Dear Thelma: My parents don't want me dating an obese older man

PHOTO: The Star/Asia News Network

I started the first romantic relationship of my life in June. I'm 27 years old and he is my first love. He is 42 and we have known each other for six years.

I decided to accept him after he had pursued me for six months.

I had thought long and hard about accepting him, because there is, after all, a 15-year gap between us.

But when I was evaluating my attraction to him, I noticed we have some things in common. We have a solid friendship as I know him well (we share a pretty large group of mutual friends) and he is a really good man because he has no bad habits (he doesn't smoke, gamble or drink).

The only negative thing about him is that he is obese. But that did not stop me from developing feelings for him because appearance is not the main thing for me.

Our new relationship was all good and sweet until my parents found out about us. I did not tell them about him because I had wanted our relationship to be more stable before I introduced him to my parents. And given the wide age gap between us, I knew that it would take time for them to accept him.

My parents were furious. They stopped me from seeing him after learning about the age gap. They even followed me so they could stop us from meeting. We broke up after my parents' dramatic and extreme behaviour. I'm crying every day and at odds with my family.

My mum explained that the age gap and his weight are huge issues for them because they think that I will end up taking care of an old man plagued with diseases later on in the relationship. She couldn't bear to see me suffer like this and she was crying and begging me to break up when telling me this.

Three weeks after we broke up, I told him that I couldn't get over him, and suggested that if he wanted a shot at continuing our relationship, he should slim down to prove his determination to my parents.

He recognised his weaknesses, and said that if he were a parent, he wouldn't let his daughter marry a man like him too - someone with no house, drives an old car and is obese. He said he would try his best to work on his weaknesses - not solely for me, but so that it would improve his prospects as a reliable man worth spending a lifetime with. I was only his second girlfriend.

We still keep in contact as friends. It's been five weeks since we broke up and I am struggling to get over him. I hate my parents for interfering with my love life when I am already an adult. I know what I want in a partner. But they think they know better. Ever since we argued about this, my relationship with my parents has not been the same.

I can feel that they suspect I'm still in a relationship with the man but we are only friends. They have actually demanded that I stop being in touch with him but I have ignored them. My ex and I do not meet but we keep in contact through phone messages.

I feel my parents are very unreasonable. I used to love and appreciate them as the most important people in my life, but I don't see them that way anymore. I still talk to them, I am respectful to them but deep down I don't enjoy talking to them.

I used to get homesick easily and only stuck to my family so I did my tertiary studies in my hometown as well. I even quit my previous job because of excessive travelling. But now I'm thinking about moving out and being on my own because I feel I have lost my basic freedom.

However, moving out does not mean I am going back to my boyfriend. I don't know whether time will heal my relationship with my parents, but deep down I know I'll always blame them for denying us being together. It is not easy for me to find someone with mutual interests - this is obvious from the fact that I've had my first love only at this age. Age is not supposed to be an obstacle to a relationship, but my parents ruined mine.

Do you think I was wrong for arguing with them? I am the one spending time with him, why shouldn't I be the one who makes the decision? It hurts me whenever I come across news about celebrity couples with similar age gaps like ours. This is really getting so common nowadays, so why can't I have it too?

First Love

Dear First Love

You are 27, not 17. While I appreciate that your parents want the best for you, they should have had a conversation where they stated their views.

They had no right to go barging around, causing scenes and making decisions about who you can or cannot date. It is your life, not theirs.

I'm not surprised you are angry with them.

I agree that you need to move out. Do it as soon as you can and be far enough away so that your parents can't police your every move.

Be firm and set boundaries.

Over time, as you all adjust to an adult relationship of mutual respect, the happy love should come back.

As for you, you're going to need time to find your feet as an independent person. Get to know yourself and your needs. Make lots of friends. Take part in lots of social activities. Be sure to take up a sport as well.

The most important thing you can do for yourself is to discover what makes you happy, and set yourself a pattern where you live a full authentic life.

You did not ask for an opinion about the boyfriend, however, I will give one just in case you're interested in my thoughts.

While he sounds sweet, I'd be concerned about the age gap. At present, 15 years doesn't seem much, but when you age, it'll be a problem.

Also, do you want kids? If you do, and you have them a few years from now, he's going to be a bit old to deal with crying babies and tantrum throwing toddlers.

I suggest you don't make any plans now because you'll be too busy finding yourself. Give yourself space and see where you are a year from now.

If after a year, you still think he's the one for you, go and see him. And if you both agree that you share your life goals and have a good chance of ensuring your mutual happiness, go for it.

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