Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“I’m A Grown Woman, But My Parents Still Give Me a Curfew!”

I am (almost) in my mid-twenties, in grad school and support myself with a combination of loans, scholarships and part-time work. Because of my grad school, my boyfriend of seven months and I are in an LDR and only get to see each other about once a month — usually when I go home to visit my parents, who are conservative, Latino immigrants. They believe a woman lives under her parents’ rules until she marries (even if she’s been supporting herself for years, like I have), and in order to protect my virtue, they’ve given me a curfew, driving restrictions, and time restrictions for how long my boyfriend can visit me at their home. They constantly tell me to “wait for marriage,” which we actually are. But this is not good enough; they have also made me promise not to do things that might make other people think we’re not waiting, such as sleeping in the same room or traveling together. I tried to appease them by spending a few days at my boyfriend’s house first when I come home so that I could then dedicate a few days to them, but they said I was “lying” about my whereabouts. My boyfriend thinks telling a “white lie” is the only option in this case. I feel guilty about it, but is he right? Is lying really my only option? — Wanting To Do The Right Thing

No, lying — or “withholding information” — isn’t your only option, but the way I see it, it’s one of only two options and it may not be the better choice. After all, if, when you visit your home town, you always stay at your boyfriend’s place for a couple days before dedicating a few days with your parents, who’s to say you wouldn’t be spotted out and about with your boyfriend? Maybe your parents themselves would see you, or someone they know would see you two together and word would get back to them. Do you really want to spend every visit with your boyfriend concerned you’re going to be “found out”?

You’re other option may take more courage, but it’s probably a better long-term choice. This option is to have a long overdue heart-to-heart discussion with your parents in which you thank them for raising you with strong morals and an even stronger sense of self and independence. Explain to them that while you have nothing but respect for your roots and where you come from, you represent a new generation and a blended culture, in which able-minded adults who fully support themselves live the lives they choose to live, not the lives others choose for them. Let them know that you are happy to follow their house rules when staying as a guest in their home, but if they are going to continue to have such restrictive rules, you’re left with little choice but to stay elsewhere on future visits to your home town. Explain that this isn’t the most ideal solution because it means sacrificing time with them, something you hate to do, and that you hope they can come to trust your judgment as a reflection of your good upbringing and learn to be a little more lenient with you now that you’re a grown woman.

You know your parents and you know which option has a better chance of working to your advantage, so use good judgment and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. You are your own person, not just an extension of the people who raised you, and you deserved to be treated respectfully.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at [email protected].

24 comments… add one
  • fast eddie

    fast eddie February 10, 2011, 9:26 am

    Tell the parents that your sorry they feel that way but you have your own life to live then go live it. The time when they had the responsibility of governing your life is past. If they can’t accept that it will be a barrier to the continuing association. By knuckling under your feeding the lion and it could result in blood bath.

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    evanscr05 February 10, 2011, 9:26 am

    I absolutely agree with Wendy’s second option. You’re an adult, on your own, and making decisions that directly impact YOU and your future. What business is it of your parents to tell you how to live your life now that you are out of their house? Even under their roof I think they need to let go of some of these “rules” they have. You are not a child and should not be treated as such. If you think about it, what can they honestly do to you if you don’t follow their rules? I mean, really, think about that. If there is no “punishment” for breaking with their rules, then what is the point in following them?

    When I was in college, I went to school about 650 miles from where I grew up (and I still live out here). When I visited home, I stayed at my mom’s house. I hadn’t seen my friends in months and we liked to hang out until the wee hours at their houses. Sometimes I would come home at 2 in the morning, because, let’s face it, I was a newly minted adult drinker and I wanted to go out with my girlfriends. Now, I get that my mom worried about me now that I was home, so out of courtesy I always told her who I was with, what we were doing, and when I thought I would be home before she could even ask. I do think it’s only fair to let your folks know where you’ll be and that they can reach you if need be. You are a guest in their house, after all. At first she would call me and tell me she couldn’t go to bed until I came home. That was irritating to be told at 21 years old. So I told her, kindly, that I wanted to spend time with friends I hadn’t seen in a while, and if she was worried she could of course call me at any time, but I would not be coming home at 10:00 every night just so she could go to bed. She didn’t like that so much, but I kept at it. Eventually she compromised and told me to wake her up when I came home so she’d know I was home okay. I did that for a while, but it always scared her so eventually I stopped. And eventually she stopped pestering me when I visited.

