you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.
posted by John Cohen at 7:53 PM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

"They say funerals are for the living"

Strictly speaking, funerals are for the mourning (who are also living). It doesn't matter if the sister a drama queen, or if the nephew will hate you more, or if the mom is weird. Your gf is in mourning, if she wants you there you should go.

As an aside: if the father is the only one you remotely liked, maybe it would be worthwhile to you to say goodbye to the only person in the family you liked at all?
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated at 7:53 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Funerals are for the living, but ultimately the point of a funeral is to pay your respects to the deceased. I actually struggled with the same situation at the beginning of the summer - it has enough similarity to yours that I think this may help you make a decision. Or at least get some perspective. Here goes.

At the very beginning of the summer, my ex-boyfriend's father was killed in a motorcycle accident.. Obviously unexpectedly. (This is my EX-bf, mind you, we'd been broken up for over a year at that point). And, same as you, Dad was the only person in that family I liked at all. The mom and sister both were...not on my page. Ex-BF...well, there's a reason why he is and was an ex. But once I heard what had happened, I sucked it up, cancelled an evening session of a class I was teaching at the time, and went to the funeral home for calling hours.

I say this not to be like "Oh look how great I am," but to make the point that this is what people do in times of tragedy. Your girl of a year is soon to experience the death of an immediate family member. If you care about HER - not the sister, not the son, not the mom, but the girl you have chosen to be with for a year now - you will go to that funeral and you will support the hell out of her. If you have any talking to do with her about that funeral, it should be "I'll be there." That's it.

If you really feel that her family is so awful that you cannot deal with them for the duration of the formalities, then please tell her that now and leave her alone. Forever. This might be fish-or-cut-bait time for you, and I'll freely say that I get where you're coming from and I wouldn't want ("want") to do it either. But do you think your girlfriend "wants" her father to be dying? Do you think she "wants" a boyfriend who is ambivalent about being there for her in what is probably one of the hardest times she'll ever have to go through?

To sum up: Did I want to go to that funeral home? No. Was it horribly awkward and depressing? Absolutely a million times yes. Did I inconvenience myself and my students to go to it? Yep. Do I regret it? Never in a million years.

If you're "serious" about this girl, then you have to go. You have to. If you're not, then you're not, but you need to let her know that RIGHTNOW so she can get over you. There's no way around it - you attend the formalities or you're not "there for her." No in-between.

And BTW, you don't see any good "besides supporting your girlfriend?" Like, you need more?
posted by deep thought sunstar at 7:54 PM on September 30, 2010 [14 favorites]

The fact that your girlfriend has an apparently "toxic" family may make it even more important that you have your nontoxic self there to support her.

I think other people perhaps should be a little kinder to the OP. It looks like perhaps he thought his presence would cause "massive issues" not just for him, but drama everyone would have to endure. It should still be your girlfriend's choice whether those outweigh the benefit of having your support.
posted by grouse at 7:54 PM on September 30, 2010 [5 favorites]

Suck it up. Act like an adult and go.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:01 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

And on non-preview, what John Cohen said. You may be over-thinking this before it's even happened.
posted by deep thought sunstar at 8:03 PM on September 30, 2010

You will find, if you haven't already, that some things in relationships Are Not About You. This is one of them. You need to go for her.
posted by 4ster at 8:05 PM on September 30, 2010

This is a girl you're serious about?

Please, you don't sound like it at all. But, maybe that's just the way it seems based on the way you've poised this question to MeFi.

As it stands, you seem to have managed to make a tragic, upcoming event all about you! It sounds like you can't even see the tremendous benefit that your girlfriend will reap just by being there for her because all you can think about is how much of an inconvenience attending a funeral with people you don't like will be.

If this is actually the case, how can you look at yourself and honestly say that you're serious about a woman when you can't even begin to prepare to support her in what will undoubtedly be one of the hardest times of her life? And this woman has a kid? What kind of example are you setting for that teenager by not going to your girlfriend's father's funeral? You think he hates you now? Dude. Just wait.

