Dear Barb—The Dating Debate

Hi Barb:

I’m in my late 20s and grew up in a rather traditional family.  Most of my life I followed my parent’s wishes, focused on school, volunteer, and now work.  I’ve never come across someone I really liked until about a year ago.  We initially started dating to understand if we were a good couple and like all couples, we’ve had our fair share of good and bad.  Recently, I decided I was ready to tell my parents.  I still live with my parents as I help support them as we are an immigrant family.

However, after I told them and introduced them to who I was dating, I had a huge backlash.  I had mentioned a few weeks earlier that I was seeing someone, and they said it’s up to me, so I thought we were okay.  But when I brought him home, they were suddenly against me dating someone of a different culture.  It was super hurtful, and I didn’t know what to do.  I really like this man.  I tried to reassure my parents that we’re just dating to see if we are the one for each other, but they were very unhappy. 

It’s been a few days and we haven’t spoken about this topic again.  Ultimately, they would rather me remain single than date anyone, but I told them I want to try.  It’s also hard because I still live at home and see them all the time.  I guess my question is, how would I approach this situation as I want to maintain a healthy relationship with my parents who mean so much to me, but I also really want to live my own life.  I’ve done everything I could do for them and now I feel like I’m ready to find my own interests.  This doesn’t mean I won’t continue to be there for them and support them.  I also understand their concerns about cross cultural differences and it’s also something I’ve talked about with my partner.  My parents think I’m too naive to understand and perhaps that might be the case given it’s also my first dating experience.  I’ve spoken with many friends and colleagues for advice, and they all encouraged me to try but to take it slowly as at the end of the day, it is someone I’m marrying, not my parents.  But, I’ve also never had such huge arguments with my parents and it’s stressing me out.  I know my partner is also hurt because of my parents and I really would like as much advice as I can get. 

Thanks, Stressed Daughter.

Hi Stressed Daughter:

Thank you for your most important letter.  There could be a few things going on here.  It seems you are at a crossroads in your life and will have to make some decisions.  You are entitled to live your own life with whoever you choose, and your parents, as all parents must, have to accept your choices.

Since this is your first dating experience, they obviously were not prepared.  With time they most likely will come around.  It is important to keep the lines of communication open with your parents.  Reassure them that this man is not going to take you away from them.  They most likely fear losing your support, as you have always been there for them.  They may have some valid points for you to consider about cross cultural differences, but that does not mean the relationship cannot work.  My advice is to continue to see this man and talk about him openly with your parents, so they will begin to see him through your eyes.

Also, tell them how upset you are about the confrontation, and that you want to maintain a close, caring relationship with them.  If they are totally adamant about you having this relationship, you may have to move out of their home just for the sake of peace.  This will be a difficult decision, that only you can make.  I believe their concerns are based in fear, so reassurance is your best ally.  I hope this information was helpful and let us know how you make out.  Best of luck.