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

My Parents Don’t Approve of the Person I’m Dating

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?



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.

Join our conversation (49 Comments).
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  1. 31

    When i was 16 i feel in love with a boy at school although he had a gf at the time. We were best of friends- like nothing else,teachers would go out of their way to tell us we belonged together and we would be married When they broke up i guess we blossomed.We were nothing alike.I muslim & Black, him white & Prosdent (or whateveryou call it). I think both parents worried (Mine more) I was a family fav, two parents as Doctors didnt help either. For me I loved him and he loved me that was all that mattered. At 16 i knew if he did – drugs,slept around & the rest i would hit the highway like no car on the road.I followed my heart, I’m now 20 we have been together for 4 yrs. We are not together now as im we grew a bit apart but awsome friends. But if i had listened to my parents i would’nt never know what i do now. And it’s the most important thing ever….Bad experiences are good life experiences. That is something no parent can teach you but only try and protect you from which is normal. But like a Caterpillar become a buttefly.

    Good Luck i hope my own story helped. 😀

  2. 32

    hey Evan, hope that you’ll believe in what GILI said at the beginning, im a 20 years old person where i passed through such an experience, its the worst period and my beloved person left each other in about 6 months ago.. and truelly speaking, i never had enough from thinking of her every second, minute, hour, days and months and her picture is still the same in my mind and its not even getting shaded.. the reason which lead to putting an end for our realation is because she followed her parents approval..none of us was satisfied with this decision and till now im not and hope she neither..her parents are about 55 or 60 years old, trying their best to force their daughter on acting the same way as they used to be treated. I was like a test for her where she tried to overcome this parental power over her but she coudnt and i was the victim in this whole test..i know what the guy feels when it gets to deal with the girl he loves the most, the person whome was the number one, the person whome he preffered more than his parents or sisters or brothers..and etc..coz no word could express such feeling its just something you feel and can do nothing to overcome it, and especially when its your first im in a depressed manner the whole 6 months untill now im living a hopeless dream where i dream that everyday might be a better one than the day before..but in fact its not, now no talk is going between us, as if we haven’t seen each other in our whole life and we dont know each i think u got what i mean and do what your heart tells you with a bit use of your brain but dont you ever think that what others want is better than what i really want..
    Hope you the best of luck honey.

  3. 34

    I think it depends on what kind of issue. Sometimes, you DO need to listen to your parents, friends & family to save some heartache. If the guy is married for example, is it not wrong for the parents to interfere? Some mistakes can definitely be costly & its not something you can right in a few years. I never listened to my parents & when I think back, I sure hope I did. So never just write your parents off because at the end of the day, they are still the ones that loves you most-a lot more than whatever guy you are with & yes as children we do owe it to listen to them & consider their opinions rationally.

  4. 35

    To Confused #24, it is true a lot of times the passion do die own over the years and the person might not be as good. Passion, sex is overrated in this world. True, stable friendship, respect and trust you have built with your first boyfriend over the years are important too.

  5. 36

    I agree with Evan’s advice.  I am currently in an interfaith and interracial long distance relationship with a white middle aged Jewish man.  I am a middle aged black Christian woman.  My mother doesn’t care that he is white, but she doesn’t like it that he is not Christian.  I am not a 20 something person making this decision. It doesn’t matter to me that she doesn’t agree.  You have to do what is right for you.  My mother’s mom didn’t want her to marry my father and she did.  It always seems to be different when it comes to one’s children even if the same thing happened to the parent.  I have a 14 year old son so as a parent I understand that we feel we always know what is best.  We can give advice when kids are grown but they have to make their own decision.
    I’m mature enough also at this point in my life that if my mother never comes around that it is her loss to get to know a very kind, generous, loving, caring man.  He’s truly a gift from God sent to me.
    Be happy, life is too short not to be.

  6. 37

    One of the biggest reasons I haven’t fallen in love yet is because when I meet someone, I try to first find out if my parents will accept him or not, and when I thought he wouldn’t be type my family would like, I just ignored him as a possibility of “the one”. I normally don’t get men any chance when I get an overall understanding of what type they are. That’s why I have such a tight criteria in love. It’s already difficult to meet someone who meets at least 70% of my standards, let alone when family plays such a big part. I doubt there are even 5% men who exists that my parents would accept(someone who’s the type I like and yet from my familys religion). I’ve rarely been attracted to men from my own country, because I am attracted to someone who’s opposite of me..
    But no matter if he’s the greatest doctor, lawyer, or the richest man, my family will never accept him if he’s not from our own religion if not country. I am very conservative especially in love, I have values that I will never break and I need someone who also have strong principles, because those men are more to trust and I like men who lives for something bigger than the superficial, but he doesn’t need to be religious, because neither am I, so I agree with my family about marrying someone of value…but secretly they believe one day I will return to their religion too..I play a big role in our family, my siblings look up to me, and if I “break the rules” in the house, I will cause confusion/trouble.. t’s difficult for them to see that men outside their religion can be good men! But they are so rare that even I doubt they exist.. 
    I already know that when I meet someone I really like, I will fall into the love/family dilemma!:( That’s why I often tried to “postpone” or even forget love..I didn’t want to deal with the stress..
    I wonder if I go my own way, will they later accept my choice..or will they try to stay away from me…forever? They are really good people, but unfortunately not the most openminded, they think they have seen “the light” and anyone who doesn’t believe in their religion are sadly ending in hell..
    It’s a big risk, what if the man turns out to be wrong and not worth the sacrifice I could make..yeah I know I got pessimistic lol

