My family does not approve of my boyfriend

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q: My boyfriend and I have been together for a year and 2 months now. However, when my parents found out about him they asked me to stop seeing him. At first both of them admitted that the reason they dont want me to be with him is because he is of a different nationality. Later, when they found out he had been in the military, they changed their excuse to it being that since he went to Iraq, he most probably has PTSD and that is why they dont want me to be with him. I’ve known my boyfriend for over 5 years and I’m positive he doesnt have any issues. In fact, when he came back from Iraq, he saw a psychologist who confirmed that he does not have any disorders.

My parents asked me to stop seeing him and I told them I did, but it was a lie because to this day I am with him. I’m tired of lying to them because it hurts me to. But at the same time, I know that they will do everything they can to make me stop seeing him. I love him and we are very serious. We want to get married in a few years but I just dont know what to do. Most of my family does not accept him because we come from different backgrounds.

How can i communicate with my family to make them understand that i am happy with him? They won’t even give him a chance. They don’t want to meet him. My dad even said that if I stay with him, he would ask me to leave. I am so confused because I cannot figure out what to do, I dont want to lose any one of them.

My parents and family say they want what is best for me and that they know my boyfriend isn’t best for me but I don’t agree with them. I think they want what is best for themselves and they think that whatever makes them happy will make me happy and that is not the case. They just won’t listen to me because they think I am still young and don’t know what I am doing.

Please help me find a way to communicate with them and to make them understand that I don’t think like them. How can I finally bring my relationship with my family and my relationship with my boyfriend together?

A: This is a sad, sad situation. I’m sure your parents mean well. I’m sure they love you and that they do want what is best for you. But what they don’t seem to understand is that asking you to choose between the people you love means that everyone ultimately loses. If you break up with your boyfriend, you will always wonder if you did the right thing and you will always harbor resentment toward your family. If you stay with your boyfriend, you lose your parents’ approval and they lose your respect. Either way, your relationship with your parents suffers. Further, the situation puts pressure on your relationship. It can’t evolve naturally so that it either deepens or it doesn’t.

I wish I had 5 easy steps to getting through to your folks. I don’t. The best I can offer is the suggestion that you find someone your parents respect who can help you. Perhaps there is another relative who can support you or a spiritual leader or an adult friend. Lacking any of those choices, perhaps you can find a family therapist who can help you think through how to approach your family or who would include them in a session or two in the hopes of coming up with a workable solution. There may be ways to begin a dialogue that I don’t see because I have only the bare facts. At 20, you need the room to explore a relationship and to make your own decision about it. Ideally you should have the support and love of your family as you do so.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 31 Oct 2008

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). My family does not approve of my boyfriend. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/10/31/my-family-does-not-approve-of-my-boyfriend/