I almost agree with Grouse's comment, because I too understand what it's like to be around a toxic family and yes, there is merit to "saving" yourself so you can support your girl in other areas. However, this is the family that comes with your girlfriend. Take it or leave it, you know? You're going to have shit either way. Which way will most benefit your girlfriend in this tough hour? Ask her what she needs from you, and ask her to ask you again when the moment hits so that you can be flexible in the ways you support her.
posted by patronuscharms at 8:06 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

not attending but still being there for her

Unless she says, spontaneously and sincerely, when her father passes, "I need you to not attend the funeral with me," you can't not attend but still be there for her. That just isn't how this works. To be there for her, you have to... be there for her. And that means handling the discomfort of being around her crazy family at the funeral.

I don't doubt that it causes you discomfort to be around them, and if your question was, "My girlfriend's family is crazy but she wants me to vacation with them--how do I say no?" I think the responses here would be a lot different. But there are some awkward, uncomfortable situations we must endure for the sake of supporting grieving loved ones.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:06 PM on September 30, 2010

You are going to that funeral.

And you are going to keep your mouth shut about people in your girlfriend's family of whom you dislike.

This is real, grown-up life stuff that lasts forever in people minds, so be there and be an awesome person for someone you care about.
posted by archivist at 8:10 PM on September 30, 2010 [28 favorites]

You're assuming that she'll want you there, which may not necessarily be the case. So when the time comes (and not before), before you say anything else, ask her what she needs from you. If that includes going to the funeral with her, then unless you have a very compelling reason that doesn't sound the slightest bit like a lame excuse not to, go. I completely understand not wanting to--one side of my family is pretty awful and drama-tastic, too, and a funeral is pretty much the only thing that would make me spend time with them--but your girlfriend may want you there to support her and either a) make it easier to avoid the drama or b) make it easier to deal with. And yeah, it'll be uncomfortable and unpleasant, but sometimes we put up with uncomfortable and unpleasant to support the people we love.
posted by rhiannonstone at 8:11 PM on September 30, 2010 [4 favorites]

If my dad died, the last thing I would want to have to deal with would be to break up with my asshole boyfriend for being a selfish asshole and not going to the funeral.
posted by defreckled at 8:12 PM on September 30, 2010 [21 favorites]

Nthing: Funerals of Beloved Relatives of Your SO: Not About You, but in addition, while I'm on better terms with my family than your girlfriend appears to be with hers, even if I was deeply estranged from them I can't help but think that any boyfriend of mine who ditched my father's fucking funeral would not only be on the fast track to dumpsville, he'd be lucky if I didn't tie him there just in time for the freight train of hateration to come through with a full load of seriously, what the hell is wrong with you?
posted by Diablevert at 8:12 PM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

yea, all the crappy things that you envision happenning to you while you are there will just happen to her in your absence. I totally sympathise with your dread of the event, though.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:13 PM on September 30, 2010

I don't see anything good coming from attending besides supporting my girlfriend.

This should be enough.
posted by pompomtom at 8:15 PM on September 30, 2010

Put your big boy pants on and go to the funeral, and do whatever else your girlfriend needs. If there was ever a situation that was Not About You, this is it.

My parents are most bitterly divorced - even after 32 years, the idea of them in the same room is ... stressful. My father is still not at all popular with any member of my mother's family, decades later. When my maternal grandfather died about 4 years after the divorce, when the ugly was still very fresh, guess what my dad did? He sucked it up and was there, for all the visitations and the funeral. He was there for US, for me and my brother, and because no matter what, he had cared about and respected my grandfather.

