Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Boyfriend’s Racist Family Doesn’t Like Me”

My boyfriend, “Hank,” and I have been in our relationship for about eight months now and are very happy. I really would like a future with him, but his family is making it clear to me that they don’t want me to be a part of his. We both come from conservative families, but the difference is that my family is accepting of all types of people while his family judges and isolates themselves from people they don’t agree with. His family is extremely racist (I am Asian and white and his family is 100% white), homophobic, COMPLETELY against marijuana, and judgmental to anyone who doesn’t run things the way they do. However, they are also very family-oriented and spend lots of time together, even though most of the time is spent talking down on other people.

One of the people I am struggling with the most is, “Sheila,” Hank’s older brother, “Jeff’s,” fiancée. She and Jeff are both 22, have been together since high school, and are getting married soon. They don’t want me at their upcoming wedding. Recently, she was snooping behind my back asking classmates of mine what they think about me, and then she discovered my private Instagram where she found pictures of weed, which she confronted my boyfriend about. She told him that “she doesn’t like me anymore and isn’t going to make an effort.” She said many hurtful things directed towards me but then “changed her mind” so she sees no reason to apologize. Hank’s brother has a habit of “tattling” on my boyfriend, who is 18. He told their parents about my boyfriend’s smoking, tells his parents when I’m over if we’re home alone (it is against their rules because I’m still in high school), and even looked through my boyfriend’s bank receipts, later telling his parents every detail about Hank’s finances.

Whenever I am over at my boyfriend’s house, I always feel a strange tension. His brother never looks at me or acknowledges me. At family dinners everyone is either complaining, talking politics, or talking about Sheila (she is always topic of conversation). I feel like such an outsider and have no opportunity to chime in. I also feel like no one makes an effort to include me in conversation.

Hank has recently been getting into it with his parents over this. His mom thinks that I am dragging my boyfriend away from the family, and his dad thinks I am a “bad influence.” (My influence: Hank is more accepting of people now and isn’t as negative and judgemental. I have cooked him healthy lunches every day for work and got him into working out.) His father thinks I am going to end up trying more drugs in college and become a “druggie.” I did go through a small party phase in the beginning of high school that they don’t agree with, and his mom claims that “people don’t change.” I come from a very successful family who wants me to also be well off. I have PLENTY of family members who smoke weed and drink socially who have never tried other drugs. I’m very good about keeping my grades up, and I plan on getting into a good university, which his family knows.

I don’t know how to handle the growing drama around his family. I constantly feel unwanted and uncomfortable around them, and it is not a surprise anymore that Jeff and Sheila don’t want me at their wedding. I really wish I could be there to support my boyfriend, but I don’t want to be there if unwanted. I am so stressed about the situation that I can’t even imagine how Hank feels being in the middle of it. Please help because I am very happy with my boyfriend and I would like this resolved as much as I can make that happen. — Feeling Unwanted By His Family

First of all, why are you putting pictures of weed on your Instagram? You’re in high school, you want to get into a good university, and you want to impress your boyfriend’s family — these are all good reasons for why you: a) shouldn’t be smoking weed in the first place; and b) SHOULD NOT BE PUTTING PHOTOS OF IT ON INSTAGRAM. That’s just really, really stupid. Honestly, I’m very open-minded, but if my son were dating a girl with pictures of weed on her Instagram, I’d have an issue with it, too. Not necessarily because I’d worry about her influence on my son, but because I’d really question her judgment, and I’d worry about what else she was being stupid about. (Also, if your Instagram is “private,” how did Sheila come to see it in the first place? If you let her follow you, you really can’t call it “snooping.”)

Second of all, if you want Hank’s family to accept you, a good place to start is with not breaking their house rules when you’re over at their home. You know it’s against their rules for you to be alone with Hank in their home, so don’t do that. It’s hard to see you totally as the victim here when your own actions are working against you.

That said, I’ll believe you that Hank’s family members are racists even though you give no examples of their racism or their isolation of you other than not approving of your drug use. Here’s the thing: You are unlikely to change their opinion any time soon. You are definitely unlikely to change it by continuing to disrespect their house rules. You know — or at least, believe — they don’t like you. You feel tension every time you’re at their home. So stop going over there. Stop hanging out with them. Limit your interaction with your boyfriend to outside his family home. Go on dates. Invite him over to your place. And let him have time alone with his family. I know you think he needs your “support,” like at his brother’s wedding, but he doesn’t. I’m sure he enjoys your company and likes having you around, but he doesn’t “need your support.” That is a fallacy. He’s survived without you for 17 1/2 years before you started dating. He’s fine.

You’re in high school, and I want to tell you that the likelihood of your actually marrying your boyfriend one day is low, but when your boyfriend’s parents and his brother and fiancée are all former high school sweethearts, that kind of blows my argument out of the water. Obviously, you are part of a culture where people marry earlier, so it’s not far-fetched that you’d consider marrying Hank in the not-too-distant future. When you marry someone though, you marry their family, so really think about whether this is a family you want in your life forever. You may really, really love Hank, but is that enough? Is that enough to spend a lot of time for the rest of your life with a racist, homophobic, judgmental family?

You can’t change who these people are. You can change your reaction to them, and you may be able to eventually change their perception of you, but it is very, very unlikely that these people are suddenly going to stop being racist, homophobic assholes. I mean, it’s great that you’ve been successful in getting Hank to be more accepting and less judgmental of people, but as someone who’s dating a minority member, he probably isn’t as racist as the rest of his family to begin with, right? I wouldn’t count on having the same level of success with everyone else. And I would be very leery about legally binding myself to this group and potentially having children with Hank who may be ostracized by their extended relatives for their mixed race.

So my advice: Hang low, avoid the family, quit putting pictures of weed on your Instagram, go out with your boyfriend more instead of hanging out at his house and with his folks, and continue focusing on keeping your grades up and getting into a good college. When you do get to college, a whole world of new people will open to you. Go ahead and have fun with Hank now, but don’t tie yourself to this one boy from a bigoted family whose members don’t like you. Doing so really limits your possibilities.

***************

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy​(AT)​dearwendy.com.

16 comments… add one
  • avatar

    SpaceySteph August 21, 2017, 10:45 am

    WWS!!! Definitely as I’m reading this I’m like “why does your instagram have you smoking pot on it?” but it made more sense when I realized you were still in high school. Even if it’s legal where you are (which I suspect isn’t the case, but even if) it’s still not smart to put pictures of it online. Just like how, even though its legal for people over 21 to drink its still not a good thing to coat facebook in pictures of them drunk and partying. Employers (and maybe college admissions, too) can take your web presence into account when deciding on your application, so it’s in your best interest to make sure your web presence is giving the impression you want to give those people. Yes, even if you think its private… obviously this proves its not private enough. Keep those pics to yourself, or better yet, enjoy your drugs without photographic evidence.

    And double WWS for marrying his family. They are not going to change. In fact, I think recent experience has shown us people who whole these views tend to double down on them as the world around them changes to become more accepting. Honestly, I don’t think its worth it with a guy you’ve only dated for 8 months while you’re so young. Your kids will be half-Asian, too. Do you want to subject them to grandparents, aunts and uncles who are racist?

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy August 21, 2017, 11:02 am

      Even if pot is legal where she lives, I don’t think it would be legal for her, a high school student. And she didn’t say she posted a picture of herself smoking – just that she posted a picture of weed. But even that is socially incriminating, especially as a teenager.

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  • avatar

    Sarah August 21, 2017, 10:54 am

    No sympathy from me over the weed issue! It is definitely irresponsible to post those photos.

    I agree, I don’t really see evidence in the letter of their racism. Is it possible that you’re conflating or confusing their issues with your weed use with racism?

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom August 21, 2017, 11:12 am

    It will be the choice of the bride and groom whether you are invited to their wedding. That isn’t your choice, whether it is fair or not. Hank doesn’t need your support at the wedding of his brother. It should be a happy day for both of them so he won’t be in need of support. If you do end up going you are the one who is going to need support around his hostile family. If the bride and groom don’t want you there then you shouldn’t go. It is their wedding.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom August 21, 2017, 11:20 am

    You don’t mention any example of racism although you could certainly be picking up on things that you haven’t mentioned. The examples you do give are the kinds of things that would make many parents not like you. If they don’t like weed they aren’t going to like you if they find you are associated with it. It wouldn’t matter whether you were part Asian or not. The same for breaking their house rules. They don’t want the two of you home alone because they don’t want their son to be a teen father. If they see he has a girlfriend who is breaking those house rules with him they aren’t going to like her and will want him to break up with her.

    His parents have goals for him and they see drug involvement and teen pregnancy as getting in the way of those goals. They are trying to protect his future. By not respecting their point of view and their rules you are showing that you don’t respect them. The same thing you are complaining about them, they don’t respect you. They don’t have to like your party life any more than you have to like their straight life.

    It is probably too late with his family to make a good impression. At times at your age you can change and people will assume you matured and learned to make better decisions. If you want to impress them you need to grow up. Quit breaking their rules in their home. Quit sharing pictures on social media that show you breaking the law. There are very few parents who want their kid to hang out with someone who breaks the law. Whatever you do, don’t get pregnant.

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  • avatar

    dmarie August 21, 2017, 12:06 pm

    LW I think you need to chill out a bit. You ARE still in high school. This doesn’t mean your relationship isn’t serious or isn’t headed somewhere. I married my HS boyfriend and we were not allowed at his house alone and I’m sure his parents would have been pissed if they found us there. He also went to several family weddings when we were seniors and in early college (3-4 years together at that point) and I wasn’t invited and when I had my own wedding I didn’t invite any HS couples. I get why you want to go to the wedding but I personally don’t think you should be invited and it probably has nothing to do with you and is just how they decided to do invites.

    I’m pretty laid back but I do not want my kids breaking the law…ever. So I wouldn’t be too happy to find out someone they are dating was and then was posting photos online of it. I’m fine with weed in general, just as I am with alcohol but I don’t want anyone underage drinking or smoking and certainly not around my kids. You don’t say if it is legal in your state.

    You don’t mention any specifics on their racism but if they are acting that way toward you I’d think seriously about the long term in this relationship. What if you do end up married with kids? Will they have to live with their grandparents looking down on them and worse teaching them to look down on others? Make sure your BF is 100% on the same page as you in regards to this issue.

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  • avatar

    ele4phant August 21, 2017, 12:44 pm

    Despite your lack of examples, I will trust you when you say you have encountered racism and bigotry from this family – I am white, you are not, I will trust you (or any person of color) when describe what you are observing.

    With that said, I can understand how the family has objections to you in addition to their bigotry that are much more valid.

    You may be a great student, but I can understand how parents would not be excited that their teenage son is dating someone who has gotten into partying. Regardless of whether they have a puritanical view of pot, I can see how any parent would question the judgement of their child’s boyfriend/girlfriend if they were smoking as a minor and posting evidence of that online.

    I can see how they would be angry that you flout their (pretty reasonable) rules about being home alone together.

    I don’t know really how to tell you how to move forward but to start acting like the stand-up young woman you are. Stop engaging in illegal activity. Stop making poor judgement about how you are representing yourself on social media. Start respecting the rules of their home.

    It may be too late, they may have formed their judgement of you. And if they are racist, there’s not really a lot you can do about that, and your main concern should be your own safety and well-being. People over time can evolve, but do you want to bank your life on that?

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  • Moneypenny

    Moneypenny August 21, 2017, 12:49 pm

    I agree with everyone else- just chill out, you’re still in high school! (And also stop smoking, or -at least- don’t post about it!) Frankly, I’d be defiant enough to want to prove them wrong- like the saying, “the best revenge is living well.” If they think you’re up to no good, I’d be even more inspired to do my best, get into the best college, and generally be the best I could be, to prove to myself that they were misguided. Note that *they* may never see it, but I would want to do it for *myself.*

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    • avatar

      csp August 21, 2017, 2:55 pm

      Love this! Great example.

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  • avatar

    Janelle August 21, 2017, 12:54 pm

    This relationship isn’t going to last anyway so move on already. The weed thing on instagram, stupid. Also you say it is private. If that were true she’d have seen nothing unless someone you were friends with handed her their phone. Also, if the rule is you aren’t allowed to be at his house alone, and then you do it, why would they like or respect you? You cannot respect their house rules. His brother and fiance also sound immature and too young to be getting married.

    All around you all need to grow up and you need to move on. You are literally just wasting time.

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  • Dear Wendy

    Dear Wendy August 21, 2017, 2:39 pm

    From the LW:

