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My boyfriend's parents are strict and I'm not sure what to do anymore

Tagged as: Dating, Family, Pregnancy, Sex, Troubled relationships, Trust issues<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (23 January 2017) 14 Answers - (Newest, 24 January 2017)
A female United States age 26-29, *EO1016 writes:

Hi everyone, I'm kind of new to this so I apologize if this is a bit unorganized.

My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost a year and a half and besides the ups and downs we are very much in love with each other and even plan to have a future together.

We both met when I was 19 and he was 21, now of course I'm 20 and he is 22 so we're still pretty young.

I'm writing this because I'm becoming frustrated with his parents regarding the fact that they won't let us go away together. My boyfriend has been away with friends before so its not anything new that he is going on a trip without his parents.

My boyfriend went on a trip about a week ago to Europe (we are from the states) for school and they didn't let me go even if there were his classmates as well as their significant others and professor. Apparently they don't want to be liable if something were to happen to me. I mean I understand that, I understand asking for me to go with my boyfriend all the way to Europe after a year and a few months is too soon. My parents weren't too keen either but they wouldn't ever tell me I couldn't bring my boyfriend.

Deep down I think its much more than just being responsible if there were something to happen to me. My boyfriend comes from a middle eastern background so like his mom explained to me that they're a little backwards. In other words its that stereotypical a man and woman shouldn't do this if they aren't married.

My boyfriend is an only child too, so he will continue to be coddled until he probably moves out and is married.

Then his mom made a comment that he can't go anywhere with me or I guess any woman until he's married or engaged. His parents go away a lot and invite him but he always refuses because they won't even let me go with them. But when she made the comment it was in front of one of his family members so maybe she was just saying that because they were there?

My boyfriend tells me we need to build up to that, and I agree with that but its like what if we can never do things because of them?

Last summer my boyfriend and I were invited by his friend and girlfriend to go to a resort that was a few hours away and stay 2 days and they didn't even let us do that. His parents said "you can go but you can't go with her."

Everytime I'm around and my boyfriend speaks of this his mom's reply is always "ask your father."

And I'm just like really?

His grandmother, who I'm sure doesn't approve of me but puts on a act to pretend she likes me because I'm not an Arab. She's made several comments that he should go overseas and find a wife (she actually said this in front of me once) or he should marry one of his cousins. She also said that it's disgraceful to go away with a man even if his parents were there.

I just don't really know how to deal with this anymore... his parents are great to me I don't have any issues with them and they like me but this really bothers me. I want to travel once I'm done with college and would like to bring my boyfriend but I don't want our relationship to suffer because his parents won't allow him to travel with me. We want to grow and experience the world together and I feel we don't have to be married to do that.

I honestly think its about the sex too and the possibility of getting pregnant but that really is taken care of.

I don't know I kind of need help with this...

View related questions: cousin, engaged, grandmother, middle eastern

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A female reader, CindyCares Italy +, writes (24 January 2017):

CindyCares agony aunt I guess I will have to elaborate a bit on the last part of my answer , in case it came off to some readers as "irresponsible " or superficial. So,..kindly bear with me.

1) Actually, my main advice stands , i.e. if you want to date a member of a Muslim family- be prepared to accept some things that haven't changed in centuries or if they are changing,they are changing very slowly.

Mine was more a comment , than an advice, to show how the OP is barking up the wrong tree when she blames the bf's parents for her frustration. These parents are doing no more and no less than what it is expectable from the average Muslim parent and are no exception in a certain cultural context. If any , the OP should blame her bf for not being brave enough a) to assert himself against his parents ( .. and yeah, that would be a tall order , agreed ).... nor b) to give her the straight dope about what she can expect from a Muslim boyfriend, and instead promising vaguely that things will change " in time ".

2 ) Premarital sex is, together with adultery and homosexuality, a case of "zina" - illecit sexual relationships . It is huddud ( roughly equivalent to our mortal sin- a big deal ) and in some Islamic countries would be legally punishable with 100 lashings.

