Dear Carolyn:

I have been dating someone for 71/2 years. I am in love with him and, what I still find amazing, not at all bored with our relationship, even after all this time. We most likely will get married in the next couple of years. Unfortunately, our families have been less than supportive throughout the years, my parents being particularly bad. They cornered me into yet another discussion of my relationship recently during which they stated that they don't like anything about my boyfriend, and that we have nothing in common (in particular, looks, height, culture, race, ambition, religion, in this order). The biggest issue, I think, is that he is not white and I am. My parents are of the opinion that we are being egotistical because we are not thinking of our children, as they will never "belong anywhere" and neither will my boyfriend and I. They also state that all our friends, who constantly tell us that we are a great couple, are lying to us. Any thoughts on the topic or suggestions on how to deal with this?


Height. You don't have height in common.

My usual suggestion in situations like yours is to weigh your family's (or friends') concerns as objectively as possible, since the people close to us often can see things we can't -- especially where love is involved. But when they cited looks and height, your parents blew two holes in their credibility so gaping that either hole would have been lethal in its own right. (Let this be an unsolicited warning, by the way, to anyone with legitimate objections to a loved one's mate: Keep the howlers out of your argument, lest they undermine those valid points.)

So your parents exposed themselves as incapable of seeing far enough past their prejudices to assess your emotional well-being objectively. Sad.

Still, your well-being in a relationship is something you ultimately have to gauge for yourself anyway -- and your parents' fearfulness can actually help you with that. Marry and procreate interracially and you will run across people who think like your parents. Your certainty in the face of their doubts, if that's what you feel, will serve you well when that time comes. In fact, you'll need it.

And if you don't feel certain, ask yourself: Is your protracted courtship a sign? If your parents never approve, will that corrode your marriage over time? Are your parents just a red herring? Or, different tack, are your values more like your parents' than you think? Is this love about anything other than you and your boyfriend -- i.e., is it in any way a rebellion, an attempt to distance yourself from their views?

If you are sure-sure and just tired of outside attacks, then you need to deal with your parents thoughtfully, rationally, firmly. Tell them you've listened to their concerns, and weighed them, and realized they raised you better than to succumb to prejudice and dismiss a good man for reasons that are ultimately superficial. Say you hope someday they'll come to be proud of their work.

And then? Do what your gut tells you next. Parents, boyfriends, friends, society -- all important, but in the end, the only one you have to live with is yourself.

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