  7. 38

    Angie – 37
    At a certain age, a woman has to choose for herself, and hope that her parents approve.  As a mother myself of a girl in her early thirties, when she introduces someone to me, and I don’t like him, I will not tell her that straight away.  But I will certainly be watching both of them – is my daughter HAPPY, will that man fit into OUR family and we in HIS family?
    A loving parent will want the best for their children and know their own child probably better than someone new to the scene so to speak.  That does not mean the parent is RIGHT by any means but they may know their child rather well and that child’s needs.
    Where it gets tough is when the cultures are different.  Be aware of this because sometimes it can get hard (and sometimes impossible).  Not going to ask you what culture you come from but give it some time, and some thought.
    As far as the religion is concerned, please tell the truth.  If you don’t follow your parents’ religion any more, at least, don’t mislead them.  Because that won’t help you, your parents, or your future partners.
    With love from here, Judy

  8. 39

    This is a very tough issue.. I’m 19 and going through the same thing as Gili, my mom is overbearing and finds anything that could be possibly wrong with my nonjewish first love. Me and my mom have a very strong bond since shes a single mother and my father, although is actively in my life, doesn’t know anything about my friends or relationship because my mom and I hide it from him. Lately my mom and I have been getting into a lot of fights ever since I’m with him. And it’s not directly because of the fact I’m with him, it would be because of the things she thinks he influences me to — like not call her too much when we’re away on a trip, talk rudely to her when I’m w him, or come over late at night on school days. She always says she never will tell me to break up with him, but she subliminally convinces me to.. Reverse psych ? To me I feel like I’m past this age of being babied and told that I can’t go out (mind you, can’t go out with him*) on school days mostly because she’s paying for college. She doesn’t realize that my own personal benefit is my main concern and I wont compromise my almost perfect GPA for him or anyone. But because I’m so dependent on her I feel like I’m feeding to the flame. As of now I know that I want to be with him and he makes me happy. if this changes in the future then I’d lkke to know I made the decision to follow my heart and not my mothers and take advantage of everything life offers me. I want her to trust me to make my own decisions and not cut me off, because after all, it’s my life and not anyone else’s 

  9. 40

    Wow, this is a tough one…I’ve read a few responses I agree with, including Evan’s.
    I will start off by saying that I’ve been there.  Sometimes it can be very difficult to make a relationship work if your parents don’t like your partner.  
    The first question is, do they have a real concern about something, a reason why?  And I’m talking about a reason that makes sense…not because the person is of a different race, color, or faith, or is of a different socioeconomic background.  I mean, if the person is abusive or violent or prone to cheating or criminal behavior, THAT is a reason to frown upon the relationship.  Most people would agree with me on that.  But disliking a person because they have curly hair or an accent or they aren’t X religion is dumb.
    Second, can they explain the reason (hopefully it’s a good one) without making personal attacks?  I understand not wanting one’s sibling, friend, or son/daughter to marry a truly “bad” person…but sometimes people rush to judgment without taking the time to know somebody.
    When I was young, I had a relationship with this guy…he was African-American, I am biracial (black and white).  I am very light-skinned to the point that some people don’t always see me as a Black woman.  His parents were initially nice to me at first, although his mother was a bit aloof.  As time went on, however, I came to realize that they had a problem with me.  I’m not sure when it started but over the course of our relationship, which lasted about 6 years, a lot of very hurtful comments were made behind my back and to my face.  It was just so demeaning to know that these people (especially his mom) didn’t like me.  I tried to get to know her better.  I tried to be more friendly towards her in the hope that she would come around.  But she didn’t, and the relationship ended…that wasn’t the only reason but it was definitely a factor in why we broke up.  I was tired of the racist insults from his family and friends.  I was also tired of the fact that he never defended me when they would be rude to me.  I didn’t expect him to put me above his family, but sometimes they went too far and he needed to let them know that it was not OK to treat me that way. 
    I shared this because it is unfair to subject your partner to a family or friends who dislike them based on petty reasons.  Gili didn’t say what the family’s objection is to the relationship, so we have very little to work with.  
    At some point, parents and other people in one’s life need to understand that you are an adult.  You are a grown person who can make your own decisions about who you want to be with.  They might care about you and be concerned with your happiness, but it really is none of their business who you date or marry.  As long as the person treats you right and is kind, that is what matters.
    There was one situation with a former friend of mine several years ago.  She was a single mom with a 12-year-old daughter at the time. She started dating this guy who showed his true colors early in the relationship.  He was abusive towards her daughter and some of her relatives/friends (including me) witnessed this.  We also saw how it changed her daughter…she used to be a very happy, confident kid and it completely destroyed her self-esteem.  She stopped speaking unless spoken to and she went from straight A’s to F’s in school.  My friend refused to listen to anyone about how this guy treated her child and she actually married him.  Things went from bad to worse.  The daughter wound up pregnant at age 16 (because this man raped her) and finally, that was the wake-up call.  But even so, my friend blamed her daughter for what happened…this is why most of us are no longer friends with her. We couldn’t believe that she would choose an abusive man over her only child.  So this is one example where an intervention was definitely needed. Somebody was being hurt, and this guy was just not good.  We could tell almost immediately because he had a controlling attitude.
    But otherwise?  If a person is good and others refuse to see that, that’s on them.  Sometimes the family will come around and give the person a chance eventually…it depends on the situation.  But there are also families that won’t accept anyone who is different in any way.  It is never easy to be in a situation like this, whether you are the partner or the son/daughter of a disapproving family.   

