My Parents Don’t Approve of the Person I’m Dating! What Do I Do?

Hi Evan!

I have a dating question. What do you do when your parents don’t approve or feel that the person you love/dating is the right person for you? Do you respect their wishes and find someone who is welcome at home and around your family, or do you follow your heart and stay with the person you love even if your parents may not attend the wedding?

Sincerely,

Gili

Dear Gili,

Let me guess – you’re Jewish.

Yeah, me, too.

And while I like to maintain a separation between church and date, I don’t think your culture can be entirely ignored here.

I’ve explored this concept before, in relation to successful women, but I think it applies to Judaism as well. In short, good qualities come with bad qualities. They can’t be separated.

Good parenting means giving your kids the tools to make good decisions, NOT making decisions for them.

So if your parents are super-caring and attentive, they’re likely to be overprotective.

If they’re intelligent, they’re likely to be opinionated.

If they’re the CHOSEN people, they’re likely to look upon others as NOT chosen people.

Okay, so, maybe I’m making religion the unfair scapegoat for your parents’ judgment of your boyfriend, without any real context. Maybe he’s a drug dealer. Maybe he’s a slacker. Maybe he’s got a tattoo of a skull over his left eye. There are some genuine concerns that parents can have about who’s dating their daughter. But in the absence of tangible “you’re hurting yourself and risking life-long sorrow” reasons?

Parents just need to back the fuck up.

Good parenting means giving your kids the tools to make good decisions, NOT making decisions for them.

EVERY SINGLE HAPPY PERSON I KNOW is happy because of independent choices – not predetermined plans foisted upon them by overbearing parents.

I’m going to briefly use myself as an example, since I never, ever do that.

When I declared in 1993 that I was cancelling my LSATs and becoming a comedy writer, my parents supported me.

When I decided that I wasn’t going to pursue screenwriting anymore and that I was going to film school to be a professor, my parents supported me….

When I told them I was dropping out of film school to promote “I Can’t Believe I’m Buying This Book” and E-Cyrano, and was going to make my way as a dating coach, my parents supported me.

That’s what good parents do. I may have broken their hearts and drained their wallets and destroyed their dreams of having a professional son, but they knew that I was driven and competent and had to find my own way. Nothing could have sown the seeds of strife MORE than them putting their foot down and telling me where I was going to work and what I was going to do.

Am I concerned with what my parents think? Of course. If you love your parents, you probably want to make them happy. But once you put their happiness above your own, you’re screwed.

There’s a big difference between Mom cautioning you not to settle down with the heroin-shooting rock star and her commanding you not to marry Patrick because he doesn’t have a masters degree and his family goes to church instead of synagogue.

Good parents recognized this. Bad parents don’t. They think that because they brought you into this world and sacrificed tremendously for you that they have a right to tell you how to life your life as an adult.

Uh uh.

YOU are the architect of your own life.

YOU are the one who has to live daily with the consequences of her own decisions.

YOU are the one who is in her own mind when her head hits the pillow at the end of the night.

Whatever anybody else says is irrelevant. They don’t have to live your life. You do.

Still, I’d be remiss if you thought I was suggesting that all parental wisdom is worthless. Sometimes, we are so blinded by love that we can unwillingly steer our lives into a ditch. But there’s a big difference between Mom cautioning you not to settle down with the heroin-shooting rock star and her commanding you not to marry Patrick because he doesn’t have a masters degree and his family goes to church instead of synagogue.

Only you know, Gili, what the circumstances are. But if your parents find it more important to be “right” than to be supportive, I feel confident that you’re better off without them on your very special day.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Dating Headshots

    Not a lot of details as to “why” your parents don’t like the person your with but Evan gave good answer anyways of course. Noone can tell you how to feel and who to love. You can’t control who your attracted to. You know what makes you happy better than anyone else does. Making life decisions on based on what everyone else thinks is not going to leave you happy, whether it’s in love, career or any other of the choices you make.

  2. 2
    B.F.

    My mother’s parents objected to her converting to Judiasm and marrying my father. Guess what? She did what was right for her happiness and eventually her parent’s learned to cope. If your parents are good people who love you they will ultimately learn to respect your choices. Follow your own head and heart. Everything else will follow from there.

