Dear Prudence

My Girlfriend Won’t Stop Trying to Find My Biological Parents

She’s had no luck locating her birth mom and obsesses over tracking down mine.

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Dear Prudence,

My biological mother left me as an infant, and I was officially adopted by my stepmother when I was 3. She’s my mother in every respect. My father died when I was 10, and my sisters and I were adopted when my mother remarried. I know everything I want about my past that I want to know. I have no desire to reconnect with the woman who walked out on me. My girlfriend was also adopted but doesn’t have a good relationship with her parents. She has no clue about her biological origins and has had no luck looking. I need her to stop obsessing over mine.

She has made comments about me looking for my “real” mother and calls my father my “stepfather” to my face, even though I tell her not to. I have told her that I love my family and I don’t need to go looking for anyone else. She recently found someone on Facebook whose name matches my biological mother and printed out photos of this woman’s family because she thought I “resembled” that woman’s kids. I blew up. I told her that she was projecting her own issues on me, and I was sick of it. Her problems with her parents would not be magically solved if she found her birth family, she wasn’t going to find out she was a long-lost princess with a perfect set of parents, and she needed to stop obsessing over it.  My girlfriend started to cry, and I left the room. We both “apologized” but haven’t really touched the subject again. I love her, but I don’t know what to do.

—Not Adopted in the Same Way

I can understand why you blew up. Scouring Facebook for a woman who might have been your biological mother and printing out pictures of her kids are wildly intrusive actions and inappropriate all on their own. The fact that this is a pattern for your girlfriend—where she repeatedly dismisses your ability to choose your own family relationships—is extremely troubling, and I don’t wonder that a brief exchange of apologies on both sides hasn’t settled your hurt and anger. You did the right thing in apologizing for speaking so sharply about her “princess fantasy,” but beyond that, you have nothing to apologize for.

The real questions at this point are whether she can honestly commit to letting this go and whether you’d believe her if she did. If she still believes that on some level she did the right thing, or that she had “good intentions” in presenting you with these photographs, then that’s real cause for concern for the future of your relationship. When you feel ready to do so, I think you should revisit the subject, making two things clear: First, that she’s entitled to her own feelings about her own adoptive parents and her frustrated search for other relatives, and second, that she needs to stop requalifying your parents as either “real” or “step-” immediately and for good. Moreover, she needs to commit to never again conducting any kind of search for biological relatives on your behalf. If she can do that, and if she seems sincere, there might be a way forward. But if she can’t—or if you find that you can’t let go of this serious betrayal and intrusion onto your autonomy—then you might want to reevaluate this relationship. She’s given you real reason to doubt that you can trust her, and love cannot flourish in the absence of trust.

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Dear Prudence,

We have a backyard pool. My kids (the youngest of whom is now in college) and their friends have always enjoyed using it, as have I. This year, we’re especially glad to have it, given that we can’t go to many of the places we normally do in summer. We’ve talked about not posting anything on social media so as not to seem to be gloating in our good fortune. Now that we’re all adults, we often use the pool for cocktail hour, and my daughter’s friends sometimes join us.

Recently, I was contacted by a neighbor who asked if her elementary school–aged daughter could swim at our house this summer, as no other pools will be open. I like this neighbor, and we’re friendly, although I’ve never invited her over before. I’m cautious about turning this “adults only” space into a neighborhood pool. I also understand that these are unprecedented and challenging times for everyone. Am I a terrible person if I tell her no, I don’t want her 10-year-old daughter hanging out with us?

—Sorry About the Beautiful Pool

I understand your reluctance to disappoint your neighbor, but I agree that it would be unwise, not to say potentially dangerous, to have a 10-year-old using your pool over the summer. If she hurt herself while swimming, you might very well be liable as the pool’s owner (not to mention distressed as a human being that a child was injured on your property). That’s without taking into account the fact that there are often adults drinking around the pool or the possibility of increased COVID risk from allowing others into your space. (I don’t know what your state’s stay-at-home restrictions look like at present, so I don’t know whether you’re still having your daughter’s friends over and won’t try to speak to that.) All you can do is say to your neighbor, with real feeling, that you’re so sorry she’s in such a difficult position this summer, but that you’re just not prepared to be responsible for the safety of a young child in your swimming pool. If you have the time and the ability to do so, you might ask if there’s anything else you can do to help her out this summer, like run the occasional errand or send a meal over. But I think you’re right to (regretfully) decline to become the neighborhood pool.

