[Monthly Columnists – Wendy van Eyck] My parents don’t approve of my boyfriend.
I’m not the best person to write dating advice because I didn’t go on my first date till I was 26.
And then I broke up with him four weeks later.
I’m not the kind of person who plays games with peoples feelings but I didn’t know what else to do when my parents didn’t approve of my first boyfriend.
As a young teen, I’d decided that dating for the sake of gaining a long list of boyfriends just wasn’t me.
I settled that there were two boxes that needed to be ticked in my mind before I dated:
1. I had to be old enough, practically able to and feel mature enough emotionally that if we felt we wanted to get married we could.
2. My parents would have to approve of him.
In fact, I even sat down and gave my parents a list of qualities I wanted in a husband.
I asked them to help me see past love blindness to determine if the guy I brought home was more than just a handsome face. I never thought that conversation would see me breaking up with the first guy I met who I felt pretty much fulfilled the list.
But it did.
I hadn’t grown up dreaming of a particular way my future husband would look. The color of his skin.
What I wanted more than anything in a husband was a man of character.
His looks were not on the list I gave my parents.
What I wrote I wanted were things like integrity, kindness, courage and steadfastness and how I expected these to look like in day-to-day life.
I wanted a man who I could walk through fire and laugh at the days ahead with. I thought I found that man at 26.
But my parents didn’t approve.
My parents live 10 hours drive from me so they first met Xylon when we visited for a few days over Easter. During that time, Xylon spoke to my dad and told my dad that he wasn’t playing around with me. That he liked me very much and in time if we both felt it was the right thing he hoped to marry me.
At that point Xylon had never told me he hoped we’d marry.
I knew we weren’t playing games but we hadn’t spoken of marriage. We were still just figuring out where our hearts were.
We left, and then an email arrived in my inbox from my parents.
They never forbid the relationship but they let me know that they didn’t approve. In conversations on the phone they told me that they liked him as a person just not as someone who would marry their daughter.
At the end of the day it boiled down to race. He is dark and I am light.
I didn’t know what to do but I felt that I should honour my parents.
I just didn’t know what they meant or how to live that or how it would affect my future.
That is why I found myself sitting in a coffee shop breaking up with my first boyfriend.
I did it on a hunch, on a feeling that if we didn’t honour my parents, any relationship I had with this boy would be tainted by defiance.
It was 8 months, countless conversations and 21 days of fasting later that I settled in my heart that honouring my parents didn’t always mean doing what they said.
It could also mean respecting them enough to step back and consider the validity of their wisdom and insight.
Honouring my parents could mean wrestling with their fears and questions and hopes for my future honestly, tenderly and sensitively.
It could also mean disagreeing with them but doing so in a manner that still recognized their part and relationship in my life.
After we broke up our contact was limited.
Since we are employed in similar fields I’d sometimes see him at work or at mutual friends’ houses. In November he told me he was still interested in dating me.
I spent more time praying, talking to my parents, discussing it with friends before I came to the place where I decided that even without my parents blessing I was confident that this relationship had God’s blessing.
It wasn’t easy to date a guy that I knew my parents didn’t approve of.
If I had felt for one moment in the 8 months of discovering my parents hearts, asking God to reveal his and rummaging through my own, that my parents cautions were based on more than just race I don’t think I would have resumed the relationship.
I definitely wouldn’t have married him three years later.
It’s taught me that in any relationship there is fine line between doing what you think is right defiantly and without consideration and doing what you think is right with love, respect and a desire to maintain a relationship.
The latter isn’t always easy but it is possible.
Wendy van Eyck lives in South Africa where she runs a 24-hour Gospel Music Television channel that broadcasts to 47 African countries. She loves traveling with her husband and they’re currently planning next years trip. Her website www.ilovedevotionals.com features devotionals that range from learning about God while doing laundry to discovering biblical truths while caring for her cancer fighting husband. Follow her on twitter: @wendyvaneyck.
[Photo: Faithography, Flickr]