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Q&A: Dating Advice from John Gray

What do you do if your partner is a little too close with his/her family? John Gray has the answer! Read on for this Q&A with the bestselling author.

Dear John,

I’m dating “Edie,” who is a wonderful woman, but very much under her parents’ control. Often, I’m concerned that she will never break out from under them. The relationship is somewhat unorthodox: They want to be her “friends” and they insist that she spend most weekend evenings with them. Edie, who lives on her own, has never been able to develop friendships outside of her immediate family circle. We have both spoken to her mother on different occasions and she says, “I just want to invite you to all of these things but I understand if you can’t come.” Her mom will start calling her on Monday about events for the coming weekend and not stop calling until Edie has agreed to whatever plans she has made. My bottom line is that I want us to spend less time with her folks. Edie feels the same way, but feels guilty leaving them alone. How do we approach this problem?

— Paul D.

Dear Paul,

From what you write, it does not seem that the normal separation that develops between parent and adult child has occurred here. Since you have your heart set on a relationship, you would be wise to have Edie agree to some ground rules before you ever get to the point of saying, “I do.”

First off, you need an agreement as to how often in the month you will socially engage her parents. Once a week or five times a week can make a big difference in allowing a relationship to have the needed space to grow on its own. Also, Edie should honor a request that your relationship issues are never discussed outside your relationship. The last thing you want is for her parents to become mediators between the two of you every time you have a disagreement.

In discussing all this with Edie you need to take great care to explain that this is not an ultimatum. In fact, you are seeking an understanding on how the two of you will deal with possible intrusions into the privacy of your relationship by her parents. Should you later discover that Edie relayed this discussion to her parents, and they in turn take up the discussion with you, then you’ll have an indication of the kind of problems you’ll have to confront in the future. If you find that to be the case, I’d suggest you keep your options open for a partner who is more interested in a twosome than a foursome.

John Gray is the author of the classic bestselling relationship advice book, MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS. Visit his website,, for advice on dating, marriage, parenting, romance and workplace issues. Or email him at:

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