Breaking the news that I'm living in sin to my super conservative parents

My boyfriend and I have been living together since April of last year. We’ve been dating since the January before that. We are in a stable and serious relationship. We’ve met each others extended families. I’m 28 and he’s 31. Although we’re not engaged, we’ve talked about marriage and we’ve made future plans that assume we’ll be together for years and years to come.

Anyway, the problem is that my parents think I’m living with a friend from work. I WAS living with her last year (until I moved in with my boyfriend). My parents live half an hour from the city and the only way I’ve managed to keep up the facade is that they visited me once in the past (when I was living with said friend) and saw that her place is absolutely TINY and therefore have never thought of visiting me since. (She doesn’t even live there anymore - she moved in with HER boyfriend soon after I did, and ironically is also hiding it from her parents.)

But a few weeks ago I thoughtlessly told my mom that my supposed roommate is engaged and is getting married next summer. Now my mother will soon start bugging me about finding a new place to live, and she will want to see my new place and help me move all my stuff. So at some point between now and then, I will have to tell them I’m living with my boyfriend - even if I keep up the lie and make it sound like it’s a new decision. (“I’ve decided to move in with him after my roommate gets married.”)

My American friends have never understood why I, an independent woman of 28 years, still hide things from my parents (like the fact that I smoke). It’s hard to explain - my parents are very traditional Koreans, and also Catholics. I had a 10pm curfew when I was in COLLEGE. As a kid my worst fear was disappointing my parents, particularly my mother. She has always had the highest hopes for me and I think she’s still a bit disappointed in me - even though I graduated from a good school with an MA and have a respectable job.

Anyway. At some point I’m going to have to broach the subject to my parents, and the prospect terrifies me. I mean, technically they can’t do anything about it, right? They can’t lock me up or kick me out or cut me off . . . but I’m still scared of the shitstorm that will inevitably follow my announcement.

Has anyone had similar experiences with parents that you love? I mean, we have a pretty good relationship in general and they have mellowed out over the years but there is no way in hell this is going to go down well.

Ahhh hell.

This is totally an Asian-parents thing, I’ve seen it in a bunch of my friends, especially the Koreans. One wound up going to Columbia, but still got a “you’ve really disappointed me” lecture from her parents because she didn’t get into Harvard.*

It’s gonna hurt. They’re gonna be disappointed. This will be your mantra, to repeat over and over to yourself:

I have the right to make my own decisions whether or not my parents agree.

Keep saying it to yourself, varying the emphasis as needed, throughout the conversation. And remember:

You are an adult. You are a successful, happy young woman in a successful, happy relationship. You have done many, many things that your parents should be proud of. The person that you are is someone that they should be proud of.

Your parents’ job was to raise you to become a successful, happy woman, and they have done so. They are good parents! Now that you’re an adult, though, it’s your turn to take over, and you get to make the decisions. This is as it should be. By making thoughtful, rational decisions as an adult (even though your parents might not agree with them!) you are being the person that your parents wanted. Good for you!

*I dunno what it is with Korean-American parents, but there seems to be a fetishization almost of Harvard as The Only Place Your Child Can Attend College Without Causing Shame And Disappointment. I think Margaret Cho had a bit in one of her early routines about it…

I feel ya HazelNutCoffee, the longer these things go on, the more agonizing it is when it comes to telling the truth. My Dad was very conservative when I was a teen (for example, at sixteen I could only stay the night at a friend’s house once every two weeks, and he would insist on speaking to the parents of the friend in question. I ended up running away from home). I’m not one for giving advice, so all I’ll say is that you know them best and you are obviously a fantastic, thoughtful daughter, so while some temporary discomfort in the relationship is to be expected, they will eventually understand. I’m sure other Dopers will have fantastic advice as always!

This is an example of a “very” conservative parent? I think I spent the night at a friend’s house twice during high school in its entirety and the idea of doing so without the parents talking to each other wouldn’t have even been considered. I, also, ran away from home but I did it because of far, far, far more strict policies than this.

Opal, obviously there were myriad other issues going on but in the laid back place I lived growing up, this was unheard of amongst my girlfriends and their parents who found it weird and felt sorry for me. I went to an all girls’ school and didn’t know any boys to get ‘in trouble’ with in the first place. Anyway, we’re here to help Haze out :slight_smile:

Is it the deception or the “sin” that makes this hard for you to divulge? Surely your parents have friends whose children are also living “in sin.”