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Dear Prudence,

My live-in boyfriend of two years quit his job for moral reasons at the beginning of our shelter-in-place order. He has enough savings, and I’m still working, so this isn’t a burden on our finances. He also discussed quitting with me first, and I completely supported him. But after almost two months, it’s starting to bother me that he doesn’t do any extra chores around the house. We used to hire a cleaner every month, but now we’re paying her to stay home. I’m still working from home, and the switch to virtual work has been draining. I can’t help but think that if our roles were reversed, I’d be using some of my free time to clean or fix up the apartment. Ordinarily we do an OK job of splitting the chores, but that’s not really the issue. I still find I always have to ask him to do things, like, “I just took out the recycling. Could you do the trash?”

I guess I’m just frustrated that he’s taking all of this newfound free time and not investing it into our home. But am I being unreasonable? Is it unfair of me to expect this? If it is, please help me think of this situation in a different way so I’m not so annoyed with my partner. If it’s not unreasonable, how do I approach this with him? He (in his own words) is “conflict averse” and tends to just get really quiet when upset or hurt. I don’t want him to withdraw or feel bad; in general, I’m very appreciative of everything he does for me and our home.

—Uncertain and Annoyed

If it helps, I don’t think the conversation you’re contemplating having with your boyfriend is especially high-conflict or hurtful. You’d like him to consider using some (not all) of his newfound free time to do more housework, and you’d like to have a conversation about what that housework looks like on a regular basis, so you’re not always doing the mental work of anticipating what’s coming next. It’s one thing for him to take out the trash when you remind him; it’s quite another for him to start thinking of housework as a shared endeavor, instead of something where you’re the boss who sets tasks for him. That’s a reasonable request for one partner to make of another, not an indictment of his worth as a human being.

If he gets hurt at the mere mention of this uneven distribution of responsibility, that’s OK. If he needs to take a little time to tend to his hurt feelings before you two continue the conversation, that’s fine too. But those hurt feelings can’t be an end to that conversation—they need to be incorporated and absorbed into it, as necessary growing pains. “I feel bad when you remind me that I don’t do my share of the housework” isn’t a reason to refuse to take on additional housework. It’s a value-neutral piece of emotional information that you can address together before moving on. If he tries to withdraw permanently as a way to avoid continuing this conversation, don’t let your fear of your boyfriend feeling bad block you from pressing the issue. You can be respectful, kind, and emotionally supportive while also keeping the focus on the matter at hand. His feelings matter (so do yours!), but not at the expense of an equitable division of labor.

Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

More Advice From How to Do It

I am a 29-year-old straight guy. I’ve been sexually active since I was 18. I’ve had a couple longer relationships, but I’m still not ready to settle down, so I’ve been dating casually and do pretty well for myself. But I am running into a problem I’ve had since I first had sex, and it feels like it’s getting worse. I really, really hate going down on women. I just don’t like to be that up close and personal with vaginas—even very clean vaginas. Something about staring the anatomy that close in the face just puts me off. I’ve often pushed past my dislike of this with new partners because I want them to enjoy themselves too. In my two relationships, I eventually told the truth and we worked around it. I also love receiving oral sex and I’m not sure I’d be OK with a partner taking that off the table. But no matter how many women I’m with, I still hate giving oral sex, and my aversion is only getting stronger.

What can I do? This can be a literal boner killer at times, and I just don’t want to keep doing it. I feel most women would not even want me to do it if I told them the truth about how much it grosses me out, and I wouldn’t want a woman to give me a blow job if she hated it. I’ve found myself avoiding it and using my fingers while kissing her neck, etc., and that has been OK, but one woman asked for oral recently and I didn’t know how to tell her without sounding like a jerk, so I did it. When I’ve searched this, I’ve mostly seen how most guys love giving oral sex, or how I’m afraid of vaginas (I’m not), or even how I don’t deserve to be with women if I don’t want to pleasure them this way. I don’t think I can ever make myself like it. I’ve been trying for a decade. What do you think?