BUT, keep in mind that also slander , or defilation of character , against a " honest " woman is as huddud as illicit sex. Islamic culture in general frowns upon gossiping and mud slinging, and any attempt to damage the honour of a person. So, to accuse someone of zina , you need to have 4 eyewitness who have actually seen penetration happen.

Of course , this is symbolic, who'd be so crazy to have sex in front of 4 Muslim witnesses . It means : be careful, do not wag your tongues idly, do not play with people's reputations, and only intervene when their sexual conduct is openly and publicly scandalous.

That serves well all the modern Muslims, of Middle Eastern origins or other origins, who need to operate within a modern, Western context and to integrate in it.

I am pretty sure that what bothers your bf parents is not the idea that he and you are, or could become , sexually involved. If they were bothered by that, you can be sure they'd enforce much stricter rules and you would not be admitted to their house , you would not have met them, your bf would not be allowed to date, period- not just to take you along on trips.

I am pretty sure that they imagine very well what goes on between you , and that they are not under the illusion that you two are just innocently hanging out - they are Muslim, not stupid :). In fact, sorry for the brutality, that may not be your case at all , but many Muslim parents in westernized countries don't mind at all the idea of a °temporary°, nice, well behaved non Muslim girl to "hang out" with their kid . At least she'll keep him away from worse things, like alcohool , drugs, prostitutes .. or attempting to the virtue of a Muslim virgin.

What bothers them is for your illicit relationships to become known, public and undeniable ( sharing the same hotel room is tantamount to having 4 eye witnesses , ot more, since it is quite obvious why you are choosing to share the same room, or bed ).

In short, I am persuaded that , so to speak, they want you to sneak behind their back. Huge double standard , in Muslim families as in any kind of families, lol- they are the parents of the male, and they do not mind the boy having some manly fun- as long as he acts discreetly and does not make people " talk " about him.

My guess is that this is all they want, for you not to announce loud and clear your official plans of travelling together ; to fly below the radar . Again, but it bears repeating , this guess comes from the fact that if they cared about their son living and acting as a " real " Muslim, i.e. no sex before marriage, - they would behave all differently and you'd have been brutally and swiftly kicked out of his life already.

3 ) I am all for knowing , respecting and understanding other cultures and religions . To me, at least, it is obvious that just because we Westerners do X or Y in a certain way,.... not necessarily this is the only, or the best way.

But, respect has to be a two-way street, to flow in both senses. I do not try to force my customs and habits upon you, and you do not try to force yours upon me .

So, fine if the Muslim parents want to restrict their son's freedom and movements, according to their own values. But they can't restrict OTHER parents' children's freedom, based on those values. Sure, they were probably founding their kid's trip. Same as the OP's father was going to found the OP's trip, I suppose ! . It was a school trip, and obviously the OP was eligible to participate, either as a student of the same school , or in some other capacity ; but she could not , because the boy was going. So , the end result is that she was banned from seeing Paris or Rome or what it was... in order that her boyfriend could sightsee in peace, without carnal temptations !

This is not respect, this is prevarication.

I think that we have to respect other people 's cultural boundaries- as long as they respect those we have set for orselves, though.

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A male reader, BrownWolf Canada +, writes (23 January 2017):

BrownWolf agony aunt

My son is 21, daughter is 20...And no way in hell are either one of them spending the night with their boyfriend or girlfriend, unless they are married.

I am not being strict...I am be a responsible parent. I have not explanation for the parents if my son got their daughter pregnant, before either one of them had a chance to do something with their lives.

How is his parents going to explain why my daughter is pregnant, base on...I trusted your son...and look what happened.

You see what you want here and don't see 5 years from now. Parents do...and we know it takes a man two minutes to get girl pregnant...and nine months for you to regret that decision.

Be thankful...He is Arab...and his parents are letting him date outside his culture. Not all cultures have come so far.

