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Auntie SparkNotes: How Much Should I Tell My BF About My Family?

Auntie SparkNotes: How Much Should I Tell My BF About My Family?

By kat_rosenfield

Dear Auntie,

I have a boyfriend. Which is amazing (I still can't really believe it myself). We met at the beginning of the school year, and became really good friends before we started dating a few weeks ago.

But this is my problem: my dad is severely disabled—he has an incurable disease, and he's only getting worse—to the point of being completely homebound and confined to a wheelchair. Oftentimes, even just with my friends, I have to cancel plans at the last minute because my dad's having a bad day and I have to stay home with him, or because my mom can't leave him to drive me somewhere. Having my friends pick me up or drop me off also causes him stress because he feels uncomfortable when people come to the door. I can't have any friends over (even if they're just stopping by my house for a few minutes) because he doesn't want anyone to see him, sick as he is. And I respect that decision.

But basically, when it comes down to it, most of my social life is ruled by my dad's illness. My two best friends know about my dad, and they understand why it makes my free time unpredictable. But it's taken a long time for them to understand my situation as much as they do, and only after a lot of explaining on my part.

I guess my question is, how much do I tell my boyfriend? And how soon? I've managed to make excuses so far about why he can't come inside my house or anything, but if we keep seeing each other (which I hope will happen, I really like him), those excuses won't last long. I know that if he cares about me and everything, it won't matter, but we're only high schoolers. This is the first relationship either of us have ever been in, and I don't want to scare him away. What if he thinks I'm making this up as an excuse, and thinks that I really just don't want to go out with him and am too nice to say so? What if he just doesn't want to have a girlfriend with so many issues to deal with?

Well, if that were the case—and it almost certainly isn't—then it's certainly going to cheese his cracker when he realizes he's already got one.

But that's just one more reason why you should open up to him, Sparkler. Because if he doesn't want a girlfriend with serious issues, what then? A girlfriend with serious issues is what you are. You can't change your family, or the sadness you live with. You can't make your life sunnier, simpler, or less troubled. You can't change yourself into a person who doesn't have some shizz to cope with. What you can do, however, is surround yourself with people who don't mind the shizz. You can choose your inner circle. You can populate your life with people who support you, who understand you, who don't judge or push, and who make the hard, dark times easier to get through.

And in this case, you can hope—even expect—that your boyfriend is one of those people. But if he isn't? Darling, trust me, you might as well find out now.

Which brings me to this: it's a little strange that you don't already know this. For most people, opening up about this sort of stuff is a natural part of becoming close, and it worries me that it doesn't seem to come naturally to you. Not only have you actively avoided telling your boyfriend the truth, you say that it took a long time and a lot of explaining for your friends to understand your situation—and that, more than anything else in your letter, just doesn't make sense. Having a disabled parent who wants his privacy isn't shameful or strange; it's a situation that everyone can understand, even if they haven't lived it themselves. But if you treat it like it is something awful, and treat people like they can't be trusted to behave decently and honorably and respectfully of your father's privacy, then you're going to make your own life very difficult. And if you act evasively, looking for ways to avoid the truth until you have no choice but to tell it? Then you would end up in a situation much like this: one in which you're telling your story in dribs and drabs to people you've previously misled, making it very difficult for anyone to know what you need, or even what to believe.

Whereas if you just spell things out once, straightforwardly, simply, you won't ever need to have this conversation more than once. Like so:

"I've been avoiding telling you this because it's a difficult conversation, but there are a few things you should know about if we're going to keep seeing each other. My father is terminally ill and confined to a wheelchair. He's not comfortable with visitors, which is why I can't ever invite you in, and my schedule can be unpredictable because he sometimes has bad days and needs me to stay with him. So if I cancel plans, you should know that it's not because I don't like you. Okay?"

At which point your boyfriend will say, "Okay, I get it," because he is a human being and not a demon douchebag with no feelings.

But on the off chance that he doesn't stick around, then remember this: a person who bows out of your relationship because your life is too much for him is, ultimately, doing a good thing for both of you. He's clearing a useless person from your life, and making room for a better one, someone who can give you the love and support he couldn't. And when a better one comes along—and a better one always comes along—you'll be so glad that the useless person did you the favor of removing himself.

Got something to say? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at advice@sparknotes.com.
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Topics: Life, Advice
Tags: parents, auntie sparknotes, relationships, advice, disabilities, difficult things

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About the Author
kat_rosenfield

Kat Rosenfield is a writer, illustrator, advice columnist, YA author, and enthusiastic licker of that plastic liner that comes inside a box of Cheez-Its. She loves zombies and cats. She hates zombie cats. Follow her on Twitter or Tumblr @katrosenfield.

Wanna contact a writer or editor? Email contribute@sparknotes.com.

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