I've been dating him for eight months and we still haven't told our parents. What should we do?

Dear Jellybean,

You wrote that you’ve been dating someone for eight months and neither of you have told your parents. I’m assuming that the reason you’ve not told your parents is just that it’s awkward? Write back if I’m assuming wrong, because if you were not allowed to date or if your parents have concerns about this guy in particular, that would be an even trickier conversation since their trust in you would be broken. If it’s just a matter of how to tell them, the following is an idea of how to go about it.

I realize it’s not always easy to open up to your parents, and if you haven’t developed open, regular communication about your romantic relationships with them, it seems pretty tough starting now, with 8 months of relationship already underway! Maybe you’re afraid they’ll disapprove, maybe you don’t want them to make such a big deal out of it, maybe you’re trying to figure out how you feel about it yourself and you honestly are not sure how to communicate your feelings!

Whatever the case may be, you clearly want to be on the up and up with your parents (you wouldn’t have written in if you didn’t)  to tell them that you’re seeing someone, especially if that someone is already your boyfriend!  And even if you try to keep it a secret, they’re bound to find out anyway, and wonder why you didn’t tell them…so why not get it over with?

 

Here’s what I’d do:

1.     Tell the more understanding, calm parent first! There’s always one parent that you’re a bit closer to. Or one who takes surprises better.  I don’t want to stereotype but for me, in matters of the heart, I would start with mom.  I would get her input and buy-in and ask her to help me tell my dad so that he knew too, but so I didn’t have to do it alone. If you think both of them will overreact seriously, I’d ask an aunt or another trusted adult to help me tell my parents. Also, timing is key—pick a time when your parents are relaxed and you’ve recently done your chores. 

2. Write out everything you want to say. 

a. I’d start with a story. If your mom knows the guy pretty well, I’d say: Mom, when you have a few minutes can I tell you something about (we’ll call him) Jeremy?”  If not, just say you want to tell her something about a guy you met a while back. No need to get specifics on how long you’ve been dating just yet.

Start telling her about how he got your attention and the good character qualities you see in him. This is going to help her start liking him too . “Well, there was this time in Earth Science class when someone told a dirty joke but Jeremy didn’t like it. He told them that their joke was lame and that women are not objects. I really appreciated that.”

b. Tell her a couple other objective facts about him and his family that will help her see his best qualities. Don’t talk about how cute he is or if he has a sweet car. Talk about important stuff. “So I was pretty interested to know more about him. He works at Subway after classes (work ethic points), has a truck that he and his dad are fixing up (family importance and handyman points), loves going to youth group (spiritually inclined) and he wants to go to Southern to study nursing (ambition and planning points).”

c. By now your mom wants to know if he likes you back, or where this story is going, etc.  So say something like “I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m telling you this. I’m really liking this guy mom and he likes me too. (I would personally avoid the word LOVE, even though you surely have love in your heart for this person…love scares parents.) In fact, we’ve been dating for a while now but I was so nervous to talk to you about it but I really want you to be a part of helping me learn in this area of my life, so I decided even if it was awkward I just HAD to let you know.

d. Be prepared for any objections. Have reasons ready as to why you feel you’re ready to date. Don’t just say, “Everybody in my class has a boyfriend.” By being mature about your reasons, your parents will have more confidence in your choices, and you’ll have a better chance of getting their respect and approval. If your parents are worried, explain to them that that’s why you’re telling them, so that they can help. People are going to date and fall in love, they might as well do it with guidance and mentorship from their parents (especially if your parents have a good relationship!) Stress that you want them involved and you value their counsel (and do remember to check in with them regularly).

3. Listen and avoid arguing Your parents care about you, so they might freak out a bit! They might give you advice, or they might even explain some of their worries. They might have concerns but not know how to voice them. The main ones would be that 1) the relationship will distract you from school/job/other duties. 2) The relationship will lead to sex and all the worries that come along with that. 3) That the guy you’re with is not the best for you because of any number of reasons.  EVEN IF YOU DON’T THINK THESE THINGS AREN’T TRUE… Listen attentively to what they have to say. This is a surprise to them, they’re allowed to share their concerns. Bonus maturity points: say “thank you so much for sharing your concerns with me. Will you pray about them with me?”

Try not to provoke their anger, and try to keep it all positive. Hold your tongue if you have to—after all, they are your parents, they can make your life miserable.

4. Be prepared to show the ultimate respect. Either your parents are going to be ok with this or they’re not.  Whatever their reactions or decisions are, you have to be prepared for the worst. If your parents ask you to not date this person I encourage you to respect their wishes. I also encourage you to fight for your relationship if you think it’s a good one! I’d say something like this: “Mom, Dad, I understand that you’re hesitant for me to continue dating Jeremy, but it sounds like part of the reason is because you don’t know or trust him. Instead of breaking up, do you think it would be ok if he and I took a break seeing each other as a couple while you get to know him as a family? We can all do things together in a family setting?

Also, just a note, but if your guy doesn’t fit in with your family or doesn’t want to get to know your family, there’s a VERY good chance that he’s in the relationship for the wrong reasons or not a match for you.

SO that’s it—it probably would have been easier 8 months ago, but congratulations on doing it now!

I’m sending a prayer up for you right now!

Erica JonesComment