Meet the parents etiquette
December 1, 2022 11:21 AM   Subscribe

I (45F) have been together with my partner (44M) for nearly three years. He's never introduced me to his parents.

His parents live in a southern state in the US; my partner and I are both Americans but live permanently overseas. So: granted, I'm not going to see his family in person very often (if at all) anyway, and as over-40 people it's not like he needs their 'permission' to date me.

I've asked my partner on numerous occasions to please introduce me to his parents and sister (and, ideally, other family members, but let's start there). He's always said yes he will introduce me, but then finds reasons to not do it. This most recent time, he travelled back home for a family reunion. I wasn't able to join him for reasons, but asked him to open a zoom call with me when he's with his people, so that I can meet everyone too. I reminded him several times during his visit, but he never did it. When I asked why, he said that his family members 'just weren't that interested.' This has become really concerning, as it just seems so strange that he keeps refusing to introduce me.

Last night was the weirdest part, though. Out of nowhere, he stormed up angrily to demand to know why I've never made an effort to meet his family. He said he spent the whole family reunion 'defending' me to his family members who were 'so angry' that I hadn't introduced myself. I asked what he thought I should have done. He said, 'You know how a phone book works. You know how a phone works. You could have called them any time.' I said, 'So wait, I was supposed to call up your parents out of the blue, on my own? Um, no, that's not how it works, you're my partner, you are supposed to introduce me.' He said, 'What are you, a vampire, and you need permission to enter?' And he continued to berate me for 'showing no interest in knowing my family'.

Clearly we've got a relationship issue to work out here (and I'd appreciate any insights there), but what I'm really here for in this question is to learn whether this is a regional etiquette thing that I've just been oblivious to. Is it common practice/ expectation in the southern US, that a new bf/gf is supposed to introduce themselves to their prospective in-laws (instead of the partner making the introductions?
posted by (F)utility to Human Relations (67 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This is not any kind of southern US regional etiquette I'm familiar with as a 42 year old lifelong Alabamian. This feels unusual and pointing to something else your partner isn't talking about.
posted by ndfine at 11:27 AM on December 1, 2022 [51 favorites]

Painful question, but are you the "wrong" gender/race/ethnicity/social class for your partner, from the point of view of the family? Because it sounds like you might be, and the last conversation--coming on the heels of your asking to be zoomed in to meet them!--sounds like a preemptive reversal strike.
posted by praemunire at 11:28 AM on December 1, 2022 [43 favorites]

'You know how a phone book works. You know how a phone works. You could have called them any time.'

Aside from anything else, this is just a really bizarre thing for a 44-year-old American to say. What phone book? Is this person a time traveler?
posted by trig at 11:33 AM on December 1, 2022 [124 favorites]

Sometimes people get overly defensive and pick bizarre fights when they are trying to distract from an issue...

I think he knows he's the one not introducing you, and is blaming you for some reason, perhaps to distract you from the fact that he is the one who is purposely not introducing you. It sounds like gaslighting actually. The question to explore is, why doesn't he want you to meet his family?
posted by bearette at 11:38 AM on December 1, 2022 [53 favorites]

When he's called them in the past, have you caught a glimpse of them? Have you heard their voices?

There's something wrong here. The best case scenario is that he is blaming you for something he is responsible for, either because he is too ashamed to face up to that or because he genuinely does not remember your discussing this with him. Either of these are serious issues.
posted by Countess Elena at 11:38 AM on December 1, 2022 [8 favorites]

Even if there were a cultural practice you're missing out on, that would be moot because you've brought this up several times and he never said anything to you about it before picking a fight with you about it last night. Which, strictly based on what you've written here, was wayyyyy out of line.
posted by lunasol at 11:42 AM on December 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

It sounds like maybe his family got onto him about not meeting you, he responded to them by blaming you, and now he's trying to get you to go along with taking responsibility by convincing you it's your fault.
posted by BungaDunga at 11:45 AM on December 1, 2022 [43 favorites]

There is something else going on here.

