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home : columns : dear harriette September 18, 2019

8/16/2019 7:52:00 AM
Son's career strains relationship with parents

DEAR HARRIETTE: I was raised in a conservative family and now work at a progressive media company where I create content that my parents do not approve of. I do not think we will be able to reconcile our ideological differences, and I'm worried that our relationship has been strained as a result. How can I maintain a good relationship with my parents when we fundamentally disagree on a topic that my entire career is based on? -- Creative Son

DEAR CREATIVE SON: Sometimes you have to agree to disagree. You can remind your parents that you love them and appreciate all that they did for you to bring you to adulthood. You also need to have the difficult conversation that explains that as an adult you have to make your own decisions. Make it clear that you understand that your choice of employment runs counter to their beliefs. You need to own your choice and be unequivocal about why you have made it. Tell them that hurting or embarrassing them is not your intention. At the same time, you need to live your life.

You can offer a truce, in the sense that you will live your life, promise to be the best person you can be and not flaunt your ideological differences in their faces. You can agree not to talk about your work but simply to enjoy one another when you are together or when you communicate.

As difficult as this seems, know that many parents and adult children do not agree on important issues. Your job is to help your parents love you in spite of your choices as you love them in spite of their judgment.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My boyfriend is French, and while I am fluent in French, I cannot understand him unless he is making an effort to speak clearly. When he is talking with his friends, my lack of understanding becomes an issue for me. When this happens, I feel really awful, but I do not know if I should tell my boyfriend's friends this. Am I just being overly self-conscious? How should I confront them about this without deprecating myself? -- Not French

DEAR NOT FRENCH: You are an equal party in this relationship. It is fine for you to speak up. Next time your boyfriend and his friends are together with you and they start speaking so fast that you don't understand, insert yourself and ask them if they would slow down a bit. State the obvious -- that, yes, you speak French, but it's hard for you to keep up. Ask them if they would try to remember that you are part of the conversation and slow down just a bit so that you can participate more fully.

You can follow up by asking them to repeat themselves at certain points in the conversation if you believe you missed a salient point.

Privately ask your boyfriend to be more mindful of the fact that you sometimes have a hard time keeping up with the conversation when he and his friends speak fast. Ask him to help you.

Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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