    I guess what I’m saying is be respectful to their need to keep tabs on you by always letting them know when you visit who you’ll be with, where you’ll most likely be, and when you expect to come home. Keep firm with your convictions, but always be respectful. Eventually, they will start to respect your grownness. You have to remember that you are still their child and parents always view you like that even when you grow up and this is a natural tendency. But if you give in to their silly rules then they will think they have power over you.

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      evanscr05 February 10, 2011, 9:41 am

      I’d also like to add, you’re not doing anything wrong. Don’t you think lying about things would make you feel like you were doing something you shouldn’t? I feel like that would be really disrespectful to the relationship you have with your boyfriend. Your parents don’t have to like all the decisions you make, but at least they are YOUR decisions.

      One of my girlfriends from high school has very religious, overly strict parents and at some point around 16 she rebelled. She started lying to them to avoid dealing with issues and it continued into her 20’s. It ripped apart that family and her relationship with her parents isn’t so good now. Better now that she has a child, but I know she holds a lot of resentment towards her family (her WHOLE family, not just parents) for all the disrespect she’s gotten over the years for going against their ideal of morality (and for doing little things like wearing pants and cutting her hair…I’m completely serious). Don’t let that happen to you.

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    ReginaRey February 10, 2011, 10:02 am

    I understand where you’re coming from. While my parents are fairly liberal and understanding, but my boyfriend’s father is a Reverend and, quite naturally, he grew up in a very conservative household. His dad asked him, point blank, if we were sexually active and my boyfriend lied to him about it because as a grown person he didn’t feel that it was any of his dad’s business. He told me that he lied in order to “keep the peace,” but I sometimes worry that lying could come back to haunt him later on – his relationship with his parents could be really damaged if they found out. I know that telling the truth is not easy, and it would require a lot of courage, but I think that you can ultimately build a better relationship with your parents if you tell them the truth now, instead of potentially damaging it more by continuing to hide things from them and follow their strict rules. It’s always really difficult to hurt people who you love, and who you know have your best interests at heart, but at some point in your adult life you need to be the one to decide what your best interests are.

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      evanscr05 February 10, 2011, 10:09 am

      My fiance and I considered getting married in a church my girlfriend got married in a couple of years back. I didn’t realize how conservative the church is, and part of their rules require that you sign a contract stating either that you are not sexually active or that you promise not to be until you are married. My fiance wanted to lie and tell them we weren’t, but frankly, I’m not ashamed of it and I didn’t feel right lying about it, even to strangers, so we picked another church. That part of your life is no one’s business but yours. So, @ReginaRey, I completely agree with you. If my parents asked me, I’d tell them the truth, too. They shouldn’t ask if they aren’t prepared for the truth.

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        ReginaRey February 10, 2011, 10:20 am

        Wow, I’d never heard of a church doing that! I agree that it shouldn’t really be their business, but thankfully you’ll have a ton of other venues that will suit you and your fiance’s needs and values better. And also, I really admire the LW’s desire to not have sex until marriage – it’s not for me nor everyone, but if that’s what she believes and wants to do, then great! She should stick to her beliefs…but no one else, not even parents, should have that much say in what their adult child believes or how they act.

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        Wolvie_girl February 10, 2011, 11:43 am

        Even though I’m not that conservative, I know several ministers, (one of whom is my brother) and based on things they have shared with me on the issue of marraige, I tend to dissagree. It IS the business of a minister who marries you how your values line up with his or hers. A minister absolutely has the right to decide not to personally sanctify a marraige on terms that he(she) doesn’t subscribe to based on his or her faith and beleifs. If one particular minister doesn’t jive with you, find one who does!

        BTW, I have a good friend who is a priest. She declined to marry our mutual friends, because one of them is jewish, and she didn’t feel comfortable presiding over a ceremony that involved jewish faith traditions, but she whole-heartedly supported their union as a friend.

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      • MissRemy

        Ally February 10, 2011, 5:59 pm

        That’s really interesting! I wasn’t raised in a particular faith or a religious environment, so I’m quite fascinated by how it all works. So thanks for the new information 🙂

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        Spark February 10, 2011, 6:31 pm

        You make really great points! It always seems like people are quick to turn on religions for being too oppressive or conservative and such, but people tend to forget that churches should be entitled to do their own things on their own terms!