    Hi Wendy, thank you for answering. I wanted to clarify some things I was unclear about. An example of some racist remarks that his family makes is his dad and coworkers have a hand gesture or symbol of when they see black people on the job! They often joke about black people like this. Also when I was first brought around his family his brother and dad would sometimes make Asian jokes which I just laughed off.
    About being in his house when his parents aren’t home… I understand where you’re doing from. His mom got pregnant (by his dad) when she was a senior and he was two years out of highschool. She knows we have sex and is okay with it, she has just talked to us about condoms and such. We have used condoms every time and she knows I am on the pill. When I talked about his brother snitching, we were literally going inside to eat leftovers.
    Going back to weed, I do understand your point that putting it on social media wasn’t the best idea haha. I understand that this doesn’t make it okay, but most teenage girls have “finstas” or private instagrams where they post stupid pictures like so. Again I’m not defending myself, I just thought I should add that in. I did not let her follow my private account (she has stalked my public Instagram and Twitter accounts and has me on Snapchat). She has a friend who has a sister in highschool (who doesn’t like me) who ended up showing her the picture. Also, she promised my boyfriend that this wouldn’t get back to his parents even though she ended up telling them which wasn’t a surprise to me.
    Another thing about weed is that my boyfriend also has smoked weed and his friends have tried it too (his parents are aware of his friends and gave them no issues). This sounds cliche but the majority of kids at my highschool have at least tried smoking! I’m not saying this makes it okay, and I know I’m not going to change their views, I just think it is hypocritical of them to not shame me but not his friends. I am by no means a ‘pothead’ and have never talked about weed around them. I also mentioned that they often bring up controversial issues at dinner often, and since I don’t want to be disrespectful (and their views aren’t going to change) I simply stay quiet.
    Also, when you posted my issue you said I didn’t provide any examples of isolation when in my original email I explained how I feel excluded at family events… His father and brother don’t even say hi to me or acknowledge me, even before they found out about the weed. I also mentioned at dinners or family events I feel overwhelmed and like an outsider. They make no effort to start conversation with me and I have no opportunity to say anything. It’s one of those awkward situations where you can feel you are unwanted but don’t know what to do. amy family on the other hand loves him and always goes out of their way to talk to him when so being him around!
    I have little desire to go to his house and no desire to go to the wedding. I am following your advice of not going to his house, but his family is now using the excuse that I’m “not making an effort” or that I am “tearing him away from the family”. I have no desire to go to the wedding because I don’t want to put myself in that uncomfortable situation even if they allow me to go.

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    • avatar

      TheRascal August 21, 2017, 3:39 pm

      Listen, we get it about the weed. Most of us here have smoked it, too. And in high school, nonetheless! But your behavior surrounding it is short-sighted. Don’t post that shit on social media, that’s poor judgement. Who the hell cares that other girls have “finstas,” it’s still really stupid to post stuff like that. It may seem “cool” to you, showing off for your friends, but it’s incredibly immature and could have other, more serious consequences.

      Regarding your relationship, it’s going nowhere. Unless your boyfriend is willing to cut off his asshole family, those racists will be around and you should not have to put up with that bullshit ignorance and hatred they spew. Get out now while you are young. You will have plenty of opportunities in the future to date great people.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy August 21, 2017, 3:48 pm

        Yeah, I don’t think anyone here is judging pot use. We’re judging putting it on social media. That’s up there with sexting a nekkid picture of yourself to some nude you barely know. The only thing it takes for those images to become public is someone else sharing them, which is totally out of your control. Don’t be an idiot. Don’t send or post pictures that can come back to haunt you.

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    • avatar

      dinoceros August 21, 2017, 5:20 pm

      If a random person can find it without your help, it’s not “private.”

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    • avatar

      ele4phant August 21, 2017, 6:04 pm

      Oh…youths.

      You do understand while you may have set-up your Instagram account to be private, your SIL was able to work around that to see it. Whose to say a future employer or college admissions officer couldn’t also somehow befriend someone you know or get around your privacy settings to check out your private social media accounts? That stuff happens, all the time.

      Whose to keep someone who has access to your accounts (like this friend who doesn’t actually like you and has already shown your private account to others) from posting private pictures publicly. We’re not even talking about hacking here, just people who are savvy with social media getting around the standard privacy settings.

      Be judicious in what you post. There is no such thing as a private or fake account (I will not use the word finsta), as you have already experienced. Assume anything you put on the internet will be seen by anyone and everyone. If you don’t want that, don’t post it. Sometimes its good to be a Luddite.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros August 21, 2017, 5:20 pm

    It was a little hard for me to connect all of the issues. But yes, putting weed on your instagram is dumb. Your boyfriend’s sibling finding it is the least of your problems. Next time it’ll be a potential employer.

    You shouldn’t go to a wedding where you’re unwanted. Period. Doesn’t matter if you feel like you should or whatever. I don’t think your boyfriend needs “support” at wedding. It’s a wedding, not a war zone.

    Finally, you have an uphill battle here. Being with someone whose family doesn’t like you as hard, particularly when you’re young and they have more influence.

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