Auntie SparkNotes: My Dead Boyfriend's Family Hates That I'm Dating
My boyfriend drowned in an unfortunate swimming accident 4 years ago, when we were 15 years old. It was terrible and heartbreaking because we had been together since the time we were 12, and after being together for years, as cliche as it sounds, we wanted to get married when we were older and have kids and everything.
Since we were that close, we had gotten to know each other's families really well too. I knew his parents, brothers and sisters, and cousins and other relatives on a first name basis, and they all loved me.
Now after being alone for 4 years and completely numb to real life, I am in college and have what may be called a reasonably average social life. I have been friends with this one guy for really long and recently started liking him. He liked me too and asked me out. After lots of thinking, I agreed, but what I didn't realize is that he is next door neighbors with my ex-boyfriend. I walked over to his house a little before the date, and my ex boyfriends' mother sees us. She then says to me loudly, "Oh so you're here now," with raised eyebrows.
That was the end of that.
But I see these people at my religious gathering every weekend. They now almost ignore me, and at times, his brothers have been rude.
I had a terrible feeling this would happen and hence had so many doubts about dating. But every nightmare came true, and now they all ignore and stare at me, while before we would engage in conversation. I feel really bad. Do you think it was wrong for me to move on and see someone else? Should I go and apologize to them, because they are lovely people really? Or should I stop dating new guy? He would totally understand because he knows the whole story and likes them too, and he told me he would understand no matter what, but four years is a long time to stay lonely according to him.
Oh geez. He's not wrong, Sparkler. I'm so sorry.
And while I'll take your word for it that your lost love's family are wonderful people, the way they're treating you is despicable. I don't really have to tell you that people are allowed to move on and find happiness after the death of a significant other, right? Or that while this is true for all people, it's especially true for teenage people, who deserve to spend at least part of the seventy-odd likely years ahead of them in the company of a loving companion, for crying out loud?!
Honestly, if not for the terrible loss this family has suffered—which seems to have inspired the most terrible kind of judgment-clouding grief in its surviving members—I'd be ready to unholster the punishment salmon.
But as it is, I'll settle for telling you to please, please give yourself permission to be happy, whatever that means for you, and despite how your late boyfriend's family might feel about it—or how anyone else does, for that matter. People who would punish you or shun you for finding love after a heartbreaking loss are people you don't need in your life.
As for how to deal with this family going forward, it's up to you. I also admit that I wonder how much a good relationship with them could really be worth, considering that not only are they treating you in a petty and punitive way, but that this behavior is apparently so in character for them that you feared it happening ahead of time. (And if the price of remaining friendly is having them begrudge you your happiness, I hope you'll seriously consider just letting them keep their distance.)
But if you sincerely miss them, and you want to try to mend things, you can—by saying, in your own words, that you've sensed it upsets them that you're dating New Guy, that you're sorry for their pain, and that you know it must be hard to see you with somebody else. Because hey, it's hard for you, too; you loved their son, and you'll always miss him. And then, tell them that you're happy to have found someone you care for after all those years of grief—and that because you cared deeply for their son, and because you still care for them, you hope they'll be able to find it in their hearts to be happy for you.
And then, having put the ball graciously and firmly in their court, give them time and room to decide how they want to respond (and with the understanding that they may not respond, or at least not the way you'd like).
Whether it'll work, I don't know. From what you've told me, I can't say I'm optimistic; however lovely this family, they seem to be taking an untoward amount of comfort in blaming you for moving on. But if you're going to keep them in your heart, please do it by respecting their grief, acknowledging their feelings, and doing your best to forgive them for treating you so shoddily—and not by apologizing for having found your way through to the rest of your life. You have nothing to be sorry for.
Words of support for our letter-writer? Share them in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at email@example.com.
Want more info about how this column works? Click for the Auntie SparkNotes FAQ.