Dear Alison: Over the years, my husband and I have helped out my sister out quite a bit, financially. She is always in trouble. We have provided a loan for down payment on a house, helped to pay for her kid’s education, bought her a car, and have given her money as gifts. I feel grateful that we are financially secure and we can do this, but now our relationship with my sister completely gone downhill The problem is her 20 year old gay son, who has a boyfriend nearly 20 years older than he is. My husband doesn’t like gay people or the gay lifestyle. He says he’s ok with it, but really, he isn’t. He’ll allow my nephew into our home,but he refuses to let him visit with his older lover. He says that their relationship is “sick” and that he is grossed out by their age difference. My sister loves her son and accepts his choices, and she was offended. Now she refuses to visit our home. I am extremely sad that my relationship with my sister is so bad, but I also realize I’m probably not going to ever change my husband’s point of view, and I love him despite our differences. So I don’t know how to make things better. Your thoughts on this situation?
Answer: It’s laudable that you and your husband have helped out your sister, but giving her money doesn’t mean she has to love your husband, or even, you. In fact, there is probably resentment on your sister’s part for having to accept charity from a man whose views she doesn’t like.
It is great that your sister loves and respects her son and accepts both his lifestyle and his relationship. That’s the way it should be. And it’s great that you can do the same. But your husband sees things differently. He says he can accept your “gay” nephew but not the gay partner. This is not genuine acceptance. So I am wondering what issue bothers him the most. Is it that your nephew is gay? Or is it that he has an older boyfriend? Or something else entirely? Why would your nephew’s relationship bother him so much when it is not his business? If the lover was an older woman, would he still be so upset and refuse to allow her in your home? Perhaps (and this is more significant), your husband has a slight fear that the gay partner, closer to his own age, might “hit” on him. To a homophobic man, the mere thought might be unsettling enough.
Couples don’t always share exactly the same values, and you can’t expect to convince someone to be a mirror image of yourself. For a relationship to survive, there has to be respect for differing opinions. You don’t have to agree with your husband’s views and you can certainly try to help him see things differently, but only he can change his mind. This is something your sister ought to know as well. You should also try to get your sister to see your husband’s good qualities — the ones which drew you to him in the first place. And you can both encourage him to soften his stance on the situation. However, if he doesn’t change, you will still all have to find a way to get along. It’s in everyone’s best interests.
On the other side, your husband might be able to make some compromises for the sake of family harmony. Perhaps it is the sense of “home turf” that upsets him. Would he feel more comfortable socializing with your nephew and his boyfriend in a larger gathering of people, or perhaps in neutral places, such as at a restaurant? Remind him that marriage is about compromise…you both have to make it!.
Finally, consider other ways to help your sister other than paying for her needs. Give her a hand UP instead of a hand-out by offering to pay for classes or job training, instead of keeping her captive by doling out money. This only makes your sisters helpless and subservient.
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