Should I inform my girlfriend about this unpleasant conversation between me and her parents when they explicitly requested I don't?
December 26, 2011 8:54 AM   Subscribe

Should I inform my girlfriend about this unpleasant conversation between me and her parents when they explicitly requested I don't?

I'm a sikh man (in the UK), in a relationship with a protestant woman. I was born and bred here so in pretty much all aspects I'm western apart from one which is that I wear a turban.

In the two years I've been in a relationship with her, my girlfriend's parents have never really taken to me. AFAIK, these
reasons are solely based on my outward appearance as they have both mentioned to her that they "don't have a problem with him otherwise".

Two days ago I dropped my girlfriend off at her parents house whereupon they requested a chat with me (my girlfriend was not present as she was ill and so went straight up to her room to lie down).

In this conversation they flat out said a few very direct things to me, namely:

1. They do not consider me a bad person but they do not consider me (in their words) "a worthy suitor of our daughter".

2. I am considered unworthy as I'm not of the correct class (they consider themselves upper-middle class). I challenged them on this, and was informed that it was "not so much about class and more about appearance". I was informed because I look different, specifically because I'm turban wearing, it would reflect poorly on their daughter. "Reflect poorly" in their words means she gets targeted and singled out as being my mate given my appearance. As far as I could make out "targeted and singled" means (to them) that people can obviously see she's with a sikh man.

In the end they asked me to reconsider my position w.r.t their daughter. They further informed me that they will not ever bring up this subject again or object to my relationship with their daughter should I choose not to leave her. Finally, they specifically asked me, regardless of my decision, not to inform their daughter of the conversation.

I know if I do inform her of this conversation it will be the end of their relationship. I also know they form the very bedrock of her life and she relies on them very much for emotional support and strength. While the vindictive side of me wants to let her know about her parents I know this will be very destructive to her in the long run. I love her and I really don't want to do this to her, but on the other hand this is eating me inside.

Does anyone have an idea how I should proceed?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (115 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You need to tell her. She should know (if she doesn't already) what kind of people her parents really are.
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:00 AM on December 26, 2011 [41 favorites]

If my parents said had this kind of conversation with my partner, I would want my partner to disregard my parents wishes and tell me. To hide this from me would feel like a betrayal.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:02 AM on December 26, 2011 [49 favorites]

Interesting dilemma, and kudos to you for thinking about it deeply rather than letting anger guide your decision.

Do you think you're going to marry your girlfriend? Because if so - if she's the one you want to spend your life with, and you can accept having her parents be your family - then I think you must tell her. You can't keep a secret like that; and she would deserve to have all the facts as she makes her decision about how to arrange her family life.

If you're really not sure about whether she's going to be in your life long term, then I can see an argument for keeping it from her. Not because they asked you to (seriously, f those guys!) but because of the hurt you'd be sparing her. But it's not a strong argument. She deserves to know the truth of what her parents feel and how they've acted. She may not be as devastated as you think; and she should probably know all the facts as she enters the next phase of her life and decides how to plan her life, both in terms of her relationship with them as well as with you.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:05 AM on December 26, 2011 [41 favorites]

Yes, absolutely you should tell her. They will probably have this conversation again, and it's just plain mean. Fuck that.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:06 AM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I know if I do inform her of this conversation it will be the end of their relationship.

You think this but you certainly don't know it.

You should definitely tell her. She is an adult and should know that her parents are trying to undermine her relationship with the man she loves; she can use that information however she chooses.

For you to withhold the information from her would be to deny her her own agency in this matter. Withholding the truth in matters like this is always bad because it's always because you don't think they can handle the truth.

But to keep that secret to preserve her relation with her parents would be sort of engineering her life around a fiction. You don't do that to someone you love. You don't sustain a fiction so she can have a relationship with someone who, unbeknownst to her, is trying to undermine her.

She deserves to know.
posted by jayder at 9:06 AM on December 26, 2011 [13 favorites]

I think this is bullying and racism disguised as parental over-protectiveness. I understand your hesitation to tell her; you're clearly a decent human being who doesn't want to cause strife between a person and their parents. But these parents have insulted you and then asked you to protect their relationship with their daughter. This is not a fair bargain. I think your loyalties lie with yourself first and then your girlfriend. You don't owe them anything. I mean, what was their intention, anyway? They won't interfere with your relationship, but they just want you to know they think you're scum and should break up with their daughter to protect their veneer of propriety? That's so outmoded as to be completely laughable.

If you love her and are serious about a long-term relationship with her, I think you should tell her and then stand with her when the inevitable conflict arises between her and her parents. The bottom line here is, she's a grown woman, not a child or a piece of property and, if nothing else, her parents need to be made aware of this reality.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 9:08 AM on December 26, 2011 [69 favorites]

Whose interests would be served by your not telling her?
posted by tel3path at 9:09 AM on December 26, 2011 [10 favorites]

Maybe you should tell and maybe you shouldn't, but I think you shouldn't decide while you're in a hurt and vindictive place. Do what you can to heal your pain about their ignorant prejudicial blather. Then decide.
posted by jasper411 at 9:13 AM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

I think you need to tell her parents that since they are parents they need to put her future happiness at highest priority. Since you are part of her future happiness, they need to understand that they are not putting her happiness at highest priority.

They should also understand that you find their behavior disgusting and that you think that their daughter will too. That this conversation stripped them of any respect you might have once had for them and that you feel no hesitation telling their daughter that they don't care about her future happiness.

Ask them if they would rather you told her or they told her.

Then you can consider if you want to tell her.
posted by sciencegeek at 9:14 AM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

tel3path has it. Your loyalty is to your girlfriend, not to her parents.
posted by yclipse at 9:14 AM on December 26, 2011 [5 favorites]

Wow, that's hard. I'm sorry this happened.

I think that this conversation will influence both your and her parents' behavior toward each other enough that she needs to know. Plus this sort of thing usually ends up getting brought into the light as an attack/defense in arguments (not just possibly from you, but also possibly from her parents), which is more hurtful. I do think you should tell her parents beforehand so they have a chance to prepare themselves and you don't come out looking sneaky.

I'd say that after thinking about the conversation they brought up, you need to tell them that you feel compelled to share this information with their daughter as the two of you are in a serious relationship and they should know that you won't keep this sort of thing secret from her. That you understand (though you don't and shouldn't) where they are coming from and hope that they will see over time that they are mistaken, but that you will not allow anything/anyone including them to undermine your relationship and that you hope they recognize that is a good quality for their daughter's boyfriend to have. Be nice, be civil, but also be firm.

Then, when telling your girlfriend, I'd try as hard as possible to keep her from ending their relationship. She may end up resenting you later if you don't. And people do grow and change through exposure to new people and belief systems, especially when something they value (their daughter) is on the line.
posted by vegartanipla at 9:14 AM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'll go against the grain and vote to not tell her, as long as the following things you've said are accurate:

1) They won't bring it up again or object to you being with her.
2) It would end her relationship with them and deeply hurt her. ("the very bedrock of her life"!)

Look, clearly her parents are in the wrong and sort of racist. But you know what, I do believe that it is out of some misguided attempt to provide the best for her daughter and that they don't have anything against you per se.

If you are going to stay with her and this is the end of it, why destroy her relationship with them? Nobody's parents are perfect, but she's better off having a relationship with them than not.

If they keep trying to undermine her and won't stop, that's a different story.
posted by User7 at 9:16 AM on December 26, 2011 [22 favorites]

I would tell her but I would also ask that she not end her relationship with them. They are her parents, she does love them and it would be really painful for her to lose them. Yes, they are being classist, elitist and racist but they felt they should be honest with you regarding their concerns. In other words, they're loving assholes and both of you love their daughter. Parents find it hard to handle their children doing things they object to; every parent has a vision of how their child's life will be/turn out, which in a lot of cases means, like theirs. Disappointment happens when people choose or happen to be different than anticipated, whether it's being gay, marrying a different race or religion, moving far away, or simply wanting different things from life.

So, while the parents' behavior was disgusting, they are important to her so I hope she doesn't disown them over this but I think she needs to be told. You need to respect the relationship you have with your girlfriend and that means being honest. You already realize the importance of the relationship your girlfriend has with her parents, who seem to be of a mind to express their opinion and will now suck it up (stiff upper lip) if they're daughter continues to see you.
posted by shoesietart at 9:26 AM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with User7. What struck me most about the story is when you said:

that they will not ever bring up this subject again or object to my relationship with their daughter should I choose not to leave her

So you are in total control. You get to have what you want (a relationship with the daughter) without causing a war between the daughter and the parents. Why start a war when you don't have to? And I am willing to bet the daughter already knows about how the parents feel about you. Do you really believe they have never talked about it? In fact, it is likely the daughter has already had that conversation and has never told you to protect you! I would let it go and have the relationship you want.

If they said "we forbid you from seeing our daughter" then that would be different. If you continue to see her and they go back on their word, then you can tell the daughter.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 9:28 AM on December 26, 2011 [10 favorites]

While the vindictive side of me wants to let her know about her parents I know this will be very destructive to her in the long run.

Really, you don't know this at all. If someone in my life (including a loved one) were undermining me, it would be a positive thing for me to find out so that I could proceed accordingly. It sounds like they infantilize her. Do not be an accomplice.
posted by Wordwoman at 9:30 AM on December 26, 2011 [11 favorites]

Except that both 1) and 2) above are statements - one of intent, one of projected outcome. Neither are accurate in the sense of being facts in the world. There's nothing to say they won't bring it up again except their word, and they clearly object to you being with her. So they might not ever bring it up directly, but you will never be allowed to forget it.