  3. 3
    Honey

    As someone who can’t imagine her dad saying anything other than, “I’m sure you made a good choice, sweetie,” I’m with Evan. My mom told me once that only parents who didn’t trust their own parenting skills wouldn’t trust their children. If you’re truly happy then they’ll come around–maybe not as soon as you’d like, but you can’t control their actions. Only your happiness.

  4. 4
    Markus

    Evan, let me guess, you’re not a father. But seriously, I’m mostly with you but I give her ‘rents the benefit of the doubt. They may just not dig the guy too much and maybe mentioned something like that. I didn’t see the whole message to you so maybe I’m missing something.

  5. 5
    Rachel

    You should follow your bliss. I am a happy product of an interfaith-interracial marriage that both sets of grandparents were “dead set against” way back when my parents started dating. Not only are they still together, but my father’s younger brother; AND my mother’s older sister followed suit and married interracially and interfaith. They too are still happily married to their respective spouses.

    Obviously, racism and social taboos were a lot stronger when my parents were young; but there was way more than just the skin color, religious, and cultural differences at stake. My mother came from an upper middle class, East Coast, Ivy League educated family full of professionals and graduate degrees (yeah, Evan, probably similar to your family?) My mother was “supposed” to return home from her vacation and marry that CPA. Enter my dad: a sexy Hawaiian surfer who could win a contest and then serenade her with a guitar. He never went to college and spent his entire life savings on the engagement ring. But everyone else could go to hell. They were in love.

    So, I’m a staunch advocate for mixing up the genetic pool. My mom’s family is full of intellectuals; my dad’s family is full of athletes and musicians. I got the best of both worlds, enabling me to earn my J.D., become a Personal Trainer, and play music in front of thousands of people. All true. And damn, do I have some fine-looking cousins.

    Now, the funny thing about all this is: everyone still has expectations for me. On the one hand, I have my mother’s family ties showing me pictures of very handsome Jewish sons and asking me if I’m interested in dating/marrying any of them. On the other hand, my father and brother want me to settle down with a nice part-Hawaiian like myself– even though they didn’t marry Hawaiians themselves (my brother chose a beautiful lady from Japan). I ended up dating all over the board and, as you might guess, have often gone for complete opposites.

    All this points back to what Evan has said before, that if you limit yourself to whom you are “supposed to be with” (a specific ethnicity or religion; a specific level of education or income, etc.), then you could be missing out on someone who really clicks with you. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t everyone looking for LOVE?

    1. 5.1
      Brenda

      Rachel,

      Your family story really made me smile. Over the last few months I’ve spent time reading articles about interracial dating or going against your parents wishes of who to date. Just articles where there have been people in my position. I’m a Hispanic girl from a very catholic family dating a Chaldean, a christian middle eastern, for almost two years now. Long story short, I never told my parents about dating because they are really strict but with him we are really serious and I felt bad always lying to them. They didn’t take it well because he’s not from our culture. I thought being catholic was the only thing that mattered but no. Then they started saying I need to date a hispanic guy and I’d be happier. They made me or sometimes still make me feel like incan be happy with anyone. Sometimes I feel guilty but then I slap myself because they can’t chose who I date and he makes me the most happiest woman in the world. And he has plans of marriage. It gets hard not having them support me now but I hope when the time comes they will say if I’m happy, they’re happy. Because it does stress me out. And sometimes I find myself crying at night with their horrible comments. Reading stories like yours makes me feel reassured that I’m not doing something bad going against my parents wishes because I’m happy. And I feel like I’m not alone in this anymore. Thank you for sharing!! Wish you the best!

      Brenda

  6. 6
    Jypsum

    Evan,

    Just curious, was the letter to you longer than what you posted? What makes you assume Gili is female, and the paramour male? I have known male Gilis.

  7. 7
    Markus

    @ Jypsum, the letter is kind of feminine. You know male Gilis?