As I read this question, I initially thought he's keeping you from meeting them because he's ashamed of them, or as praemunire suggests, will find it awkward to explain his relationship with you to them. But his most recent outburst doesn't fit that pattern, and doesn't make much sense at all. Which makes me think he is preoccupied about something else.
posted by adamrice at 11:45 AM on December 1, 2022 [6 favorites]

I'm not from the south, but this sounds very strange to me and is foreign to my expectations and norms. It seems like something weird is going on, maybe with him having complicated feelings/relationships with his family, maybe him having complicated feelings about you, maybe something else entirely. But overall, yes you are right to flag this as not seeming normative and definitely worth exploring.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:50 AM on December 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

that is, it sounds to me like he wants you to apologize to them when he does finally introduce you to them, because they're mad at him about it; his whole "I defended you" stuff is just to try to get you on board with thinking that you need to make amends; they're blaming you and he either encouraged it or is going along with it, and is trying to get you to willingly take the blame.
posted by BungaDunga at 11:51 AM on December 1, 2022 [4 favorites]

Not suggesting that you *do* this, but you could always call his bluff and ask his family what's up... You've certainly got the invitation.
posted by sagc at 11:51 AM on December 1, 2022 [17 favorites]

The petty side of me would want to just go ahead and call his parents in front of him, but genuinely his reaction already is scary and I fear that could be dangerous.

This reminds me of something my ex did when we wanted to manipulate a situation toward a breakup. He asked me to make plans with his parents as they were visiting on the weekend. That weekend rolled around and he went alone, called me and woke me up as he was going, and started a big fight. It was truly bizarre. Other worldly. The only conclusion I’ve come to nearly 15 years later is that he wanted to play the victim. He wanted in front of his family to somehow make me the bad guy and call me a bitch. Probably because his family liked me.

So what do you think he wants out of this interaction? How is blaming you here gaining something for him? Why has he not introduced you?

I agree this sounds like gaslighting and manipulation and again, scary. I think this reaction is a huge red flag. And it’s a huge red flag to not have been introduced. Introductions at your age should be fairly casual. Especially since you live far away. I would consider how to make sure you are safe, and you are safe if you make plans to leave. When things feel topsy turvy, something isn’t right.
posted by Crystalinne at 11:52 AM on December 1, 2022 [19 favorites]

Is it common practice/ expectation in the southern US, that a new bf/gf is supposed to introduce themselves to their prospective in-laws (instead of the partner making the introductions?

Have lived in the South for 40+ years: no, this is not a thing. This is BS and he owes you an apology. Several, actually: one for delaying an introduction (which, after three years, come on man) and another for trying to make this somehow your fault.
posted by jquinby at 12:05 PM on December 1, 2022 [17 favorites]

An alternative data point: my mother, who was roughly the same age as your partner's parents but from a southern European country, resolutely believed that a relationship with her must be initiated and maintained by my (female) partner. I disagreed, which caused considerable friction within our own relationship, and I had to defend my partner on many occasions when her behavior did not meet my mother's (exacting and unreasonable) expectations. It's possible something similar is going on, but that doesn't excuse your partner's behavior towards you.
posted by googly at 12:10 PM on December 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

I think framing your question around "did I do something wrong with the etiquette of family introductions -- and by the way my boyfriend is angrily berating me" is kind of burying the lede on what the issue is here with your partner. The family introduction thing is awkward, and I would agree with some others above that American men often aren't properly socialized to know how to handle these things. But it seems like a separate issue to your boyfriend picking a fight (especially where they're just wildly in the wrong) and berating you (your words). Umm, that seems like the bigger problem?

You've only been together three years -- it sounds like a good moment to re-evaluate whether this socially inept and aggressive person is someone you want to be partnered with. Is this really a happy life with this guy? I encourage you to find space and time separate from him for these reflections.
posted by sk932 at 12:13 PM on December 1, 2022 [15 favorites]

Getting their number (not through him) and ringing them directly seems like an entirely bizarre thing to do, no wonder you didn't do it. And why did he not say "here's their number, their expectation is that you will call directly" if such a bizarre thing was needed.

He's panicking because he's lied to them or you (or both!) and realises that with pressure building from both sides to meet, a scapegoat is needed. And it appears to be you!

I'm sorry this person has decided to act so terribly.
posted by eastboundanddown at 12:16 PM on December 1, 2022 [57 favorites]

why did he not say "here's their number, their expectation is that you will call directly" if such a bizarre thing was needed.