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A female reader, celtic_tiger United Kingdom +, writes (23 January 2017):

celtic_tiger agony auntThis is about his culture and religion, not about strict parenting. As the others have said, it all stems from their traditional ideas, which are VERY VERY different to western ideals.

The majority (not all) of muslim or arab immigrants do not want to integrate and find western lifestyles distasteful wrong.

I had a friend at University who was dating a muslim man. Before she was a bubbly, fun and outgoing soul who had a real zest for life. Then she got married.

Within months, she was a shadow of her former self, she was pressurised into converting to islam, and living like a "good" muslim woman. All her children have islamic names, and she only really associates with his family now. Her mother-in-law treats her like a slave - they have to live with them as thats the done thing - and she basically looks after them and their extended family. Her husband is treated like a mini-god, and gets everything he wants.

I would warn you to be careful, and guard your heart. I suspect his family see you as a passing infatuation, probably getting things out of his system, but you are not going to be marriage material in their eyes. They no doubt have a girl already lined up, because arranged marriages are the norm.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (23 January 2017):

I have Middle-eastern friends who are also Muslim, and I have a Persian brother-in-law.

I had to ask a lot of questions. Americans do tend to disrespect other cultures; because they are different. I've learned much about their traditions, language, religion, and culture; by asking in-depth questions. Once I learned their reasoning, and understood some things about the Arab culture; I also had to learn to appreciate their differences without the typical American arrogance and snobbery against things that are different from our own culture.

You made the choice to date an Arab, now you expect his family to make a complete flip and turnabout, ignore their own traditions, and see things your way. I'm sorry, but you simply can't show that kind of disrespect to his family; and think they have to accommodate you because you're an American. Blatantly showing them that you don't care what they think, or don't give a hoot about their culture and traditions. That's very rude and insulting. I'm sure you wouldn't tolerate your boyfriend being disrespectful to your family and their American values.

It is unlikely that you are willing to become a Muslim, abide by their cultural traditions; and it is evident you don't care to respect their beliefs and values.

To them it is inappropriate and loose for a single-woman to travel alone with a man who isn't her husband. It is inappropriate to cohabitate with a man who isn't your husband. They are very concerned about appearances, their standing in Arab society and the Arab community. They are held accountable by their society for how they violate their religious teachings. They are being flexible enough to allow him to date a non-Muslim American; when in most instances they would strictly forbid it.

He isn't being childish, he is showing respect for his elders and his parents; who also hold the purse-strings. In their society it is shameful to disrespect your parents and elders. The response to that can be very serious. He can be cutoff financially, he will not be offered the usual dowry for his wedding, he could even be disowned and shunned by his friends and family. Seems awful to us, but if you're ignorant of their culture; you wouldn't show them the kind of respect they deserve. Even when they bend quite a few rules themselves in order to blend into our Western culture.

His parents probably paid for his education, they will no doubt provide for him and his future wife; and they will have a very strong influence on how he carries on the family name. It all matters as far as his family name reaches. They also must return to their country; and face their Arab society. Where traditions are very strict. You don't understand, and don't care. They are the ones who have to face the criticism and ostracism of their culture.

So to just ignore his family-traditions, isn't really his option. He loves his family as much as you love yours. Your parents' decisions have nothing to do with his. They think your parents are too liberal with you as a female, and you are disrespectful. They are correct if you don't show them some understanding and respect for their culture and faith.

It was not responsible advice to tell you to defy the wishes of his parents and just ignore them. He might have to face very serious repercussions. If this wasn't the case, there would be no reason for you to write a post about it. He would have invited you and made all the arrangements necessary to get you there. They are likely funding his trip, or they would have little to say about it.

If he is traveling with his friends or family, they would not hesitate to report his behavior back to his parents and grandmother. That's just how it is. If he read my response, he would agree.

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A male reader, Xearo Trinidad and Tobago +, writes (23 January 2017):

This is indeed a cultural thing as the other Aunts have mentioned.

I will add based on what you wrote, your boyfriend will not go against his parents, else it would have happened already. If you chose to be in this relationship then this is how it will always be. His family will forever be in the picture in some shape or form.

