Dear Thelma: My parents' double standards are so unfair

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I'm 23 years old, Indian girl and I just finished my degree at a local varsity.

I'm currently in a serious relationship with this amazing guy from the same university. We've been together for seven months now and are currently doing long distance. He's from the north and I'm from the south, probably five hours away from each other.

Our parents know that we're dating. However, they do not let us stay together, in other words, share the same bedroom because in our culture, it is forbidden to sleep together or have intimacy before marriage, which is tough for both of us since we're doing long distance and we crave so much to spend time with each other.

So both of us decided to lie to our parents, in order for us to meet up and stay together since travelling within one day back and forth is tiring.

However, I do not want to use my friend's name to lie to my parents whenever I'm out with him because honestly it eats me up. We've done this once, and it was very difficult for me to lie to my parents because I've always been honest with them. I know I'm not alone in this; all my other girl friends of my age and religion lie to their parents too when it comes to staying over with their boyfriends, which I feel is wrong.

As a girl from an Indian family, I feel like my parents treat my elder brother differently compared to me and it's totally not fair.

My brother is 25 years old and pursuing a degree as well. His girlfriend comes to our home every day. In fact, this has been happening for many months, and my parents are so nice to her, and give them the green light to go for trips and holidays together. They also allow him to attend her family's functions.

All this makes me want to be honest with them and tell them the truth, since I'm already an adult. But I'm afraid that they'll never trust me again, or let me go out anymore.

Should I be honest and tell them the truth, or should I continue lying to them, till the right time comes?


Lots of people have one set of rules for women and another for men. It’s hideously unfair, and I can see why it upsets you.

In a practical sense, there are several approaches you might consider.

The first is to keep doing what you’re doing. The advantages are that you can continue to see your boyfriend and avoid having a conversation that may not turn out well. The disadvantages are the uncomfortable feelings and the fact that you may be found out. If you are, then you start off having to defend yourself, which will not be pleasant.

The other extreme is to sit down and have an open conversation. The main advantage is that it’s honest. The main disadvantage is that you’re opening up a can of worms. You will have to point out that your mum and dad have treated their children unfairly and admit that you lied. None of you will feel happy about that, I imagine.

As you say, you’re 23 years old and an adult, so you should be making your own choices – and taking the consequences, whatever they may be. You are not a kid who can be grounded. However, just blasting in may lead to lots of hurt feelings. If there’s a big fight, it may turn into a family rift.

If there is, what will your options be? Will you leave? Can you set up home by yourself and earn enough money to keep yourself? How would you feel?

Then there is a middle way. This involves getting your brother (or perhaps a relative) to advocate for you. This method works quite well if everyone involved is reasonable because it gives everyone a chance to think things over without being pushed.

Your brother or other advocate should start by pointing out that their son is dating happily while his sister is not given that benefit. They should remind them that you’ve been away for some years and are now a grown woman.

Therefore, this is not just about you seeing your boyfriend; it’s about rethinking your family relationships now that the kids are adults. It’s important this transition is made carefully as the feelings of today will impact your future family ties.

Frankly, if you take this route, it’s best that first conversation takes place without you. Let your parents consider it. Also, if you have aunts and uncles who will support you, give them a heads-up and have them talk to your parents too.

Of course, your parents may already know what you’re doing. Some parents quietly also close one eye, as the saying goes. Once the truth is revealed, some are happy and open, but others prefer to pretend still not to know.

I think the best thing to do is to make a list of options and consider what is most likely to work best. Talk it over with your brother or a close friend.

In addition, as I said at the start, unfair attitudes about women having relationships is not uncommon. While it’s easy to judge, do understand that parents today are conflicted.

We all recognise change, in the workplace, in schools, in family relationships, but treading new paths is frightening. And with the pandemic, stress levels are soaring.

Therefore, think over all the options, don’t be a rush to shake things up, and marshal all the support you can.

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