Bingo. "My mom would love to talk to you, but she's super-shy and afraid of being intrusive, can I ask you to give her a ring to get the ball rolling?"
posted by praemunire at 12:19 PM on December 1, 2022 [8 favorites]

He has another family - possibly ex-wife, possibly still married wife, kids - in the States who he hasn't told you about and his parents will spill the beans. That's the very first thing I thought on reading this question and I'm sticking to it.

Might not be that soap operatic, but I bet there is something in his past he does not want you to know. His plan with the (ridiculous, over the top, completely not etiquette related) fight picking is to make you so mad you refuse to ever speak with them.
posted by mygothlaundry at 12:27 PM on December 1, 2022 [61 favorites]

He's panicking because he's lied to them or you (or both!) and realises that with pressure building from both sides to meet, a scapegoat is needed.

Definitely this. If he isn't proactively apologizing to you, explaining what really happened and telling you what he's going to do to make things right, this is not a partner to take seriously.
posted by katieinshoes at 12:32 PM on December 1, 2022 [10 favorites]

I'm an American who has lived in a few different US regions, including the south, and I've lived overseas, too, and this is just bizarre. So, to be clear, has he never Zoomed and been on the phone with them and brought you in to say hello with an introduction? And now he's blaming you for not reaching out? Weird.

I wasn't able to join him for reasons
I am wondering about this. Specifically, two things:
Has he enthusiastically invited you home with him at any point, for this reunion or other visits? Or have the invites been less than enthusiastic? (I'm wondering if his reluctance to introduce you also seems to extend to a lack of enthusiasm in his invitations to you to go with him, but I also know international travel, especially the past few years, is quite a barrier.)

Next, is he somehow mad about whatever the reason was that you didn't go?

If I'm going to be incredibly charitable, I might guess that perhaps he didn't realize what a faux pas he was making til his family hassled him. But then, as a defense mechanism, he lashed out at you rather than owning it. This might point to some complicated dynamics in his family of origin (deflecting responsibility, for example, by blaming others). It doesn't seem good, even when I'm trying to be generous.

A few other questions: do you all live together? How serious is your relationship?
posted by bluedaisy at 12:49 PM on December 1, 2022 [8 favorites]

This is the literal opposite of traditional southern etiquette, which says your family has to approve of your partner before you can get serious with them. This guy is stressed out about how the interaction will go with you and his parents (understandable I guess), refusing to answer your direct questions about what's going on (rude), and lashing out at you (entirely unacceptable).
posted by capricorn at 12:51 PM on December 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

Last night was the weirdest part, though. Out of nowhere, he stormed up angrily to demand to know why I've never made an effort to meet his family. He said he spent the whole family reunion 'defending' me to his family members who were 'so angry' that I hadn't introduced myself.

He's been lying to them, and he's been lying to you.

I'm sorry.
posted by mhoye at 12:52 PM on December 1, 2022 [30 favorites]

Who knows! We don't know your partner. There is no "definitely" anything. Hearing your story, his behavior is indeed strange.
I imagine he has his own perspective. But all you can do is directly state your desires and then choose how to follow up:

"Whatever happened in the past, I do want to meet your family now. Can we all get on a zoom [or phone call] this weekend?"

If he refuses, you should make clear how that is impacting you. Is this emblematic of other issues or concerns in the relationship? Couples counseling is a great tool!
posted by latkes at 12:53 PM on December 1, 2022 [4 favorites]

I don’t know of any cultural context where the expectation is that the non-family-member partner will introduce themselves to the family without the family-member-partner facilitating it. Like literally I’ve never heard of that in the US or elsewhere.
posted by theotherdurassister at 12:55 PM on December 1, 2022 [12 favorites]

Does your partner's stateside family know you exist? Does your partner's stateside family include a wife/partner/girlfriend? Is the stateside wife/partner/girlfriend pressing for a long postponed offshore visit to partner?
posted by jointhedance at 12:57 PM on December 1, 2022 [4 favorites]

If he continues to refuse to have you meet his family on a Zoom call, I would begin to wonder if they actually exist. Has he made up parents and a sibling in order to have an excuse to visit someone else in the U.S.?
posted by elphaba at 1:00 PM on December 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

My first husband is from Alabama, and much of my family is from the Carolinas.

