Wow, readers sure had lots to say about last week's column, where our anxious letter-writer worried about introducing his lefty gal pal to his conservative parents. The outpouring of opinions reinforced that, these days, there's a pervasive societal divide that's got Teams Red and Blue shouting across the aisles, often with absolutes and low blows.
While Wayne and Wanda aren't fond of the nitpicky politicking and nasty finger-pointing, they are fans of helping the lost and lovelorn find their way. So they sorted through all those zinger comments to pull out some of the best, and worst, advice.
Let's start with worst: A guy named Art wrote, "If your views are more like your parents', sleep with her one last time and drop her like a hot rock. If your views are more like hers, prepared to be at least somewhat estranged from your parents."
Sorry, dude, when one intends to leave a partner, it's really never OK to have sex one last time and then cut them loose. At the least, it's selfish and tacky, and at worst, it's deceitful, a lie by behavior, and a violation of that person's trust — and body. However, to your flip-side advice point, it may be true that partnering with someone whose views are in opposition to your parents could certainly lead to division.
I have a feeling Art's been dropped like a hot rock a few times or he wouldn't be so crass about how to end a relationship. I also think he's shortsighted in thinking that this is an either-girlfriend-or-parents decision. Our letter writer hadn't even introduced them yet! Let's see how they get through a few dinners and the holidays before declaring civil war. I bet respect and love win over blind belief and animosity.
A reader named Mark suggested our letter writer might have some lingering childhood anger issues, and challenged our writer to "ask yourself WHY you chose a girlfriend who is opposite of the way you grew up? … Figure out why you have rejected your parents' ways."
This would be perhaps legit if our guy clearly disrespects his parents, or rejects their viewpoints. I suppose it's possible he does. But the message I gleaned from his note wasn't one of a man with rebellion issues who detested his parents' opinions and had specifically sought out Miss Opposite. Rather, he came across as someone who does desperately seek harmony because he cares for all involved so much.
I think many people can relate to this dilemma these days. We're dumbstruck with anxiety when we face having to bring together friends or family from differing ideologies because the political and religious debate volume is not only turned to an all-time high, but the tone and rhetoric is so combative and bombastic.
Wanda, you nailed it! But I want to play Internet Psychologist like Mark too … So I'll add that yes, the political and ideological noise is as loud, intense and personal as it's ever been. It's also as inescapable as ever. TV. Radio. Social media. In the gym. In the bar. In the office. Our families. Our friends. Complete strangers. It just never stops! You can unplug for a bit, but it's there waiting for you … Always waiting for you …
That unavoidable noise is amplifying just about everyone's anxieties these days. Add that to the stress this guy is already feeling about bringing his folks and GF together, potentially creating more noise and anxiety … My diagnosis: that's why he's dragged his feet so long on this introduction. My prescription: introduce them as soon as possible to at least ease the pressure you can control!
From a reader named Laura came a little tough love: "Oh for criminy sakes! I'm very conservative and my daughter-in-law and her family are liberals. We still love one another and will be spending Thanksgiving together. If they can't get along, perhaps it's time for one or more of them to grow up!"
They say that love means never having to say you're sorry, and we all know that's not true. We often have to apologize to people we love. We also have to tell them when we're happy, or think they're acting crazy, or are out of line, or are being wonderful.
Most of us want to please our parents; most of us also want our chosen partners to fold seamlessly into our lives. Most of us also know it isn't always that easy. But here are some truths: the love that binds family members and partners is much more than what box you check on a ballot, or whether you believe in a higher power. It's about connection, memories, laughter — shared futures, unconditional support, and championing each other's greatest wishes. Ultimately, we should want the people we love to be happy and healthy, and if their choices don't harm themselves or others, and make them joyous, we should cheer them on.
Amen, Wanda. Amen, Laura. And amen, humanity. And love. And respect. And listening. And understanding. And friendship. And family.
Not to get all kumbayah on you guys, but let's all unite around Thanksgiving, watching the Cowboys lose, cashing in on the amazing deals of Black Friday and enjoying family and fun through weekend. You know, spending a few days being thankful for everything and everyone that make our lives wonderful. And when we all get back to our daily stresses, relationship dramas and political pugilism next week, hopefully we have a little more perspective on it all.
Want to respond to a recent column, point out a dating trend, or ask Wanda and Wayne for wisdom regarding your love life? Give them a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.