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Dr. Paige
Dr. Paige, Psychologist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 1427
Experience:  Psychologist; Parent
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I am 21, a female student who goes to college out-of-state

Customer Question

I am 21, a female student who goes to college out-of-state and has her tuition, room and board, personal expenses, etc. completely covered by scholarships and grants. My grades are stellar, on the Dean's List, in the process of applying to grad school, etc. I do not have a job currently in the summer nor drive, so thus, I am living with my parents.


I have a boyfriend and we've been dating for over three years and we have a healthy, mature relationship. My parents, however, have not to this point warmed up to him, and are usually passive aggressive in regard to our relationship. I find that they are strict and overprotective: e.g. they set my curfew for 11 PM, and often, they do not allow my boyfriend to spend time at our house; when we first started dating, they forbid me from staying at his family's house — I don't know why (and they've never even met), they are a very respectable family with a strong matriarch.


They reason such strict rules have to be enforced because I am a "young 'Christian' girl and it is not becoming of me to be out late with the opposite gender." To be truthful, I am not religious but they refuse to accept this, and still say that I have merely strayed from the "narrow path". I don't drink, smoke, etc. They are extremely religious, to the point that I have veered from their values. There are various social and political issues we disagree upon, but from experience, I've learned it's better to keep my mouth shut and tolerate their opinions.


My relationship with my parents has not been the best since I was 17, before I even met my boyfriend nor dated anyone.


Today, I am writing because in an effort to 'reconcile' some tensions, my family invited my boyfriend to a baseball game. However, my boyfriend got extremely sick, so I called his family to come pick him up. I find my boyfriend lying on the ground, vomiting into a bush, and soon enough, a cop and paramedics come, we go to the stadium ER, and I am told by his family members that it is best if I stay with him at their house for a few hours. I immediately oblige. I updated my family on details and finally when I am at my boyfriend's house, his family and I decide it's best if I stay the entire night. I call my parents to let them know but they do not answer (it's midnight around this time). I leave them a few texts, and finally in the morning, I get dropped off back home. My parents are upset with me because they say I should not have stayed the night over (even though I had called them to no avail), and said that I was his girlfriend, not his WIFE — as if the duty to care for a significant other does not belong to a long-term girlfriend, or partner. It makes me feel like my relationship is petty to them and in return, I find their opinions illogical and possibly traditionalist. I have to listen to stuff like this too often. I am angry because every time they say something like this, there's nothing I can do lest we break into a serious fight and I am threatened with being disowned. It's not fair for them to make me feel guilty like this. What should I do? Who's right? Is there even a right or wrong person?


I should perhaps mention that I am their eldest child and only daughter, often sending my much younger teen brothers to keep track of my whereabouts, using them as excuse to stay home, stressing I have to set an example, etc. Ideally, I would like to move away and have my own place, but I strongly feel this would damage my relationship with them, in addition to further exacerbating their already tumultuous relationship with my boyfriend.

Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Parenting
Expert:  Dr. Paige replied 4 years ago.
Hello. I feel for your situation and admire you for sticking it out. You are an adult and capable of making your own choices and decisions in your life. I feel that you have every right to be an individual, to stick by your boyfriend and especially to be smart enough to have your own mind about religious intolerance. I commend you on that !
I know that you feel a little bit of guilt because you are staying with them and feel that you have to deal with their rules. In a way, that is the way it probably should be because it is their house, but they have to understand that you are not 15, you are 21 and they should respect you. I see a few options available to you and I'm sure you have thought about all of these as well. You can either suck it up and deal with their rules and conditions until you are able to move out, you can do whatever you want to do and let them deal with it. If you do this, you run the risk of being kicked out. Or, you find an alternative and a way to move out of their home. It seems as though your boyfriends' family likes you a lot, have you spoken to them about your dilema? Your relationship with your family is of course important because it is your family, however, they are being unreasonable with their expectations of you and need to learn to let go. You can be your own person and still love them and they can still love you even though you don't do everything they say.
I would evaluate how much you need to live there and how much you need to rely on your family first before you decide what to do. Is it a possibility you could move in with your boyfriend and his family? You need to do what you need to do for you. You are an adult and you cannot risk losing your boyfriend if you have a good relationship with him because your family is being irrational. I would also recommend that you have an honest talk with your family about your feelings. If you think they will shut you down and not even be open to a conversation, then I would write them a letter explaining in a nice and mature way of how you love them very much and respect them. Tell them how much you appreciate them raising you to be a successful college student and a good person. Keep it very positive. Tell them that you feel they do not respect you as an adult to make your own decisions and that you love your boyfriend very much.
If they deny your feelings, then that is their own fault, not yours.
You are a good person. You can be a good person without being religious. In fact, studies have shows that religious people tend to be the ones who commit more atrocities in the world than non religious people. You are a good person, don't let anyone tell you differently.
You have a right to being in a relationship which makes you happy. All of these things are what makes your life your life. Stand up for yourself and your choices.
While you feel moving away would damage your relationship with them, that would be on them not you. They would be the ones who would miss an opportunity to continue to be involved in the life of their daughter. Their relationship with your boyfriend would be great if it was a positive one, but again, THEY are choosing to not be open and mature to the reality of the situation. You are going to have to be a little bit selfish here and do what you need to do FOR YOU. It will be difficult and painful to lose a relationship with your parents, but think about your future. You can't be 40 years old and still under your parents rules. You have to make yourself happy in whatever way you can right now. Don't feel guilty for it, they need to learn to deal with it.