Dear Dr. Romance: My Parents Are Racists

Dear Dr. Romance:

I've been in a relationship for almost 2 years with a great person whom I've known for the 5 years I've been in this country. We studied together, were genuine friends before feelings started to develop, and we decided to be together. He and I are from a different nationalities and races. This has never been a problem to us because we seem to get along great in terms of values, religious background, personalities, interests, and interactions. We do have our fights, but we always manage to sort them out well. I know he is the one for me, and we are practically living together.

My parents' disapprove because they strongly believe that their kids have to get marry within the same nationality and racial background. They have told me this for a long time, and I didn't express my disagreement to avoid hours of lectures but I was already going out with my current partner.

When I finally had the courage to tell my parents that I have made a decision to be with someone, the first thing they asked me was what nationality he is. It doesn't matter that he treats me right, that both of us come from the same religious background, that we are both highly educated, that he comes from a great family, that he's responsible and a fair person, or that he's compassionate.

Instead, they told me how disappointed they are and how disrespectful I am for not accepting their choice of partners. They feel they will lose face because people will gossip about us. My parents care so much about what people say about us and are very respectable. They fear shame and losing face because a different skin colour is just bad. My mom stopped talking to me, she's been crying all the time, can't seem to concentrate in her work, can't see my picture because she'll cry again, can't seem to get sleep at nights, and won't open my emails. My dad has been calling me all the time and saying horrible things like: I am a disrespectful child, I am a liar, my mom's heart problems are worse because of me, I am causing their unhappiness, they will NEVER EVER accept my choice and decision, and they regret trusting me.

My parents are not bad people, even though my dad has been very strict, they have been lovely, the most caring people I've ever known. They are compassionate about others and mom is very patient. They respect people from all cultures and have taught me to treat people with respect.

I don't know if I'm ready if they disown me and it's very hard to hear how I've made them suffer. I care so much about them and it breaks my heart. I really DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO! Please tell me how should I handle this situation

Dear Reader:

I'm so sorry you're in this predicament. Your parents are doing what they think is right, and right for you. They love you, and they want you to succeed. Unfortunately, success by their definition is different from success for you. No matter how sad it is, you have to follow your own path. Eventually, you will be without your parents, and you must build a life that works for you.

From what you tell me, this is a good relationship. It is very important that he treats you well and you work well together, even though your parents don't understand that. I recommend that you keep telling your parents that you love them, you don't want to dishonor them, but you must build your own life. Keep expressing your gratitude that they gave you what you need to live a happy, fulfilling life. Express your regret that you cannot make them happy. Keep building success in your life with your partner. Eventually, they may come around to see that your path is working.

In this case, you must be the bigger person, and love them even though they are not being loving right now. In my experience, most families eventually adjust to these differences. Your parents have had to accept many things in their lifetime that they did not want -- they will probably be able to accept this eventually. If they keep sending you money, keep saving it. You may be able to use it to help care for them in their old age.

I wish there were an easy answer to this, but you and your partner are developing a different culture than that of your parents, and that is never the easy path. You are choosing your own happiness and success over the dictates of your family and culture. Your problem is the problem of the New Millennium, in which we are transcending the limits of race and culture. We must be careful to cherish the richness of the original cultures while overcoming their limits. I wish you the best of luck in your new life. "Mirrors and Teachers"  and "Creating Family Acceptance" will help you understand them better, and react better. The 10 Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make Before 40 will give you a lot of information about building an independent life.

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D.

"Dr.Romance"

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