If my father, generally selfish bastard that he was back then, could suck it up and do the right thing (and it was the right thing) under those circumstances, then you can do this.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 8:19 PM on September 30, 2010

You've seen this thread, right?
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 8:22 PM on September 30, 2010 [10 favorites]

You have to go and are a huge cad if you even hint at any reluctance to do so. Tell your girlfriend that you love her and OF COURSE you will be there for her and you do not mind a bit.
posted by LarryC at 8:23 PM on September 30, 2010

You talk like anybody actually enjoys going to funerals. Like every other family in the world doesn't have that toxic sister, the bitter teenager, the basketcase mom. Guess what. Every family has these people, and these people are only human. All of them, like your girlfriend, will have lost someone important to them. You are not at the top of their list right now, but you can bet you will be later when you ditch your girlfriend at an emotionally traumatic time.

Ask her what she wants. I can't imagine she wouldn't want you there, but what's important is that if she does, you'd better swallow your excuses and go. Do you want to keep seeing this woman? Because no matter how well she takes your excuse now, every time you disappoint her in the future, this is going to be brought up again. So, think about that while rehearsing your exit speech.
posted by katillathehun at 8:24 PM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

I got pissed at you for even considering not going. And you're not even my boyfriend.

Please go and pretend this thread didn't happen.
posted by beccaj at 8:25 PM on September 30, 2010 [9 favorites]

Go watch the movie High Fidelity. Rethink your position.
posted by limeonaire at 8:26 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


if i was your girlfriend, and you were only coming to my dad's funeral because a bunch of strangers on the internet told you that you HAD to, i'd want to know -- so i could move on promptly.

unless you FEEL like going and supporting her, and know in your heart that you WILL be an amazing support -- don't bother. when people are doing shit out of obligation, it's totally obvious, and she does NOT need that around. her dad is effing dying. the last thing she needs is to be tending to your angst about her family.

my dad died when i was 19 -- my partner at the time offered unwavering, doting, certain, attentive, stoic, compassionate support. i never had to ask for it, never had to even mention what i needed -- everyone should be so lucky to get that from their partner when they're in grief.

to me, it just doesn't sound like you have that to offer right now, but really, only you know if you do. if you do -- go. if you sorta do -- try harder and go. if you know you don't -- don't bother.
posted by crawfo at 8:28 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

They say funerals are for the living
So, unless your girlfriend is a zom

Seriously, what the hell are you thinking?
posted by bricoleur at 8:28 PM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

The right thing to do is whatever it is that she wants you to do. Does she want you at the funeral? Then go and don't be an ass about it. Does she not want you there for some reason? Then don't go. Sorted. This is not about you and your needs. If your needs are more important to you than hers are right now, this relationship should probably end sooner rather than later.
posted by elizardbits at 8:45 PM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Imagine if your girlfriend posted a question here saying, "my father just died and my boyfriend doesn't want to go the funeral because he doesn't like the rest of my family; he says the only thing going would accomplish is to support me." The DTMFA pile-on would be so fierce it would break the internet. Go. This is not optional. And think a little bit about what kind of boyfriend you want to be, and what kind of person you want to be. I'm not saying that to make you feel bad - it's actual advice. Sometimes life gives you an opportunity to actually have that conversation with yourself, and when it does, you usually need it. This is such a time.
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:48 PM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't see anything good coming from attending besides supporting my girlfriend.

And that's the only thing that matters. If I were her, I would be seriously offended, even devastated, if you suggested that you didn't want to come. I mean, are you a serious part of her life or aren't you? If you even think about broaching this with her, it has to be put in terms of, "Obviously, I will want to be there for you and with you. Given how your family feels about me, though, I don't want to make it any more difficult for you by being there. You know you can always tell me if you think it would be easier if I didn't come, and I wouldn't be offended. BUT OF COURSE, I would like to be there with you to support you. Don't think for a minute that I don't wouldn't want to come because it would be awkward for me. The only thing that matters to me is to make things easier on you and to be supportive of you."

Be prepared for her to feel like you are just trying to avoid awkwardness for your own sake. If I were you, I wouldn't bring it up, because there's almost no way that she's going to see this as anything but you trying to make things easier on yourself. (And if that's really what this is about - well, shame on you. In fact, since you say "the dad is the only person in the family that I even remotely like" - it does seem to be about you.)
posted by Dasein at 8:49 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Look, your feelings are totally valid. No matter how much you love this woman, this is going to be a horrible experience. You're not a bad person for recognizing and dreading that. But her family is part of the package, until she decides to ditch them. Maybe you can't take that. That's your decision. But if you love her, you go, for her. If you want to remain in her life, you go.