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      Desiree February 10, 2011, 11:51 am

      I completely understand why you might want your boyfriend to be more open with his parents, but sometimes it just isn’t feasible. I come from a VERY conservative family that is also, unfortunately, rather rife with drama. I twenty-three, very self-reliant, and starting medical school this fall. However, my dad will still make comments like, “I am so proud that you are a virgin.” The thing is, I’m not. He tries to keep tabs on my activities with my boyfriend and, though it is contrary to my nature, I occasionally lie. I am very honest about our differing opinions in most other aspects, but this one is too complex. First, I feel like it is completely inappropriate for my father to have any control over my sexuality. I am an adult having to carve my own way in the world, and fathers don’t “own” their daughters anymore. Second, because this is a religious issue for my dad, he would not be able to just accept my different lifestyle. It could even cause me to be banished from the family and cut off from my little sister. So, even though I hate dishonesty, I find it is the most tolerable path.

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        Anne (I Go To 11) February 10, 2011, 3:52 pm

        Being banished from your family over your lifestyle? Wow, that is terrible. Unfortunately, I knew a girl that was terrified to tell her dad that she was a lesbian because it was very likely he would’ve disowned her. Everyone else in her family knew–and was okay with it, as far as I could tell–but they had to hide it because her dad was ultra-conservative and would not accept her sexual orientation because it was contrary to his religious beliefs. I lost touch with her years ago, so I have no idea if she ever did tell him. It just breaks my heart to see parents, who are supposed to love their children unconditionally, refuse to accept their children over a difference in lifestyle (or whatever it is that causes the parents to disown them.)

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    sarolabelle February 10, 2011, 11:17 am

    I own my own home and my mom still wants me to call her whenever I get home so she can get to sleep and not have to worry about me. So I have to text her and my boyfriend that I’m home. So weird!

    And she hates it everytime I say I’m staying at my boyfriends house. She says it is unladylike. WTF?

    to LW. Good luck, but I think you’ll have issues your whole life. It’s hard to make parents see you are an adult. Did I mention I’ll be 30 in April? 🙁

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      maynard February 10, 2011, 12:54 pm

      I would think your mom will keep treating you as a child as long as you let her. Tell her it’s unreasonable for her to expect you to check in with her every single night.

      I had a friend a few years back (who was maybe 22 and living on her own for a few years at the time) whose mother would call her 3-4 times a day to check in on her, and if she didn’t answer, the mom would call back over and over and over until she picked up. The friend complained about it constantly, but never told her mom to stop calling so frequently. I never understood that. I could only think that she actually liked the attention her mom was giving her.

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    Wolvie_girl February 10, 2011, 11:20 am

    I have an incredibly conservative dad and very open-minded and supportive mom. They are divorced, so when I decided to move in with my boyfriend, I knew I wouldn’t have an ally helping convince my dad that I’m a self-supported grown woman who has the right to make my own decisions. I worried about and dreaded this conversation with him for monthes. I even moved in with my BF before I hold him. A couple weeks into my new living arrangement, I screwed up my resolve, and called him. Amazingly, he just paused for a minute then said, “Well, I think you’re making a mistake, I belive you should be married first, but you’re a grown up and you’re gonig to do what you want” and that was that. He voiced his concern, but has never brought it up since. I know he’s not happy with the arrangement, but he accepts it, and it’s such a releif to not have to hide who I am from him!

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  • LK7889

    LK7889 February 10, 2011, 11:55 am

    As someone who spent my entire teenage life (and half of my college life) lying to my dad to keep drama from starting, I know how “lying to keep the peace” can really hurt you over the long run. Yeah, it cuts down the drama right then but it really messes things up long term. I couldn’t tell my father about the wonderful vacation I had in college with the boyfriend he hated. I couldn’t tell him that I’ve been pregnant and lost the baby. I couldn’t tell him a number of other things either without admitting that lied to him extensively in the past. Now that we’re much closer as adults and I actually like my dad as a person, when I want to talk about things that he doesn’t know about, I have to consider whether it’s the right time to come clean or to leave it in the past. I’ve left it in the past to avoid hurting him now. I guess my point is that one day you will regret “lying to keep the peace.” I’m also a firm believer that anyone who truly loves you will accept you as you are even if they disagree with your choices.

