Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Parent Won’t Meet My Boyfriend Because He’s from a Different Culture”

I have been dating my boyfriend for four years now, and my parents clearly disapprove of the relationship. Their disapproval mainly stems from my boyfriend coming from a different culture (ethnicity as well) and nationality.

They have been very logical in their approach, explaining that the negative impacts of differing cultures will not show in the dating phase and that they will only show after a long-term marriage, children, and home cultures are involved. And they know a few intercultural married couples who divorced because of eventual cultural clashes. And because my boyfriend and I have different nationalities, they argue that our future is very uncertain. They value stability a lot. They want me to stay in the same country as they are in or at the least a neighboring country.

Now, my boyfriend is working in Europe, while I am working in Asia, which means we are doing a long-distance relationship, and my parents are expecting me to just slowly ease out of the relationship. Of course, that is not happening. My boyfriend and I are still very much in love.

I understand that the potential risk is definitely there, but I don’t want to end my relationship because of things that could possibly happen in the worst case scenario. I don’t want to end my relationship because of my parents’ perspectives. But because their argument is logical, I don’t know how to persuade them. I discussed it with my boyfriend too, about family, education, and all the possible things that might clash in marriage, and we managed to find middle grounds and solutions. Of course, I’m sure there will be many more problems after marriage that we can’t see now, but I believe that if intercultural marriage can work with some people, it can work with us too. I wanted to just let them get familiar with my boyfriend and slowly accept him, but now they are expecting me to slowly break up with my boyfriend, to the point that they refuse to meet him because that would be investing too much in the relationship.

I don’t know how to deal with my parents. What should I do? — Parents Don’t Accept My Cross-Cultural Love

First of all, it’s your life, not your parents’. I’m not sure what you need to “persuade” your parents to do? Accept your boyfriend, I guess? They won’t even meet him! And, look, if you’ve been dating for four years a guy whom your parents refuse to meet because he comes from a different culture, ethnicity, and country, there’s a name for that: racism. How do you deal with racist, xenophobic parents? You disregard their opinion about your relationship and live the life you want to live. If they have a problem with it, oh well. They can either choose to get over it, accept you and your relationship, or cut ties with you. The latter would suck, and I sympathize with you. But if your own choice comes down to racist parents or a man you’re in love with, I’d choose love.

As for the potential problems you think may arise in marriage because of your different cultures, talking about them now will go a long way in helping you understand expectations you each have, areas where you have room to negotiate and compromise, and areas or topics that may be non-negotiable for each of you. It sounds like you’ve already begun having these conversations. This may help you think of topics you haven’t yet addressed. Good luck!

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

11 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Northern Star April 12, 2018, 9:42 am

    You’re a self-sufficient adult, right? You don’t need to “convince” your parents about this relationship. So, realize that they’re not going to deal with your boyfriend until they have no choice (marriage), and don’t bring up the subject anymore/change the subject when THEY bring it up.

    Trying to use logic or reason to convince your parents to embrace your boyfriend won’t work because it’s almost certainly not “logic” that formed their opinions about him in the first place. Stop trying. Seriously.

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  • avatar

    Ashley April 12, 2018, 10:03 am

    Marrying someone of the same race/ethnicity nationality does not guarantee you won’t get divorced. I’d be more concerned about closing the long distance.

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  • avatar

    brise April 12, 2018, 10:16 am

    Being adult means living one’s own life. You can’t live for your parents and you don’t need their validation, or you are no grown up yet.
    Their argument is not logical: there is a bias here (in addition to the abuse of repressing your desires, refusing to meet him and pushing you in staying under their domination). Of course there is a risk with intercultural marriages. But if you don’t do anything that is risky, then you don’t do anything. Life comes with a risk and you would regret not seizing the opportunity of what makes sense to you. It is a good think that you are able to discuss the matter with your boyfriend. But don’t rush into a marriage either: start with a common life first, get to know him not long-distance, but on an everyday basis. Then you will know if it will hold the time distance.

