Ask Pajiba (Almost) Anything: So You're Dating Someone Your Parents Are Going To Hate...
We know that trust is earned. Luckily “trust” won’t get in the way of our pontificating anyway. Welcome back to another installment of the Most Unqualified Advice On The Internet! Or at least that’s how I have it billed on my resume — the rest of you may know us as “Ask Pajiba (Almost) Anything”! This week we’ve got a plea for help from someone who is in love. The love isn’t the problem though — the conservative and likely disapproving parents are. Aren’t they always?
(Reminder: you too can get your own customized, questionable advice, delivered in a largely untimely fashion — all you have to do is ask! Specifically, drop us an email at [email protected] and we’ll take it from there. Maybe. If we feel like it. Unqualified AND unreliable — two for the price of none!)
Here’s this week’s query:
For the past few years I’ve been living and working in a Middle Eastern nation. While there, I fell in love with a man I want to marry. However, my contract ended and I had to come back to the states. I am now living in Boston with my very conservative parents until I am able to find a job and live on my own. I am afraid to tell them anything about the man I am seeing because I cannot gauge their reaction. In a best case scenario I think they’ll encourage me to leave him everyday until I break, in a worst case scenario I think they’ll kick me out of the house unless I end things. Possibly relevant is that I’m their only daughter and this is my first major relationship.
I feel guilty hiding such a big part of my life, but at the same time their political views make me feel like I owe them nothing. I have every intention of applying for a visa for my man when I move out. They’re my parents and have done so much for me, but their political views directly conflict with the future I want for myself. Please help me because I’m at a loss.
I’m normally a pretty firm believer in “honesty is the best policy.” Except, of course, for all the times I don’t. In your case, I think being a little calculated with your honesty is justified. The fact is that the approval of your parents isn’t the only thing at stake right now — your living situation is tied up in this too. Now, if your parents would seriously kick out their only child for dating someone they disapprove of without ever meeting… well, that’s FUCKED. But if you truly think it’s a possibility, then you should probably focus your energies on getting yourself out of the house first and foremost, before you have that conversation with them.
Plus side: it’ll also get you closer to applying for that visa! But the downside is that when you finally do come clean about your relationship to your parents, you’ll also have to explain why you DIDN’T tell them about him earlier. Basically you’ll need to rock their world twice: Tell them you’ve hidden your romance from them, and tell them you did it because ultimately you didn’t trust that they would support you in your life decisions. That’s going to be a tough pill for them to swallow — but then again, you’re already living at home and seemingly haven’t told them about your relationship, so you’ve already dug that hole for yourself. It’s not a question of if it’ll all come out, but when.
And really, in the end that may be a healthy conversation to have, for all of you. You can’t change each other’s politics, but you may be able to forge a way through those politics into a solid relationship regardless. Or maybe you won’t! Hell, this year has proven that sometimes politics DO make it hard to face our families. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that parents can be over-protective even in the best of circumstances — so politics, ignorance, or even bigotry may not be at the root of their reaction when you finally tell them. If they disapprove of your relationship, it could be because you’re in love with a man they haven’t met, or because they have worries about how others will treat you because of him, or any number of concerns that are rooted in their love of you and not strictly their politics. Remember, they’ve never had to deal with their only child being in a relationship before, so that could heighten their response to it. It doesn’t make them right, and it shouldn’t necessarily change your path, but I’m trying to be optimistic. Mostly because I don’t know your parents, so I want to give them the benefit of the doubt.
That said, I’m sure you are justified in your concerns about their reaction. Whether it will be based in cultural ignorance or love, how they deal with the truth of your relationship is what matters. So get yourself into a position where you aren’t dependent on them, for your own peace of mind, and then wade into that quagmire and see what happens. For what it’s worth, I understand feeling guilty. I’m a fucking pro at feeling guilty, and hiding a huge part of myself from my loved ones is basically my worst nightmare. BUT. There is nothing you should be ashamed of! You are an adult, making your own life decisions. You need to own your choice of partner, and you need to own your choice of when and how to tell your parents about it. And if they have given you any reason to suspect that they are not 100% in your corner as you navigate your own life, then that’s on them. They can own that.
And hopefully they’ll surprise you! Hopefully their love of you will trump (ha!) their politics. I wouldn’t bet on it or anything, and it may take some time to get to that point if it even is possible, but.. well for fuck’s sake, that’s the bare minimum we should all expect from our parents. Love and support, no matter what. They don’t have to agree with us to do that. And if they can’t hold up that end of the bargain, regardless of their political leanings, then we (you) shouldn’t feel guilty. Besides, there are plenty of other surrogate parents out there…
So, in summary: focus on getting yourself set up and out of their house as fast as you can. Then prepare for your moment of honesty, laying out who you love, why you love them, and why you were scared to be honest about it in the first place. This conversation is going to be equal parts about your relationship with your partner and about your relationship with your parents — and that second part may prove to be the hardest.
We wish you the best, Dazed. YOU CAN DO THIS.
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