Family Hates Her Boyfriend

Q: I'm 19 and my boyfriend of over a year recently asked me to marry him. We're planning a wedding in a couple years. I love him more than anything and we have a wonderful relationship; however, my family hates him. When we first started dating we were in high school (we're now both freshman at different colleges). My mother didn't approve of him because of his race and she forced me to break up with him, but we kept seeing each other in secret for the past year. The rest of my family think he's a bad influence on me and doesn't have a future. I love my family and don't want to give them up, which I'll have to do if I marry him. Is there some way that I would be able to keep both my family and my boyfriend? -- Connie

Dr. Susan: Sometimes families are against a boyfriend for reasons they don't know how to explain. When I was seeing someone from another culture in college, my parents said that since he was skinny, I'd always look fat next to him. Knowing this was trivial, I married him anyway and proceeded to live the next 13 years in misery. We had nothing in common and couldn't communicate well, and he had a hot temper. In your case, the racial issues may be minor compared to the other stuff you mentioned. What does your family mean when they say your boyfriend is a bad influence on you and doesn't have a future? Does he hang out with criminals, is he unusually lazy and so unambitious that he'll never be able to help support a family? What are his values?

Be careful about confusing the excitement of a secret relationship with real love. Having kept him a secret for so long is only going to complicate matters, since your mother is going to have a hard time trusting either of you now. Perhaps you and he could lay out some really practical plans for your future, and then casually mention to your family that you've seen him again lately and there's more to him than they know. Then be prepared for them to either listen to your case or to flip out utterly. If he's a truly a good guy, they may come around eventually. But I have to tell you, at your age, you may not be seeing him clearly. Why not give this relationship a test: don't see each other for three months and see what happens. If it's real, it will withstand such a little test of time. Or go to the trouble of seeing a counselor together to get some third-person clarity on how well matched you are.

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