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  • avatar

    Essie April 12, 2018, 10:18 am

    Marriages/relationships don’t succeed or fail because of cultures or religions or races. They succeed or fail because of the people in them. Their commitment to the relationship and to each other, their ability to work as a team to solve problems, their willingness and ability to compromise and sacrifice for the other. If partners can’t do those things, even a marriage of two people of the same race, culture, country, religion….will fail.

    Look, for every story your parents dig up about their doctor’s aunt’s daughter who married one of THOSE people and had a terrible marriage and got divorced, you can find one about two people of that exact combination who lived happily ever after. You can tell them that. Do they really want to spend the rest of their lives searching for scary stories to tell you? Or do they want to accept reality and be glad that their child found a good man who loves her and makes her happy?

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  • avatar

    Bree April 12, 2018, 10:25 am

    I agree with what Wendy and the other commenters have said. It is ultimately your life to lead. All relationships have their own problems, whether you have differing cultures or not. Having open communication and both being 110% committed to the relationship is key to relationship success.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros April 12, 2018, 11:46 am

    There’s nothing for you to do. Your parents are adults and have decided they don’t like him and don’t want to meet him. Plenty of parents may not totally love a kid’s partner or understand their relationship, but they don’t just refuse to meet them. Perhaps they are generally intolerant people who expect everyone to do what they say, perhaps you have always been willing to acquiesce, perhaps they don’t really care what you think. Your parents are making a choice. You’re also an adult and can choose to date someone even if your parents don’t like them. But you can’t force them to like him.

    I might disagree that your parents are being logical. I don’t know the cultures you each come from, but in most cases, parents who dislike someone solely because they are from another country are some form of racist, xenophobic, whatever. Many people who are this way will come up with “logical” reasons for what they believe. Honestly, this isn’t super logical anyway. The anecdote that some people from different cultures break up can just as easily also be that plenty of people from the same country break up too. Sure, you might not fully grasp cultural differences until you start living together or having kids, but there are plenty of other differences that couples might not notice if they rush into things too. Within countries, there are tons of different belief systems and ways of living. Even if you take the time to understand each other and discuss how you want the future to look, every relationship has risks that one day you may find that it’s not going to work.

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph April 12, 2018, 2:11 pm

    I think this is overall really great advice but I would caution against making any concrete promises of when/how often you’re going to visit your family.
    Circumstances will change over time (finances, work, children, etc) that may make it difficult to visit some years as frequently as others. When you inevitably can’t visit that second time in a year, the old argument will return.

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  • avatar

    wobster109 April 12, 2018, 11:29 pm

    I agree with you for the most part, but not with telling them what the plans are. That invites a whack-a-mole conversation where the parents produce up an endless stream of “What about this? What about that?” Until they hit on something LW hasn’t discussed with BF yet.

    Instead I recommend this:
    Parents: you will have religious differences.
    LW: that is between us and is none of your concern.
    Parents: You won’t agree on where to live.
    LW: I told you this is not up for discussion. If you continue to discuss my relationship, I will hang up.
    Parents: disagreements will arise.
    LW: I gotta go.

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    • Cleopatra Jones

      Cleopatra Jones April 13, 2018, 9:25 am

      I wouldn’t even say that much because it invites them to pull the ‘but you’re our daughter and we are concerned card’. When someone offers me unsolicited advice I just say, ‘I will take it under advisement.’ and change the topic.

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  • avatar

    wobster109 April 12, 2018, 11:34 pm

    I think you, and lots of other people in general, are asking the wrong question. The wrong question is “how can I make X person feel Y about Z?” X = your parents, Y = accept, Z = your boyfriend/relationship.

    You will never ever persuade them, convince them, get them to see your perspective, change their mind. But you can change their behavior. From now on the new goal is “get parents to stop criticizing my relationship”. You do this by consistently giving one warning, then hanging up. Basically making yourself unavailable to listen to the criticism.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark April 13, 2018, 12:11 pm

    Eh, the sheer and simple fact that you somehow misslabel your parents’ blatant racism as “logic” and thus find it hard to argue against means that you should immediately break up with your boyfriend — as clearly, you do NOT have his back…

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