Dear Wendy: “My Family Thinks I’m Living In Sin”

I am a 23-year-old, self-supporting college grad and my boyfriend and I have lived together for four months. We love each other very much, are happy together and everything is going great. But there is one problem. My mother and much of my family is extremely conservative and this would be qualified as “living in sin.” I see nothing wrong with my choice as it makes me happy, it’s a healthy relationship, etc., but I fear I would cause a large rift in the relationship with my mother, with whom I’m very close, if she knew or found out. But keeping it a secret is causing a problem in my relationship with my boyfriend and I know he is hurt by it. I feel like I need to do something, but I fear destroying a relationship with my family. Any advice on what to do? — Live-in Love

You know, your mom may be upset that you’re “living in sin,” but I have a hunch she’s going to be more upset that you’ve been keeping it a secret for the last four months if you’re as close as you say you are. So, suck it up and break your silence. If you have a chance to talk to her privately in person, that would be best, but if you live long distance and don’t have a chance to see her face-to-face, call her up and tell her you have something important to tell her. Frame the conversation by telling her how much you love her and how important her approval is, but that you have news you need to share that you’re afraid may disappoint her. Then explain why you’ve made the choice you have, why it works for you and that while you understand she may need some time to process it, you hope she’ll come around to accepting it. You can then leave it up to her to tell extended family members or not. When I moved in with my then-boyfriend back when I was your age, there were some members of my extended family I never bothered to share the news with because it wasn’t their business, I knew they would disapprove, and there was no reason they needed to know anyway.

Finally, keep in mind that you’re a financially independent adult now and while it’s nice to have family’s approval, you don’t need it to survive. It may be awkward and painful at first, but you’re going to be OK, and eventually your family will come around. It’s not like what you’re doing is all that uncommon. Maybe you’re even under-estimating your family; perhaps it wouldn’t be as big of a deal to them as you fear. But even if it is, this is your life. You have to make decisions that are best for you.

I love my girlfriend. I love my girlfriend so much that I want her to be my fiancée; however, I am lacking in the romance department. We’ve been together two-and-a-half years, and I know she reads The Frisky and enjoys reading your column and often agrees with your advice. She’s a medical student, loves French macarons, is in her early-20s, and will be Internet-less until mid-January (so I’m not worried about her seeing this). Her family is old money and, well, my family was homeless off and on when I was in high school, so I’m not trying to wow her with money. I just want to know how to put on a gesture to show her how much I love her. I bought an engagement ring and made sure that it is fully refundable in case she would prefer a different style. Could you or your readers help with ideas to ask her to marry me? — Love Struck

Aww. This is a sweet note. Congratulations on finding the woman you want to spend the rest of your life with! If your girlfriend loves you as much as you seem to love her, my guess is it won’t really matter how you propose, as long as you are sincere about it. Grand, romantic gestures are nice, sure, but honestly, it’s the words you’ll say and the sound of your voice and maybe how your hand will shake just a little bit from nerves when you look her in the eye and ask her to be your wife that she’ll remember more than anything. So, relax. Don’t worry about making it perfect. Just be yourself. Be genuine. Tell her what it is you love about her and why you want to spend your life with her. If there’s a place that has special meaning to you — the location of your first date or where you met, a favorite spot in the park or a restaurant you love — those are all good choices to pop the question. One idea I have is to print some photos of the two of you — no one ever prints photos anymore! — and make a little album with some blank pages left in the back, and tell her that you’re hoping those leftover pages can be filled with photos from a wedding one day. And then you can get down on your knee and ask if she’ll marry you. So sweet!

Readers, do you have any other suggestions for Love Struck?

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