In terms of what you can do, you can either stay or exit the relationship.

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (23 January 2017):

Honeypie and anone 123 have explained the culture before marriage is absolutely forbidden and the female is expected to maintain her virginity till she is wed,traditionally most marriages are arranged by the family and the bride is chosen by the mother and sisters of the boy. The schools in most of the muslim countries is segregated after the elementary stage. The boys attend boy schools and the girls attend girl schools for the intermediate and secondary schooling but the universities are mixed and both sexes attend the same classes. Obviously his family prefer him to marry one of them and one of their choosing but having said that there are sons who reble and marry the ones they choose but he has a lot of convincing to do if he chooses to marry you.

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A female reader, CindyCares Italy +, writes (23 January 2017):

CindyCares agony aunt Honeypie just stole my line :)

If your bf is of Arab descent, then most probably his family is Muslim and he is Muslim too.

It sounds likr you are not too familiar with his culture and religion , otherwise you would not be so puzzled.

I'd say it could have been worse, his parents sound pretty laid back. In theory, your bf is not even supposed to date ! At all !. I guess this family is westernized and accepting of western social customs - up to a point. Which is the point , where they do not lose face in front of their extended family, friends and community, and do not publicly endorse and enable what for them is totally forbidden, and a big, hideous sin of sexual misconduct.

In other words, I guess that your bf 's parents know or imagine very well that you and him are sexually intimate- and they have decided that they can live with that ( .. after all, they are the parents of the boy....- chances are they'd be less laid back with a daughter ) as long as you are discrete and keep a low profile. If you go away together for all to know , in a sort of pre-honeymoon, without being married, they don't like it, don't approve it and, as you see, don't allow it.

I think your bf is just telling you what you want to hear, because he knows it's improbable there will be a slow build up, conducive to his parents eventually coming around. I doubt they will have a change of heart about this issue. After all, WHY should they change. These are their beliefs, this is their religion, this is their morals; they have any right to feel this way , even if it is not convenient for you.

And, as long as your bf lives with them and / or is financially dependent from them,he can't / won't challenge them and defy them about this matter.

Keep in mind , also, that this is a sensitive matter and a big deal for Muslim families, so , even if he were more mature agewise, and had his own place and his own money, normally a good Muslim son is wary of making waves and asserting hinself in a way, and about matters, which could be very shocking and destructive for his family's harmony and closeness.

So, probably, if you want to stay with this guy, the best thing is to suck it up and adjust to the idea that you'll travel together when you'll be married (.... unless he does not end up in the arranged marriage that his Grandma would like for him... and I do not say this to be mean, but because still, nowadays, 2017 , many , many Muslim guys , no matter at which high level of integration in Western countries, high level of education, etc.. when it's time to settle down, they let - or, actually, even ask ! - their parents to choose the girl ).

Said that, though,- I understand how they can control and restrict their son, but not how they can, in practice, restrict you ? I mean, it is obvious that these parents will not invite you if they are going on a trip, and that you will not be welcome to join any sleepaway family get together- Ok. But how can they prevent YOU from booking and paying your own trip to the same destination as their kid ? I mean, the school trip to Europe, for instance. Europe does not belong to them, they do not own Rome or Paris and they cannot forbid you the access to those cities ! So when yout bf went to, say, Paris- why didn't you just book your own trip and flight, and hotel room- maybe in the hotel next door to his ? :)

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A male reader, JustAMom Canada +, writes (23 January 2017):

No to families parent alike. Unfortunately with his culture dating and sex before marriage is a major no no, which his parents can force in their home. Outside of their home they can't force you to stay away BUT I think their son wants to obey their wishes. Have you talked to him to see where he stands in all of this.

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A female reader, Andie's Thoughts United Kingdom +, writes (23 January 2017):

Andie's Thoughts agony auntI disagree with N91 as it's a cultural thing, not just being strict. They can't stop you, but this is their lifestyle and if you disrespect it by going against those rules, it will stick for the rest of your relationship, even if you eventually get married.

