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Be Proud of Who You Are

Caroline Manzo tackles questions on coming out, engagements, and in-laws.

By Caroline Manzo

Got a question for Caroline? Send it.

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Eric from Atlanta, Georgia says: Hi, Caroline! Hope all is well with you and your family. I'm a 24-year-old college guy who is gay, but I haven't told my mom yet. If you were my mom, how would you want you son to come out to you?

Caroline says: Hello, Eric! All is well with the Manzos, thank you for asking!  

I'm not sure what your relationship with your mother is, so I'm going to assume it's a healthy one based on the fact that there was no mention of issues in your question.  

I can understand your hesitance on a couple of different levels. There is certainly a level of discomfort in discussing your sex life with your mom under what's perceived to be normal circumstances, and now you're adding another layer on as well. To some degree I would imagine you're worried that your mom may not understand and condemn your "choice" for lack of better words.

My suggestion to you would be to find a moment to get your mother's undivided attention where you can have the conversation in private without interruption. I'd be surprised if your mom doesn't have an inclination already, Eric. A mother's instinct is pretty intense; maybe she's just waiting for you to address it. If that's the case, you're one step ahead of the game, because she has already had time to process. On the other hand, if she is shocked by your admission, you have to give her the time she needs to absorb things. Either way you need to make your mom understand the emotions you've been dealing with throughout your journey and explain to her what it feels like to be you. Speak from your heart and be open and honest. 

As a mother I can say with 100% truth that the one thing I want for my children is for them to live life full of health, peace, and happiness. Everything else is secondary. There is nothing worse than watching your child suffer in any way, shape, or form. When you hurt, we hurt a thousand times more, and if we could shoulder the burden and take our children's pain away, we would.

I would have to imagine that keeping this secret from your mom is standing in the way of you living your life in peace and being truly happy. Good luck, and no matter what your mom's reaction is, Eric, I want you to be proud of who you are. I wish you all the peace and happiness that life has to offer. Xoxoxo

Emma from Ogden, UT says: How long is too long to wait for your man to pop the question? I have been dating this guy for two and a half years, and we have been talking marriage for at least a year. Yet, nothing! Is it time to kick him to the curb, or do I need to learn more patience?

Caroline says: This is a tough question, Emma, because no two relationships are the same, so there is no definitive answer.  

There are so many facets in making the decision to marry, and quite frankly the length of time you've been dating is not reason enough to expect your boyfriend to commit. You may talk about it, and he might be very sincere in his desire to marry you, but you need more than that.

I don't have enough background information to make any real observation about your relationship. I don't know how old you are, what your financial situation is, what your previous relationships were like; for example were either of you divorced or engaged before? What was your childhood like, what were your parent's marriages like? Any negative answers to these scenarios can play a part in his decision making process. On the flip side, life may be perfect, you could both have your act together and by all rational thought there should be no reason why he shouldn't commit. Whatever the reason, he's not ready.

Marriage is big business and should not be taken lightly. The decision is life changing and should be mutually agreed on by both you and your partner. To begin a life together based on an ultimatum is a recipe for disaster. Don't force it. 

Take a step back and look at your relationship for exactly what it represents at this moment. Be honest with yourself and come to terms with whether or not you're willing to accept it for what it is. If you're happy, then be happy, if you're not, then you need to make a decision.

Lynn from Dallas, TX says: Dear Caroline - I am recently divorced after a ten year marriage. He was the first relationship I ever had, and I have no other dating experience. We weren't really in love, and our relationship was not healthy. To be honest, at 35-years-old, I am very naïve about men and have no guidance or direction in my life from anyone regarding this subject. I grew up in an abusive home with a serious lack of boundaries and with the help of counseling have been able to get my life in order, but still have questions about romantic relationships. My question is, what are the characteristics of a good, decent man who will love me and cherish me like I deserve? How do I know whether his intentions are good or bad? Is it true that love doesn't ever hurt?

Caroline says: It seems that you've been through a lot, Lynn, but I like the fact that you've taken control of your life and are moving forward in a positive direction.  

A good man will treat you with respect and kindness and accept you for who you are and not what they want you to be. You want someone that's going to support you through the ups and downs, a strong shoulder to cry on, and the voice of reason when you veer off course. You want someone who shares your expectations and goals in life and is prepared to work together to attain those goals, but allows you the freedom to grow as an individual too.

You can tell someone's intentions by their actions, not their words. If he is abusive and apologizes and then abuses you again, the apology is worthless. If he lays on the couch doing nothing all day, doesn't work or help out around the house, and allows you to carry the burden of supporting the family and running the household, but then promises you the world when you come home, chances are he's a bum.  

Love is a very powerful emotion. If you have an argument with someone you love, it hurts you. If your partner is in pain or is suffering in any way, it hurts you too.  I could go on and on, but the point I'm trying to make is that when you are deeply connected to someone on every level, you're bound to experience a multitude of emotions. It's easy to have good times and laugh together, but it's how you treat each other and get through the bad times that shows the true test of love.  

Good luck, Lynn! You're 35 years young, and Prince Charming is out there somewhere!

Tiffanie from West Palm Beach, FL says: My mother-in-law cannot cook. Early in my relationship with my husband we let our families pick their chosen holidays for us to attend. His mom wanted Thanksgiving, and now I'm stuck eating dry turkey, stuffing out of the box, and canned pork and beans. When I make any meal for my husband, I know he enjoys it and regularly asks for thirds. At his mother's house he left half the food on his plate. He commented, "Thanksgiving is not all about the food," which let's me know he's aware that she cannot cook. I'm miserable and want to tell him I cannot do this year after year. I suggested we could arrive earlier next year, and I could help her in the kitchen. He said no! How do I bring up my dissatisfaction with her cooking without causing conflict with him?

Caroline says: Sorry, Tiffanie, I'm with your husband on this one. Your mother-in-law can't cook. So what? We're talking about one day a year here. If your husband feels like it's an intrusion for you to prepare the meal with his mother, then you should respect his decision. He's right; the holidays are more than just food. He obviously knows his mom's cooking isn't the best, but he understands the value of spending time together with family so he's willing to overlook that.

I don't know what your relationship with your mother-in-law is like, but has she ever hinted that she'd like help in the kitchen? Are there any other siblings or in-laws to bounce the idea off of? Another thought would be to prepare something at home and bring it with you as an addition to the meal. However I need to stress one thing, if any of these options would cause insult or hurt your mother–in-law's feelings, then drop it.

Bottom line is this -- as I already told you, it's only one day a year, it's not going to kill you to eat dry turkey. Look at the bigger picture and deal with it.

Libby from East Moline, IL says: What is the best thing and the worst thing that you've done in regards to parenting your children? And does your faith have anything to do with that?

Caroline says: Wow, great question. I wish I had a simple answer for you. The best thing I think I've done is to treat my children as individuals and never compare one to the other. I can't answer the worst thing; I think that only would apply if you feel as if you failed your child in some way. We've certainly made mistakes along the way, but I can't come up with one specific negative that left an impact. I think Al and I put our hearts and souls into raising our kids, so I have no regrets. Faith plays a part in every aspect of our lives, but we don't throw our hands up and leave it up to just that.


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