My dad's little sister died suddenly a few years ago, a few months after his mother died. My aunt, dad's other sister, could barely function, she was so stricken with grief. Out of nowhere, from several states away, their toxic broken cousin showed up. She tried really hard to dominate the funeral, to intrude on my aunt's grief, to get attention. There's my devastated aunt, surrounded by her husband and her children, and there's this woman, not respecting any of that. Thank god there were sane, good, loving people there, to buffer her, to protect her. That is what you will have to be. Figure out how, now. If you can't, seriously reconsider why you're in a relationship with a person you can't give that to.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:50 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

So her family doesn't like you much now. How are they going to feel about you when you don't show up to support their beloved daughter/sister in her time of need? Relations are probably going to become a lot less 'cordial' with her mother than they are now if you don't show up.
posted by vanitas at 8:51 PM on September 30, 2010

I hear the chorus chanting "Guilt trip!"

Follow your intuition.
posted by ovvl at 8:52 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

You like and respect her father, right? He loves his daughter and trusts you to do right by her, right?

You already know the answer to your question.

posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:54 PM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

If you don't go, those people you think are total jerks will think you are a total jerk.

Also, maybe your girlfriend might need some support re: total jerks just as much as she needs support re: grief.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:02 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can tell her you don't want to go, and she can agree, but you will have let her down in a way that will never be forgotten: Were you there for her at one of the lowest moments of her life? No. Did you have her back when she needed it & were your shoulders there for her to cry on? No. Man up. Put on your suit & a suitable expression & be everything anyone needs you to be for a day. She needs you there at your best and your strongest.

This is not something you can "fix" later when you realize you blew it.
posted by Ys at 9:04 PM on September 30, 2010

I'm following this crowd:

The right thing to do is whatever it is that she wants you to do. Does she want you at the funeral? Then go and don't be an ass about it. Does she not want you there for some reason? Then don't go.

And I'll add on:

Does she want you to go, but sit in the second row behind her while she sits in the first row with her son? Do that. Does she want you to go, but to be the usher/gofer/holder of kleenex? Do that. Does she want you to run interference between her and crazy sister? Do that.

It's about HER. And if you want to talk to her about it (after he passes), you DON'T start out by saying "I was thinking about not going, so I won't add to the drama". No. You say "I'm here for you. Whatever you need me to do for the next 2 days, I'm doing it. Just name it."
posted by CathyG at 9:12 PM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

He's not dead yet, for christ's sake.

Listen to your girlfriend right now. Listen to her talk about her father. Listen to her feelings about his passing. Listen to her wishes and do your best to abide by them without complaint. To do otherwise right now before her father is even cool in his grave is just cartoonishly huge insensitivity and tone deafness to the seriousness of your girlfriend's imminent loss.

If you are incapable of doing that, you're being unhelpful and unsupportive. Know, too, that you will be called to account for that after all is said and done and your girlfriend realizes that she spent the whole of her father's final days listening to you carp endlessly about your needs and feelings rather than quietly reflecting on happier times she and her dad spent together.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 9:15 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you care for this woman, you need to go the funeral. It's that simple. Dead stop, thats it. If she wants you there, you go.

It's not about you, it's not about their family dynamics, it's not about playing in their drama. It's about being there for your girlfriend during a time that is going to be very hard for her, a time where she needs your support. It really is that simple. It doesn't matter if it makes you uncomfortable, if you don't like her siblings, whatever... it doesn't matter. Its about what your girlfriend needs in her time of need. It really is that simple.
posted by cgg at 9:22 PM on September 30, 2010

I get the feeling that you think the extra drama that might result from you attending isn't worth the additional support you could give your girlfriend, but here's the thing about dysfunctional families and funerals: They'll be dicks no matter what. Seriously. They are going to act up and be narcissistic and petty with or without you in attendance, so you're not saving your girlfriend any grief by staying at home.

