On Dating: My Parents Don't Approve


[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]


  • Jermaine Lane

    Hi Wendy,
    This is similar to the love story of my wife and I. My wife’s parents didn’t approve of me marrying her because I’m African-American and she is Causcasian. They found “scriptures” in the Old Testament which forbade interracial dating/marriage; then there was the “blue jays with blue jays, cardinals with cardinals arguement which led me to think “Am I not the right species?”
    I sat with her father for three, yes three hours and we talked it out face to face. And still, no blessing. I stood my ground, stood on my love for Boo and had to fight for our story.
    Where for by the grace of God Almighty my Father-In-Law’s heart was changed. Then my Mother-In-Law. Then there was the wedding and that was a whole other bag of worms. My In-Laws, nice people who love Jesus and worked through lots of tradition and fear who now accept me with open arms. I am so glad it worked out with you and your Boo. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  • Lin Lin

    I have a similar situation, that I need some guidance with. I’ve known my Turkish bf for a year. I am of Arab-American decent. My parents don’t approve because he does not speak Arabic and does not hold an American citizenship. He is here on a student visa and has been in the USA for 5 yrs. I want to have my parents blessing and approval but I’m afraid it isn’t going to happen. They prefer I marry someone who speaks the language and understands the culture. I don’t know what else to do, but to pray to god.

  • Martha

    I have a similar situation, but a tad bit worse. My boyfriend is chinese. I am of chinese descent as well, but he’s a mainland (I’m the muggle here :p) hence he also used to be a communist. Communist isn’t the same with atheism, they believe there’s God, but they just don’t rely on Him. So yeah, after a year, my christian friends started to accept him (as a believer and as my bf), but i’m still struggling with my parents.
    Please do pray for both of us

  • Kenzie

    I am an 18 year old Caucasian female and have been dating my black boyfriend for over 2 years. He was there no matter what; my parents divorce, their rekindling (and my confusion), my fathers problems with alcohol, everything. I had became very good at hiding it; saying I was with my friends all the time but really going on dates and falling in love.

    Yesterday, my dad found my Twitter, showing pictures of me and my boyfriend and tweets of us confessing our love. He explained he was not getting on to me, he just wanted me to be honest. I broke down and finally confessed to my overly protective, racist father. He explained he simply wants me to be happy and he understands that my decisions are my decisions, right or wrong. He only wants a young man to treat me with respect and treat me like a princess like he does. I was shocked at his maturity and understanding.

    My mother, on the other hand, is just like me. We look and act so much alike that we have clashed since I could speak. She loves me and is hard on me, but I know she wants the best for me. She took the news a lot different. I’m 18 and a senior in high school, so she still has control over my life. If my mom ever suspected I was up to something she would take my phone when I least expected it and put me in lockdown for what she found. This time was different. She hasn’t taken my phone or even acted angry or disappointed. She keeps ignoring it until I bring it up. The only thing she has really said is that she doesn’t think I’m ready for the complications with our conservative relatives, for the scorn of society, and the bullying that would take place if we got married and had a biracial child. She told me we will have a family discussion about it tonight.

    Please help. How can I convince her to give him a chance? I don’t know what I’ll do if she puts me on lock down until I move off to college, without my best friend and boyfriend who has been my confidant and safe place for so long. I just want to be like all my friends who have their boyfriend over to their house for a movie or dinner and not have to hide, sneak, and lie about the the person I care for so dearly. Please help with how to convince my controlling mother!

  • Lee

    How is your relationship between your parents and your husband now?

    I’m in a very similar situation. I hope my ex-girlfriend can find herself and realize that she and I can persevere.