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My mom doesn’t want me dating my BF

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

What do I do about my boyfriend and my mom? My mom doesn’t want me dating him but she hasn’t even met him. I have been with my boyfriend for about 6 months (end of this month) and my parents do not approve of this relationship. At first they were adamantly disapproving of my interracial relationship (I’m Korean dating a White guy) but after 2 weeks of fighting and lots of tears they finally gave in to me dating outside of my race. Now the real problem is that since he doesn’t have a college degree and comes from a broken up family (different family upbringing) my mom is telling me to break it off with him. She wants me to date someone with an education and from the same family upbringing–bring a boyfriend home with the same education level (I recently graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in science). I’ve told them that their standards are not the same as my criteria…tho he doesn’t have a college degree he’s still in the process of graduating and he has a full-time job, fully supporting himself.

I’m employed fulltime and supporting myself. I am no longer dependent on my parents but their approval means a lot to me. They want me to stay friends with my boyfriend or they don’t want to have anything to do with me. After a month of fighting/not talking/exchanges of hurtful words with my mom I finally just told her that I will break it off for our relationship sake. What she doesn’t know is that I’m still with him because their standards don’t hold true for me and this is my life.

I don’t really date for marriage but I do think about my future with him and I can see us living together happily. Now when I put my parents into the equation, all I see is chaos. His family is everything that my parents will not like. I don’t want to hurt him by leaving him because my parents don’t approve. He knows how my parents feel about him and he knows that I told my parents that we are just friends. I want to be in a relationship with him but I feel that when things get serious I’m not sure what I could do because I know that my parents will be very hurt. I am at a great turmoil. What should I do?

What a difficult, difficult situation. You want to follow your heart in a direction your parents can’t support. I’m sure they mean the best for you. I’m sure they love you. They may even be right about the problems you and your boyfriend will face, coming from such different cultures and families. But it’s not as simple as deciding who is right.

You are all caught in a generational difference that is extremely painful all around. By the older generation’s values, you would follow your parents’ wishes. But young people these days are generally left to discover for themselves whether a match is made in heaven – or not. Sadly, trying to bridge the two has got you lying. It does keep your parents at bay but you are betraying their trust and your own values. I’m sure you’re not at all happy about either.

You may not have realized it, but fighting and tears demonstrates to your parents that you aren’t ready to make such an important decision as who you will date. If you are clear about what you want to do, you should be able to present your views without all the drama. You would then tell your folks that their approval means the world to you but that you respectfully disagree and will make your own choices. My guess is that they don’t want to lose you any more than you want to lose them so you would probably be able to work it out.

The fact that you haven’t been able to do that suggests to me that just maybe you have some doubts that you aren’t able to acknowledge even to yourself. The fighting may seem like you are standing up for yourself, but the lying and the giving in keeps you tied to your parents’ ideals. You’re trying to have it both ways: Do what you want but without risking parental disfavor. I think this is the larger problem: You have made your own choices but you aren’t convinced. The current situation with your boyfriend is the issue that brings your own uncertainly forward. In that sense, it’s not about him. It’s about coming to terms with your own beliefs.

This kind of dilemma isn’t unusual for someone who is 24. The twenties is when most of us come into our own. Like the butterfly struggling to free itself from the cocoon, the struggle to define ourselves, separate from our family of origin is what makes us become a mature adult.

I’m not going to tell you what to do about the boyfriend. I do think you should start by clarifying your own thoughts instead of trying to change your parents’ opinions. The rest will flow from that.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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