It may well hurt her, but I suspect it would damage rather than end her relationship with her parents - but there's no way of knowing until it is done.

So tell her.
posted by canine epigram at 9:30 AM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Not only should you tell your girlfriend, before you do it you should call or email her parents and tell them that you have given it deep thought and much consideration, and that you cannot honor their request, because your commitment to your girlfriend is primary. She is the person you love and trust, and the person that you want to trust you.

They have put you in a nasty position, one where you are going to feel damned if you do and damned if you don't. This is their goal, because they are trying to manipulate you. Don't play along.
posted by Leta at 9:31 AM on December 26, 2011 [45 favorites]

If you tell her, and you stay with her you've pretty much blown ever getting along even a little with her folks.
Are you strong enough to never mention it? If so, go that way. But that sounds pretty hard.

If it will eat at you forever and be a giant invisible problem between you and her, you're better telling.
posted by cccorlew at 9:33 AM on December 26, 2011

(One more thing: it has been my experience that manipulative people, particularly manipulative parents of adult children, only stop trying to undermine their children when they are consistently and openly called on their behavior. And sometimes not even then. Just my experience, but sadly I have a lot of experience with this type of nonsense.)
posted by Leta at 9:35 AM on December 26, 2011 [16 favorites]

Does anyone have an idea how I should proceed?

I'd have a conversation with the parents and it would go something like this:

"Hey, thought about what you said and decided that's it's not my problem. Seriously, this all about ya'll and frankly, it's a bit rude that to drag me into this. I love your daughter. Your daughter loves me. We will continue to love each other as long as possible and you two should reside yourself to that fact and be happy that your daughter is happy."

"Alright, good talk. Are we still on for brunch next week?"

Take the high road. It's not your problem. If they want to act like assholes, that's on them. All you can really do is acknowledge that you heard them, tell'em how it's going to be and let them deal with that (or not), whoever they see fit.

Then I would think long and hard about whether I want to continue dating someone who relies on such assholes as the bedrock of her life and emotional strength. If I broke up with her, then I'd tell her exactly how I came to that conclusion.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:36 AM on December 26, 2011 [9 favorites]

I would be extremely surprised if they haven't already expressed these sentiments quietly to your girlfriend. She may be nursing some pain about this herself.

She's known them longer than you have. Even if they haven't tried convincing her to date a nice C of E chap, she'd be well aware of their xenophobia.

If you are going to be with her for life, you will have to deal with her parents for life, and they will no doubt attempt to divide an conquer. You should tell her, so you can both stand up for what you want, as a couple.
posted by Jilder at 9:42 AM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

I am going to take the other side here. I would not tell. At least not now. This is not new news. Her parents have expressed this sentiment before. This sounds like one last pathetic attempt by some bigoted people to make things right in their little bullshit world. I am not sure if you agreed at the time to not tell. If it were me, with hindsight, if they asked before the conversation to keep it quiet I would have said I cannot agree to it until I hear the conversation. If they said it at the end, then well it is your call. Her parents, as much of a bunch of losers that they are, have told you that this is the last conversation they will have about it and will not (publicly) object to the relationship again should you decide to pursue it.

What is the upside of telling your gf now? She already knows how they feel. It would in your words end the relationship. Presumably, her parents will never tell. Her parents have said they will not be a point of contention going forward. I don't think it will hurt your relationship with this couple as they already told you how they feel and are willing to work within the context that their daughter loves you. Telling will make the relationship with them more contentious unnecessarily. To me, the only news here is that her parents have said they will not object to the relationship going forward if you choose to stay. That is good news. Now, your only decision is your feelings for your gf.

Don't tell. At least not now. Maybe at some point in the future it would make sense to tell.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:45 AM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

It really depends on the plan here. If you are intending to marry this woman, say nothing because this will do nothing but create an enormous family row. If you are intending to break up with her, tell her.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:49 AM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

they specifically asked me, regardless of my decision, not to inform their daughter of the conversation.

So they sit you down and reveal themselves to be firmly stuck in an ugly, classist, racist mindset, where they feel free to tell you that you are not good enough for their daughter because of how you look and then they want to be able to get away with it, without having their daughter find out?

this is where I think to myself, "fuck that shit."

As a follow-on to tel3path's question above, I will ask you this:

Imagine you stay with your girlfriend, marry, and eventually have children. Would you ever be able to leave them alone with their grandparents, even momentarily, knowing that they are capable of such appalling behavior? This is your opportunity to draw a bright line about what behavior is acceptable, and what isn't.

While I applaud your desire to spare your girlfriend's feelings and her relationship with her parents, it's important that you not sell your own self short. You have been ill treated. Her parents did something utterly unacceptable by 21st century Western standards, and they need to be called out for it. They asked you not to say anything because they know better. Don't let them get away with it.

Family secrets are incredibly destructive. They are so much worse than revealing ugly truths.
posted by ambrosia at 9:52 AM on December 26, 2011 [40 favorites]

What makes you think that she is totally unaware on some level about how her parents feel about you?

Her parent's feelings are theirs, not yours or hers. They're assholes, plain and simple, and they have to live with it.

I would give great thought as to what you intend to accomplish by telling her. Will it make your relationship with her better? Her's with you better? Her parents with her and hers with them? Your relationship with the parents and their relationship with you? What do you want out of this?

Should you eventually marry this girl, you can better believe this will come out from them before the wedding, and she will eventually have to take a stand on it. If she stands with her parents, then she wasn't for you. Obviously her opinions must differ from her parents, as she is with you now. If you love her, support her now and in the future.

My take is just to ignore them as their opinion is beneath my contempt. But that's my take.

Think long and hard, and then do what you feel is best.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:53 AM on December 26, 2011

I hate that you've been put in this monstrously unfair position. I think you might be erroneously conflating your legitimate need for respect with 'vindictiveness." Having a backbone is not vindictive, promise. Her parents are racist and classist and you don't owe them a goddamn thing - I'm baffled by their gall, how they're willing to insult you right to your face and then ask you to join in this conspiracy against your gal, keeping secrets and being dishonest with her for their sorry sakes. Please don't do this to yourself.

Have you gamed out what keeping their odious behavior secret would be like? Every family gathering, every time she's on the phone with them, every time they visit, there's gonna be this burning little coal of a horrible secret smoldering inside you. And every time your lady asks you what's the matter, you're gonna have to lie to her. You're gonna have to lie to the woman you love over and over again so that her racist parents won't be put out of joint. Doesn't that sound insane? What the devil are they thinking?

Lots of folks are saying you shouldn't listen to your anger. I disagree. Situations like this are precisely what anger is for. Don't like, fly into a Hulk rage or nothing but goddamn, if these awful people are willing to disrespect you to this degree because of their dipshit ideals from a million years ago, I would hope that anger was part of your reaction. It's a question of self-respect. Furthermore, racists and classists like your girlfriend's parents are counting on the silence of the people around them to allow ridiculous beliefs like theirs to continue. Don't let them get away with this bullshit behavior.

Tell her. Tell her tell her tell her tell her tell her immediately. If she loves you, I can't see how this would end the relationship. And if she does leave you because her dumbass parents don't like your turban then you're well rid of her.
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:55 AM on December 26, 2011 [40 favorites]

Tell her. What do you have to lose.
posted by timsneezed at 9:55 AM on December 26, 2011

Are these two drama llamas? Do they feed on the unhappiness of others? With people like that, the best revenge is to totally ignore them and continue on with your happy life. It drives them crazy when they see their efforts are in vain!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:05 AM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Tell her.

1) She needs to know why you can't stand being around her parents (Or, if you are a much better person than anyone should be expected to be, why you can never warm up to her parents).

2) Secrets just make things much more complicated. Keeping things aboveboard doesn't guarantee an uncomplicated, drama-free family life. But keeping secrets pretty much guarantees a complicated, drama-filled family life. Be prepared for them to use your silence as a weapon against you at some point in the future.
posted by bardophile at 10:08 AM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

It was racist, rude, and awful for them to say that you are unworthy of their daughter and thus you should break up with her. However, it was also condescending and inappropriate for them to bypass their adult daughter and instead approach her boyfriend to talk about ending her relationship.

I think you should tell her. She deserves to know that her parents need to re-learn appropriate boundaries regarding her relationship. You deserve not to have this eating at you. Wait until you are calm. Consider doing it at a time or place that would be inconvenient for her to call them up immediately so that she can take some time to think about this before confronting them. Make a plan together for how to address the situation.

Personally, I'd feel betrayed if my partner kept a secret from me at the request of my parents. I suspect her parents won't keep their word to never mention this again, and that whatever you do now, this conversation will come to light sooner or later. They've put you in an impossible situation, and whatever you choose to do, and whatever happens, they are causing the pain. You are being thoughtful and cautious, but they've already done the damage--whether you keep it hidden or share it with your girlfriend. For the sake of your relationship and in order to act as true partners together, I think you need to tell her.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:13 AM on December 26, 2011 [15 favorites]

Try this: Don't tell her that you had a conversation with her parents, tell her to have a conversation with her parents. If she persists, tell her to ask them. This way, you have stuck to your promise to them should it mean anything, without compromising yourself. Don't let them make you the bad guy here.
posted by Fferret at 10:15 AM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

Not telling her, out of some weird sense of chivalry, means you are treating her as if she were a child, incapable of handling her own affairs. Them telling you this, and then asking you not to tell her means they are treating her like a child. Will they be reviewing all of her relationships, as they would a child?