I met my ex's family without him there (we were long distance, he was living overseas and I was still in the US, I was getting sorted to go join him).

However, he and his family took the initiative to arrange the meeting and make me feel welcome. My ex was pulling levers from thousands of miles away, his sister and her boyfriend fetched me at the airport, etc.

What this partner is doing - putting you on the spot, berating you, and saying you should have been the one to take initiative to set up a meeting, is pretty out there for Southern culture.

Southerners are big on hospitality and welcome, and would not expect the "outsider" (as in, you) to take on the work here.
posted by champers at 1:02 PM on December 1, 2022 [8 favorites]

Having been in a similar situation myself, I wish someone had told me to listen to my gut instincts and broken it off far sooner than I had.

What does you gut tell you?

I never found out the "why" part, but he was hiding something from me.
posted by kiwi-epitome at 1:06 PM on December 1, 2022 [6 favorites]

I came here basically to say what champers said. I am Very Southern and would never ever ever call a partner's family out of the blue without them as an intermediary (gods, who uses phones anymore for an initial contact, anyhow? Even if I were setting up a call for one of my 70 year old relatives who don't text - and most of them text at this point! - I would set up a time beforehand etc, not just have my boo call them out of the blue). But if I were his parents, I would have already asked to friend you on social media, asked for your number/email/whatever, etc. Starting this relationship is not your job.

You may find things you don't want to find, but... if I were you, I'd be tempted to do a little poking on social media, looking to see if any of them have pictures from this 'reunion' up, etc. I'm just saying.
posted by joycehealy at 1:31 PM on December 1, 2022 [6 favorites]

You sure he actually went to a family reunion?

The best case scenario here is that he went, forgot to call you, and is immature enough to try to shift the blame onto you. Maybe he's ashamed of his family or quarrels with them, but that's still no excuse.

The other scenarios range from another partner (ex or not) back home that his family knows about all the way to him not actually visiting them but lying to you about it for [insert reason here]. I assume you know the family exists, right? Because this is completely out of pocket behavior.
posted by kingdead at 1:37 PM on December 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: OK, I'm going to be the one who says it: DTMFA.
ALL the red flags are up all over the place. I can't think of a single excuse for his behaviour and the excuses kind-hearted people here are putting up are not working. Get out. As in Get Out NOW. This person is not good for you.
posted by mumimor at 1:44 PM on December 1, 2022 [26 favorites]

Something is up.

Has this person ever apologized or admitted fault for anything?
posted by amtho at 1:56 PM on December 1, 2022 [6 favorites]

These two versions of the same time period don't line up:
I reminded him several times during his visit [to open a zoom call], but he never did it. When I asked why, he said that his family members 'just weren't that interested.'

He said he spent the whole family reunion 'defending' me to his family members who were 'so angry' that I hadn't introduced myself.

Were they "not that interested" in talking to you, or did they spend the entire event hounding him about why you hadn't made contact? Both can't be true -- maybe neither are. So at the very least, he lied to you.
posted by space snail at 2:27 PM on December 1, 2022 [20 favorites]

This guy is just fishy.

Until he started lashing out at you, I assumed that you're the sort of person his family wouldn't approve of, or vice versa, or his family is a bunch of unaccepting jerks. God knows I didn't like introducing SO's to my family either because I knew they wouldn't like anyone I brought home and I would put it off until forced to.

BUT THEN HE STARTED BLAMING YOU for no meeting, which is hello, red flag city. It's his job to set up an invite, not yours, period.

