Nowadays, dating and relationships have become socially accepted parts of the millennial experience. However, in some communities, cultural limitations prevent their members from doing things you’d consider “normal” — dating is one of those things. I'm 20-years-old and have lived in the United States for the majority of my life. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that my parents are uncomfortable with me dating. Here are some things I’ve learned:
1. You’ll deal with a lot of peer pressure — a lot of people won’t understand that you aren’t allowed to date.
Sure, telling a guy that you’re rejecting him because you aren’t allowed to date makes life a lot easier; however, it also leads to weird stares and hushed conversations — if not during middle school and high school, definitely during college. People just have a hard time understanding why you wouldn’t date the cute guy staring at you in class, or why you aren’t crushing on the hot football player that every single girl (and some guys) are into. Sometimes it’s hard to fully explain your situation, and this can make you feel like a social pariah. In a relationship-crazy world, staying single has been highly stigmatized. Still, even when it feels like the world is pressuring you to say “yes,” it’s best to just take a step back and reflect on who you are and what you want. It’s hard to detach your own opinions and wants from that of the crowd — especially when it involves the most attractive guy in your school. So no matter what you decide to do (or not do), make sure that you’re doing it for yourself and not because of how you think it’s going to affect the way people see you.
2. You’ll be sympathetic to your parents’ feelings.
It would be easy to just paint your parents as the bad guys, but you won’t. Even if you don’t agree with them, you’ll understand their perspective. More than that — you’ll love them. Yes, their restrictions are inconvenient, but they come from a place of love. My parents grew up with the mindset that the person you are with becomes the person you marry. Based on this, they have the expectation that I’ll date when I’m ready to settle down. This seems completely logical when thought of outside the context of today’s society, but let’s face it, we’re in the 21st century. They don’t understand the concept of dating for “fun” or “the experience,” and to be completely honest, neither do I. Once you factor the relationship and romance norms of today, you recognize that logic is overridden by things such as hormones.
3. There will be times when you feel like a compulsive liar.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve never really lied to your parents; well, beyond the occasional white lie. “I don’t know who ate the last cookie. Of course I cleaned my room. I already did my homework.” So when people say that, “one lie leads to another until you’re caught in a circle of lies,” believe them. It’s the part that I hate most about hiding things about my life from my parents because it gets to the point that you question whether what you’re doing, or your relationship, is even worth the way that you are feeling. I’ve struggled with this a lot. I feel like a compulsive liar and dishonest. I’ve questioned how the person I’m dating perceives me — wondered if they think I’m a deceitful person? While I’d like to say that this goes away, it’d only be honest to say that there are times when I feel an overwhelming amount of guilt for lying as much as I do in order to be in the relationship that I’m in.
It’s during times like this that I think about a few different things. One of the things that I have learned to focus on is what I want. In this case, that means asking if I genuinely want to be with my significant other. If I am doing what makes me happy, I can come to terms with the lies I tell and prepare myself for the consequences I’ll have to face.
Above all else, I continue to value the importance of truth and the mental peace that it brings. In doing so, I limit the lies I tell to the ones that are absolutely necessary, the ones that allow me to be the truest version of myself — happy in ways my parents can’t yet understand.
4. The guilt will make you feel indecisive.
There will be times when you feel guilty for dating your significant other, and whether you know it or not, your behavior may reflect that. While you shouldn’t doubt your relationship or make your significant other insecure, you need to open the lines of communication.
They won’t be thrilled that you have mixed feelings about dating them, but they will appreciate that you’ve been upfront. This will help them have an easier time understanding you and some of your actions.
There will be other times when you may feel guilty because you can’t give your significant other a normal relationship. In my case, this has meant keeping things completely on the down low. Yes, that means no Facebook official relationship or cute Instagram posts for holidays and anniversaries. I know, the horror — some of you may even question whether my relationship is real because of it.
The point is, you’ll feel like you’re keeping them from having a proper dating experience or that they would have been better off dating someone else. I can raise a hand – actually I can raise both hands and feet – and say, “ME!” for this one. There have been countless nights when, just in a middle of a conversation, I’ll ask my boyfriend why he decided to date me and suggest that maybe he’d be better off dating someone else. It’s not so much insecurity as it is genuine curiosity: why date a girl who’s beyond difficult to be with because of circumstances? Every time he has always had a reassuring response ready, one that puts my mind to rest. You’ll realize that you need to speak to your significant other as soon as you have doubts. Don’t let it fester and become something ugly like jealousy or an uninhibited insecurity.
5. You’ll feel like you can’t talk to your parents, but try not to let the rift divide you and them.
This is an important one. You’ll want to prevent this. Just think about how much it irritates you every time your friend starts dating someone new, and all of a sudden they have no time for you or any of their other friends. Or, when you don’t approve of your friend’s significant other, so of course they decide to just start avoiding you. That’s exactly what happens to your parents except, in their case, they have no idea why you’re becoming distant.
I get it. The lies add up and so does the guilt. It’s easier to avoid the gray areas altogether, but you need to make sure you’re not pushing your parents away to a point where they suddenly don’t know what’s going on in your life.
Like “normal” dating, it’s important that you find a good balance between every aspect of your life. While a lot of people won’t agree with this, I’ve always felt that if there is anyone in my life I can rely on, it’s not my friends or a significant other, but my parents. Sure, they yell at me and are disappointed at times, but at the end of the day, they’ve spent their lives loving me and raising me into the person I am today.
While they may not agree with every decision I make, they love me, more than anyone else possibly can, for the person they’ve helped me become, for the person I am.
6. You’ll find a time to tell them.
I’m still working on this, but you’ll find the right time to tell
your parents about your relationship. You’ll let it all out and be
openly happy and let them be a part of your happiness and independence
and it will be the best feeling in the entire world.