I once knew a girl who started dating a guy she’d known for several years. The couple met online through mutual friends as teenagers and later met in person at various sci-fi conventions.

The guy attended college after high school and graduated in four years, spending two semesters abroad. After college he moved to another state and lived with his college roommate, working full-time. He had relationships with men and women, ranging from long-term long-distance affairs to one-night stands.

The girl lived at home with her parents, commuting to college for a few years before deciding that the university she attended wasn’t working out for her. She worked on the family farm and had a couple of online boyfriends, one for more than two years. She never met the boyfriends in person and only rarely went on dates with acquaintances.

On a whim, the two decided to meet in a city halfway between them, just as friends, and have a fun geeky time together watching DVDs and visiting a science museum. At the time, the guy identified as gay and had no romantic interest in the girl. However, their weekend was such a fantastic meeting of minds that they went home and spent the next several weeks chatting constantly, online and on the phone, and decided that they wanted to be closer to each other. After a few months and several visits, the guy got a job and moved two states to be near the girl’s new university, about 30 minutes from where she still lived with her family. The guy was thrilled to spend time with his girlfriend, but was reluctant to ask her to move in.

Unfortunately, the girl’s family didn’t like the guy. They objected to his bisexuality, his weight, his past alcohol use, his past struggles with mental illness, and the fact that he moved across two states but wouldn’t ask his girlfriend to live with him. The family told the girl that she could no longer date the guy and live at home. Hurt and angry but unwilling to defy the girl’s family, the guy told the girl that they should break up until she was done with college, and then they’d try again. Instead, she chose the guy, and moved in with him that day.

Stop for a second and think about these two people. What assumptions are you making about them based on this story? What do you think of the family? Do you think this couple had a healthy relationship? What predictions would you make about everyone involved?

Now go back and switch genders. How does the story change when the girl moves across two states and the guy’s family doesn’t approve of the relationship?

In case you wondered, the couple married three years later and are celebrating their second anniversary this summer. They’re very happy and have no contact with the disapproving family, but plenty of contact with the other family, which adores them both.

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