Their Parents Forbid
Q: I met my girlfriend online three years ago, and we're in love. I'm 23 and she's 19. We have a long-distance relationship. Her parents forbid her from talking to (let alone seeing) anyone she met online. If she tells them we're together, she's afraid of breaking their hearts and that they won't ever trust her again. My parents are Indian, are against dating, and would never want me to be with a girl of another religion. They would prefer an arranged marriage. We're both in college and I only got to see her in person when she got to college last fall because she didn't want her parents to catch us together in her own hometown. We talk about getting married in the future but we don't know what to do about our parents. All the stress with lying is really getting to her. We love each other so much but it feels like the world doesn't want us together. What could be the best way for her to tell her parents? And for me to tell mine? Should I move closer to her? -- Rupesh, 23
Dr. Susan: Young love is so intense. And even more intense is a love that breaks taboos, that has to be kept secret, that seems to be worth telling society to mind its own business. But often, our parents know more about real life than we do. I know, you don't believe that now. And I'm certainly not suggesting you accept an arranged marriage if that isn't what you want. But you can see how the stress of going against her family is already tearing apart your girlfriend. She was too young to realize the consequences of being with you, and now she sees she is going to break her parents' hearts. Sadly, there is no way to tell all the parents gently, so they will understand and agree with the way you and she see things. Moving closer to her would allow you to get to know her better, but so long as this relationship has to be secret, there will be lying and deceit and unhappiness all around. You're right about one thing: the world isn't going to make it easy for you to stay together. Your youth and your different religions and opposed parents may be simply too many obstacles to overcome. My own opinion is that until you're old enough or situated independently, so that you can both tell your families the truth, you can't really pursue this with integrity. You have my genuine sympathy.
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Advice for Her
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.