  8. 8
    Lance

    Here’s a scenario that trips up daughters and parents: young daughters and older men. Say you’ve got a 20 year old girl and a 30ish guy. Hey, it happens all the time. I know a couple of these. The young girl says she’s in love and wants to follow her heart. The parents hate the idea of daughter being with the older guy. Maybe he’s a solid guy, but they worry about their friends clashing, having nothing in common, the guy dominating the girl with his age and experience, maybe he’s in it just for the sex, whatever. Can you blame the parents in this situation. Would you give the same advice?

    Personally, I say to each their own, too, but if I was a parent with a young daughter, I know this would give me pause. Why? Because these relationships often don’t work.

    1. 8.1
      Anonymous

      What if the male is “young at heart” and they have friends in common between the ages. What if he is a positive influence in her life – health, wealth, wiser? I think it could also be looked at as a positive in her life knowing that she is with a man who knows what he wants and is more “stable” and thinking of the bigger picture as opposed to living for the day. 20 years old may be young because I would assume she is still studying and hasn’t established her career yet, BUT…its not to say that it cant be done. In any case, the relationship needs to take its course and be “tested” before making ultimate decisions. Age is nothing but a number at the end of the day. 

      1. 8.1.1
        Kombucha

        Real good advise you gave Evan.  Along the age comment… I’m 39 and my Persian Jewish boyfriend is 40.  Him and clicked instantly.  Something neither of us has found in years and for that reason both hate dating.  I’ve never met his family and recently he told them about me.  Once his mom found out I was 39 she immediately said I was too old, went into talks a/b fertility as if I’ve been medically diagnosed to not be able to have children and upon bringing up the relationship on a 2nd occasion by my boyfriend, she told him he would no longer be a part of the family if was to be with someone “40… who will be 50 in 10 years.”  The judgment is mind blowing and his fear of really being disowned is sad – the amount of control, manipulation and guilt he’s been taught to be normal growing up is awful.  Needless to say, I’m lost.

  9. 9
    Evan Marc Katz

    Nope. Haven’t edited the letter. And whether Gili is a woman or a man, the advice remains the same. To thine own self be true.

  10. 10
    Cathouse Teri

    Here by way of Lance. I’ve only read this first post, and I’m impressed. What great advice! Love, love, love it!

    Keep up the good work.

    Gili, I hope you are taking to heart EMK’s words of wisdom here.

    I happen to be a parent. My kids are 28, 23 and 20. I personally wouldn’t dream of telling them who to be involved with, or what career to have, or when to have babies, etc. I don’t believe that is the place of parents of adults.

    The training years are practically over by the time your children are teens. From that point on, the trusting and supportive relationship you are building with your child begins to be the thing that needs to flourish. If you haven’t taught them by then, likely they are not going to learn it!

    Some parents just don’t want to give up the role of training.

    And as a parent, I also know the anguish of seeing your children make some bad decisions. But it is NOT your business to threaten to reject them because of their choices. Nor is it your business to say, “I told you so” and scold them when they fail. It is your job to be loving and supportive of their independence. They are not extensions of you.

    Also, you will have much more influence in their lives if they are convinced that you really care about them, as opposed to trying to manipulate and control them.

  11. 11
    texaslady

    The first post mentioned mirrored my thoughts. I’m wondering why the mom & dad disapprove. Regardless Evan has the right of it. If there are serious concerns i.e. always jobless, always has an excuse, is verbally abusive in a subtle way, etc. the folks are right to be concerned & maybe you should step back & look at the relationship. If on the other hand it’s because he’s not of the same religion, race, or same level of education, doesn’t have the right kind of job, or whatever other reason telly your parents respectfully that it’s your life & your choice. It may hurt if they are so rigid that they would cut you off because of who you choose.

  12. 12
    Chris

    For the sake of argument, let’s say that the only thing ‘wrong’ with this guy is that he’s ethnically or religiously different from Gigi. Though parents are being wrong headed to disapprove of someone just because his heritage is different from theirs, if the man himself is someone who is genuinely culturally different from the parents, I think the parents can be expected to be disappointed.

    Sometimes someone (more often a woman) completely changes his or her identity in a marriage.

    If parents don’t want their daughter be absorbed in a foreign culture, possibly live in a foreign country, and see their grandchildren not identify with their maternal culture, I think that parents can be expected to disapprove of a relationship.

