TELL ME ABOUT IT
Dear Carolyn: I am a white atheist (raised Catholic), long-term dating a Pakistani American agnostic (raised Muslim). In general, there is cultural pressure for Pakistani people to marry other Pakistanis, or at least within the faith, with no American-style dating allowed. From the start I told my man I’d be happy to date him as long as our relationship would be 100 percent out in the open. He promised he’d proclaim his love from the rooftops, so I was all in.
His siblings and parents – who have become relatively liberal over the 40 years they’ve been in the U.S. – have welcomed me into their homes, even to religious celebrations, with open arms.
I was shocked, then, when my boyfriend casually told me about meeting a member of his mother’s Muslim community. He laughed about how he told the woman he was moving in with a “roommate” and his mother happily thanked him for the obfuscation.
My boyfriend intended this as a lighthearted anecdote and did not understand why I was hurt. I am still very upset. I care for his family, but their decision about hiding me in public is hurtful. I just don’t know what to do.
How about not being hurt?
Annoyed, sure. Or angry, or disgusted – but not hurt. Because this is not personal. If this family were hiding you, just you, then it would be. But everything you say here suggests they’d downplay he was dating who wasn’t from their culture.
You do need to sort out whether this is a misunderstanding, a privacy-vs.-secrecy quibble, or proof of an irreconcilable difference in your definitions of rooftops. And whether it will reconcile itself if you marry.