She is not a child. You tell her. This is what adults do.

She is an adult that can make her own decisions and deal with her own family as adults do. If this destroys her relationship with her parents, it will be because she chose to let that happen, not because you're a supervillain or a mendacious person.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:18 AM on December 26, 2011 [21 favorites]

I actually disagree with the majority here. I see very little upside to telling her. It will make your and her relationship with them distinctly worse and I doubt very strongly your partner will really learn anything about her parents she didn't already know. I think a lot of the advocacy of telling her is driven at heart by a desire to punish the parents for their odious views. Understandable but I strongly question whether anything positive will be accomplished and in my opinion sometimes pragmatism wins out in family situations. I know some will consider this capitulating to prejudice to keep the peace and I recognize that is not a trivial objection.

If you do decide to tell her I think you should consider informing them beforehand when you tell them that you are not going to let their objections interfere with your relationship with their daughter (which let me stress I absolutely think is the correct position as these objections are rooted purely in prejudice) and why you believe she should know about that conversation. The position they put you in is not really fair and you certainly have every right to share it with her but it might go a little bit better if they do not find out she has been told against their expressed wishes after the fact. I think telling them either they need to have a talk with her about their feelings because you are going to eventually is another option worth considering.
posted by nanojath at 10:19 AM on December 26, 2011 [5 favorites]

If I found out that my partner had kept a secret like this from me, especially at the behest of people who were trying to hurt me, I'd be incredibly upset. I'd feel betrayed and lied to. I think you need to tell her, for the sake of preserving honesty in your relationship. I might, if you're feeling generous, let her parents know ahead of time that you cannot honor their request and that you plan to be honest with their daughter, but I think you have to tell her. If she ever finds out that you didn't tell her, she'll likely be devastated not just by what was said behind her back, but also by the fact that someone she loves and trusts kept it from her.
posted by decathecting at 10:27 AM on December 26, 2011 [7 favorites]

What on earth? it was a private conversation with her parents about your relationship with their daughter - not about her love for you or whatever. They just told you how they feel - their private feelings which they had the courage to share with you. You say that if she knows about it it will damage her. And here you are considering badly damaging the person you say you love to satisfy your 'vindictive side'. Are you sure you love someone you want to hurt just to please a nasty aspect of your personality. Man, it was a private conversation - private. Keep it that way, swallow your vindictive feelings and be a loving partner to your girlfriend. and if her folks don't like that, tough on them, it's not their business.
posted by nickji at 10:28 AM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just to add, you say that: "In the end they asked me to reconsider my position w.r.t their daughter. They further informed me that they will not ever bring up this subject again or object to my relationship with their daughter should I choose not to leave her.' What nice people - just to tell you what is in their hearts and then leave it entirely up to you. Entirely. And sorry to have to tell you what you should be mature enough to know, but all marriages/partnerships are difficult, and cross-cultural ones are usually harder than most (I was in a cross-cultural one for many years, and it was wonderful, but it is a bit harder, so they do have some kind of sense in their loving worries for their daughter's happiness.)
posted by nickji at 10:33 AM on December 26, 2011

As a woman, and the daughter of several people with a truly astonishing capacity for saying terrible things, I vote very, very strongly for telling her in a highly factual, brief manner. "Last Tuesday your parents told me that they think I ought to leave you, for your own good, and asked me not to tell you. I thought a lot about it and I just don't feel right keeping it from you even though this complicates things. I'm sorry I didn't tell you right away."

By the way, these people seem to be really interested in appearances and a weird kind of superficial and creepy kind of propriety. In the long term it may be fairly easy to win them over, especially if you can do something like get yourself on a charity board or something similar (it just needs to show that people "like them" value and/or accept you publicly: rock band no, lunch with a minor nobleman yes.) It actually won't be all that hard, I suspect, to get them to decide to stop playing this game.

And they're not going to keep their promise about not interfering anymore, I think, until you do something like that. Not telling your girlfriend accrues no benefit to you and is stupid, manipulative, and wrong.
posted by SMPA at 10:33 AM on December 26, 2011 [14 favorites]

Hm, difficult decision. To be honest, I don't believe her parents when they say they won't object to the relationship any further if you choose to stay with her - not for a second would I trust that they would not in some way attempt to undermine the relationship in the future. And by having this conversation with you, in secret, they are pretty much setting you up against their daughter in some way -- even if you stay together. Continuing any interaction without her involvement when it so directly impacts her is insulting and infantalising. Eventually she will find out - her parents will most likely tell her to turn her against you in some way. Believe me; she will not be happy, even if you chose her.

But, what would telling her accomplish? She already knows her parents are not okay with the relationship - unless she's very naive, she's probably understanding that the fact that you wear a turban raises some sort of concern for them (whether they call it race or class really makes no difference). Do you think that she would abandon her family of origin to date you? Because I somehow doubt it. What is more likely is that it would create tension between you and her, between you and her parents, between her and her parents (probably to a lesser extent). Or that her parents' feelings (and her regard for them) would override her feelings for you and she would end the relationship with you. Or, the total opposite could happen where she chooses you over her parents' objections. This could lead to further passive aggression, or alienation, or whatever. I feel like no matter what you choose, there's just no guarantee of a good outcome - whatever that means to you.

So, I'm not sure how to advise you, except to say that if you choose to stay with their daughter, it's going to be a tough road to hoe for sure. You might want to sit daughter and parents down together and see if bringing it all out in the open (the conversation between you and her parents), while expressing your intent to maintain a relationship with her, and your hope that you can resolve some differences, may make some impact. I'm certainly not suggesting that they are going to stop being elitist and/or prejudiced against you, but... I really don't know. I guess I'm hoping that presenting your position as a united front might make her parents at least back off and try to accept you, but there's no guarantee that this wouldn't also blow up in your face.
posted by sm1tten at 10:34 AM on December 26, 2011

OP, I don't want to get into excessive detail here but please memail me if you are comfortable. I was the daughter in a situation 90% the same. I was told about the conversation a mere hour after it went down. Cooler heads did not prevail. The relationships between all three parties ended soon after. This was over a decade ago.

For the sake of the oeuvre of responses I will say that I am wholly with JohnnyGunn here. At some point the daughter does need to know that the conversation happened... but not right now. In hindsight, OP will not come off like a bad guy for taking all the time he needs to thoughtfully ponder the situation. One way or the other, big bad things are going to happen when this all comes to light, and there is no reason to rush to action.

Plus, it is likely that if the parents are going to go back on their word not to meddle further if OP doesn't choose to leave, then they will reveal their hand very soon. In that case, waiting becomes a strategic play to smoke out their true colors.
posted by pineapple at 10:39 AM on December 26, 2011 [6 favorites]

My gut reaction, like many others above, is -- fuck those guys, tell her. She should know.


Then I think there is a lot more to it, and possibly a third way. If you see yourself marrying her, and having kids, then that means they are going to be in your life for a long time. I think your ultimate goal here, is for them to realize that they are behaving unacceptably and have them treat you as, you know, a real person. And I think there might be a possibility of that happening.

I say:

1) You don't have to tell her. Your girlfriend almost certainly already knows how her parents feel. In fact, there is a good chance that they had the exact same conversation with her. It didn't work, and now they are trying it on you.
2) You don't have to pretend like it didn't happen. Have you guys been maintaining a facade of "everything is fine, they really like you!" ? If so, drop it. Next time she wants to go over for tea, you can flat out say "I'd rather not join, they don't like me and I don't feel welcome."
3) Let her do the work. They are her parents, and her problem to resolve. The onus is not on you. Make it perfectly clear to her that you are uncomforatble around them, and that it is perfectly clear that you don't like you, and that you think it is racism. She will then have to tell her parents and resolve that issue with them. It's shitty enough that you have to bear the brunt of their backwardness, it would be even worse for you to do all the legwork to bring them into the 21st century.

Summary: don't tell about the conversation, but make your discomfort and the perceived anomisty very clear, and let her help her parents work out their own issues.
posted by molecicco at 10:43 AM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would request a chat with all three of them present. Then, in front of her, without going into details about what was said to you earlier, you can inform everyone that her parents have some concerns regarding your relationship that you think your partner should seriously consider. It is not you who has to make a decision wrt the girl- because you know where you stand on that. It is very convenient for them to put you in this bind (actually, that's very Indian of them, so they are really not that different after all). It is they who have to make their wishes and concerns known to their daughter. The choice is theirs to make- to choose their daughter with the partner she has chosen or choose to live with what the daughter decides. And in the future, you request that they don't make requests for private chats without the daughter. It's the two of you now and they better start getting used to it.

I would not go into any more details and physically leave at this point to let the parents and daughter discuss this between themselves. And do leave, even when anyone else insists you go into more details or what not.

As far as your future with this woman is concerned, the obstacles you will face with either one's parents or the society, it is for the two of you to decide what is best for you and your future family. You need to stand up to them and assert your position and command the respect you deserve as their daughter's partner. Basic level respect!

