How should I respond to my parents' negative feelings about the people I've been dating? I'm a young adult in my early twenties, living in my parents' home. I've had several relationships over the past few years, but my mom and dad haven't thought much of any of them – despite the fact that the individuals involved were serious Christians. I want to honor my parents, but I also need to live my own life. Should I put much stock in what they think?
Many cultural analysts have observed that modern educational and economic realities have had the effect of prolonging "adolescence" in contemporary society. For a number of reasons, it's increasingly common for young adults in their twenties to be living at home with their parents. There are pros and cons to this arrangement, of course, but there's no denying that it places a young man or woman under a unique set of pressures – pressures that would have been unheard of in earlier generations.
You said it yourself: you want to honor your parents, but you also have a burning desire to be your own person and live your own life. What you need to realize is that, to some extent, your present conflicts have less to do with the nature of your romantic interests than with the awkward complexities of your living situation.
You didn't mention whether you are working full-time or attending college. In either case, you may want to begin working on a plan to become more independent and self-sufficient. Naturally, this will be harder if you're a student; still, it might be possible to earn a portion of your own support by working part-time. A measure of financial independence can be surprisingly empowering and liberating. With money of your own, you could investigate the possibility of securing on-campus housing, renting a room, or sharing the cost of an apartment with several fellow students. This would be done even easier if you have steady full-time employment.
Once out from under your parents' roof, you'll find it easier to sort out the family dynamics that have been frustrating your relationships with members of the opposite sex. You're wise, of course, to take your mom and dad's desires into account, and you certainly don't want to abandon the values they've worked so hard to instill in you during your growing-up years. At the same time, an individual in his or her early to mid-twenties has to learn how think, choose, and act independently. Living on your own will help you achieve the distance and perspective you need in order to do that.
As you begin moving in this direction, you may want to seek out the guidance of an objective third party. A pastor, an older adult in your church, or a professional Christian counselor could be a tremendous help to you at this stage in your life. Call us. Focus on the Family's Counseling department can provide you with a list of qualified marriage-and-family specialists practicing in your local area. They would also be happy to consult with you over the phone.
When and if you find yourself involved in another romantic relationship, we would urge you to move forward with caution and discernment. Give your parents' perspective the careful consideration it deserves, but take time to listen to the counsel of other godly friends and advisors as well. Commit the situation to prayer, asking the Lord to guide you and provide for you according to His wisdom and plan for your life. Ask your boyfriend or girlfriend to consider the option of seeking professional counseling together. And avail yourself of as many biblically oriented premarital resources as you can lay your hands on.