Holding It In
Published: November 11, 2009 | | Submit An Inquiry

Dear Chivalry,

     I grew up in a conservative, Evangelical Christian household.  I'm grownup, out of the house, and not a Christian anymore.

     My parents and I have danced around the topics of beliefs and sin for years, and my policy has generally been: what they don't know can't hurt them.  They would be heartbroken to learn that I've had sex and I'm not going to marry a Christian and probably won't even get married in the traditional sense.  This information won't just make them sad, it will eat at them for the rest of their lives, as they mourn their daughter and agonize over her salvation.  That's the part I can't control.  

     My honesty will create a very real chasm between us, but my dishonesty doesn't help anything, either.  I want to be completely open with them about my relationships and lifestyle.  I can foresee a day when I'm with somebody who means the world to me and I'll want my parents to know.

     How can I begin to share myself with my folks in a way that is non-threatening and encourages them to be part of my life, while making it clear that I am committed to my choices?  How do I prepare them for whatever my love life may turn out to be?


Living In Sin

Dear Living In Sin,

     Such a difficult situation.  I understand your concern here, you're right, disagreements like this can tear families apart.  I commend you for not wanting to take the easy way out and continuing to avoid or waiting until you do find someone and you'll be forced to explain yourself to them.  It's not the kind of thing that simply ignoring can make go away, and it must be very hard on you to hold all this in.

     First off, it may be best for you to take it slow.  I wouldn't suggest a full on assault of all your conflicting beliefs at once, but rather move one step at a time.  You'll have to decide how best to approach this.  But perhaps the next time marriage or religion comes up, instead of dancing around the topic like you mentioned, you could use it as an opening to assert some of your thoughts in a calm and casual manner.  I'm not sure how often this happens, or if you have tried this before, but however far you've taken it in the past, try to take it at least one step further.  It should become easier with time, and each discussion that you share just one thought you may have held in before will start to add up.  Even the most monumental of differences can erode away with the accumulation of small efforts.  The hardest part will be starting.  But the sooner you create the unavoidable chasm you described, the sooner you can start working to repair it through honest and mature discourse. 

     No matter what, remember certain things will remain even after you've shared these things with your parents.  You will always be their daughter and I'm sure they will continue to care for you in the same way they have before.  Hopefully they will at least try to understand where you're coming from.

     I sincerely hope you're able to work things out.




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