Advice: Navigating Young (Forbidden) Love

Dear Love, InshAllah,

We are parents of a Muslim college student who met a Muslim boy at school and wish to get to know each other with parental supervision for marriage. The boy told his Pakistani parents he wished us to meet and get to know each other. They first agreed and next day refused and hit him and threatened to have him transfer to another school. We are not Pakistani, however they say that is not the reason, that it is because he is too young. We also wish they were older however we do not want them to commit any sins and are willing to work with them in order for them to have supervision and not lie to us. The boy’s mother caught him on the phone with my daughter, who is out of country doing research for school and taken away his phone and computer and again state will take him out of school. We have suggested our daughter not have any contact with him until parents agree, but this has not happened and if seems the parents forbidding them has made them closer. Our question is should we contact the father and state we were not pleased with this relationship but it is better to work together with our children than to have them lie to us. Any advice on dealing with Pakistani parents who do not want the son to talk to a girl until he is out of college and working and to become a doctor even though the son does not wish to be a doctor.

Not Pakistani

Shy Desi Boy replies:

His parents caught him on the phone talking to a girl and they took away his computer? That sounds something a parent would do with a 14 year old—not a college age student.

I think the important thing to do here is to parse out the reasons why his parents are acting this way: is it because their son likes a non-Pakistan girl? If so, is this something that can be over-come with time and exposure? Will they learn to accept your daughter? I know Pakistani parents who, two decades later, have never accepted their black son-in-law. Conversely I know some who have.

But there might be another reason at play: his parents are control freaks. This could very well be the case. Even if his parents come around and accept your daughter for not being Pakistani, do you think his parents will loosen up and give their son more freedom? Will they try to control the relationship even after they marry?

I have seen so many marriages crumble because one set of parents is too dominating. I have also seen marriages crumble because immigrant parents move to the US and yet want their kids to behave exactly as they did in Lahore or Cairo or Tehran.

As for their age, this is a tricky issue and I respect that you do not want your daughter to do anything sinful. And I know there are Islamic issues with dating but I am big proponent of allowing young people to get to now each other, even if this involves dating. When parents tell their children that their only option to be with someone is to get married, then it pushes people to get married at very young ages. Many of my friends fell in love at 19 and were pushed to get married. Most of them are no longer married to that same person. The reason is simple: we grow so much, especially during the period after college, and the decisions we make while in school are hardly ever sound.

But if I am being really honest, my advice comes down to just one line: this person is no good for your daughter. She deserves someone who will respect her for who she is—not a partner who is sent to his room for talking on the phone with her. I wish you my best.

Eds. Note: Miss Sunshine is currently on hiatus – today we have a guest advice columnist, “The Sub.”

The Sub replies:

Like your daughter, I too met a young man of Pakistani heritage while in college. Unlike your daughter, his parents didn’t have a problem with the fact that we were young or that I did not share his ethnic background. We’ve now been married for almost 15 years.

While we have a strong and loving relationship, getting married early is not without its difficulties. You need to have a frank discussion with your daughter about what it means to marry young – how and whether she will finish school, career plans, children, finances, etc. If your daughter and the young man have not yet discussed these issues, it’s clear that they need more time to figure things out. The two of them need to approach both parents with a plan to demonstrate their maturity and commitment to the relationship.

I suggest you try talking to the boy’s parents and sharing with them what you’ve shared here. That this would not have been the first choice for your daughter, but that the children are young and marriage is a better option than sneaking around to be with each other. But every family is different and if race appears to be the holdout, there’s not much you can say to convince his parents otherwise. Take comfort in the fact that while your daughter may be heartbroken if this relationship does not work out, it may save her years of heartbreak if she marries into a family that doesn’t accept her because of her background.

6 Comments on “Advice: Navigating Young (Forbidden) Love”

  1. The Pakistani parents seem conservative, like most other Pakistanis are. But we must realize that the Pakistani societal norms are far different from those of the US. One can not control one’s children forever, definitely not in a liberal and free society where sex and drinking is considered perfectly acceptable. The parents must decide on a defined set of boundaries for the kids, where they can find independence as well as piety to go alongside each other.

  2. noorlaila265 says:

    Reblogged this on more than hijab and commented:
    What do you think? Interesting piece on young and mixed race marriage.

  3. noorlaila265 says:

    I loved both replies and I agree with them, but I do understand culturally some people are just so set in their ways. When my husband met me I was a typical western young woman and I couldn’t actually believe he had to ask his parents if they were OK with it – I was literally laughing as he picked up the phone!
    Fast forward a few years and I realise that had they said no, then that would simply have been it. My husband was in his late 20’s at the time so hardly a young guy or teenager, and yet he accepted that family and tradition came before love. Its a hard situation to be in, but I would say it doesn’t seem that these parents are going to come round and a lot of heartache could be caused. better to cut your losses now and try to move on inshAllah x

  4. hibiscus says:

    Kudos to you ‘Not Pakistani’ for taking the time to ask your question and trying to accommodate your daughter, I really wish more parents did this. Believe me, I am a young Pakistani girl and I can tell you that across the board Pakistani parents (especially those who are 1st generation immigrants) just make it a lot harder for their kids to get married. I am probably making lots of generalizations based on my various bad experiences in dealing with Pakistani parents but what I have found is that they need time to loosen up. They will do everything in their power to break things up but if you are persistent eventually they have to open up. inshaAllah I wish the best for you and your family. These kinds of issues are really harming our ummah, but you are taking such an amazing step by helping your daughter in dealing with this boys family! I really wish more parents helped their kids out instead of telling them to just abandon a relationship they believe in.

  5. Asifa says:

    I suggest ditch the boy. It will be a life long headache for your daughter. The family is not the right family. Life is not a Bollywood movie where everything turns out well in the end. It will be hard for her but it really is not worth it. We marry into families, not individuals.

  6. Asifa says:

    I also understand the boy’s parents’ view. How on earth will he support his wife and himself and potential kids if he is not finished school and earning money? He could even drop out of school to work full-time. I would never let my son or daughter marry unless they are financially responsible. Also same for you. Next thing your daughter comes back to you with a grandchild and no degree and no job and no matrimonial alimony and you are stuck paying for her mistakes. It sounds harsh but that it the truth. I strongly would not risk it. Maybe it is just me, but my kids want to date others, they can date. I will tell them what is right and what is wrong. The rest is up to them. If I force anything, as you said, they will lie and still do whatever they want. What is the point of developing dishonesty and having them live a double life.