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Love Letters

She’s (too) close with her family

Q. Hi Meredith. I’ve been seeing a woman for a few months and have felt very conflicted about how close she is to her family. From a removed standpoint I find this odd, given I’ve been actively seeking a smart, pretty woman who has strong family ties. She is all of these things. However, how close is too close?

Warning bells first started chiming when I’d find her talking/texting with her mother, father, brother, and sister on a rotating basis, numerous times, while on dates. When we took a road trip this past summer — our first serious outing as a couple — we spent an entire day with her younger brother and his friends. I knew the brother lived in the area and that we would see him, but I wasn’t aware that we would share almost the entirety of the trip with him. That night I had to make clear to her that I wanted to spend time with her alone during the day. She obliged, but if I hadn’t brought it up, the second day would’ve been a repeat of the first. Also during the trip, I found it odd how the brother never struck up a direct conversation with me, despite my overtures.

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What made the alarm bell start screaming was when I learned that while in high school, she sometimes voluntarily shared a bed with her brother, who was in eighth grade. I’m positive nothing sexual happened, however I find the practice of teenage siblings voluntarily sleeping with one another really bizarre (it had nothing to do with cultural or economic circumstances either, purely choice). Not really sure how to wrap my head around this, and if it’s indeed a deal-breaker.

A. I won’t make judgments about whether your girlfriend’s bedroom behavior was/is weird. My sister and I love personal space (we get two hotel rooms on trips, even if it’s just the two of us), but my cousins have jumped on top of each other like wild things ever since they were kids. They’re in their teens and 20s now. And I have plenty of friends who still share a bed with their siblings on family vacations and wind up talking all night like they’re at a sleepover party.

Your girlfriend’s interest in her family isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker. But the constant contact? The texting during dates? The assumption that you’d spend a weekend with her brother? That’s not OK, at least not for you.

She sounds great, but you guys have different philosophies about family and boundaries. You can either bail now or talk to her about it. But if you talk, please focus on her behavior when it comes to you. You can’t come out and tell her that her family traditions are wrong. All you can ask for is her undivided attention and respect.

If she can’t put you first while you’re together, you have to end this. And that’s not the worst thing. This is why we date — to see if we’re compatible.

READERS RESPOND:

First off, I’m a mother of teenagers and no one sleeps together. You are right to think it’s weird. What it means? I have no idea. Second, you don’t say how old you are but I’m thinking early 20s, maybe not long out of college. There are a million women out there who will make you happy, who are more compatible with your upbringing, mores, views, etc. Go find one of them. Because if you are already hearing SCREAMING alarm bells after a few months, this isn’t the relationship for you.

I think that texting anyone while you’re on a date is rude. Having said that, just because she’s close to her family, it doesn’t make her a freak of nature. Some people actually enjoy their families.

People are different. I’m VERY close with my family (not share-a-bed close) but I talk to my sisters multiple times a day and my parents daily and I see them all weekly. My boyfriend talks to his family — maybe every 2-plus weeks and we rarely see them. I think if he told me he had a problem with it, it’d be HIM that I saw less of, not my family.

Run. There’s no need to be texting the family members while on dates unless there’s a crisis. You’ll be spending a lot of time watching her and her family interact and it will be very difficult to break into that inner circle. It’s one thing to be close to your family and it’s another thing to be obsessive. If you have endless patience maybe they’ll teach you the secret handshake at some point, but it sounds like this relationship will take a ton of work.

Him: We are going on our first vacation together. I can’t wait to be alone with here. Her: We are going to see my little brother. I haven’t seen him in ages and I really miss him.

Sigh. If this was about her sister, the “sleepovers” thing, you wouldn’t care, first off. I’m close to my brother and if we’d had a TV in either of our rooms I could have totally seen us watching a movie and falling asleep there or something. Granted my family is more tactile than most and we grew up on a boat so close quarters there, grew up sharing a berth. I don’t think it’s a big deal.

I don’t really have an opinion on the sleeping in the same bed scenario. Again, it was just what they did and it doesn’t seem like a big deal. I do wonder how it came up to the LW. Just an innocent passing comment, just like any other family story or was some bigger deal made out of it. I am assuming just a story like any other.

Creepy. Dealbreaker. Any questions?

This column and reader comments are edited and reprinted from www.boston.com/love
letters.
Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@
globe.com
. She chats online Wednesday at 1 p.m.

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