How will you and your boyfriend handle those differences long-term? Children? Lifestyle? How much will follow his culture, or is he supposed to abandon it all for your culture?

His family is unlikely to accept a wife from a different culture, especially if she doesn't respect their boundaries.

He shouldn't have to choose between them, his culture and you.

You need to sit down and discuss the issues that will arise now and in the future, if you two stay together (and start a family).

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (23 January 2017):

If you're finding it tough to cope right now, I'd imagine that it'd be much harder once you two actually get married. I'm all for intercultural relationships but both parties have to be open to the other - and this includes families. Maybe you ought to rethink the viability of this relationship.

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A female reader, Anonymous 123 Italy +, writes (23 January 2017):

Anonymous 123 agony auntYour boyfriend's family is a certain way and they've made themselves clear. It's unacceptable in their culture for unmarried people to be quite as close as you two are or to go on holidays together.

You have two choices. You can either point-blank disrespect them and do as you wish because you're both adults and they can't really stop you in any way. Keep in mind though that this will be a very difficult choice for your boyfriend because he's been brought up in this setting by his family who obviously mean a lot to him and vice versa.

Alternatively, you can just meet within the boundaries that they've set and hope to make it work that way, ideally seeing this relationship culminate into marriage and then you can live on your terms.

Most parents in the middle-eastern world, the Indian subcontinent and South-east Asia are exactly the way your boyfriend's parents are. It's unheard and unthinkable for them even today to accept that their child is having sex outside marriage or wants to go on holidays with their partner. Dating they've more or less accepted but for them it mostly means that their child is "hanging out" with someone he/she likes. They cannot see it beyond that and they don't ever want to think of sex being involved.

You want to grow and experience the world together and you don't think marriage is necessary for that but there's not a chance in hell you can ever get your boyfriend's family to accept this.

Keep in mind you're in for a tough time and it's going to be very difficult for your boyfriend to do the balancing act. There's you on the one hand and then there's his family and you're as different as chalk and cheese. I honesty have no idea how he plans to handle this situation and I'm very interested to know what he says about all this. Can you please provide an update?

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A female reader, Honeypie United States + , writes (23 January 2017):

Honeypie agony auntWell, if he is a Muslim, he can't really have a GF before marriage. It's VERY much their culture and religion. (though not all of them follow THOSE rules).

IF he is a "good" son, he will listen to his parents (another rule).

That fact that he is allowed to date you, but not vacation with you, is odd. It's a bit wishy-washy.

The thing is YOU can't MAKE them do anything they don't want to and HE can't DO anything they don't want him to, IF he wants to remain a "good" son.

As for the "ask your father" thing. Again PRETTY normal for many "traditional" families. As the FATHER is the head of the household.

IF your friends invited you to a resort, I don't see how HIS parents could tell you WHAT to do. They can tell HIM what to do or not to do, but not you.

I think you need to accept that THIS is how they parent. And that will NOT change unless he marries and even then, HIS dad will still be head of the family.

The Grandmother was stating facts. That she wants him to marry a traditional Muslim girl. Why? Because she already KNOWS all the rules, moral and values they believe in.

"I feel we don't have to be married to do that." Yes, most of us Westernized folks believe that too, but that is NOT a part of their culture, family structure or religion.

Unfortunately, THIS is what it can come to when dating someone from a culture so DIFFERENT from yours. And whether you LIKE it or not - you will have to respect that.

Maybe, he is not the best match for you after all?

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A male reader, N91 United Kingdom + , writes (23 January 2017):

N91 agony auntMy bad, I read 'an only child' as 'only a child too'.

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A male reader, N91 United Kingdom + , writes (23 January 2017):

N91 agony auntYour bf isn't a child, neither are you. You're both adults and can do whatever you please.

His parents can't stop him from doing anything. What are they going to do? Lock him in his room so he can't leave the house?

If you guys want to go on holiday together then do it. You're old enough to book it yourself so go for it.

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