(The Root) —
"My boyfriend got a call from his stepmom that his father had a stroke and was taken to the emergency room. Of course, my boyfriend had to go to the hospital, but he wanted his mother to be there, too, even though his parents have been divorced forever. He asked me to drive out of my way to go pick her up, then drive her to the hospital a couple hours away. I said no. He got mad and left to pick up his mother, then drove to see his father. By the time he got to the hospital, his father is dead.
My boyfriend now says I'm the reason he didn't get to see his father before he passed. I say he was being unreasonable — his parents aren't even together, and his father has a new wife. Why should I bend over to accommodate? We are nearing a breakup because of this. Help!" —K.M.
Usually when people write in confessing to bad judgment, I can understand how they arrived at their conclusion. One of the most infamous "Ask Demetria" queries was from a married woman who wrote in explaining that she wanted to cheat with her married co-worker and was thinking about leaving her husband for him. That's clearly a horrible (and drama-filled) idea. But in her query, I gathered that she was unhappy at home and had some issues with her self-esteem, too. The unfortunate combination had led her common sense astray. I got that. But this case? I'm clueless.
Hon, what were you thinking?
Maybe you and I share similar ideas about intermingling with the family of someone you're dating, which I don't advocate. Special occasions? Sure. But hanging out just to be hanging? No. You're dating your partner, not his entire family. If there's a ring on it and you're about to become family, get to schmoozing, by all means. A lot of people feel this way.
However, in an emergency situation — such as, say, a relative being admitted to the ER for a serious medical issue like a stroke — you become the family's best friend. Their job is to worry and fret, and your job is to help out however necessary. Whatever they need, you do it as long as it's not illegal, doesn't harm children or animals, won't leave you bankrupt or put your job in jeopardy. You pitch in because you should care for your partner and the people he loves. Oh, and because it's just the right thing to do.
What you should have done was pick up the mom with no questions asked other than "What's her address?" so you could plug it into the GPS, and "What's her number?" so you could call when you were outside wherever she was. That's it. Then you were to get in the car and go.
Whether or not you felt it was important for Mom to be at her ex-husband's side doesn't matter. Whatever went down in their relationship that led to their divorce doesn't matter. If there's a new wife now, it doesn't matter.
But you are, and you want to continue being in one, so now is not the time to argue with your boyfriend. He's in mourning, and he's livid with you, for good reason. Trying to prove that you're "right" will make it seem as if you don't understand the gravity of what just happened.
It's not just about you keeping your boyfriend from getting to see Dad off. The way this situation translates in your partner's mind is, "When I needed her — really needed her — she dropped the ball." He's no longer sure of your loyalty to him, and that is the one trait that consistently tops most men's must-have lists for entering into a committed relationship — even more than nurturing, attraction and sex.
Save your explanations, too, including the one about how you thought he made an "unreasonable" request, or if you had known the outcome, you would have gone to get Mom. Don't bother defending yourself against the accusations that you're the reason he didn't make it to the hospital to say goodbye, either. Granted, even if he had rushed straight there, it wasn't a given that he would have made it in time to say goodbye. You've got a valid argument there, but bite your tongue on that one.
The only card you've got left is to apologize — profusely — although I'm not so sure you can "I'm sorry" your way out of this one. But try it anyway. Repeat "I am so sorry. I don't know what I was thinking; I was in shock" in as many variations as you can imagine. Maybe, just maybe, he'll forgive you.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.