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I Can't Bear My Fiancé's Family — Should I Get Married? 

Dear Athena,

My boyfriend proposed recently, and I am so excited to be with him. I love him a lot. But I can't bear his family. We were visiting recently and I started having a political conversation with one of his cousins, and then his father got involved and his opinions annoyed me. We are so different. How can I deal with this? Should I not get married?

Signed,

Maybe a Mrs.

Dear Maybe,

First, let me offer you hearty congratulations on your engagement!

As to your question: We can't choose what family we're born into, and the same is pretty much true of our partner's family. You fall in love with a person, but those feelings don't necessarily extend to his or her relatives. We can put up with our partner's annoying habits because our chemistry, our bond, is strong. But tolerating family members can be more challenging, particularly if you hold opposing views on biggies like politics or religion.

You're right to consider how you will manage this, especially if your partner is close to his family and you find some of them obnoxious.

You should also consider that the feeling might be mutual. This situation isn't just about you. And being at odds with your future in-laws can put your partner in a very uncomfortable situation. Do not make him feel that he must choose between you and them.

My advice? When you're with his family, focus on what you have in common: love for your partner, their son, brother, cousin. Practice tolerance, and try to build a relationship based on, if not genuine affection, then at least respect.

Have you talked with your partner about this? If not, you should. Be sensitive — even people who disagree with or dislike some of their family members often get defensive when someone else criticizes them. But as long as you two are on the same page and able to communicate lovingly and patiently, you can manage his family.

The key will be to support his relationship with them and let your actions demonstrate your commitment to your partner. His family will surely notice and appreciate that. When you attend group dinners or gatherings, avoid topics that get you ruffled. Don't let yourself get roped into arguments; gently steer conversations in other directions.

And here's a concept: Stop thinking about his family as opponents and get to know them as individuals. If you can ask your partner's dad for advice on car repair or an explanation of football, maybe he'll drop the political agenda.

Of course, I can't guarantee this will always be successful, but at least you'll feel better for taking the high road.

One last note: If you and your partner decide to start a family, be prepared for relatives on both sides who might want to get more involved in your life. This can lead to a lot of eye rolling behind closed doors and deep breathing in the car, but let your bond with your partner keep you grounded. And remember, a new baby gives everyone something else to talk about.

Yours,

Athena

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