I’ve been hiding my relationship with my boyfriend for about five months now. We were together for about nine months, several years ago, until he was arrested for a white-collar crime. We split up while he served his time and stayed apart for quite awhile after his release from prison.
Now he’s a felon, and though my family previously liked him, they’ve completely turned their back on him after the arrest. My brother warned that he’d beat him up if he ever heard about my boyfriend talking to me again. My parents are also totally nonsupportive. They don’t want his record tainting our family name.
When we started dating again a few months ago, I hid the news from my family. But I really see long-term potential in this guy, and I can't hide our relationship forever. He didn’t murder anyone or sell drugs. He was just caught in a financial snafu. I’m not sure why my family continues to judge.
Should I come out and tell my family that I’m dating this guy again? Or should I continue to keep my relationship under wraps?
— Modern-day Juliet
Dear Modern-day Juliet,
The disenfranchisement of felons is a huge problem in our society. They can’t vote, can’t find work, can’t get public housing, and they’re often treated like criminals for the rest of their lives.
Most all of us have done a few things that could have gotten us jail time, but because luck was on our side, we’ve gotten away unscathed. Your family really needs to understand this. They’re part of the problem.
This means that you have a responsibility to come clean with them about your relationship. Keeping this in the closet is doing nothing to change their opinion of people with a criminal past.
Pick the family member who will be least likely to freak out and tell them first. Then you’ve got an ally when you tell everyone else. Make sure you emphasize that your boyfriend has served his time and learned his lesson. If they’re still worried about the “family name,” remind them that even Martha Stewart went to prison and she is as successful as ever.
Of course, they’ll probably be unhappy with you while they adjust, and you’ll certainly want to keep that violent brother of yours away from your boyfriend. But hopefully, they’ll all come around in due time. You can’t help whom you love, and you shouldn’t let your family determine whom you date.
Got a problem? E-mail Bianca at firstname.lastname@example.org.