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Boyfriend’s Parents and Their Cultural Disapproval

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My boyfriend immigrated here when he was 5. His family is very involved in their native culture/church and he is not. Due to them previously needing financial help and therefore him being in debt, he is unable to move out for another 1-2 years. They strongly prefer he be with someone from their culture and would constantly pressure him about it. Throughout our relationship they would tell him he should leave and try to set him up with other people (sometimes while I was standing there in their native language).

The way that his family interacts is that they’ll pick at him, yell and not let him get away or go into a different room until they have said what they wanted. He has a hole in his wall from them slamming it and they talk to him in an extremely degrading way when he disagrees with them. Considering he is usually gone from 6am-10/11pm this makes his home life extremely stressful because he can’t relax.

We have broken up twice because of this. After the first time we dated secretly for about a month and then told his family again. Throughout this we have been talking about a future. About 2 months ago he had a promise ring picked out and was talking about engagement. Then about a month ago he called off the relationship again due to family pressures. Presently we are back to being together without telling them. Is this the best course of action? I worry that if we tell them again, the exact same thing will happen in another couple of months. We’re currently working on how to handle stress but that just adds so much to his life.

Just looking at him and I our relationship is good. We are supportive, push each other to be better, and communicate well. We also legitimately get along and although we disagree sometimes we don’t really fight or resort to harsh words or raised voices. Based off conversations with him the family disapproval is his only concern with the relationship but it’s a major one.

Also, I’m 22 and he’s 23, we have been together for about a year. Even now he talks about wanting to move in together as soon as he is able to move out. I just don’t know what the best way to stay together and ideally eventually gain their acceptance would be.

Boyfriend’s Parents and Their Cultural Disapproval

Answered by on -


I admire your persistence and grit for each other in this relationship. But not much will move you forward as a couple until he moves out. At your ages it is time to carve out the kind of life you are looking to live independent of his family. They sound abusive, demeaning, and unsupportive. The question for you is whether or not this relationship works for you. If you move in together it is likely they family will not accept you as you move forward.

The work for your boyfriend is to make the break independently from his relationship to you. He would need to leave because of issues with the family — not only because he loves you. This is difficult but likely to be a needed step. If he leaves only for you they will blame the relationship (and you). If he leaves because they are not honoring him it will be understood differently. It is an act of independence rather than because of his feelings for you.

I highly recommend you find counseling through your university for yourself as you work things through with him. If it is possible for the two of you to see a counselor together this will be important. It will help clarify what needs to be done as a couple, and what needs to be done independently.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Boyfriend’s Parents and Their Cultural Disapproval

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). Boyfriend’s Parents and Their Cultural Disapproval. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 11 Nov 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.