No matter what happens, drama or not, you won't regret going and helping her through it. I swear.
posted by stefanie at 9:41 PM on September 30, 2010 [11 favorites]

You go. Not to is very bad behaviour. Your girlfriend will need you.
posted by Savannah at 9:52 PM on September 30, 2010

How old are you? A lot of adult life is about doing things you don't want to do and trying to minimize the negative and accentuate the positive. Your girlfriend's family will be awful no matter what- You have the responsibility of being the one good thing in all of this. Get over it and go.
posted by GilloD at 10:00 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

My father died suddenly and unexpectedly two days before Christmas my junior year of college. I had a serious boyfriend at the time. He dropped his flight to his home state to spend Christmas with his parents to stay for the funeral.

The rest of my family can be described as somewhat dysfunctional. My father's sister couldn't be bothered to attend the funeral and his brother and sister-in-law didn't bother to attend the post-funeral gathering at our house over precedence at the funeral, specifically because they were annoyed that because my boyfriend was sitting next to me (where I NEEDED HIM), they didn't get to sit in the front pew at the funeral home.

It was not his fault my aunt and uncle were jackasses when my father died. If they hadn't been jackasses about that, they would have been jackasses about some other thing. If my boyfriend hadn't been there, I would have been alone to deal with them and with my mother, who was devastated by their conduct. It wasn't his fault then, and it wasn't his fault when they blew off our wedding either. Had he abandoned me when I needed him, we would never have married.

Please reconsider your stance if you value your relationship with your girlfriend.
posted by immlass at 10:13 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would favorite stefanie's response a million times if I could. Your absence will not, in any way, lessen the crazy hell that your girlfriend's crazy relatives will put her through no matter what because she exists. I can understand your not wanting to make it worse by giving them a target to hate, but they already hate you so what's the difference anyway.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:27 PM on September 30, 2010

Good god people, the father isn't even dead yet. This question is highly hypothetical. Overthinking happens a lot here on Askme. This guy isn't evil, just clueless. Enough with the pile-on.

That said, there's no way you can not go. Even if your GF were to say she didn't want you to, you should still ask if she's sure.

posted by malapropist at 10:36 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't have a lot of hard and fast rules about life.

Never turn down an invitation to a funeral is one of those few rules.

Really, the chorus here that says you ought to to is onto something. Even if that something is 'we're glad we're not dragging your sullen ass to a funeral, hoping for some comfort and support.'

You are her comfort and support right now, and by being in a serious relationship, it is socially assumed that you've signed up for that role. If you cannot fulfill this obligation, or feel that you may be injured while performing the necessary tasks, or you wish to be reseated, please press the flight attendant call button. You can pay extra for emergency row seats, but you shouldn't enjoy the leg room without being willing to step up to assist if(when!) the plane crashes. The plane is crashing, re-read the pages about opening the damn door.
posted by bilabial at 10:41 PM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

I would definitely not bring it up before hand, even if you decide not to go in spite of the chorus. She's going through a tough time right now, and saying you believe her father will die and that you're not going to be around when that happens is likely going to make her upset. (I would personally be furious if my SO did this to me, and he would not be my SO when it was over. But your mileage may vary, of course.) So please, pleeeease at least don't do that. If you feel you have to decline, do it after there's certainty and don't add more gloom to her plate.
posted by vienaragis at 10:59 PM on September 30, 2010

If you love her and don't want to go then you will lose her.

If you don't love her and secretly wish to end things, this is the perfect opportunity.

Also, don't discount how you'll feel about the death of a man you like and respect. You might find that you were really glad you went.

Just stand next to your girlfriend, when she's thirsty get her a drink when she's hungry get her some food and don't rise to any bait.
posted by Bonzai at 11:04 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

You go. You put on your WWF (weddings, wakes and funerals) dark suit with a somber tie and with an immaculate linen handkerchief or two in the pockets and you take your place at your girl's elbow and there you stick until and unless she tells you to go and do something else. You open doors, move cars, fetch glasses of water or whatever she needs. You only ever have to say "wonderful man" and "my condolences" to anybody else.