Maybe you could find some statistic that shows how 78% of Harvard’s top students, in fact, live “in sin.” Would that help?

Well, you know, it’s not a contest. Your experience is valid but it doesn’t make hers or anyone else’s less so.

guizot, I’m not even considering telling them the deception. It’s the “living with a man I’m not married to” part that worries me. And in Korea, co-habitation before marriage is still pretty rare and not something that people “of a certain social class” would do.

I’m not Asian myself, but second and third-hand experience tells me that this isn’t necessarily how Asian parents see the parent-child relationship at all. Asian parents seem to retain much more “ownership” of their children into adulthood.

HazelNutCoffee, do your parents bring any pressure onto you about getting married? In Taiwan, the late 20s are the time that parents start worrying that their daughter won’t ever get a respectable man, and won’t have time to produce a couple of grandchildren. I’ve seen my female friends go through a lot of stress on this count.

It sounds to me it could possibly be not so much a matter of living in “sin” but of their own respectability and their daughter’s marriagability.

So if there’s a larger question of whether you ever want to get married and have kids, I imagine it’ll come out now at least as subtext.

Hiya HNC. You have my empathy.

The below is a bit long–sorry–but I wanted to share an experience I had at nearly exactly the same age you’re at now. Many details are different, but there might be a hint for you in there somewhere.

I’m American, and am closer to my Japanese homestay parents of some 20 years ago than I am to my own family. I met a Japanese guy while we both lived in NYC, and at his suggestion, we moved in together. His parents lived in Tokyo at the time.

My own US family had no problem with it. My Japanese homestay parents were horrified–but as I’m not their biological child, there was nothing they could do but yell. I got loooooong repeated lectures (especially shochu-fuelled ones from J-Dad), and was forbidden to disclose this fact to any of my J-parents’ acquaintances (they felt it was shameful) whenever I went to visit them.

Meanwhile, back in NY, my J-boyfriend’s dad stopped talking with him when he learned he had begun DATING a non-Japanese woman. When we moved in together, we got 2 phone lines so that his parents (his mom only, until Dad came around again) would not get an answering machine with my name on it, and so that I would never pick up the phone when they called. And call they did, suggesting setting him up with nice J-gals, daughters of acquaintances living in the city, or back in Tokyo, etc. etc. J-Boyfriend would tell them he wasn’t interested, that he was dating me already, etc.

Predictably, this started to piss me off after awhile, but Mr. Boyfriend asked me to be patient. Here’s what happened.

A year after we began living together, I went back to Japan to work for a year (I’d been planning this for awhile, but put it off when he and I met). I moved to Tokyo, and met his family.

J-boyfriend was still living in NYC, but here I was in Tokyo, and his parents now faced a dilemma: I was the Dreaded White Girlfriend, yes, but clearly I had been very kind (heh) to their son while he was living in my country, and now here I was living in their country…I spoke Japanese and had a job so wasn’t helpless, but I’d picked a really crappy, dark, small, cold unfurnished apartment to move into.

They couldn’t just do nothing! Next thing I know they’re arriving at my place with food/bedding/towels/dishes, and inviting me out for tasty dinners. They see I’m sleeping on a futon on a cement floor with cheapo commercial carpet, and insist on buying me a decent bed.

I in turn fuss over them, help with English questions, bring homemade truffles to the father and brother’s work locations on Valentine’s Day, etc., and am endlessly grateful.

I call them one night, and the dad is noticeably happy to hear from me, and J-boyfriend confides soon after that Dad has now lifted his Moratorium against Marrying White Women.

The denouement, alas, is that while J-boyfriend is a fantastic person and we got engaged, we didn’t end up together. I’m 44, still single.

Meanwhile, my own J-Mom and Dad, due to perhaps relaxing standards in their old age and increasing desperation and abject fear at my ongoing singleness, are these days encouraging me to find a nice fella and–just shack up! marriage is way overrated! Just get in thar! etc.

Also not to be forgotten is the tipping point, where having a daughter living in sin is at least preferable to one with no prospects whatsoever.

So! My J-parents definitely mellowed. His parents never knew about our living together in NYC, but once they and I established a personal relationship, keeping the resistance up became more difficult.

I would definitely go with the “we will be moving in together” as opposed to the “we already moved in together, and have forgotten to mention this to you” announcement.

