His religious parents won’t approve of me

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Dear Meredith,

I have been dating a younger man for several months but we have known each other for over a year. I am in my mid-30s and he is in his early 20s. Originally the notion of us dating felt preposterous to me, but he won me over by very sweetly pursuing me for months. We have similar temperaments, make each other laugh constantly, are very supportive of one another's goals, and have an unreal physical connection. I don't even think about our age gap when we're together, and he is the first man I've ever really felt like I wanted to have a family with.

The issue is that he comes from a very conservative and religious family and has said that his parents "would never approve" of me, which probably has less to do with our age difference and more about my lack of religious beliefs and left-leaning thinking, though the age thing probably does not help. They are so devout in their faith that they demonize anyone who doesn't also believe, and they tell my boyfriend to avoid "those people." They do not know that he is on the fence religiously, as he tries to tiptoe around the subject with them and is able to do so because we live pretty far away. I want to support my boyfriend in being more honest with his parents about his own religious thinking, while acknowledging the fallout that may occur, and without him feeling like I'm talking down to him or patronizing him because I've sorted out my own family issues and am older.

I understand his trepidation and the loss that's potentially at stake for him. But secondly, and perhaps a little selfishly, I don't want to be a secret, and I am afraid that I might be waiting a long time not to be and it will ruin us. Any advice?

– Secret

You don't want to push him to do something before he's ready. It's better to focus on setting boundaries for yourself.

For example, if he asks you to lie about your relationship to people you know, you can tell him you won't do that (I assume). If he tells you the relationship can't move past a certain point because of his parents, you can make your needs known and move on if he can't compromise.

Please know that if he tells his parents, the fallout might affect the happiness of this moment. It's possible he's decided to wait until he feels more confident about what the two of you have built. Maybe he'll approach them when he knows it's way too late for them to change his mind.

You've sorted out your family issues, but you can't make any assumptions about what his entail. Ask him what he thinks is best for his own life. Then decide whether you can meet him where he is.

Also remember that you've only been dating him for a few months. You knew him before, but only for a year. You're still getting to know each other. Learn more before you decide what's best for either of you.

– Meredith

Readers? Thoughts on how to approach this?