Dating When Parents Don't Approve
What to do when your partner's parents don't want you to date, and what to do when your child is dating someone you don't approve of
Deciding to date without approval
Without parental approval, from one or both parties, a couple may feel their only option is to continue their romance in secret.
It’s hard to deny your feelings once they’re acknowledged, and even harder when the chance to be with that person, even if it isn’t how you’d pictured, is still available.
A 7 Cups user recently shared their personal story on dating in secret, and how the effects of their partner’s parents’ disapproval have affected it.
“My girlfriend’s parents hate me, they will not let me talk to her in any way. They had approved me as a friend, but when it turned romantic, things changed. We were together for almost a year without them knowing, and we got into a fight over text. Her parents saw and made us break up.
We got back together a little while later, and we are still texting behind their backs. I am moving out of state soon, and they know that. I wrote a letter to her parents explaining that I would be moving soon and would still like to talk to their daughter, but they refused. After a few months, I asked again and got the same answer.
A few more months passed; I mentioned I had plans to move and apologized for the past, but still, they said no. They never give me a reason. They just avoid it. They’ve said my partner needs to focus on their studies, even if it was summertime, or that it simply wasn’t ‘the right time’ for a relationship. My girlfriend has talked to them, but they don’t give us real answers. I don’t get why they are so against it. It’s hard knowing that we both love each other, yet we cannot see each other.”
When asked what advice they could offer to people in similar situations, this 7 Cups user encouraged that time would heal all wounds.
To the parents of young adults who disapprove of their children’s relationships, they advised open communication.
“Parents, don’t just disregard their feelings, and also talk to the other party. Do not just shut them out, because you could make the other person feel bad about themselves…I know that they have made me feel like…I just cause harm.”
When your parents don’t approve, vs. your partner’s parents
If your parents don’t approve, ask for solid reasoning, and explain that you are mature enough to hold a discussion with them about it. If possible, try to reach a compromise. If they completely refuse to talk about it, let them know how they’re hurting you.
Parents want what’s best for their kids - but they’re human too, and sometimes will need to work on their communication as well.
If talking doesn’t get your point across, you could write your full explanation in a letter.
Reach out to other family members or adults you can trust, and explain to them as well, as your parents may be open to hearing and talking further with another adult.
If your partner’s parents don’t approve, try to find out why, and present yourself as rational, respectful, and empathetic. Don’t hide behind your partner to get approval; a serious relationship will require communication from both parties.
If they refuse to speak about it with you, you could ask your parents if they’d agree to speak to them directly. Again, having an adult on your side could open them up to further discussion.
Let your partner know that you aren’t upset with them, as they may feel it is their fault, but just frustrated with the situation.
If their parents’ reasoning is about schooling, or it not being the right time for a relationship, ask when they would be willing to let you and your partner become a couple, or if they’re comfortable with you being friends.
From a parent’s perspective
Dating is a hard road to navigate as a parent when it comes to the safety of your child.
As a parent, your job is to make sure your child is well-provided for, that they’re getting a good education, and growing in emotional and social maturity.
There are many valid reasons for not wanting your child to date, whether it’s the concept itself, dating people with a certain background and personality, age requirements, or tied to other conditions-like only if they’re doing well in school, or going on dates with other friends around.
Keeping a good parent-child relationship involves open discussions of both of your wants, and compromises may need to be reached for both parent and child to feel comfortable and satisfied.
Closing the door on discussing why they aren’t allowed to do certain things, including dating, signals to the child that either you don’t feel they are mature enough to understand your reasoning, or that you don’t respect them enough to share and open a dialogue.
While you have authority, you also have a responsibility to recognize your child as an individual, with their own interests and passions, and that they may need to learn how to date, what their preferences are, and how to keep up a good relationship on their own.
“Forcing an adult child to make the choice between the parents who raised him and the person he loves always ends badly. Cutting off the child will only cut you off from the wheel of life.”
-Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.
Making sure that they know they’ll have their parents to support them throughout that time could encourage them to make better choices, with their parents’ advice in mind.
If you as a parent don’t approve of your child’s partner, let them know why.
What trait of their partner’s do you not like? What circumstances do you see affecting their relationship negatively? Approach them with kindness, not condescension, keeping in mind the experiences you had with dating when you were their age as well.
Knowing that you recognize their sovereignty and have their best intentions in mind will comfort your child, and lead them to feel equipped to face the situation.
Creating an ongoing discussion with your child, not just about their dating life and potential sexual intimacy, but in general, has shown to create a more beneficial relationship (page 140, A Longitudinal Study of Conversations with Parents about Sex and Dating During College, 2010, Elizabeth M. Morgan) with less conflict.
The effects of secrecy on a relationship
While a secret relationship could seem alluring at first, studies on the subject wield less positive results. Over time, the difficulties of keeping a romance between the couple hidden, for fear of being caught, may begin to outweigh the elation of being together, and create an obsessive preoccupation (thinking and talking with each other often), since seeing each other in person often might not be an option.
A lack of perceived social support and stress could become detrimental to the relationship, damaging their self-esteem, and leading the couple to feel ‘alone’ despite being together.
There’s no way to tell whether the benefits of your relationship will outweigh the disadvantages - every couple and situation is unique. It’s important to weigh the positives and negatives before making a decision and to take into consideration both the short term and long term consequences that may occur.
How long will you have to keep the relationship secret? Will you be able to see each other, or make enough time to talk? How well do you communicate?
Our 7 Cups user, who is continuing the relationship long-term, said, “…if you both truly love each other, do not give up hope, because time heals all wounds and this stage will pass.”