As an aside, I hope you know that being a turban-wearing sikh, in this day and age, is a matter of pride. You were born to stand out and you should be proud of it. It is unfortunate that people can't look past the turban and really admire what being a sikh truly represents.
posted by xm at 10:55 AM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

If you don't tell her, you are creating a huge barrier to intimacy. This was a big thing for the parents to tell you that. By not sharing with your Gf, you are leaving her out of a huge portion of your reality - that is, the racism you face, and the fact that her parents are racist. You can't sustain a good relationship if you keep such important things from her.

Note that how you chose to deal with this event is different from the mere fact of telling her. This doesn't have to spell the end of her relationship with her parents.
posted by yarly at 11:02 AM on December 26, 2011 [9 favorites]

Fuck this. Tell your girlfriend. If this impacts her (and your) relationship (and it obviously does), she has a right to know.

I may be biased, because I'm the kid of a mixed relationship - a fair, blue-eyed Catholic Italian woman, and a brown Muslim Pakistani man. My mom's family brought up exactly the same issues - worthiness, class, image, etc, including asking my dad not to tell my mom about their conversations, and saying that that will be the last of it.

Saying "we won't mention it anymore" is obviously a form of manipulation - her parents (and my mom's family) are hoping that you'll go along with their bigoted concerns out of some twisted compassion for their daughter. I would pretty much bet that this is a lie to try and coerce you into artificially ending the relationship. They know you care about their daughter. They think you care about her enough to appease her ignorant parents. But I hope you care about her more than to let her parents scheme behind her back.

Unfortunately, the bigotry of my Italian relatives did persist, up until they day my mom died. They married, and had a very loving relationship, despite perceptions of being from different backgrounds. But they married in 1970 - I'm sadly, not surprised to see such asinine behavior and games from controlling parents continue over 40 years later.

If you and your girlfriend last, I wish the two of you all the best. If you can't make it work, that's ok too. But please don't let the reason you break up, be from going along with some pretty disgusting, bigoted ideologies that you know are wrong.

You should tell your girlfriend. You should also tell her parents that you are not comfortable with keeping their meddling in their daughters relationship "private" from their daughter. It affects her. You should talk about it with her.
posted by raztaj at 11:05 AM on December 26, 2011 [12 favorites]

Whether you decide to bring up the private chat as I mentioned above or decide not to tell her at all (its going to be hard the way its already eating you up inside) one thing is certain- you don't have to tell the woman privately at all. That way, you aren't telling anyone anything behind their back when requested otherwise. So, you are respecting the parents' wishes (in a way) and you are being open in your relationship with the woman.

This is really something the three of them have to figure out.
posted by xm at 11:08 AM on December 26, 2011

I wouldn't tell her. Stay together, and let her have her family too.
posted by wurly at 11:09 AM on December 26, 2011

" ... they have both mentioned to her that they "don't have a problem with him otherwise"." This doesn't really ring true to me. It's seems as if they couldn't quite own up to their own racism and classism and instead picked on the one thing that was most obvious to them about your external appearance that WASN'T the colour of your skin. That was their shorthand for saying to you they weren't comfortable with their daughter dating someone who wasn't white and Protestant. What unpleasant, cowardly people.

In addition, I can't see that anyone would object to the wearing of a turban by itself as it were - please forgive me if I'm wrong but isn't the turban one of the major signifiers of Sikhism? This is all about who you are - this is a major tenet of your religion and they know that.

I'm pretty angry with them, on your behalf. But in terms of your question, you did not ask to be given this information and it is unfair and unrealistic for them to expect you to keep it from your partner if you are committed to her and your life together. I agree that you should take some time to process it, so that you are calmer as and when you raise it with her, because that way you will be able to engage with her gently and won't be dealing quite so acutely with your own natural and understandable feelings of rejection, resentment and anger as well as with anything that comes from her.

One thing - it is a faint possibility that she might say that they have already had the very same conversation with her already and that she told them never to say anything about it to you (in which case, they're doubly duplicitous and are trying to play both ends against the middle - silly people, they're betraying everyone). If that's what happened, then I assume she didn't mention it to you because she was hoping to spare your feelings, so I would try not to feel too bad about it.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 11:11 AM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

You are much closer to this situation and will have to make the final call using far more information than can be put into an AskMe question.

That said, a few comments:

Stripped of its "worthiness" B.S. they have a valid point: their daughter will face prejudice for her decision to be with a Sikh man (as you, I imagine, will face some prejudice among at least your own extended family. There's always one.). They appear to be (overre-) acting out of fear, but at least it's about something that can be seen and felt and witnessed by everyone involved. In the long run that will matter.

If you're going to concern yourself with her parent's bias, given the time of the year they chose to tell you I would expect its a religion thing.

Give yourself two weeks for the anger to cool before you say anything to anyone.

Under no conditions should this be a precedent. Even if you decide to allow them this one bit of ugliness, you should make clear -- hopefully before they open their mouths -- in the future that everything said will be shared with the girlfriend.

With the information given, my personal opinion is that you should tell your girlfriend a bowderlized version of the story, leaving out their attacks on you and sticking with the "your parents are worried about prejudice" aspect. If further attacks are in the offing then it will be time to tell the whole story.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:14 AM on December 26, 2011

I know if I do inform her of this conversation it will be the end of their relationship.

Tangential question, if you tell her and it is not the end of their relationship, will that disappoint you? If, like you said, they are the "very bedrock of her life" it may be very difficult and unlikely for her to immediately cut off from them on the basis of the second-hand account of one conversation. So be careful going in with an assumption as to what you think is the only response she could have.

Rather than outright destroy her relationship with her parents, it may teach her the limitations of the support they give her.
posted by RobotHero at 11:21 AM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

Absolutely tell her. Your relationship with her takes priority over your relationship with her parents.
posted by katypickle at 11:35 AM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do not tell her. IF she is The One, the next time you can pull her father aside (and I'm sorry, but this can only happen between men), inform him that you intend to marry her, if you do, and that it's up to him whether or not he would like to remain in contact with his daughter, for if she has to chose between him and the man she's sleeping with, things will not work out well for him in the long run.

People on the internets tend to be all about - in the abstract - pretending that we are all equally powerful actors with everyone's best interests at heart. This is quite simply not true. You have been challenged for something important (presuming that she IS the one, and you'd better make no mistake here), and you must answer that challenge in a calm and matter of fact way.

Never, ever tell her what happened regardless of how it turns out. You may act in your own interests but may only presume on hers in as much as you are willing to take responsibility for the repercussions of doing so.

Yes, she is a full grown woman capable of making her own decisions. She apparently has, and has charged you with discharging them. Again, you must be absolutely positive this is her wish. But if it is indeed her wish, and you love her with all your heart, than you must take responsibility for insuring your future together. Being a woman in our society, she will have far, far more occasions when she will have to do the same for you or your children. It is insanely unfair to both of you (although generally far more unfair for women). It is unfortunately the way the world works.
posted by digitalprimate at 11:37 AM on December 26, 2011

I'd tell her. Keeping a secret of that magnitude is incredible stressful on a relationship.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:40 AM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I tend to agree with those that say you should tell her. Just a word of caution though: they may deny saying this and accuse you of lying. It's your word against theirs. For this reason, I would suggest you follow the suggestions made that you simply raise the issue (in non-specific terms) when everyone is present and let them handle it.
posted by aroberge at 11:52 AM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Tell her. In her place, I would, of course, be furious But I would be even more furious if my partner patronized and made my decisions for me. If she ends her relationship with them over this, well. I'm sure she knows on some level how they feel - she grew up and was raised with their best attempts to indoctrinate her with the attitudes they showed to you, they will not be a surprise to her.
posted by lemniskate at 12:26 PM on December 26, 2011 [5 favorites]

I lost a really long answer. Short version:

Tell her. They are trying to get you to break up with her, and do so without giving her a reason. So you look like the bad guy, and they get to pretend everything's well. [Because they are telling you to break up with her. Subtly, but that's how upper-class English people generally are - they don't say things directly]

Personally, I wouldn't go along with that, I'd talk to her parents and tell them that they need to talk to her - because this is really about her and them, not you as an individual. They've got problems with their daughter dating Sikhs (and who else? Muslims? African-Caribbeans, even if they're Christian? Atheists?), then they need to let her know that, so that she can make informed decisions about her life. They shouldn't be putting it on you to solve their problems.
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:28 PM on December 26, 2011

I strongly disagree with nickji that these people are being "perfectly nice" and that they have a right to tell you how they feel about your relationship. There need to be boundaries for parents as well as for anyone else in your life. If your girlfriend's best friend had told you that they didn't think you were good enough for your girlfriend and that you should reconsider your relationship "for her sake, to protect her" I would hope you would have the right frame of mind to recognize that said friend was sticking their nose where it didn't belong. Your relationship is between you two, and no one else, not even her parents.

I would also strongly caution against digitalprime's advice of pulling her dad aside to inform him of your future intentions, because, again, it's none of his business. Frankly, I find the idea that fathers have to be given special consideration regarding the future of their daughters' lives rather abhorrent. If your girlfriend is willing to cross cultural and religious boundaries to date someone her parents disapprove of (and she obviously knows, since she told you that her parents don't "have a problem with you otherwise") then I'd wager she won't thank you for trying some macho mano-a-mano stunt with her dad.

