Woe Is Me! “My Boyfriend of Five Years Has Not Introduced Me To His Family. What Gives?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
My boyfriend and I have been together for five years. I’ve introduced him to my family, but he hasn’t bothered to introduce me to his — not even his siblings! Is he taking me for granted?
KB: There are really only two explanations here. The first, and most likely, is — and I’m giving it to you straight here — he’s just not that into you. Keeping someone hidden away from other important people in their lives is the classic sign that he just doesn’t see you as someone he needs to integrate into these relationships. Do they even know about you? The other possibility, and given our fractured, complicated society, a very real one, is that he is deeply concerned about a possible clash in values, religion, or socio-economic standing between you and his family. Are you an inter-faith couple? Are you from drastically different economic backgrounds? What I’m getting at here is that it’s very possible that either he is ashamed of something about his own family, or he is worried about how they will react to you. Only you know the context, and whether this is a real possibility. My advice is to explore this with him, and try to probe whether there is something he’s hiding about them (or you); but if you come up empty, I’d go back to the likeliest explanation.
DR: No, I don’t think this necessarily means that he’s taking you for granted. Maybe, he is — but I don’t think that’s a conclusion I can draw from him not choosing to introduce you to his family. I can think of a host of reasons why he may be hesitant to make the introduction, despite being invested in the relationship. First, I don’t think I need to tell you this: not all families are the same. Yours might be more open about dating, and his might not be.
Second, perhaps, he’s worried that you may not like his family. Third, maybe, he tried to introduce his past girlfriends to them, and that didn’t go down well — something which, understandably, he may not casually want a repeat of, unless the introduction becomes imperative (for instance, if and when the two of you decide to get married, and that too in a familial, traditional way). Lastly, not everyone attaches the same amount of value to their biological families — and, perhaps, that’s why he just never deemed it important.
While I understand that his behavior may have caused you to doubt whether he takes his relationship with you seriously, I would advise that instead of jumping to conclusions about it, you just let him know in a non-accusatory way how it’s made you feel. And hopefully, he’ll respond to this honest, open communication from your end, with honesty.
LG: I don’t think the conclusion to jump to is he’s taking you for granted. There could be a lot of reasons why he hasn’t introduced you, including but not limited to: he doesn’t realize how much you want to meet them; he’s not very close to his family; he actively loathes his family; his family lives far away or are otherwise inaccessible to an intro, especially during Covid Times; he doesn’t want to deal with the familial pressure/interference that might come once they meet you; or maybe he’s trying to protect you from insult, interference, pressure, manipulation, whatever. I think the real question here is: Whose opinions/influence matter most to your boyfriend, and do you know those people? Is it a friend(s), a mentor, a boss, a former teacher? If you’ve met the people in his life whose opinions he values most, who are most influential to him, then it’s probably safe to conclude he’s not taking advantage of you.
That said, meeting the family is inevitable in any serious relationship, and Indian families do often greatly influence the choice of life partners, even in families that don’t get along. So it’s understandable that this might be important to you after five years of commitment. If it’s bothering you — ask. Ask your boyfriend why he’s dragging his feet on the introduction, really listen, and then communicate how it makes you feel to not know his family and why, and how much it means to you to have the opportunity and why. Then, discuss a compromise. Maybe you can ease in slowly — meeting a close cousin, or a favorite easy-going aunt. (I don’t think you can assume his siblings will be more welcoming than parents; sometimes it’s the opposite.)
RD: So my first suggestion is to ask him about it. Don’t worry about seeming naggy if it’s something you’re worried about. After five years, it’s a valid question. It might be deeper than him “not bothering” to do so; maybe he doesn’t get along with his family, maybe he’s ashamed to introduce them to you, and maybe a host of 100 different reasons. I think you jumping to the conclusion that he hasn’t done so because he doesn’t care is a bit of a reach — you have been together for five years after all, him not caring doesn’t seem to be a problem here. And second, ask yourself if you actually want to meet the parents, or it’s just something you think you ought to do. I mean, do you really want the whole hi auntyji, uncleji, pretending to be more wholesome than you actually are charade, or do you want to be happy in your relationship without unpredictable outside factors complicating the whole thing? I’m not saying any decision here is wrong or right, but I think it’s a question you should ask yourself.
AS: I think all family dynamics are different, and introducing significant others to one’s family can be complex, especially in traditional families, where it builds expectations in the shaadi direction. Having said that, five years is a pretty long time. Is your boyfriend close with his family or siblings? Have you expressed that you wish to meet them? If this is something you’re invested in, you need to bring it up with him. At some level, how he brings you into other aspects of his life has to be at his own pace. Maybe in his opinion the relationship is at a different stage? This need not mean he’s taking you for granted, and jumping to conclusions is never helpful — just have an open, honest conversation to tell him your needs, and ask him his side of the story.