The very worst thing you could do for both your reputation and your relationship is to suggest in any way that it ever entered your mind not to be there. No matter how desperately shocked and grieving one is, there is also a hyper sensitivity to who does and does not do the right thing.

Here's my story: at the funeral of my adult son, a long-ago lover showed up. He stood at the back and went to the gravesite and stood back there. I only happened to see him as I left the gravesite. We never spoke, he never intruded, but a place in my heart was forever after comforted that he was there.
posted by Anitanola at 11:13 PM on September 30, 2010 [20 favorites]

You know, my husband had a really hard time going to my mother's funeral, because he wasn't getting along so well with a family member. He came from out of town and arrived with very little time to spare. It caused me a lot of additional stress on a difficult day.

Don't do that to her.

Go to the funeral and do whatever she needs you to do.
posted by SLC Mom at 11:27 PM on September 30, 2010

I don't see anything good coming from attending besides supporting my girlfriend.

the dad is the only person in the family that I even remotely like.

These are the reasons you go. Are you saying that you don't want to support your girlfriend and give your respects to a person that you liked? Really? Wake up.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:20 AM on October 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

before it happens - I wanted to talk to her about not attending the funeral but am unsure of how to go about it

Your uncertainty is doing you a favour. It's telling you that not attending the funeral is the Wrong Thing.

Do the right thing. And get the mods to anonymize this question before your beloved finds out you asked it.
posted by flabdablet at 3:16 AM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Even if your GF were to say she didn't want you to, you should still ask if she's sure.

Yeah, but no matter what she says, you respect her wishes. I cannot fucking stress this enough. My ex-boyfriend is my ex now because of precisely this reason - earlier this month he would not give me the space I needed when my mother was dying because he decided his need to talk to me every single day trumped my need to spend quiet time with my mom. I didn't even tell him about the funeral until a week later because I knew if I told him not to come, he'd make a huge dramatic fuss.

Hm, it appears I am still really goddamn pissed at him. So yeah, don't be the asshole who makes someone's life even more stressful when a parent is dying.
posted by elizardbits at 3:46 AM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Of course you go. Not only because it's completely not about you, and because not going would make you look like just as much of a drama-loving baby as you consider her family to be, but also because there's also probably going to be some point right after the funeral, when everyone's gathered at the family's house eating macaroni or whatever, when your girlfriend is going to need a buffer from all the relatives well-meaning funeral-goers who want to interrupt with their condolences and ask unintentionally nosy questions. And then you guys go off into another room with your beer and macaroni and have an excuse not to mingle with them. It's not Christmas vacation, it's a funeral, and you're not going to be forced to spend a whole lot of time socializing with anyone if you don't have to.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:29 AM on October 1, 2010

I think the level of people shitting on you here is unwarranted; it's valid to consider if your presence is going to taint the funeral for other people there who were more invested and actually related to the guy. If someone I hated showed up to a funeral for one of my family members I might very well flip out, so I can see how you might not want to provoke that response. That doesn't make you less of an adult or an insensitive jerk, just human.

That said, you don't have to like it, but the classy move is to go if she wants you to.
posted by Menthol at 5:01 AM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow, lots of judgement from the crowd here, and an uncharitable (at best!) reading of the question.

Stefanie's right, anyway. Haters gonna hate, crazy family gonna crazy, no matter what you choose to do. But if you don't go, their ire towards you will be backed up by all the extended family too. ("Did you hear X's boyfriend, the one who caused the divorce and made her son have to go to therapy, he didn't even come to the funeral? Poor girl...") And in your absense, all this drama will get dumped on your poor girlfriend...

So: man up, go to the damn funeral, put a big fucking target on your back for all the drama, and let your girlfriend do what she needs to do.
posted by a young man in spats at 5:03 AM on October 1, 2010

I don't see anything good coming from attending besides supporting my girlfriend.