Also, often folks find it easier to accept something if there is a convenient excuse right there–just to allow everyone to rationalize the situation. Does he live near where you work–or near to your parents’ home? Have rents skyrocketed lately? Have you recently had a rather unsettling encounter with a stranger near your place, and are perhaps feeling a bit spooked out, and would just feel better moving in with your BF?

And–God as my witness–some parents (read: J-boyfriend’s parents) will hold on to ANY ANY pretense if it helps them avert their eyes from unpleasant realities. He and I took a trip together. His mother asked if the hotel we would be staying at had separate beds. Of course it didn’t. Of course he said yes.

Just like at yours and your BF’s place, right? Right!:smiley:

Logically I know that I have the right to make my own decisions, but whenever I try to do this my parents take it personally, like I don’t care about their opinions anymore. Argh.

Thanks for the encouragement. :slight_smile:

Not as much as most, but they do want to be sure that the current boyfriend and I are headed in that direction. I suppose one thing they worry about is that things may go wrong between us and then I’d have “wasted” two years with him.

Thanks so much for sharing your story, it was actually quite encouraging. :slight_smile: And yes, my boyfriend and I have been traveling together several times. I don’t know what my parents tell themselves about that.

I have to say, my parents are in some ways much more liberal than other Korean parents. It’s not normal for a girl to leave her parents’ house before marriage, or travel abroad with just her boyfriend. My parents have been okay with both. But they still have some fundamentally traditional ideas: my boyfriend’s father passed away this spring and when I accompanied my boyfriend to the funeral (in Ireland; we live in Korea) my parents later told me that this was “not done” unless one was married - it would be presumptuous. :dubious:

Somebody please kick me… wasn’t there an English word for “trial marriage”? I know I learned it here recently, but I can’t remember it! Perhaps there is one like that in Korean.

You have my sympathies. I went through the exact same thing, but it did not go well at all so I don’t really have any advice for you to make it work. I really am sorry, I wish I did, but my parents just about had collective apoplexy.

I do have one piece of good news, though. Once you break a bombshell like this everything else is easier. After this, when I told my parents I was atheist and voluntarily childless, they just shrugged. I’m sure they thought, “This is a crazy person and better not to argue with her.”

The way I did it was to first tell them that I thought I might be gay. I let that percolate for a few days and then I admitted I was dating a white girl and they didn’t care so much anymore.

We are dealing with two very different cultures, and you have the problem of parents who want to VISIT you and nose around in your living situation, which we didn’t, but… there was a nice don’t ask/don’t tell policy with our families when my husband and I were living together before marriage. All the older relatives would put us in separate bedrooms when we visited, or put us in the basement/upstairs together where theoretically we were sleeping in separate beds, but in practice we slept together. People mostly didn’t visit us.

Only his mother was untactful enough to throw a fit. Fortunately, she was unreasonable enough for us both to roll our eyes and ignore her… and being A Good Christian Woman, she eventually had to work around to “forgiving” us.

You have my sympathy. My SIL is Korean and has consistently made her parents apoplectic for the past 10 years or so. It was very very hard on her for a long time, though now she seems more laid-back about it, having realized that they will never be happy. For quite a while there, family gatherings were pretty much “Let’s get together and browbeat M. on what an undutiful daughter she is.”

(What did she do? Well, first she joined a crazy American church and even went on a mission trip. Then she married a crazy American white boy, thus dooming herself to divorce–the fact that the boy in question speaks good Korean didn’t really help. Grandchildren did help, but now that #3 is coming along, no one really cares since she’s only a daughter anyway. And she won’t even get plastic surgery!)

Hey HNC…just to be clear, you’re back living in Korea, right?

Are your parents in Korea or no?

Is your boyfriend Korean? Do his parents live in Korea? What do they think?

And, if everyone’s in Korea or if you live in a town where people know your parents…are non-parents going to give you shit about this too since this is something that’s not done in Korea?

In order, ZipperJJ: Yes. Yes. No, Irish. His father is dead, his mother lives in Ireland. Not relevant to the problem at hand.

The last one, I have to let Haze answer.

How sure can you be that they don’t already know you’re living together?

If you want to keep your relationship with your parents at least tolerable, you might want to just come clean and be done with it, so they can move on. Kind of like ripping off a band-aid.

Do you really think they don’t know?

“Mom, Dad…I’ve been diagnosed with cancer. Doc says I have maybe six months. Just called to say I love you.”

<much confusion, sadness, compassion ensues>
“PSYCH! I’m fine, just shacking with my boyfriend.”

<mutterings about beatings mixed with relief that you aren’t really dying>