Your relationship to her parents is secondary here, to both her relationship with her parents and her relationship with you. Anytime there is some sort of discussion about conflicts with the in-laws here on AskMe, the advice boils down to "let your SO have your back, because the problem is with THEIR parents." This is a similar situation. The fact that you two aren't married is irrelevant. Your girlfriend needs to know if people in her life are trying to control her without her knowledge--and make no mistake, that IS what the parents are trying to do--and she deserves to be able to make her own decisions, instead having this web of deception spun around her.

I agree that you should wait a while until it doesn't sting quite so sharply at your heart to talk to her about it, but she absolutely needs to know. I am the minority half of a biracial couple, and I would find my partner withholding this information much more upsetting than the actual information itself. Like I said, I can guarantee you she already knows how they feel, even implicitly, and if she didn't, then she needs to learn how untrustworthy her parents actually are.

By the way, they may not ever bring it up again overtly, but I can guarantee you there will be little jabs and sneers that will drive you insane and drive a wedge between you and your girlfriend, unless it's made explicilty clear to them that this behaviour is not acceptable. Whether you give them advanced notice or not is up to you, but that is the only consideration you owe them.
posted by Phire at 12:40 PM on December 26, 2011 [15 favorites]

I know if I do inform her of this conversation it will be the end of their relationship. I also know they form the very bedrock of her life and she relies on them very much for emotional support and strength. While the vindictive side of me wants to let her know about her parents I know this will be very destructive to her in the long run.

Whatever you do, just make sure you wouldn't be subconsciously disappointed if their relationship didn't end over this. (Not that I think you would be, it's just an internal motivation to consider. If they remained involved as a possibly grudging part of your life, would that be all right with you or would you feel a need for her to choose?)
posted by egg drop at 12:43 PM on December 26, 2011

I would call/visit them and let them know you do not feel bound to their expectation of a confidential conversation (unless you entered into it acknowledging a priori that you would keep the conversation confidential)* Urge/encourage them to directly tell their daughter about their position. Tell them you are asking them to do it so you and your girlfriend can have an open an honest relationship and with the hope that they all can maintain the best possible relationship. As to whether you tell your girl friend or not--who knows what is best and the possible outcomes. I personally would tell her at a time when I am not angry, vindictive and most of all not angry at her for any reason. It would seem the absolute no no is to tell as a way of establishing control/power in the relationship--" i.e., if you only knew what your parents told me you would not......"
* BTW, except for professional obligations/ethics I think it a mistake to agree a priori to keep something from your spouse--even if it is a request by your best friend. One can always say--I never make any agreement to keep something from my wife--If you are not comfortable with that then do not tell me. I may or may not tell her depending on what the substance is.
posted by rmhsinc at 12:45 PM on December 26, 2011

I'm in the "don't tell " camp because I'm sure gf already knows.

Is the turban as mandatory as covering the hair for male Sikhs? If her parents weren't so awful, I would have suggested wearing a big hat when youI are around them as a compromise.
posted by brujita at 12:46 PM on December 26, 2011

Tangential question, if you tell her and it is not the end of their relationship, will that disappoint you? If, like you said, they are the "very bedrock of her life" it may be very difficult and unlikely for her to immediately cut off from them on the basis of the second-hand account of one conversation. So be careful going in with an assumption as to what you think is the only response she could have.

If her parents have went to the extreme of confronting you like this, I will strongly suspect that she already knows how they feel because they have already confronted her. So it hasn't destroyed their relationship if so.

I would tell her, but I'd be prepared for her to already know her parents feel this way.
posted by winna at 12:54 PM on December 26, 2011

Tell her, but tell her that you are telling her because you feel it would be wrong to keep this information from her, not because you want or expect her to confront her parents over it or that you are asking her to choose.
posted by whoaali at 12:54 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

I would not tell her. Not out of sparing her feelings, but because they asked me to keep it to myself. The important thing is that they essentially said, "you guys do what you want, but here are our honest feelings." I can respect that. They didn't tell you you aren't welcome in their house, or anything you're going to have to do weird acrobatics NOT saying to your girlfriend. (Like, yeah, we can't stop by your parents' place because, uh, I just don't want to.)

They had a man-to-man with you (which doesn't actually have to involve men). I'd say that was actually pretty respectful (not considering their reasons in the first place, which, ugh.) They may change their mind some day, maybe not. They sure won't if you go ratting them out and causing a big drama fest.

If it becomes a thing you would consider leaving her over, then you absolutely have to tell her. Otherwise, it's one of those things you keep to yourself (but don't forget.)

I see that that's an unpopular take on it, and I'm all for clear communication in a relationship, but I don't see how telling her this is a good thing, even if she would want to know it.
posted by ctmf at 1:00 PM on December 26, 2011

Absolutely tell her. Not only is your loyalty to her, this is her family, so she should be the one who decides her relationship with them. Not telling her out of a sense of protectiveness may seem kind, but it is in fact patronizing. She's not a little kid, she's an adult, she can make her own decisions. She deserves to know.

I'm very sorry you were put in this situation. They acted rotten but you're the one who has to suffer with guilt? Not fair at all.
posted by Lieber Frau at 1:04 PM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

I guess I also see it in the same way as the "I cheated, should I confess" dilemma. Telling her would make you feel better, for what gain?
posted by ctmf at 1:05 PM on December 26, 2011

Did you agree not to tell her? Not that it matters much, I think you're within your rights to tell her, it's despicable of them to have such attitudes and to put you in this situation.

Don't let it eat you up. It's not your fault, and it wouldn't be your fault if you told her and her relation with them suffered. It's their fault. They obviously know you well enough to know you care about her enough to actually consider it. If it might become a barrier to intimacy between you, tell her. It's better that she knows the truth anyway, it's up to her how she responds to it.

Good luck.
posted by iotic at 1:40 PM on December 26, 2011

Silence is toxic. They've just handed you a bulging bag of racism and asked you to quietly bear it on their behalf. Don't believe their promise to not say anything else - given the context, they most certainly mean "we'll say nothing further unless you choose not to comply with our implicit request." Long-term or short-term, they have made it clear that they may continue driving a wedge between you and your partner (this conversation is the first jab). Is this relationship worth that?

If so, you and your partner will be working as a team; it's important that all members of a team know what hands are being played by the other side, no? How you later decide to manage her parents in social settings is up to you two but, at the very least, don't keep this from her. They've made a big deal about your relationship with her - and unless you maintain the communication that has built the relationship that so threatens them, it will take critical damage and disappear as they wanted.
posted by Ashen at 1:43 PM on December 26, 2011 [9 favorites]

Finally, they specifically asked me, regardless of my decision, not to inform their daughter of the conversation.

If someone says "Hey, I want to talk to you about something, but you have to promise to keep it a secret", then you have some obligation to keep it a secret.

As a rule - if a person tells you something, and *then* asks you not to share it, I do not feel that that you are under any obligation at all to respect their request. They did not get your consent to give you this "secret" information.

(This is especially true if the person they want you to keep the secret from is a person you are in a very close relationship with, and the person asking you to keep the secret is not.)

That doesn't in itself affect whether you should/shouldn't tell your girlfriend. But when weighing your options, I'd think you shouldn't consider any bond of confidentiality to her parents, since I don't think there is any.
posted by ManInSuit at 1:44 PM on December 26, 2011 [11 favorites]

(And - my opinion, along with zillions of others here is: Hell yes. Tell her. Choose whatever timing/moment/manner feels best to you. But to not tell her is to bury a very serious issue in your relationship that the two of you need to face together...)
posted by ManInSuit at 1:46 PM on December 26, 2011

> Is the turban as mandatory as covering the hair for male Sikhs? If her parents weren't so awful, I would have suggested wearing a big hat when you are around them as a compromise.

A big hat would not suffice. It specifically needs to be a turban.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:31 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

Of course they don't want you to tell her. They know they should be extremely ashamed of themselves, even if they actually aren't, and they know their daughter would be appalled. The words "nerve" and "gall" and "cheek" were invented for this; also "childish." I don't know what the best thing for anybody is, but I want to emphasize that you are in no way obligated to respect their wishes here.

I would want to know that my parents would both say something like that to the person I loved and then try to make their bigotry was his responsibility. But pineapple does make me wonder.

Do tell her before you have kids who could be left alone with them.
posted by Adventurer at 2:41 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

I have not read all the replies you have got but here are my 2 cents.

If you plan to marry her then they will be a part of your life and since they have a good influence on your girlfriend, you can't afford not to have good relations with them. So I would like to camp in 'Don't tell her' department.

Having said that, my approach will be, I will put the same questions to her as raised by her parents. Ask her for her honest answers. If her answers are in your favour then will go tell her parents so. I will also inform them since their daughter thinks you are suitable for her, it makes no sense to have worthiness talk anymore or even have a thought about it, so lets forget that we had a worthiness talk in the past and move on. She remains in dark for rest of her life.
If you even have a slight suspicion that they could bring it up in any other ways, you should inform your girlfriend.

I admit its racism but tit for tat is not an answer here. Show them that you have much higher standards than theirs.
posted by zaxour at 2:41 PM on December 26, 2011

Her parents are cowards. There are 150 different ways they could have handled this, and they chose a crappy one. For example, they could have told the daughter, and let her make her own decision. They could have told a therapist, and reflected on what exactly is going on for them that they couldn't respect their daughter's decision, and have taken to going around her back. They could have felt what they felt and kept it to their damn selves. And on and on. But instead they did some "guess who's coming to dinner" fail. Just because her parents feel something, or fear something, doesn't mean it needs to come out of their mouths to you. And then they didn't even own up to it, instead of being brave enough to stand by their thoughts and actions, they wait til their daughter is out of the room, and then ask you to keep silent, as if it part of your job to carry their embarrassing ignorance?