I think he is looking for an excuse to break up, or some other shady shit is going on, but I don't think this relationship is gonna go long term after he did this.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:43 PM on December 1, 2022 [5 favorites]

yea, this is just the sort of bizarre response you get from someone who has been telling a lot of lies. My guess is he's lied to you, and to his family, and once those lies come into conflict the only response is to have a meltdown and hope that you get so distracted and defensive responding to it that the first issue goes away. If this is a pattern at all, if you find yourself frequently needing to find excuses for weird behaviour, I would seriously think about getting the hell out. Berating you for this is awful, you don't deserve it, don't feel bad if you want to nope out of the whole thing.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:51 PM on December 1, 2022 [8 favorites]

On the off-chance you need one more person saying this: this is weird. Like, I am not much of a "family person" and I get that in the last 3 years international travel has been tricky, and I can appreciate that some people might prefer a first meeting to be in-person rather than on Zoom -but even taking all of that in, it makes ZERO sense for him to be blaming you. That's the red flag. Like others, my hunch is that there is some reason he thinks you won't hit it off with his family (race/religion/class/politics/etc.) and so he's used the distance to procrastinate on the inevitable, and now his parents are upset they haven't met you yet (understandable) and he's still trying to lie his way out of it.

This is a moment to put your foot down, hard. "Hey [boyfriend], this is bullshit and you know it - I've been trying to meet your family for a long time now and you have kept preventing it from happening. And what phone book pray tell, was I supposed to pick up at the store in [country] to find their US number?." And if he continues to bullshit you, defiantly time to breakup.
posted by coffeecat at 3:06 PM on December 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

This is very very weird and completely not okay. But if you love the guy, here’s your chance to call his mom bluff. When the subject comes up again - or, if it doesn’t, at a convenient moment where it seems relevant (say, Xmas), get out your phone and ask for his parents’ number. If he in any way wants you to be the one to make that call (I’ll bet he doesn’t), you can be friendly, introduce yourself, apologize for not doing so sooner because you thought your partner was going to introduce you and just learned there must have been a misunderstanding, and then either make chitchat if they seem welcoming, or hand him the phone so he can talk to them. If he doesn’t want you to make that call (again, I’ll bet he doesn’t), you’ll be able to ask him what’s really going on without him having an excuse to hide behind.

Or who knows, his parents could be lovely.
posted by Mchelly at 3:24 PM on December 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

You know how a phone book works. You know how a phone works. You could have called them any time

Not only is this not a thing, it would be a huge red flag for me if my dating/relationship partner took it upon themselves to look my family up in the phone book and give them a call "to introduce themselves" without my being aware of it, and without having given them the contact information. That would be highly controlling and intrusive. Even more so since in the past he has seemed reluctant to have you meet them.

The fact that he is pulling this weirdo bullshit out of his ass and BERATING you over it is just beyond the beyond. Something's up. Either he's been lying about something (as has been said many times above) or he's the kind of abusive asshole who likes to look for excuses to rage at you, angry that you didn't do a thing that you had no idea he expected you to do. They literally just make shit up because they feel like being a dick to you. Once it starts it never ends and there is no pleasing them, they just keep coming up with new shit they've decided you screwed up on. Unless he has been God's most perfect angel of a boyfriend every second up to now, I'd GTFO now before it gets more nuts.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:51 PM on December 1, 2022 [17 favorites]

Not only is this not a thing, it would be a huge red flag for me if my dating/relationship partner took it upon themselves to look my family up in the phone book and give them a call "to introduce themselves" without my being aware of it, and without having given them the contact information.

Came in here to say this exact thing. If someone posted a question to AskMe about a partner who actually did this, we'd all be saying "DTMFA and then go google restraining orders in your jurisdiction in case you need one afterwards."
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 6:12 PM on December 1, 2022 [4 favorites]

If a significant other called up a member of my family out of the blue, tongues would be wagging about how so-and-so's new girlfriend wasn't raised right. Absolutely bizarre thing to do.
posted by Mavri at 6:39 PM on December 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

My ex-husband was from Mississippi with a parent who was from Alabama and the introduction of me to them was quite a formal affair and happened four months in. My calling them out of the blue to introduce myself would have been a oh hell no, even back in the 90s when phones were still a thing. I am only 6 years older than you so the parents are likely the same age/generation.

I agree with those waving red flags and I’m really sorry.
posted by kimberussell at 6:39 PM on December 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

This is totally fucking bonkers, as you know. I mean even if you “knew how a phone book works” (ew wtf), still, how the eff are you supposed to get a phone book for their city when you do not live in the United States?

The problem isn’t that there might be some “meet the parents” etiquette you didn’t do correctly. There isn’t, and you tried several times in different ways anyway so even if there was you did your part.