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  • LK7889

    LK7889 February 10, 2011, 12:04 pm

    Also, as a slight tangent, I had a similar (but much more charged) conversation with my little brother recently. See, my brother is gay and my dad is uber-conservative. My brother was stating that it hurt him that he couldn’t openly share parts of his life with my dad. He truly wants him to accept any partner that my bro might have and treat them both with respect. But due to my father’s very conservative nature and some of the very anti-gay comments he’s made, my brother won’t come out to him. My advice to my brother was similar- anyone who truly loves you will continue to love you even if they disagree with your choices. His response was that he couldn’t do that because he wants our father in his life and the possibility that he might get cut off would hurt him too badly. While I still stand by my advice to my brother, I can understand why people in certain circumstances might continue to “lie to keep the peace.”

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom February 10, 2011, 12:22 pm

    An option not mentioned is to have the boyfriend visit her at school and then it really is their private business where they are who they are with.

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      evanscr05 February 10, 2011, 12:35 pm

      He should anyway, but it doesn’t fix the issue of whether or not she should lie to her parents.

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    Elle February 10, 2011, 1:48 pm

    I was once talking to my friend’s mom, a few days before my friend’s wedding. I asked her, point blank – ‘Why do you make such a big deal out of it, since you know that if they want to do something, they’ll find a way?’ (My friend complained about her mom keeping tabs on her). And my mom’s friend said – ‘As a parent, at least you know you didn’t encourage it.’

    It’s not as much your parents trying to keep you on a leash, but they don’t want you to make any mistakes. (My mom is like this, but my dad knew that the only way to learn is to make mistakes, and he fought her to let me make my own mistakes.)

    It definitely helped once when I told my mom – I’m not pregnant, I don’t have any diseases, I don’t do drugs, I’m in grad school – I made all the right choices. Stop worrying about me – Obviously, I know what I’m doing! (It would definitely help your case to have some examples of friends that didn’t make such good choices).

    Your parents’ fear will probably not go away, but maybe they will start trusting you more, and trust your choices.

    @Wendy – *Your other option… I can’t believe it’s a mistake, so I think you left it in there on purpose, wondering when someone will notice it. Do I get a prize? 🙂

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  • katie

    Katie February 10, 2011, 1:55 pm

    my father was like this…. he would have liked nothing more then to keep me at home (i didnt attend school), pick out my husband for me, keep my hair long, ect ect… he was one of those. but i was a very vocal child, and so i always disagreed with him whenever he spoke about things i didnt believe. and so from a pretty young age, i think he knew that i wouldnt follow what he wanted. i did things that i wanted, not bad things, but i just made my own decisions. i got peircings, tattoos, picked my own boyfriends, made decisions about my own sexuality and i always told him that i would. so as much as my father pushed his beliefs on me, i just pushed back equally with my own beliefs. he finally understood that he just had to let me be my own person, and we get along now. like another person said, he has said that whole i dont agree with your decisions but your an adult thing. its almost like a control thing. dont give your parents control, assert your own control and let them know that is the way it is going to be.

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  • parton_doll

    parton_doll February 10, 2011, 2:36 pm

    Now is a good time to start setting boundaries with your parents, and as much as I agree with the other posters, if your parents are immigrants, you should proceed cautiously. Culturally, you may really alienate your parents if you assert yourself too aggressively. I do agree that you should follow Wendy’s advice and that you are an adult that has a right to make your own choices, but just proceed in a way that is respectful to your parents so that it doesn’t cause a huge rift later.

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    Mainer February 10, 2011, 5:29 pm

    I certainly don’t envy your situation. One of the most difficult things to do in this world is change a person’s beliefs. The best thing you can do is try best to relate to your parents. Don’t try to work against them, work with them. Talk with them about the reasons they decided to come to America. Talk about their motivations, their hopes, their goals. Bring up the idea that one of the most beautiful things about this country is the freedom we are all granted. Adults are trusted to make sound decisions and you want to pursue a certain lifestyle, much in the same way they did. They’re not going to change the way they feel, so don’t try to do that. I always have a problem when people try to force a way of life on another person. The best you can do is get them to understand, and remind them that they made a decision to make their – and subsequently your – life better. You just want to do the same.

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    • katie

      Katie February 12, 2011, 2:39 am

      i love it. the old “get em to think it was their idea”!! great great idea for this situation

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    Patti February 11, 2011, 11:51 pm

    It must hurt to think that your parents don’t trust your judgement. You know what you think is right for you and your bf, and you ARE living your life based on the values they taught you. Maybe it’s time to tell them that you are living your life the way you want to and that does include some of the values they instilled in you, but the constant nagging is pushing you away, not from your values but from them.

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