Good grief.

The primary values I go back to her in all of this dramaz is respect and transparency. Her parents might not be able to muster it, but I think you need to. No, you can't control your girlfriend's response, but to hide things from her because you fear her response is to deny her agency. That's exactly what her parents are doing, no matter how much they dress it up. Couples need to be able to form a bond that takes on all comers - but you both get to decide together how, or if, you choose to respond to her parents. So tell her, and let her know you're telling her because you two are a team, and you both need to decide what you are going to do. And then decide, and do it, together.

Don't just let the parents drop that steaming pile of poo at your doorstep and hide behind the idea of them "Just being honest". If they ask you, acknowledge that you should never have agreed to keep it private, and you apologize for that. Seriously, if you do tell, and the parents choose to harp on the supposed confidentiality, rather than their actions, then they're doing it wrong. There is enough wrong there, that the issue isn't that you, 'broke a promise'.

As for you feeling vindictive, angry, whatever - well of course you do! You can let her know that, and let her know if you feel other things as well - sad, embarrassed, whatever. That the transparency part. You both get to feel what you feel - just like the parents. Like them, you'll also figure out together what you both are going to do about it, and present a united front. But, hopefully, you'll both come up with a better solution about how to deal with their own hangups than they did - because that's some epic fail shit right here.

I have no idea why they actually thought that you'd keep their words from your girlfriend in the first place - how are you going to say that someone doesn't meet your standards of excellence, but then actually hold them to a high standard of trustworthiness? That's like saying that you think 'lower class' people steal, but then without a hint of irony hiring 'them' to watch your valuables. It takes an exceptional amount of self deluded privilege and bewildered entitlement to fail to see the contradiction.
posted by anitanita at 2:45 PM on December 26, 2011 [6 favorites]

If you don't tell, and she learns of it, you've broken her trust. You have to tell her because it's something you shouldn't keep from her. Go to the parents, one or both, and say, I feel strongly that Daughter should know your feelings. I hope you'll her her yourself, as I plan to discuss it with her in the next day. The lack of parental support won't make things easier, but better to have it out in the open.
posted by theora55 at 3:17 PM on December 26, 2011

If I were you , I'd tell her but I'd also encourage her to keep the relationship with her parents. People do change and grow over time, and often ( but not always) parents will let go of these stupid racist opinions. If they continue to have a relationship with her, they'll have an incentive to change. Also cutting of the relationship will make a painful situation more painful without accomplishing anything.
posted by bananafish at 3:32 PM on December 26, 2011

If I were in your partner's position, I would definitely want you to tell me about the conversation. It sounds as though your relationship with your partner is pretty serious. Your partner may be aware of her parents' feelings about you, but she needs to know that they actually had this conversation with you, so that she can address their inappropriate intervention in your relationship and the racist ideology that informs it.

If you two marry and decide to have children, you and she will both need to be prepared for how they might treat your children.

Even if your relationship doesn't become a lifelong commitment, your partner should still be aware that her parents are behaving in this way. Their behavior -- their preconceptions and their apparent lack of compunction about voicing them -- is deeply offensive, and it could affect your partner's relationships (including friendships) with others, as well.

Give it some time, be sure you tell her in a brief, unemotional way -- factual, not accusatory -- and with compassion. Try to find some ground for empathy with the parents; they are, after all, acting (ostensibly) out of concern for their daughter, despite being totally, egregiously out-of-line.

You seem like a decent, responsible, caring person. Good luck.
posted by Spinneret at 3:35 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

If someone says "Hey, I want to talk to you about something, but you have to promise to keep it a secret", then you have some obligation to keep it a secret.

No. You do not, simply by receiving their ugly, hateful message, become responsible for keeping their secret. Others have observed that they want this kept secret precisely because they know how bad it would make them look. Even if, flustered by their comments, you failed to explicitly say, No I will not keep this secret, their expectation is not valid.
posted by Meg_Murry at 3:38 PM on December 26, 2011 [6 favorites]

This is in NO way equivalent to cheating and trying to decide if you should tell the person you cheated on. YOU have done nothing wrong. You are trying to decide whether to tell your girlfriend about something that the people who purport to love her have done to try to sabotage your relationship while keeping her in the dark, because the sabotageurs would look like uncivilized bigots if you divulged this information. You are not making yourself feel better, you are giving her the agency her parents are trying to withhold from her.
posted by Phire at 3:46 PM on December 26, 2011 [11 favorites]

These people said you're not good enough for their daughter. Then they want you not to tell her? I don't think so.

They have not earned your respect. They have, in fact, earned your disrespect.

They are also lying when they say they'll never bring it up again. Parents who meddle continue to meddle. You need to inoculate yourself against when they lie to her about you. Which they will, to break you up. You need her to know what they're willing to do to split you up.

Frankly, they probably had exactly the same conversation with her, and told her not to tell you.

Live in truth. It's simpler, and safer.
posted by musofire at 3:47 PM on December 26, 2011 [6 favorites]

1) You're not in a relationship with them.

2) You're an adult and they do not control you.

3) They are racist.

You proceed in the way that best serves you as an individual and your relationship.
posted by mleigh at 3:56 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

I would like to add that there's something to be said for not co-signing her parents' notion that it's everybody else's job but hers to decide what's good for her. That she shouldn't even know other people are doing it.
posted by Adventurer at 4:23 PM on December 26, 2011 [15 favorites]

Follow your manly instincts and protect her. Don't tell her. This information will only hurt her. It will not do either of you any good for her to hear it from you. Eventually her parents will probably tell her about the talk (if they haven't already). Suck it up. Don't show her anger, show her that you are the bigger man. Tell her that yes, what they said hurt you but you knew it was coming from love and ignorance and wasn't worth repeating.

As far as her parents go, they are worried about their daughter. They do not want her to be a victim of a hate crime. Your best bet would be to go to public places with them and let them see that no one is shooting at you. Yes, what they said hurt you. But they said it out of love for the person that you love. They would do anything to protect their daughter. Would you?
posted by myselfasme at 5:07 PM on December 26, 2011

You cannot manage your girlfriend's relationship with her parents, whether through telling her or through not telling her.
posted by tel3path at 5:17 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

"As far as her parents go, they are worried about their daughter. They do not want her to be a victim of a hate crime. Your best bet would be to go to public places with them and let them see that no one is shooting at you. Yes, what they said hurt you. But they said it out of love for the person that you love. They would do anything to protect their daughter."

That is not what her parents said, at all. There was no suggestion of danger. It was that they think, in their tiny little brains, that he's not good enough simply because of their perception of his class and appearance. I think you're bringing your own biases and fears into the question, and they simply don't apply.
posted by HopperFan at 5:47 PM on December 26, 2011

Look, the parents are being very manipulative and unfair. They should never have asked you to keep something from your girlfriend.

At worst, this may be a deliberate attempt to destroy your relationship. They can simply wait a time and then tell your girlfriend they had this conversation with you and ask bewildered when she says she knows nothing about it. That could seriously damage your credibility with her.

If they aren't being that calculating, it's still very nasty to try to drive a secret between two people in love. At best, they have behaved in a fashion they damn well know will cause her to view them as having seriously overstepped. They are trying to make you an accessory to that act.

Honesty, even icky, painful honesty, is always the best foundation for future growth in a relationship. Tell her everything, but do your best to encourage her to be forgiving. After all, in the end, they did indicate that they would respect her wishes.
posted by driley at 5:50 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

1. You have a moral duty to tell her.

2. Leta nailed it early on; you should listen to Leta.

3. It is not vindictive to tell her if you honestly intend to remain in a relationship with her or if you are breaking it off because of the conversation with her parents. Here are some examples of genuinely vindictive behavior:

a. Telling all of her parents' neighbors, co-workers, and fellow church-goers.

b. Telling her when you intend to break up with her for completely different reasons, just because you want to hurt her as deeply as possible.

c. Keeping it secret from your girlfriend but bringing it up with her parents as leverage in future negotiations, maybe by threatening to do (a).

4. Against all of those who are saying, "If you think this is very long-term, then don't tell her," let me suggest instead that in such a case, it is even more important to tell her. If it is possible that this will be long-term, then you need to have a discussion early about whether to have continued contact with her parents. Personally, the effect of her parents' action on me would be for me to break it off and tell her exactly why. But certainly, having any very close relationship with her parents without their apologizing would be intolerable. And I don't see how that intolerableness could be expressed without either disclosing the conversation or coming across as a jack-ass yourself. You might not have to tell her right away, but before the relationship becomes at all serious, you have to tell her.

5. Before telling her, I would tell her parents that what they have done is shameful and that they really should be the ones to tell her. Then I would give them a very short ultimatum to disclose the conversation (two or three days, maximum) before you tell her. Then stick to that. Tell them exactly why you think this is so serious and why you don't think you owe them your silence.

Anyway, best of luck with an awful situation.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 6:16 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

As far as her parents go, they are worried about their daughter. They do not want her to be a victim of a hate crime. Your best bet would be to go to public places with them and let them see that no one is shooting at you. Yes, what they said hurt you. But they said it out of love for the person that you love. They would do anything to protect their daughter. Would you?