The problem is that this man is being absolutely batshit and scary. Reading this, my gut says that either he’s married to someone else or he’s having a mental health crisis. This is honestly absolutely nonsensical.

Stop gaslighting yourself- you know he’s being totally irrational. Own that feeling. Stop researching ways your fear may be wrong. Your body is protecting you. Your fear is correct. He is scary. He’s “storming” in and berating you??? What he’s doing makes absolutely zero sense and you are correct to be scared.

Please make sure you’re safe, he does not sound like a safe person to be around at this point in time.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:59 PM on December 1, 2022 [12 favorites]

Forget the recent trip and lashing out -- you've been together years, live overseas, his family's in the States, and you not only have never met them in any fashion, you don't have contact numbers to reach any of them if something were to happen to him?

This is fishy, like week-old fish fishy.
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:11 PM on December 1, 2022 [7 favorites]

As a point of anecdata, I met my partner's mother (who is a self-described hillbilly from the Ozarks) on the third date. To be fair this was mostly at his mother's insistence since she was visiting, but she's been nothing but sweet and lovely on that day and every other day.

This is just to say that most parents and family members are eager to meet their loved one's partners unless there is some political/social/racial issues at play and the fact that you haven't met your partner's family is down to either issues he's not telling you about or his own issues.

He has NO BUSINESS throwing this on you or throwing you under the bus. Call him out and then seek out some couples counseling.
posted by brookeb at 7:19 PM on December 1, 2022

While I agree with everyone that what he said to you is insane and unfair and you DEFINITELY didn't do something wrong etiquette-wise by waiting for him to introduce you, my initial read was less sinister than a lot of other folks who responded.

Is he mad that you couldn't join him at this reunion? Did he think (or worry his family would think) the reason you couldn't come was not "a good enough reason" and tell his family some other, "better" reason you couldn't join him? And then back himself into a weird corner where he couldn't zoom call you while he was with his family because he'd lied about why you didn't come? Is what he's doing now a (weird, extremely mean and totally unacceptable) way of lashing out at you because he's hurt you were not able to meet his family in person?
posted by mjcon at 7:34 PM on December 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

He's been lying to you. This is exactly the kind of thing my ex-husband did when he was sleeping with his brother's wife's sister. It didn't square with his view of himself as an honorable person so he needed to make me the villain, and it came out in these kind of completely bizarre and reality-free accusations. I'm sorry to say that in your case, a secret family is the first thing that came to mind.
posted by HotToddy at 8:46 PM on December 1, 2022 [10 favorites]

This guy is lying to you, and my bet is that it's about a relationship he has back home.
posted by Tamanna at 9:29 PM on December 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

Why was he "defending" you in the first place? That sounds like his family disapproves of you for some unspecified reason (race or religion being the obvious ones). But 100% agree that this is not normal behavior.

Source: am born and raised and still living in the Southeast, am not white but have dated white men.
posted by basalganglia at 1:19 AM on December 2, 2022

Just chiming in to reinforce that this is incredibly weird behaviour. That you’re asking if it’s etiquette makes me worry about what else you are coping with.

Also, I’ve been married since phonebooks were a thing and at that time people not only made introductions on the phone, they also shared numbers in “let me get my Rolodex” style. I remember the day my then-fiancé and I sat down with a brand new address book and we each put our family numbers in, kind of giddy at this combining of the households. No one was like “look my parents up!”

That’s a laughable detail but…I hope it helps you see the level of disrespect and oddness here.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:15 AM on December 2, 2022 [3 favorites]

The part about Is this normal/ regional has been answered at length. If the relationship is otherwise healthy, I would ask partner to go to therapy with you. And I'd ask for the parents' email and write a cordial note setting up a visit, including him. And not get into the story with his family until/ unless you understand what's going on.