That's enough of a reason. The rest of it is noise.
posted by modernnomad at 5:19 AM on October 1, 2010

This is not about you.

My ex-husband is Icelandic. When his grandfather died, I flew to Iceland for the funeral and attended an hour long wake and then a two hour long funeral - both in a language I don't even understand. My job was not to contribute in any way, my job was to sit there and hold his hand.

That's your job now. Your girlfriend is becoming part of your family. Family means going to funerals. It's not supposed to be fun and games, it's a funeral. Everyone is going to be too emotional and broken up about their loss to even give a shit about what you may or may not be doing... except for your girlfriend, who will probably see your not going as a major, major slight against her.
posted by sonika at 5:58 AM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your girlfriend will need you. If you care about her, you go.
posted by Silvertree at 7:33 AM on October 1, 2010

I think your question is answered. Wanted to note that it might help you to also give her mom a break. My mom just went through a year of caring for my Dad before he died from cancer. To say that she was high- strung during and after this time is an understatement. She and I had a few dustups that I wasn't sure we would recover from. We haven't quite recovered yet but working on it. As his death recedes, she seems to be coming back to her old self a bit but don't underestimate the tremendous psychological mind-fuck it is to watch your loved one struggle and die let alone your lifetime partner.

Also: go.
posted by amanda at 8:14 AM on October 1, 2010

There's a freedom that comes from selflessness. You get to find this happy zen spot inside where it's not about you, and that's wonderful. Your girlfriend's family's toxic bullshit? NOT YOUR PROBLEM. It can kind of sail around you and through you like a breeze. Their nasty jabs and passive-aggressive ploys don't land on you, because it's not about you. Your only goal for the day is to support your partner.

People think of being selfish as being about making choices to make yourself happy, but I think that's a perspective that only goes so far. I think being selfish is about misunderstanding your own import, and thinking that everything, GOOD AND BAD, is about you. I see it in action as this awful trap that makes people miserable, not happy.

So, relax. This refrain of "it's not about you" is liberation. At this funeral, which you're going to go to, nothing is about you. Not even if your girlfriend's relative says, in front of you, "your bullshit boyfriend sucks donkey's balls and we've all been saying how much we hate him." Not about you. And you get to smile sweetly and say to your girlfriend, "Honey, have you had enough to eat? Can I grab you a soda?" (Grief makes people thirsty.)
posted by endless_forms at 8:53 AM on October 1, 2010 [5 favorites]

Years down the road, if you're still with her, she's either going to look back on her father's funeral and think, but at least I had [anon] with me, I never would have gotten through it if he hadn't been there to back me up with my wacko family, or she's going to think, I should have known it wouldn't work when he wouldn't even come to my father's funeral.

Go. Focus on her. Let the sister's antics and the son's manipulations slide off like water off a duck's back. It won't be fun, but it'll be unbelievably appreciated. I think your motives are good - to try to make things easier, but the only one you care about is your girlfriend, and I really think it will be easier for her if you're at her side.
posted by lemniskate at 8:59 AM on October 1, 2010

Go for her, and for her dad. It's not about the family, it's about the only man you got on with, and the woman you care about.

When my dad died I was seeing someone - our relationship was not such that he would come to the funeral (though I would have liked that) but he did not want to speak to me when I phoned him that day. It felt shit. You not going will feel like a whole heap of shit. She will want to squeeze someone's hand during the hymns. I did.
posted by mippy at 10:16 AM on October 1, 2010

I feel remiss for not mentioning this in my previous comment, but my brain is a bit like swiss cheese and mippy's remark about holding someone's hand during the hymns reminded me. Last year, an old friend of mine from high school passed away and I had the opportunity to be back in town for the funeral, so of course, I went.

My partner had never, ever met this man. My partner didn't even know any of the people who had been our mutual friends. And he went with me. He went with me and held my hand while I sobbed when the chorus sang a song that we had sung in chorus so many times. He had absolutely nothing to gain from this and he went to support me because we're family to each other. It meant more to me than anything else that he's done for me (aside from the obvious proposal and creating a child together) - that he was willing to go and stand by me while I grieved someone he had never even met.

