Editor’s Note: "Ask Zoe" is Aleteia’s new weekly advice column. If you have a dilemma, question, or need some general advice for your life, email Zoe. All questions are given consideration and names are withheld.
I have a female cousin who is in a romantic relationship with another woman and she will be bringing her to our Thanksgiving dinner. I don’t like acting as though they’re a couple like other couples because of my Catholic beliefs. Any suggestions for what to do? Ironically, they are a lot more respectful, fun, and more of a "team" than many of the married couples in my family.
Conflicted in Connecticut
Some may disagree with me, but I like to approach issues like this with the end-game in mind. As Christians, we’re called to share the love and hope that Jesus Christ brings and to do that, we have to reach out to people where they are, not where we would have them be.
Ask yourself: What will provide the greater witness to your cousin and her significant other—your kind hospitality or a cold shoulder? Welcoming them into your home does not condone their relationship or choices. In fact, if your cousin knows you fairly well, she’s probably aware that you’re not all that comfortable with her choice of partners.
It’s important to remember that your cousin and her girlfriend are not just a lesbian couple — they’re people. And like anybody else, they’re more apt to be open to God’s plan for them when they experience His love and truth through authentic relationships with other Christians. A door may open at some point for you to share the teachings of the Church and your hopes for them, but unless a trusting relationship is there, any vocal criticism or rejection on your part will be dismissed, accomplishing nothing in the long run.
Holiday gatherings can be challenging as relatives of every stripe gather together, but before your Thanksgiving guests arrive, consider spending a few minutes in prayer asking for the Holy Spirit’s guidance — and then enjoy your family time.
People seem to be on their smart phones all the time. How should I handle it when someone is visiting me (or an older relative) and he or she is constantly checking the phone rather than listening or engaging in conversation?
Dreaming about the days before electronic gadgets
Yes, this is everywhere today. Two things seem to be going on: First, we have very few commonly agreed-upon manners when it comes to our electronic gadgets. We learn our manners at our parents’ knees and then they’re reinforced by relatives, teachers, and the wider culture. But smart phones came along so fast there hasn’t been time to develop and reinforce a set of manners related to usage. At a time when manners in general are at a low, we can’t expect behaviors around smart phones to be any different.
The other thing we’re dealing with here is habits. Many of us are in the habit of checking our phone constantly—for text messages, email, social media, etc., and we’ve grown accustomed to being partially present to a bunch of things at once. These habits are hard to break—they require awareness and discipline, not to mention the desire to change.
All this doesn’t mean, however, that you have to bite your tongue whenever a clueless guest is in your presence lost in their smart phone. What works best here is a polite but direct request. Something as simple as, "If there’s something really important to attend to on your phone, I understand, but I find it getting in the way of a good visit with you and wonder if you would be willing to set it aside for a bit?" This gets your point across without being too school-marmish.
If this becomes a problem that’s constantly driving you bonkers, you could institute a "check your phones at the door" policy. People do it with shoes, why not phones? (You can always make exceptions for on-call doctors, first responders, and moms who’ve left their kids with the babysitter.)
If you have a dilemma or question for Zoe, please send it to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Zoe Romanowsky is the Lifestyle Editor and Video Curator for Aleteia. A freelance writer, blogger, and consultant, she’s been published in many national publications including Real Simple, Catholic Digest, Baltimore Eats, and TruthAtlas. Zoe holds a Masters degree in Counseling from Franciscan University, and a certification in life coaching from the Coaches Training Institute (CTI). She’s an urban homeschooling mother of twins with a weakness for dark chocolate, vintage Harleys, Instagram, and vodka martinis — not necessarily in that order.