But I think the point is that they aren't doing 'anything' to protect their daughter. They're doing the thing that allows them to remain in their comfort zone, even if it means insulting the OP and treating their daughter like they didn't raise her well enough to make healthy decisions. One gets the sense that they didn't say what they did out of love, but out of fear, which they are passing off as love.

And their thinking doesn't make sense - if they really fear that she's going to be targeted, why not focus on giving her the skills to address that if/when it happens? I mean it's not even clear that it has happened. Just that they are afraid of it. And to say that he isn't 'worthy', confuses the issue. Either he's not worthy (then deal with that), or he is 'worthy', but they have concerns about how they will be received. But then blame the prejudiced people who may treat them poorly - not him. Do something to make the world a safer place for their daughter, or to give the daughter the skills needed to face the situation. In that light, even a gift of mace would be more logical. As it stands now, she's still going to be 'targeted', and they are just going to let that go, in a 'we said our piece and it didn't work. Oh well" sort of a way? That's just absurdist thinking.

By their logic, she is in just as much danger for 'targeting' as she was yesterday. Before asking the OP if he would do 'anything' to protect his hypothetical daughter (because his actions are not the inappropriate ones here), why not just focus on the real parents who really aren't doing much of anything (effective) to help their actual daughter? In fact, considering how 'worried' they are by the 'targeting', it's amazing just how little they seem to be doing, other than the: "We *totally* aren't prejudiced - really, we're not - but you know, some people are, and anyway, anyone wearing a turban isn't worthy of our daughter...aaanndd you're not of the right class. Buuttttt we couldn't get her to leave you, sooooo we're going to ask you to leave her, but only once. And while we're at it, could'ya not tell her? It would be so awkward. Okay thankx! Sugar with your tea?" sit-down they just had.

Him telling her doesn't mean he's fostering discontent between the family. He's not saying she shouldn't talk to her family. In short, he's probably not going to be as triffling as the parents. It's just that people are suggesting that he not be a party to, or enable, their fearful, closeminded ways, regardless of what their motivations are - including love.
posted by anitanita at 6:19 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

If your girlfriend is so reliant on her parents for emotional support and guidance, how is she even capable of seriously dating someone of whom they disapprove? Quite possibly she wouldn't be as shocked and devastated by learning of this conversation as you might think.
Nonetheless, I was leaning toward "don't tell her" at first; however, on reflection I think that the best course would be informing her parents that you can't keep this conversation secret out of respect for your girlfriend, and then telling her. It does seem like they are manipulating you into doing what they want. If they get you to go along with keeping a secret from your grilfriend now, it will encourage them to try later to manipulate you further into breaking off the relationship.
Like others in this thread have said, tell her about it in a calm, non-vindictive way; waiting a few days until your own personal indignation is a bit lower.
posted by daisystomper at 6:29 PM on December 26, 2011

Wow. Her father is lucky that you didn't punch him in the face.

Here's the thing: can you interact with her parents for the rest of your life together as though this didn't happen? Because that's what would be required for you to not tell her. Otherwise, she's going to want to know why you're acting strange around her parents. You pretty much need to tell her, unless you're a fantastic actor.
posted by Ragged Richard at 6:32 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's incredibly presumptuous of her parents to insult you to your face and then tell you not to tell their daughter. I'd be furious, and would probably do so out of spite. You are clearly more thoughtful.

I think that before saying anything to your gf, you should have another chat with her parents. Tell them that they should reconsider their position wrt you. Their daughter is probably aware that you're a Sikh, and has probably already caught however much flack for that as she's going to. If you and your girlfriend are going to be together for the long haul, the parents are going to need to make their peace with that fact, and now is a good time to start.

I would also emphasize to them that they really cannot make any demands of you regarding keeping that previous conversation quiet.

And after that...I'd see how I felt. I think I'd try to keep it quiet.
posted by adamrice at 6:43 PM on December 26, 2011

Mixed race marriage here. If you value this relationship, you need to tell her. If either of our parents had pulled this kind of shit when we were dating, we'd have told each other.

The two of you are a partnership, and trust is the foundation of any partnership. Keeping this a secret will not do you any favours if you end up being together in the long term.

Her parents are not "upper-middle-class", they are exhibiting the lowest class level of racism and need to be called out on it. If they are allowed to get away with this, it will not stop here.

Good luck.
posted by arcticseal at 6:49 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

The only time you should conspire with your partner's parents to keep a secret from your partner is when there are surprise gifts involved.

You can phrase it in the least-damning way possible and read their motivations as generously as possible ("I'm sure they're concerned that we'd face prejudice as a mixed-race couple ...") and let her fill in the blanks, if you want, but, no, you can't keep it a secret. They were wrong to say this to you, wrong to ask for your silence, and wrong to expect you not to discuss it with your girlfriend. Resulting drama is clearly, clearly not your fault.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:56 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

They further informed me that they will not ever bring up this subject again or object to my relationship with their daughter should I choose not to leave her.

I seriously doubt this. They are unhappy with your presence in your daughters life and want you to break up. Do you honestly believe that this issue will NEVER come up again?

Giving them the benefit of the doubt, suppose that they truly do never bring up it ever again. They still dislike you. They still don't respect you. This WILL come to a head either with you vs them or with their daughter vs them in the future. I guarantee it.

Also, Nthing tel3path's point. Your gf is not a child. It is up her to decide what she will do with the information you give her and how she will react to her parents because of it. By withholding, you are essentially trying to decide for her, that would be both wrong and condescending.
posted by Shouraku at 7:03 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Treating your partner like she can't manage difficult information is not how you build a strong relationship. Respect her enough to be truthful with her. You can tell her in a dispassionate way and let her know you're not trying to hurt her or present her with an ultimatum ("it's them or me").

Not to mention, if this somehow comes out another way, it could be very damaging. If you tell her, you can do so lovingly and with care. If her parents tell her at some point, perhaps as a way to further attempt to manipulate the situation, it could end up making her feel betrayed and patronized by you.
posted by quince at 7:03 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oops, I meant "in their daughter's life"
posted by Shouraku at 7:04 PM on December 26, 2011

There are clearly deeper problems than just racism in these parents lives. Just try and look at everything from their bigoted perspective, if they really feel that their daughter marrying you would do some kind of harm to her, why arn't they telling her? Why should their, supposedly valid, concerns communicated to you be a secret from her?

The answer is cowardice, a universal concept they should understand and be ashamed of, I would take the next opportunity to see them and tell them this to their faces. Tell them that, after further consideration, your commitment to your partner outweighs any commitment you have to their secrets and that if they don't tell your partner about the conversation then you will.

Tell your partner first anyway, it sucks to be blindsided.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:54 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

If they had invited you to a private, no-holds-barred discussion, where each party had the right to express an opinion and air all their worst fears with the understanding that everything discussed was to be "off the record"; then that would be one thing.

This sounds like you were cornered, skewered and you shouldn't feel obliged to keep it secret. She needs to know what is being done "on her behalf".
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:31 PM on December 26, 2011

> Is the turban as mandatory as covering the hair for male Sikhs? If her parents weren't so awful, I would have suggested wearing a big hat when you are around them as a compromise.

A big hat would not suffice. It specifically needs to be a turban.
posted by The corpse in the library

A big hat? Screw that noise. Even if it was optional, the poster should be able to wear whatever he wants short of peek-a-boo panties or a leisure suit.

A turban is the reflection of his beliefs. Why should he have to adjust to their version of the world. Not to mention, it's certainly not the turban they're objecting to.

I wish you luck on your decision, OP, whatever it be.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:39 PM on December 26, 2011 [7 favorites]

Tell her, then send them a note:

"I appreciate your test of my loyalty to, and love for, your daughter. You'll be pleased to know that I followed the policy that I know you'd think best for your daughter: I chose the path of love, tolerance and honesty."
posted by anildash at 9:22 PM on December 26, 2011 [24 favorites]

BlueHorse, I agree......shortly after 9-11 I read of a Sikh boy who decided to wear a huge floppy hat while he was at school in order to deflect bullies. His father was very upset when he found out about this. Also, there is a tchotchke shop near me in NYC run by a Middle Eastern couple. Before 9-11 the wife wore a hijab; since then she has worn a snood.
posted by brujita at 10:56 PM on December 26, 2011

I've been thinking a bit more about this over lunch. Their only objection seems to be the fact that you're a Sikh, not your character, not your job and not how you treat their daughter. By this metric, you could be an abusive idiot, but as long as you met their perceived middle-class image of what a son-in-law should look like, they'd overlook that.

Small anecdote of how a prospective parent-in-law should behave: My maternal grandmother, who loved my wife dearly, once asked my mother whether she minded Mrs arcticseal being from another ethnic background. My mother simply responded "No, I've always just thought of her as Carol". My mother goes down as one of my all time heroes for that quiet and considered response.

I like anildash's response. Calls them out without lowering yourself to that level. Seriously, they are way out of order and you need to draw a line in the sand now.
posted by arcticseal at 11:24 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

If I were your girlfriend, I would want to know, and I agree with the comments above that said it would feel disrespectful/patronizing/infantilizing to be kept in the dark about something like this.
posted by naoko at 11:45 PM on December 26, 2011

While the vindictive side of me wants to let her know about her parents I know this will be very destructive to her in the long run. I love her and I really don't want to do this to her, but on the other hand this is eating me inside.