Be there for her. She might not have the wherewithall to thank you at the time, but she won't ever forget it.
posted by sonika at 10:36 AM on October 1, 2010

I totally know where you're coming from, because I've been there. You're expecting that this sad and stressful occasion is going to bring out the worst in certain people, and you're probably right. Your girlfriend will be accepting condolences and conversing with various people you don't even know, so you'll be on the sidelines a good amount of the time.

When you go, keep one or two purposes in your mind. Examples: Have the intention of silently being on your girlfriend's side when things get especially hard for her. And see yourself as contributing sanity and calmness.

You can also find ways to be useful in small ways. If it's going to be a while with a service, transportation, being at the cemetery, et cetera -- you could have bottled water in the trunk of your car, and maybe some little snacks. Have extra tissues/a handkerchief for your girlfriend. At our house after my grandmother's funeral, my sister's boyfriend got refills for people and kept the used cups and plates from cluttering up the place. When I thanked him, he said, "It was in self-defense." I knew exactly what he meant.
posted by wryly at 10:37 AM on October 1, 2010

Go or pass the following message on to your gf for me: DTMFA.

That was snark but seriously, your girlfriend's family does sound difficult. But your girlfriend is going to need your support. Additionally, if you plan on staying with her, her family will one day be your family whether or not you like them. These shared experiences are the real building blocks of family, not genetics. You really should go.
posted by dchrssyr at 10:48 AM on October 1, 2010

Test the waters. Just say, "I'm thinking about not attending your fathers funeral" and see where it leads.

I don't attend funerals, because I find them pointless, self-serving, and disrespectful to the deceased, unless s/he specifically wanted such an event (none in my family have, which hasn't stopped the remaining members from pissing all over their final wishes).

If he wants a service, and she wants you there, go. Otherwise, don't.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:28 AM on October 1, 2010

I agree with everyone who says you should go, and that thinking about this before he's dead seems really strange. All I can add is: don't assume it's going to be a horrible experience. Sometimes people step up in remarkable ways at these kinds of events. Sometimes they disappoint you,too, but in any case you are almost certain to find out some interesting things about your girlfriend's family. At best you may mend some fences, possibly with her son.
posted by BibiRose at 1:36 PM on October 1, 2010

I don't want to contribute to a pile-on, nor do I want to imply that this is anything like your situation except for the circumstances, but you might want to read this question from a few days ago.
posted by PercussivePaul at 4:01 PM on October 1, 2010

Reading wryly's suggestion that you be the errand guy broke my heart a little.

I had this image of your girlfriend dealing with her dad's death, crazy family and all the funeral logistics - by herself, while she's grieving - then having to explain to everyone why you're not there. You can at least save her that grief.

If she wants you there, go.
posted by Space Kitty at 4:42 PM on October 1, 2010

I quickly scanned this, and I know everyone is saying GO GO GO. I agree with them.

I get it, funerals SUCK. I can't even remember my first wake, it's so ingrained in my personality and family and seems like every other week I'm in a funeral home smelling those flowers and OH CRAP there's a dead guy in the room. So just go. No one will notice if you go and make polite small talk, that's what you do. I can guarantee you're in for a world of shit if you don't go.

The funeral and the hoopla (for lack of a better term) isn't going to be about you, but you'll kind of be making it about you if you don't show up.

Just do what I do...go, make polite small talk, stand there and be quiet. You don't mention the religion, but if there's a wake, you're not required to go up to the casket. If you do go up, kneel, fold your hands in front of you, stare at your hands and count to 15.
posted by AlisonM at 7:58 PM on October 1, 2010

I say go, and let whatever the sister and the son do roll off your back. They will look bad, not on you. You need to be there for your girlfriend, and she will appreciate it.
posted by TheyCallItPeace at 8:14 PM on October 1, 2010

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