“How we met” stories are usually a cute, sweet part of a couple’s history. But one woman was left downright stunned by her boyfriend’s parents’ story — especially since the entire family seemed to think it was funny.
The woman was called disrespectful for pointing out the disturbing way her in-laws met.
“Meet cutes” are a classic part of romantic comedies as the quirky and often unexpectedly charming ways a couple first crosses paths.
That’s what a woman on Reddit was expecting when her boyfriend’s parents launched into their “how we met” story at a family dinner. Instead, it was more like something out of a horror movie or a psychological thriller especially since nobody in her boyfriend’s family seemed to have any cognizance of how, in the woman’s words, “highly disturbing” the story is.
Her boyfriend’s parents met when the dad harassed the mom at work while he was her boss.
“She met her husband while she was his subordinate at work and he harassed her,” the woman wrote in her post. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the story is just getting started — her boyfriend’s father was already engaged at the time he began harassing his now-wife. “They ended up cheating on his fiancée together,” she went on to say, and when her boyfriend’s mom tried to end the relationship, the father retaliated. “He blackmailed her with her [adult] pictures,” she wrote.
She in turn retaliated against him by retaliating against his finacée which, via the most insane route possible, resulted in them getting engaged to each other instead. “She cut up his fiancée’s wedding gown as a ‘prank,'” the woman explained, “and he threatened to get her arrested and then just decided to marry her instead.”
When the woman did not join in laughing at the disturbing way her in-laws met, the family was deeply offended.
It’s hard to precisely describe this story. Bonkers is one word, for starters. Sordid is another. So is dark.
Harassment in the workplace and other abusive dynamics between men and women are much more openly discussed nowadays than they were 30 years ago when this incident happened.
It’s hard not to see the specter of those earlier days at play here. This supposedly hilarious “meet cute” smacks of the sort of Stockholm Syndrome, “go along to get along” approach some women take in order to navigate, and oftentimes to merely survive, a male-dominated world bent on belittling if not outright subjugating them.
That was all surely on this woman’s mind, but her boyfriend’s family did not at all appreciate it. “Everyone at the table was laughing,” she wrote, “but I guess I looked horrified because [the mother-in-law] called me out.”
Therapists say laughing off disturbing events is a frequent defense mechanism for minimizing trauma.
In addition to old attitudes around harassment, this story also brings to mind the way inappropriate or abusive dynamics are often laughed off when people don’t feel equipped to face them head-on. Therapists say this is a defense mechanism to minimize the trauma a person has experienced, to hide shame, and to avoid feeling the true depth of the harm that was done. Therapy patients often smile or laugh while recounting trauma for precisely this reason.
It’s certainly not hard to feel like that might be the case in this woman’s boyfriend’s family, especially since her lack of amusement made the entire family angry.
When she confessed she found the story “disturbing and abusive,” she was called “dramatic,” and when she further confessed she would never want her own child to know about such a story, she was called disrespectful.
There is, of course, value in being able to laugh about the bad things that happen to us. Therapists and doctors say it can even be incredibly healing.
But there’s a difference between laughing about the foibles of a difficult experience or dealing with the pain head-on by mocking it, and completely reinventing a disturbing event into one of playful hijinx. One is healthy. The other is, in the words of countless Redditors who read this story, “a major red flag.”
Here’s hoping this woman treads carefully.
John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice, and human interest topics.