The situation between my parents and Ted is quite shitty. Spending the holidays without my family sucked. I’m glad that I finally got to spend Christmas with Ted, but it was depressing to spend Christmas Eve at a restaurant that we actually couldn’t afford and then spend Christmas dinner with the family of a woman from work who I only considered an acquaintance. I had decided not to spend Christmas with my aunt and my cousin in Jersey, despite their very kind invitations, because it had caused a huge fight between them and my mom and I didn’t want to make things worse. In fact, my mom, dad and sister didn’t spend Christmas at my aunt’s house like we usually do, because of this “feud.” Furthermore, my mom is still not speaking to my aunt (her sister) and my cousin (my mom’s niece and goddaughter) because of their decision to welcome Ted and me into their homes for Christmas.
I called my parents every night during the holidays, just as I did prior to everything blowing up. My family ignored my calls, so I just left messages on the answering machine every night. ”Hi, it’s me. Just wanted to say hello, and I love you.” I left messages on the answering machine every night from Christmas through January. Finally, one night my mom picked up. She and my dad wanted me to come home. Honestly, I was terrified to go to home because I anticipated a weekend of living in a hostile environment with no escape, especially since my sister was disappointed in my decision to “choose” to spend Christmas with Ted over the family, I couldn’t even rely on her as a buffer or an ally.
I went home in February and had a tearful and emotional time. I missed my mom and my dad, and we held each other for a long time in the train station when they picked me up. It was at that moment when I realized just how much I loved them and missed them, and couldn’t handle a life without them.
The weekend continued as though nothing had ever happened. We exchanged belated Christmas gifts, and cooked together and watched movies together like before. Finally after dinner Saturday night, my mom and dad and I had our first confrontational, adult conversation. I wonder if this is a cultural thing that you have experienced as well: despite being an adult yourself, you still speak to your parents as…parents. Elders who are wiser than you, and who deserve more respect than you. I hope you know what I’m talking about. My other friends don’t understand, so I’m hoping someone else can identify with this complicated adult child-parent relationship that I’m describing.
I digress because, in this conversation, something else happened. I finally spoke to my parents as an equal. I wasn’t their naive child, or their distraught daughter. I told them the same thing that I had been saying, “I love him, and my decision to be with him is one that only I can make. You cannot make the decision for me.” This time, rather than responding with their usual “you are too young; you need to listen to us,” my parents finally responded differently. This time they said, “Yes, it is your decision. But you need to recognize that we don’t like him for you. We are concerned that he lacks ambition, and he will end up financially unstable and unsuccessful like his parents. The fact that he moved to New York to be with you when you were just 22, scares us. You never had a chance to meet someone else. We are scared that you will marry him, because he “trapped” you and you will marry into a life of struggle. You will inherit his and his family’s debt, and you will do this before ever having met anyone else. But you are right. This is your decision, and only yours to make. But you need to understand that if you marry him, you will be marrying someone who we have many doubts about - someone who we simply do not like. And if you marry him, he as your husband will become your new family and you will no longer be a part of ours.”
So there you have it. I finally have the respect from my parents as an adult — their acknowledgement that my relationship with Ted represents a decision for me, and only me, to make.
I love my family so much. Sometimes I cry when I think about the sacrifices they’ve made to give me everything I could have ever needed and wanted growing up. I don’t want to hear what my other friends born to American parents, tell me: your parents need to understand that this is America, in 2013. We don’t do arranged marriages here. You marry for love, and not for money.”
While I appreciate that advice, I need to talk this out with someone who understands that I have been born with, and will never be able to get rid of, this culturally-ingrained psychological complex through which I want to make my parents and my grandparents proud of me. I want to maintain the lifestyle they worked so hard to provide me. I want to be someone they can brag about. I want to have my own family who my parents will be proud to call their own as well. This is what I want. This is what will make me happy.
I recognize that the fact that my happiness is so dependent on the happiness of others is fucked up - but that’s something else for me to work out separately.
I’m so scared and unhappy right now. I don’t know how to fix it. I see my parents’ concern and I love them so much, that I am genuinely thinking about breaking up with the man who is my best friend. I’m trying to tell myself that once I get it over with, the pain will pass. But I fear that one day, I will convince myself that the struggle between attaining happiness by being in love with my best friend, versus attaining happiness by pleasing my family will be too difficult, and finally I will convince myself to let Ted go. I fear that I will meet someone else and fall in love. I fear that one day I will look at my new husband and my new family, and I will think of Ted and wonder what our family would have been like.