There’s no doubt that breaking up with anyone is a crappy, painful rite on par with Chinese water torture. You put so much into the relationship, and for whatever reasons, it just doesn’t work out. You lose your lover, you lose your friend. But, forget about the man in the equation for a second, and think about all the other hours you put into “making it work.” No, not with him—with his family. When you’re in love, you take in everything that comes attached to the boy, and I’m not talking about his penis: you also adopt his cracky sisters, creepy brothers, horny uncles, his divorced parents who bad mouth each other, precocious nephews who finger paint your brand new silk cami at family BBQs—you know, the whole extended family gamut. As if having to deal with your own annoying brood isn’t enough.
If you’re lucky, you hated his family anyway and can write them off as bad baggage when things go south. But what happens when you ADORE their family—and they loved you like you’re their own child? If you had a substantial relationship, you probably spent family holidays together, taken his mother shopping, called her on her birthday when her son forgot, taken the niece shopping for prom shoes, gone to countless graduation parties and weddings and reunions and generally spent time schmoozing and getting close with his family. But after a breakup, there are no more ties that bind you to them. So…is it just, sayonara, future Mother-in-law? Nice knowing ya, kid brother? Good luck with those boy problems, 16-year-old niece? The answer is, yeah, pretty much.
If you break up with someone, it’s only fair you also break up with their family. They’re stuck with their kid, and no matter what, they’re the ones who will love him unconditionally, even if he did cheat on “the most marvelous thing to ever happen to him.” No matter how tight you once were, you can’t stay buds with his mother or keep tabs on him through his brother if you ever want to move on. Still, sometimes breaking up with his family is easier said than done.
In college, I had a boyfriend who had an amazing family. His brother was my age and the most hilarious person I’d ever met. His mom was an awesome, long-haired artist who’d always wanted a sweet daughter to dote on, and his dad was a bearded grumpy professor who grunted at me and asked me about my grades and screamed at the Knicks on TV. I loved them. They were West Village New Yorkers who were low-key, fun, smart, and most importantly, adored me too. I knew things were meant to be when I called HIS mother, just to chat, when I was laying on a beach with my sister near my parent’s place, and when I helped his brother move one summer just because I was around and liked hanging with him and his friends. But, I was 23 during this relationship. I wanted to move to another city and my boyfriend didn’t. Things weren’t looking up for us. We split, and it was sad and painful, but the truth was, half my tears were in mourning over the loss of his family. OK, maybe more like 3/4 of them.
Because I’d initiated the breakup, they weren’t allowed to remain in touch with me, and I certainly could not contact them—not even to say goodbye. It broke my heart to see his brother, whom I’d once been so close with, out on the town, giving me the cold shoulder. When I had good news, I wanted to call his mom and tell her, but I wasn’t allowed. I yearned for those fun family dinners where half the group would cook, and the other half would do the dishes, gossiping and laughing the whole time. And the guy? Well, I missed him too. But just not enough to get back together with him.
In what was possibly a move to protect myself in the way we develop walls after being hurt, I never became close with the family of my next boyfriend, the man I lived with for three years and came close to marrying. We were friendly enough with each other, but we weren’t email friendly, and we certainly didn’t chat on the phone. When he and I broke up, they weren’t a factor. In fact, I rarely wonder what they’re up to at this point. But I have to say, I still miss my college ex’s brother and mother like hell. I recently found myself wondering if enough time had gone by that we could put the past behind us and be friends again. But how would I explain that to my new boyfriend? “Honey, I have to go visit my ex’s family,” are words less appealing than “Honey, we have to go to dinner with my ex.” So I’ll have to chalk it up as a loss, one that made that breakup particularly painful. And definitely proceed with caution when it comes to falling in love that hard again.