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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Carolyn Hax: Little late now to ask about her bad side

Washington Post

Hey: My girlfriend and I recently moved in together, and it’s good. There are adjustments, and we’re getting to know each other better.

I don’t know what to make of her relationship with her dad. He keeps reaching out to her, inviting us to dinner, forgiving her loans, etc.

She stays in sporadic contact, but is cold and distant. She is very tight with divorced Mom.

I wasn’t there when she grew up (no abuse) and can’t judge, but my parents and I are close.

Is this a character flaw that after 10-plus years she still can’t forgive him? What if I get on her bad side? – Missouri Guy

Oh, Missouri Guy. I don’t like “shouldas” – I try to offer different perspectives, not backseat driving – but this one is so glaring I feel I have to say something.

One of the most important things to know about someone, if not the most, before you make a home together is how she handles people who get on her bad side. It’s just a clear, concise, extremely reliable measure of character.

Does she turn on people lightly, arbitrarily, or only on matters of substance and only when they present her with no other choice?

Since you’ve already commingled your stuff, you’ll have to figure this out while pretty well invested. Not ideal, but better now than kicking it down the ever-more-committed road.

So explore the subject by learning the answer to another key question (also better asked pre-commingling, but … ): Can you talk to each other about difficult things without one or both of you getting defensive?

You’re asking a really good question about your girlfriend, her family history and her current emotional makeup. Please pose it to her directly, in a dukes-down, non-accusatory way: “I notice your dad is trying hard, and that you’re not buying in. What’s the history there?”

If she doesn’t think you’re close enough to ask that, then, predictably, all I can say is that she moved in prematurely with you.

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