  10. 41

    Who cares what they think let them believe what they want, if they take any action though your in your right to take it to court.

    1. 41.1

      …take them to court?….really?….

  11. 42

    This is a lot like my predicament atm.

    Both me and my bf grew up in the States, but I am Korean and he is Chinese. We’ve been dating for a little under 4 years now, and I have good reason to believe that he’s the right guy for me.

    My conservative parents, however, are freaking out. They say that a foreigner can never be part of our family and they refuse to meet him. Every time we talk they tell me that they will not be persuaded, and that I’m really something to choose some guy that I’ve only met for a while over my parents who have raised me and sacrificed everything for me. They talk about all of my cousins who grew up in the US who still married Koreans, and tell me that I’m tarnishing the family. They’ve sent my bf emails telling him that he’s ruining our family….

    A part of me understands their concerns re: communication and differences, but another part of me feels a little hurt at the fact that they can’t be content with the fact that I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. They are so unwilling to even think of the possibility of me marrying a foreigner that they are ready to cut ties with me and they constantly remind me of how hurt they are. My dad can’t talk to me without screaming at me, and atm I am banned from coming home unless I break up.

    Sure, I guess there are lots of good Korean guys out there? But not sure I’ll just “forget about him in a couple years” as my parents suggest.

    1. 42.1
      Karl R

      Alexa said:

      “but another part of me feels a little hurt at the fact that they can’t be content with the fact that I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. They are so unwilling to even think of the possibility of me marrying a foreigner that they are ready to cut ties with me and they constantly remind me of how hurt they are. My dad can’t talk to me without screaming at me, and atm I am banned from coming home unless I break up.”

      Are your parents devout Christians? A lot of Korean families are, and there’s a possible solution if your parents have strong Christian beliefs.

      If your parents are Christians, you may be able to use two bible stories to show them that their (ethnic driven) behavior is incompatible with their (religious) beliefs.


      In both cases, I recommend that you do more than just read the stories. Research and study them. Find multiple commentaries on the stories to get the full context. Find a few interpretations.


      Love Your Neighbor / The Good Samaritan

      When Jesus gave the Great Commandment, the second part was “Love your neighbor as yourself.” When he was asked who the neighbor was, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan.

      This story is widely misunderstood by our modern culture.

      Samaritans were not considered good people. They were non-Jewish outsiders. They weren’t liked or trusted. They were the ethnic minority that the Jewish people did not want to associate with.

      So to provide an example of a person stepping up and loving his neighbor, Jesus chose a disliked, unwanted, ethnic minority to demonstrate this ideal.


      The Book of Ruth

      A Jewish family moved to another country. The sons married two local, non-Jewish women. One of them, Ruth, is the protagonist of this story.


      Don’t count on your parents changing.

      It’s not an easy choice, but lots of people choose to live their lives estranged from their immediate families. A little over a month ago I visited my parents … for the first time since the 1990s. Up until that point, my parents had not met my wife (or any of the previous women I’d dated).

      If you pursue this course, it’s likely that you will be able to stay close to other family members. My big sister and I have remained close, particularly because I’ve never asked her to take sides.

      I’m not going to claim that it’s an easy choice. It’s easier for some people than others. I have no idea which decision will make you happier in the long run.

      If you decide to marry your boyfriend, there is a chance that your parents will eventually come around, rather than lose you forever. Based on the experiences of my gay and lesbian friends, I’d give it a little over a 50% chance. For a time frame, expect it to take multiple years.

  12. 43

    I think those of you who think religion can be lightly discarded are likely to be wrong, and that discarding your familial heritage is completely tragic for parents who love you and care deeply about your religious and cultural heritage.  I am an older person and suffering through this now.  As time goes on, people often realize that something that didn’t matter to them when a relationship began really matters to them with time.  I know of many religiously intermarried families in which with the years, one partner discovered how central his or her religion really was to him or her, and it created a very sad situation that they hadn’t realized would happen when they were young.  It can be a tragedy for your life and your family.   I think those considering this should realize it is not as simple as represented here.  It is also often very difficult and painful for the children.

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