    Maybe the parents are wrong to think it, but parents can be concerned when it looks like a man is taking their daughter away from them. From a parent’s POV, a marriage is supposed to be gaining a son, but when it looks like they’re losing a daughter they can be expected to be hurt.

    If the man’s values, religious or cultural, are highly different from the parents and the daughter is adopting his religion/values as her own, then the relationship from the parents’ POV can look like the daughter is rejecting them. If you care about your religion, you are going to be sad when it is not passed down.

  13. 13
    Jill/Twipply Skwood

    I dunno…I’m going to say that until very, very recently my parents could have done a heck of a lot better job than I ever did picking someone out for me for dating or marriage. I can’t complain about the paths I’ve taken because I have a good life and all, but it wouldn’t have killed me to listen to them once twice along the way, especially when they were telling me not to date coke heads (which is very good advice, btw…)

    And then if you find out WHY they hate his guts, five years from now you won’t be going, “Why didn’t my mom SAY SOMETHING?!?!?!?” (Instead you can be thinking, “Why didn’t I LISTEN to them?!?!?) Or, y’know, if you end up perfectly happy 20 years down the road, then you can say I told you so. KIDDING!!!!!! Only about the “told you so” part, not kidding about listening to them.

  14. 14
    lily

    Evan,
    It’s more interesting to read your well-written letters and the original comments by others than to view those monotonous profiles.I am actually addicted to OnlineReading,but I don’t have the least intention of kicking my addiction.Thanks,you guys

  15. 15
    Steve

    It has been mentioned a few times in other threads that scientists have discovered a “chemistry of love” that seems to last about a year. During this time people overlook compatibility issues, that once the buzz wears off, can start stressing a relationship.

    I agree with what other people had to say about making the final decision yours, but listening to what people who know you have to say about who you are hooking up with.

    Either that, or make no final decisions until a year and the buzz passes 🙂

  16. 16
    Marc

    If Evan’s assumption is correct, and your parents don’t approve because you’re a Jew, and your partner is not, you’re in for a lot of heartache and frustration, if you allow your parents myopia to get to you. Like Evan said, those that see themselves as “chosen” will simply not accept those that have not been “chosen.” As much as my nagging Jewish mother wants me to meet someone and settle down already, she’d rather I be “unsettled” than bring home a woman who isn’t a card carrying member of the “chosen people” club. That’s her problem, though, not mine…nor should it be yours.

  17. 17
    Rachel

    YOUR KIDS DON’T HAVE TO LOSE THEIR ROOTS. Roots are important. It’s a way to honor your ancestors and understand what the family went through to bring you into the world. I don’t discount the parents who want to pass this on to future generations. Maybe I’m an anomaly, but I was raised to understand multiple religions and cultures through my parents’, aunts’ and uncles’ marriages — with no conflict. Growing up, I knew when it was Passover, as well as Easter. I learned about my “pagan” Hawaiian and Asian roots — and Buddha, and Brigham Young, and so on. I learned to embrace everyone’s labels for God and their rituals, and also to cast aside dogmatic instruments of control which create hatred, fear, and inequality. I do have a strong identity, but it’s not boxed into one category. I’m not saying I’m better, only different.

  18. 18
    Steve

    Marc, post 16;

    I grew up in a mixed background, heavily American Jewish. One thing I never learned to wrap my head around was “the chosen people” thing and the complete myopia of the subculture that allowed them to see it as an innocent thing rather than as misguided snobbery.

  19. 19
    vino

    Preface…I’m cranky.

    All of these gyrations are silly. Are we 10 years old seeking mommy and daddy’s approval? Gili is an adult. She can (and should) decide who she wants to be with. If her parents don’t like it, they can hit the road. The consequence of being a disapproving misery merchant is that Gili can simply walk away, and her parents won’t see much of her or talk to her much. Unless, of course, she can’t bring herself to do that. In which case, she probably isn’t mature enough to date.

    My $0.02

  20. 20
    hunter

    Can’t let parents tell us who we date. However, I am told, that in other countries that have “fixed” marriages, success rates are higher.

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