Don't tell her to be vindictive, tell her because this is eating you inside. Focus on the relationship that the two of you have.

She should decide for herself how she wants to handle things like secretive out-of-bounds meddling by her parents -- let her manage her own relationship with them, just be supportive to her in whatever way you feel is best.
posted by desuetude at 11:57 PM on December 26, 2011

Oh, and speaking as someone whose parents would likely have meddled more if given the opportunity, yes, I would be furious if my SO kept such an incident from me. It's bad enough that her parents are so disrespectful and patronizing regarding their adult daughter's choices, good grief, don't participate in it.
posted by desuetude at 12:02 AM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Tell her that she needs to talk to her parents, and that you absolutely love her and respect them, but things need to be aired. She'll ask why and you can be vague and say something like "Your parents do not want us to continue dating, and while I'm happy to go on and just be polite to them, you may want to talk to them about this."

I know lots of interreligious and racial couples, some where the parents loathe the partner-in-law for over a decade of stiff silence, some where they are now wonderfully supportive, and in between. It's as much personality as prejudice.

The key things are to emphasize that you respect her parents' role and importance in her life, and love her, and that you won't make her choose between them and you. You won't pretend to be someone you're not, but you'll be polite and so on to them. Tell her it does hurt to not have their approval of your relationship, but it sounds like you're already aware that this is *their* problem, and they're the ones losing out by not focusing on what their daughter wants and needs, only what they think is suitable socially. These are not really people you want approval from in any case. Focus in your head on their good qualities if you can.

There's a reason bitter mother-in-law jokes are everywhere.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:25 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just to reframe some of the stuff that's been said here:

Your girlfriend's parents are "splitting" you and your girlfriend. In other words, they are inserting themselves into your relationship in such a way that you don't mutually know what's going on. Only they have all the (disingenuous) information. Likely they're having related (but different) conversations with their daughter, and that's likely to continue regardless of what they tell you. They have demonstrated, in addition to their racism and classism, poor boundaries and worse judgement. In essence, they're making your relationship with your girlfriend about how you handle them.

I think it's very hard to imagine that your relationship with your GF could survive not sharing this with her. This is a pretty big secret, and if you don't tell her you're not letting her declare her allegiance or proclaim her creed. However, you have real concerns about what will happen if you do tell her. Her parents are banking on the fact that they've presented you with a dilemma that will harm your relationship either way.

My advice in these situations is always to "share the dilemma." (This is how I phrase it in supervision when talking with other psychotherapists.) What I mean is that you should go back to her parents, and make it clear that their daughter will either hear about the conversation from you, or from them. They have offered you two bad choices (tell or not), and you need to let them know that those are not the actual choices in play. They could have chosen not to speak with you, but now that they have, you must tell their daughter. You are simply asking them how they want that conversation to go.

The conversation with your gf, either the one in which you tell her what her parents said, or the one in which you follow up after they tell her what they said, also needs to be about sharing the dilemma. The question in that discussion is how to best support each other so that you can come to an understanding with the parents and put this issue behind you all. It's clear from your question that you don't want to split your gf from her parents, and your conversation with her should make that clear from the outset. Your goal is to provide the room that is necessary in your relationship for your gf to love both you and her parents.
posted by OmieWise at 9:57 AM on December 27, 2011 [18 favorites]

I'd be happy to talk through what either of these conversations might look like if you want to email me.
posted by OmieWise at 9:58 AM on December 27, 2011

My advice in these situations is always to "share the dilemma." (This is how I phrase it in supervision when talking with other psychotherapists.) What I mean is that you should go back to her parents, and make it clear that their daughter will either hear about the conversation from you, or from them. They have offered you two bad choices (tell or not), and you need to let them know that those are not the actual choices in play. They could have chosen not to speak with you, but now that they have, you must tell their daughter. You are simply asking them how they want that conversation to go.

That's actually fairly good advice even if you believe, as I do, that the parents are acting in good faith.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:49 AM on December 27, 2011

The "splitting" action taken by the parents must be defeated if you are to continue with your girlfriend. Whether you handle it elegantly as anildash suggests or follow Omiewise's solid counsel, they need to know you will not keep their secret and your girlfriend needs to know you will not keep secrets from her.
posted by Anitanola at 11:37 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

If she's so stupid she doesn't know this would happen at some point, you should dump her.

The only possible gain I see in telling her is that they will have sucessfully played you - even if that wasn't their original intent. Do you want them to come out ahead?

If you are both adults, then I assume you can both trust each other to keep confidences when asked.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 12:17 PM on December 27, 2011

Did you agree to not tell her? If so, don't. You'll be going back on your word.
posted by melt away at 2:57 PM on December 27, 2011

It sounds like you were blindsided and asked to keep quiet only after the discussion took place. Changing your mind after contemplation isn't going back on your word. At most, you might let them know before shortly telling your girlfriend, that you've reconsidered.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:57 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

If somebody sucker-punches you and then asks you not to tell anybody about it while they're still standing over you, your initial promise is not binding. In no case should a promise to protect your attacker from the consequences of attacking you be kept solely on the grounds that any kind of promise is sacred, no matter how it was extracted, no matter how much your head was spinning at the time. At least in grade school the bully who comes after you out of nowhere probably won't manage to ground his request for silence in both racial insults and two kinds of emotional blackmail. "If you love our daughter, you won't tell her why you're breaking up with her so that she will have a chance to persuade you not to be noble" is one; the other is "If you love our daughter, you won't tell her that her parents are breathtakingly rude and arrogant racists who try to end her relationships behind her back."

Isn't letting this woman know that she has parents who try to secretly break up her relationships behind her back, who will tell her boyfriend he's worthless straight to his face when she isn't around and then try to extort his silence, worth more than the OP keeping his word strictly on principle no matter how it was extracted and no matter what he realizes later? There's no reason to believe that this is the only time they've ever done anything like this.
posted by Adventurer at 5:20 PM on December 27, 2011 [9 favorites]

TELL HER. I'm in a relationship with a South Asian man, and if my parents had said something so horrible to him, I'd want to know. I can tell you from experience that even if they say they will never bring this up again, they will, even if it's indirectly. This stuff seethes, and it will constantly be there, hanging over your heads unless you get it resolved. WWe've had our fair share of cultural/familial issues that have been resolved by being open with each other. Good luck to you!
posted by emilyv at 5:30 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

You should keep the absolutely highest ground with respect to her parents. I think that means: If you decide that your girlfriend should know, don't just tell her out of the blue. Get in contact with her parents, preferably by a written medium. Tell them that you have thought about how to handle this difficult situation, and that you do not want to honor their request to be silent, but that you feel the right thing to do is not to go behind their backs. Since the incident reflect badly on them and you want to minimize the harm done in her relationship to both them and her, you want to give them the opportunity to first express their view of the situation to their daughter, before you tell her a word about it yourself.

If the parents choose to discuss the incident with her before you break it, they will have to answer to her feelings, not to yours by proxy. Toward her, you answer questions about what was said, but don't push for her to distance herself from them, or express any anger towards them. You let the anger be all hers, and are gracefully satisfied with the amount of back-pedaling or apologies on their part that is sufficient to satisfy her. From there on, you treat her parents with courtesy, and belittle them for their racism and ignorance only in your own mind. If you play it well and the two of you stick together, you may in due time get to enjoy the sweetest revenge: Seeing her parents be ashamed over their former prejudice and rudeness towards you.
posted by springload at 6:11 PM on December 27, 2011

Augh. Part of my answer is missing. Basically someone popped in with a similar view If you play it well and the two of you stick together .... you may in due time get to enjoy the sweetest revenge: Seeing her parents be ashamed over their former prejudice and rudeness towards you.

Or not. But if you are adults in a good relationship, then only harm will come of rehashing the drama of meddling idiots (even if they actually mean well, what they are doing is trouble.)

I can't imagine your gf doesn't know how they think and feel. Maybe she's trying to sweep it under the rug, maybe she's hoping they'll get over it, or maybe she has a relationship with them where she just ignores their worst behavior. In any case, she's dealing with it well enough to have you ferry her to their house and then go straight upstairs. That tells me that she thinks you can handle them without her watching your back and they can handle  being alone with you. Why not respect that?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:51 PM on December 27, 2011

I'd like you to try a thought experiment.

Imagine that your girlfriend and your parents just don't seem to get along. Your girlfriend is always acting like she thinks they don't like her, and you're just sure that's not true -- they're kind and generous people, and, while you know they're not psyched that you're dating a white girl, you know they're not THAT racist. They seem to know about her good qualities. You just wish your girlfriend would get over this idea that your parents don't really like her or approve of her. But when you bring it up, she goes kind of quiet, or kind of bristly, and asks to change the subject. It kind of sucks, because you love your parents, and you know they're trying, it's just an adjustment for them.

But the thing is, that your girlfriend knows something you don't. Your parents sat her down and TOLD her, point blank, that, while they're not racist or anything like that, that she is too obviously Western, that her clothing choices highlight her culture of origin and make you, and them by extension, stand out within the Sikh community, and that they believe it damages your standing in the community to be involved with a non-assimilating white woman. They wanted her to seriously rethink her involvement with you, though they promised that they'd never raise the subject again, and didn't want her to tell you about that little conversation.

You don't know this, though. All you know is that your girlfriend acts like your parents don't like her. Why won't she get over it?
posted by endless_forms at 10:33 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

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