In love with the local bad boy

A letter writer can’t tell her parents about her boyfriend because she knows they won’t approve.
Our elder sympathizes: it can be tough coping with the rumors when you live in a small town.


Dear EWC

I am a 19-year-old female. I dated a boy when I was 15 and he was about to turn 18. My family and I have known him forever because we were neighbors and I went to preschool with his little sister. Many bad rumors have gone around our small town about him. He used to smoke and drink a lot and dropped out of high school. When my parents found out I was dating him when I was 15 they made me break up with him because they hate him so much that my father was about to go beat him up. We were young, immature, but we have always had love for each other since we both lost our virginity to each other that young.

Now four years later, I broke a three year relationship and he received rehab, going to adult education and is a totally different guy now. I am now 19 and he is 22. We have begun dating and I am hiding it behind my parents’ back. My mother recently told me that the reason they hate him is because they have been told that when he was a child he would sexually do things with other kids and with his younger sister—his older brothers may have shown him these sexual things for they are kinda weird. I asked the guy if it was true and he said it’s not. He has told me how much he loves me and how he sees me in his future. He says that he has never felt anything like this with any girl and that I am the only one who he has presented to his family and been his true self with.

Part of me wants to forget about him because I know problems with my family will start but part of me says to don’t listen what other people say—follow your heart. I think that sometimes doing what seems bad (getting with a guy who has a bad reputation but a big heart) becomes the best thing. My father cheated on his wife with her cousin—my mother—and married her. Now my parents are still together after 20 years and three kids. I need to know what I should do. Forget him and listen to my parents and move on OR break it to my parents and risk their anger that I want to be with him. And if I do, how? Thanks!


Paul-Dad replies

I’m an elder and I’ve lived in both small towns and big cities. Small towns can have a wonderfully relaxed family feel, but they can also be the home of malicious scandal and gossip.

I hope the stories of your boyfriend’s young sexual experiences are untrue. He has denied them and you sound like you have reason to trust his word. However, even if he was involved with some improprieties as an impressionable youngster, perhaps under the influence of older brothers, he’s at an age in which childhood missteps, true or not, should be minimized.

Are there other reasons your parents don’t like your boyfriend? What has he made of his life? Did he finish high school? Is he employed, with a steady employment record and an acceptable salary for his age and region? You mentioned that he has been to rehab. Millions have successfully recovered from dependency and should not be stigmatized, but in a small town, it may be hard to overcome the reputation of a substance abuser.

At the age of 19 you are old enough to choose who you date. You shouldn’t have to sneak around to secretly date a single man with whom you have loved for years. Find a quiet time when you can speak to your parents without being interrupted. Tell them of your love for your boyfriend. Tell them that you know that he’s had his ups and downs, but you are convinced that he’s turned his life around, has overcome his addiction, is employed (I hope), and is committed to you. Tell them about the love, devotion, faithfulness, and friendship that he has provided to you. Tell them that you want their blessings and patience and hope that they will approve of your relationship. What should you do if they adamantly refuse to accept him? You’ll have to make that decision at that time, but let’s be optimistic and believe that they will accept your relationship and respect you for your honesty and respect.

Good luck to you. I have a good feeling that it’s going to work out well.

Best Regards,

Elder Paul-Dad


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