How can I gracefully set boundaries with conservative/religious parents when I no longer share their beliefs?
November 16, 2011 8:51 AM Subscribe
I want to move in with my partner and move on with my life, but I'm stuck in needing approval from parents with beliefs I can't agree with. How can I handle this in a kind but firm manner?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (28 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I was raised as a fundamentalist Christian, and have since grown out of those beliefs. This was a long and painful process that I certainly did not take lightly.
My parents are very loving and supportive, and we enjoy a good relationship, despite our differences. Our family spars good-naturedly about our radically different politics (I'm teased for being a liberal, etc), although I have never said I specifically reject certain tenets of faith. This is to keep the peace and because I don't see the point in denigrating what they value, since I want the same respect for myself and others.
However, our differences are creating increasing conflict. I am planning to move in with my partner and it's a well-reasoned decision that we've discussed at length. Plus, the West Coast city we live in is expensive and it seems crazy to keep having roommates with varying levels of dysfunction! I am 24 and am completing a professional degree, and we've been together for over three years.
My parents are both opposed, and my father is particularly upset. I know he will attempt to interfere, but I don't know to what extent, since his bark is sometimes bigger than his bite. My partner is not religious, and he outright told me that I "owe" it to them to carry on a religious family, a comment that burdens me deeply. He has already cornered my partner into one very uncomfortable conversation about how he needs to be "saved" to ever marry me, etc. I think he will attempt another conversation, but this will trap me between my partner and my father because the former is still angry about the first conversation (and has made it clear to me that he will not be having another one, and I think to some extent expects me to referee so as to prevent it) and the latter thinks it is his moral right to have it. Needless to say, my stake in my own life as a young woman is ignored completely in this scenario.
My mind is made up, and I know I need to become my own person. However, I like the feeling of being close to my family and am fearing the loss of that. I feel lucky to have them. I find myself sometimes fantasizing about doing things "their way" just to maintain the harmony I enjoy in my life. It's obvious to me how deeply I crave their approval that I would even consider giving up my beliefs and the person that I love to try to be who they expect. I'm insanely jealous of friends who are getting married with the enthusiastic support of their families. I suffer from guilt and often can't identify the source, wondering if I do in fact have a conscience that is telling me it's wrong to live my life the way I want (and I would argue I'm moral and responsible by any reasonable standard), or if it's just social programming I can't escape.
I am grateful to my upbringing because I was loved and I was given a good sense of morality, but I don't feel like I need Jesus to be a good person anymore. Because they are evangelical, there is no way they will understand (or perhaps allow themselves to understand) any way in which I might try to show them that I am not rejecting them by rejecting their religious beliefs.
I need anecdotes from your own lives, words of support, books I should read (I am a prolific reader), and any thoughts on setting boundaries in a way that is respectful and loving (particularly as it relates to the delicate matter of the move-in--they live nearby and I wouldn't lie to them even if they lived half a world away).