“Dad, I want you to meet my boyfriend. Oh and by the way, he’s white…”
So apparently this is a thing. People live in societies where they have to point out the race of their spouse when introducing them to their parents or won’t even introduce their spouses due to colour and I find that incredibly sad.
Luckily for me, my parents have never cared or mentioned colour when I’ve asked them to meet a guy.
However, coming from an African back ground brings its own challenges. When you have strict parents (especially an African dad) who expects you to one day wake up and just be miraculously married, approaching the subject of dating can be hard so I thought it would be useful to give a few pointers from what I’ve learned.
1. Parents have a sixth sense and it’s really annoying but at the end of the day they want what’s best for you
I was with my ex for a long time and my parents never officially met him. From the beginning, my dad picked up on things at the time that I thought were insignificant but in the end, they ended up being factors in our break up. For the most part, my ex was good to me and they could see that but they could see past all the presents and fakeness that I couldn’t.
2. Parents don’t know it all but neither do you so learn who to speak to
It can take parents a long time to adjust and when you grow up in different cultures it’s very hard to know what the right thing to do/say is and what is wrong.
I’ve learned you need a best friend to talk to, someone who knows you inside out and will give you honest advice. This will be someone that understands your position from a young persons point of view as maybe someone going through or about to go through the same thing.
You need a parent to talk to, one parent is always more open to hearing you out than the other. That doesn’t mean they’ll accept it straight away though.
You also need a close relative who understands your culture and is more lenient than your parents. They’ll normally put in a good word for you and because they’re an adult your parents respect andthey’ll be heard out before you are.
For me, my three were my brother who knows every little thing about me. My auntie who traditionally is supposed to be the one I talk to and have the awkward conversations with and finally, funnily enough, both my mum and dad but mostly my dad. Being a daddies girl meant that although my mum is more open to English culture, she freaks out sometimes so she would lay the foundation and I’d then go to my dad and turn on my “daddies little girl” charm.
3. Honesty is the best policy
Be honest about everything from the beginning. Lies are always caught out but you want your family to like your spouse for who they are and not who you think they want your spouse to be.
Some of the best advice my dad gave me was not to force things when it came to me meeting my boyfriends family or him meeting mine. At the end of they day, if you want to be with someone you should be respectful but be yourself. If it’s meant to be, your family will love them. If you start out with lies it won’t end well and you’ll be wasting your own time as much as theirs.
4. Learn what is expected of your culture and be respectful
This one kind of links to number 2 in the sense that you need to know who to speak to. Both my parents grew up in Zambia and I’ve grown up in the UK so where it’s normal for the English to introduce spouses pretty early on, in African culture you’re supposed to introduce them as a “friend”.
No one has ever really sat me down and explained how things are supposed to work so I’m learning as I go along. Sometimes you have to ask or you’ll end up upsetting people. I learn different things from different family members but it’s also interesting especially when comparing myself to my cousins (male and female) because there are some very different rules especially since I’m a girl that’s grown up around a brother and male cousins.
I also have a very open relationship with my parents and talk to both (especially my dad) about things my culture states I’m not supposed to but they’re pretty good about it all. It might have taken a bit of practice but I’m really grateful for that.
5. Everything has its own time and the wait is definitely worth it
When your spouse meets your family they can build a great relationship. You don’t want them to meet too soon, for it to end and for all of you to have to go through the break up.
I never thought I’d say this but I’m glad my parents never properly met my ex because I’ve learnt a lot about my culture, how strong my relationship with my family is and how lucky I am to have so many different people to speak to.
It melts my heart to see the relationship my boyfriend has with my family and the fact we can just pop round to my parents at the weekend and spend the day or go to church together. It’s something I’ve definitely learned to treasure!