People can get themselves dug into a hole by putting something off too long, and then being unable to deal with awkwardness. Or there's a secret, and it could be anything; people have such complex relationships with family. The angry outburst and blame are concerning, and assessing the relationship's future is the real task. good luck.
posted by theora55 at 8:02 AM on December 2, 2022

Best answer: As Don Savage would put it, DTMFA.
posted by charlesminus at 8:44 AM on December 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

I am southern with northern roots and, no, this is not at all typical. Southern hospitality at its best is about warmly welcoming strangers into your home with a hug and good food and a genuine curiosity to get to know you as a person. Yes, there are nuances and complications and differences but that’s a best-case scenario. That said, my dad is from North Jersey and you’d get a similar welcome there albeit with slightly different accents, food & perhaps a bluntness that’s just a genuine and kind as, well, pretty much everywhere in the US. People everywhere can and do have complicated families — or ones who are socially awkward or shy or simply rude — so a warm welcome isn’t a guarantee. If your boyfriend knew his family had issues that made meeting them not an option, he could and would gently communicate that you pretty early on. I know some people like to talk about and introduce partners right away while others wait longer, perhaps a year, but three years? Not common for anywhere in the US unless there’s estrangement or deeper issues. But for him to have regular contact and visits but hide you, then gaslight you into being responsible for this? Absolutely unacceptable.

I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. We want to give people the benefit of the doubt but I’m sure that upon deeper introspection you’ll notice other things that seem off. You deserve to be with someone who introduces you to their family with pride or, if that’s not an option, is respectfully transparent about why and takes personal responsibility too. Finally, this is not at all about anything that’s wrong with you. Something is wrong with him and that sucks. There’s lot of great insight and advice above. I wish you luck in dealing with it all!
posted by smorgasbord at 8:54 AM on December 2, 2022

nthing that the behavior of your partner is deranged.

please update us OP
posted by lalochezia at 9:48 AM on December 2, 2022 [3 favorites]

I dunno if I'd recommend this, but you might get an interesting reaction if you called up your SO's parents and see what they say...if they've ever heard of you, if your SO is married, etc.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:40 AM on December 2, 2022

I wouldn't look them up, I'd have a PI look them up. And down. Then make a more informed decision.
posted by hypnogogue at 12:00 PM on December 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

To answer the specific question you asked: my wife is from Arkansas, and this is the opposite of how her family works.

To answer the question you didn't ask: this is bizarre behavior, I haven't seen a phone book in at least 15 years, and something very strange is going on here.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:12 PM on December 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

The etiquette thing is a red herring, because if he actually wanted you to cold-call his family members, he could have suggested it to you on one of the many occasions in the past where you expressed interest in meeting them.

My interpretation: for whatever reason, either he or his family (or both) weren't in favor of a meeting until recently. Now the family is chomping at the bit to meet you and he's trying to explain away the delay by pretending it's your fault. This is gaslighting and it is terrible behavior.

In my opinion, he fabricated a reason to berate you, because it was easier than confronting his own shame about the years-long delay. This is an unacceptable way to treat a partner (or anyone). Transferring his bad feelings into misplaced rage toward another person is not the behavior of a mature and self-aware adult. It would be a dealbreaker for me unless there were extreme extenuating circumstances and an otherwise strong track record of maturity (and even then, I'd be leaning toward breaking up).
posted by delight at 2:20 PM on December 2, 2022 [2 favorites]

The only reason not to break up with him is because I'm really curious how he'll justify all this, and we might not get to find out. But satisfying my nosiness isn't a good reason to stay with him.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:32 PM on December 2, 2022 [8 favorites]

People do really bizarre things when they are cornered. This seems like one of those situations.

A relationship in which both people usually value each other for their maturity, intelligence and social propriety, a situation like this - where you are out of the blue characterised by this same partner as unintelligent and lacking social graces is a big deal. This is a longterm relationship not a dalliance, you both have had time to see each other’s value systems and generally trust them enough to forge ahead for several years.

I reckon there’s something serious happening to reverse your couple dynamic’s usual value systems.

As others pointed out above, he’s made some logical fallacies in his ‘argument’ about whether his family were not interested on one hand, and disappointed at no contact from you on the other; irrationally accusing you despite the obvious evidence.

So I think I’d be asking, what’s got him into a corner where his logic, his belief in your good character and integrity have gone out the window. What’s in store if you cold-call his parents ?

Never underestimate the kind of irrationality and / or willingness to blow up a whole web of attachments that a person will go to, to avoid accountability for a breach of judgment, possibly a whole lot of interlocking lies. Or the strategies such a cornered person will employ to make a possibly injured party ‘discover’ this treachery, in the presence of others affected by the treachery.

(I’ve had the most ridiculous illogicality, reversal of valuing about my formerly prized brain, so that I could do the labour of discovering an absolute bullshit web of lies - me, another family, a workplace. Somehow, for some people doing that is preferable to an adult conversation.)
posted by honey-barbara at 12:13 AM on December 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Hi everyone, OP here. Wow. I honestly didn’t expect this to land on such a resounding ‘This one story is So Not OK that we think you should reconsider everything about this relationship.’ Which probably says something about how far my baseline has been pushed.

I confronted my partner, and he admitted that his angry demands the other night were completely fabricated and straight-up nonsense. He said he was so drunk that he barely remembered doing it. That’s a problem all by itself, I said, and he agreed. He said that actually, no one had hassled him about me at the family reunion. He said he hasn’t introduced me because he believes that his family doesn’t like him or feels ashamed of him, and that he didn’t want me to pick up on that by talking to them.

For those who suggested that this isn’t the only time he’s been extremely out of line, or that there’s a big Something Else going on, you’re right. Another woman. I feel like a fool, but I tried so hard to make it work by insisting on couples and individual counselling and a billion from-the-heart talks. And yet, months later, he still blames me for what he chose to do, in an argument that boils down to ‘You should have stopped me!’ (The other woman isn’t back home, btw, the family reunion really was a family reunion.)

It took posting this story, just a simple ‘nothing’ kind of event that he initiates, like, twice a week these days, to kind of snap me back to reality. I’ve marked the best answers. Yesterday I told him that I want to break up. I’m heartbroken, and I have been for a very long time.

He’s not a terrible person, despite how this thread portrays it. He has so many beautiful and amazing qualities, and I will hugely miss those parts of him. But the fact is that he is a Hurt Person who makes bad choices and cannot seem to stop hurting me. So I’m getting out of his way.

I'm going to continue my therapy, with self-compassion, boundaries, and codependency being highest on the list. Thanks again, everyone. Today is a hard day for me but I feel hopeful for my future, finally.
posted by (F)utility at 12:26 PM on December 3, 2022 [87 favorites]

I'm sorry you're having to go through this. Time and all that. Take care.
posted by jquinby at 12:33 PM on December 3, 2022 [4 favorites]

I'm so proud of you, Internet Stranger. Rooting for ya!
posted by nouvelle-personne at 7:54 PM on December 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

Big hugs. You know, it is often very strong and compassionate people who fall into this trap. So tell yourself you are strong and compassionate and deserve more love in your life.
posted by mumimor at 2:37 AM on December 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

I'm so happy for you, (F)utility. I know it feels painful and hard right now, and it's entirely okay to just wallow for a while. And when it is done there is so much joy and freedom ahead for you. <3
posted by capricorn at 8:18 AM on December 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Thanks for getting back to us and we all wish you strength and love.

Can I make one tiny suggestion.

Yesterday I told him that I want to break up.

Yesterday, you BROKE UP WITH HIM. If he asks, that's what happened.

Not a "want", not negotiation, not a discussion.

There is lots of advice on the internet when a breakup happens - especially one lie this, once you are in a safe place, go no contact. I think everyone in this thread would recommend you heed it.
posted by lalochezia at 3:49 PM on December 4, 2022 [12 favorites]

Huge hugs and lots of compassion for you, (F)utilityl. Some years ago I had to make a similar call in ending a marriage to a man much as you described your partner: a Hurt person, who would not stop hurting me. Infidelity was an issue as well. I was so broken, that for the first time in my life, I really knew what "anguish" and "broken-hearted" mean.

But I PROMISE you, one day you will realize how much better your life has become. How simpler; less stress; more calming. For me, it took about a year and a half and I truly felt like I came out of a fog (my relationship had lasted 11 years). It has only gotten better since.

I wish you peace in the coming days, belief that this is the right thing for you, and strength to keep going forward to your better place.
posted by annieb at 5:34 PM on December 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

Thank you for being so vulnerable and open and real with us. You seem like a beautiful person! I’m sorry you’re dealing with all of this. It’s s lot but I know you can and will come out on the other side happy and with clarity.
posted by smorgasbord at 7:19 AM on December 6, 2022 [4 favorites]

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