Should I Stay With My Boyfriend? What About My Family?

Question: “I’ve been dating a guy for three months now; after we had been friends for about five months. It’s kind of been a weird situation because I haven’t brought him around my house very much. Reason being, he’s inactive in the church, a different race, and not the perfect person my parents want me to bring home. He doesn’t have any other wrong things with him except he doesn’t have a career going yet, he still has some schooling to get done. He’s 20, and my parents worry that he isn’t going to be able to support me, keep me faithful, and we will clash from the different ethnic backgrounds. Sometimes it really scares me too because they all seem like legit worries. I’m not worried about his career because I know he’s a hard worker and has a lot of ambition. I’ve freaked out on him a couple of times already and broken up with him twice. I’ve realized that I’m so much in love with him that I feel terrible without him each time and like something is torn away from me. I always want to be with him, even when I know he’s not perfect but I don’t feel like anyone is perfect. I know since I’ve been with him he’s changed from me and become a better person. He will do anything I want him to. But I have this feeling in the pit of my stomach that I’m going to regret everything if we do something drastic, like get married. I feel like we’ll be fighting about religion for the rest of our lives and that seems so upsetting to me. I feel like I’m compromising too much of the way I lead my life, and want to lead my life in the future if I stay with him. But then I think sometimes change is good. I’m worried that if I tell him I have to get married in the temple, therefore we can’t be together, and we break up, I’ll always be missing him and he will be the love of my life that I never got to be with. I’ll be comparing him to every guy I meet. I already go to a therapist right now and she thinks that he’s already been baptized and he’s just inactive, but if he says he’ll go to church with me (the man should always do what the woman wants, religion wise, if he has no other religion he believes in). He says he’d go to church with me. He has no problem doing that. And keeping the sabbath day holy, paying tithing. But he would also want to teach his kids discipline, so he would teach them that drinking is ok, as long as you do it smartly. He doesn’t believe in God and he will not get married in the temple because you have to believe in the church in order to be able to. Basically my therapist thinks I’m worrying and that it’ll all turn out ok, he’s willing to do anything for me because he loves me. I feel really confused and upset. I need other opinions and advice of what to do. What do you think?”

Answer: I am glad you wrote in with your question. It appears that you have a myriad of feelings related to your boyfriend and that you are internally pretty conflicted as to what you should do in terms of the relationship with him. I’ll cover a few points that were apparent in your question that I feel are key for you to understand.

I’d first consider what your parents think of him. How much do you care about what they think? If you really feel their sanction and support is key you might be in for a long haul with him if they are less than supportive of him. That being said, I feel you should do what you want, not what others want or decide to do things to keep your parents happy. You are an adult and the choices you make are yours. Don’t be a slave to their perceptions, if in fact it is true love you’ll regret you fell victim to their thoughts and didn’t follow your heart in staying with him.

You mention religion and spirituality. You speak about your wanting to have a unified relationship but that you are both split on spiritual matters. This likely will become a major concern in later years, especially with kids. His attending church and being a passive participant will likely not last in terms of your hopes for a temple marriage. If you feel he is not or will not marry you in the temple, how much are you willing to risk or wait? If not and you are set on marrying in the temple and you feel he’ll leave you or break up with you if that is your hope then why are you still with him? Again, it’d be helpful for you to make a list of your priorities in rank order of what is most important to you and then gather your thoughts on what you are willing to compromise on and what you won’t. This spirituality issue seems to be a large on that you may not compromise on and if that is the case, I do not recommend marrying him with hopes he’ll come around to what you want. Statistics show and scores of couples I work with indicate that spiritual compliance early on is typical but doesn’t last as living the gospel takes work, time, and internal commitment … his going to please you won’t last so don’t count on his changing on your account.

It is clear that you are internally conflicted about whether to stay or go with him. You said, “I feel like I’m compromising too much of the way I lead my life” and my thought is if you are in fact compromising too much then why are you still with him. Your yielding too much of your core beliefs and values can create a foundation for conflict and tension that is starting now in courtship can grow into a heated distant marriage in the future. Later in your post you said, “I have this feeling in the pit of my stomach that I’m going to regret everything if we do something drastic” I’d follow your heart. You have the capacity to know what works for you and what makes you feel fulfilled and happy. I would not enter into a marriage with trepidation and doubt since jobs, children, etc bring on stresses that test even the best marriages and if you are having serious doubts I would caution you to seriously think through what you really want.

Does he have the characteristics of the man you want to marry and be with here and in eternity? If not what does he have that you value and that you want as a part of the relationship? Clearly you care about him very much and have developed an attachment, based on your verbiage above about your wanting to be with him much of the time. My concern is in your statement, ‘I always want to be with him, even when I know he’s not perfect but I don’t feel like anyone is perfect.’ Yes, nobody is perfect but if he is a good or great person that does not espouse the core attributes and beliefs you feel are key for your future and relationship then I would caution you about subjugating your core beliefs with hope that things will get better as he has his beliefs and they are as real to him as yours are to you and he is entitled to those.

My counsel for you would be to do some writing, make a list of the most significant priorities to you in rank order from most important to least important. Don’t think about the relationship, the attachment, about loving or hurting him, etc. just simply iron out independent of him or others you may date what is key for you. Then make the non-negotiable with the negotiable. Once you have some clarity with what you want stick to that. Marriage is far to wonderful and far to complicated at times to enter into with doubts and concerns like you have raised.

I’d suggest you both take the professional assessment called Relate, something I recommend to couples that are not married but want to flush out what is right for them and the relationship. I’d also recommend your continuing to pray and seek a confirmation. This was developed by therapists at BYU some time ago and has developed into its own institute.

You’re on the right path. Glad you wrote in. Study it out, get some therapeutic guidance, stick to your principles, then make a decision of a direction and don’t look back. Prayer and guidance here is key to your knowing God’s will and hope for you in your journey.

I’d recommend these two articles at links below.

The Voice of the Lord – Gerald N. Lund

Receiving Revelation – Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual