Dear Abby

Dear Abby: Language barrier leaves girlfriend out in the cold

 

Dear Abby: I recently started dating one of my graduate school classmates. We come from different cultures, but we get along great and I really like him.

My problem is he’s very close to his family, who seem to like me very much, but I always feel left out around them. An example: The nine of us went out to dinner and the whole time they were speaking to each other in their native tongue while I just sat there. Then, after dinner, his parents asked why I was so quiet.

The family speaks English fluently and are otherwise nice to me. When I confronted my boyfriend about it, he said it would be disrespectful for him to speak to his elders in English.

I want a future with this man, but I know it won’t work out if I can’t be included in his family. Am I wrong to think they should involve me in the conversation?

Outsider in New York

In light of the fact that everyone knows you don’t speak the language, their behavior does seem inconsiderate — particularly if it’s happening often. Perhaps you should speak to them about it and ask to be included in the conversation. An alternative would be to take a crash course in their native tongue so you’ll have some idea about what’s being said. (And won’t they be surprised when you respond!)

One thing about your letter does concern me, however, because it raises a potential red flag. Does your boyfriend’s unwillingness to stand up for you foretell a pattern of always deferring to his parents? If that’s the case, it could be a source of frustration and conflict for you in the future. Please think about it.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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