I have been with my partner for over ten years. It wasn’t exactly love at first sight, in the beginning we were just friends but then one day I realised that we were not going out to dinner as friends: we were on a date.
I am from Pakistan, though I have lived abroad for many years. My boyfriend is white British. I knew it wasn’t going to go down very well if my parents found out about him, they made no secret of how they felt about inter-racial marriages. One day, while back in Pakistan on holiday, my mum found out about my boyfriend. She made me promise to break up with him which I, very reluctantly, said I would do.
But I didn’t as I never intended to. My boyfriend and I continued our lives in London but I kept him a secret from most of my friends in case news ever reached my parents. Even after we got engaged, I kept him a secret. It took me almost six months to finally tell my parents about my decision on who I had decided to marry. I was absolutely petrified of telling them, fearing screaming and shouting, and eventual expulsion from the family.
I was totally and completely wrong. My parents listened calmly and then said they wanted to meet my boyfriend/fiancée. Once they met him they said they weren’t ecstatic at my choice but they told me that if that was what I had chosen they would support me. They were very upset that he would not convert to Islam, however, they were satisfied that he agreed to an Islamic marriage ceremony.
Whilst I had totally under-estimated my own parents, I had completely over-estimated my in-laws. Being white British, I thought they would be fine and open and accepting. This was affirmed over the years I met them; they were nice, they were lovely, they were very English. To my horror, after my fiancée and I announced our engagement, I found out that they were not only borderline racist, continuously making derogatory remarks about Pakistan, they were amongst the most ignorant people I had ever met. They would consider themselves white upper-middle class, both professionals (one a doctor, the other a solicitor and both from privileged backgrounds) but the wedding almost didn’t happen because they were convinced that by having an Islamic wedding ceremony, their son would become a Muslim – something they could never tolerate. I don’t know where they were reading this stuff, I can only assume in the gutter press. This was all despite that fact that they insisted on their son having a church wedding.
They then went on to talk about things that sounded like a dowry! They didn’t even do enough research t realise that in Islam, it is the man’s family who pays the daughter’s family, not the other way around. They were clearly getting mixed up with Hindu and Muslim culture.
I am now married – we had a non-religious civil ceremony which pleased neither sets of parents. My parents are pretty much the same as they have always been. They call almost every day regardless of where they are, they pop by and stay over when in England… my mother-in-law on the other hand keeps making remarks about me, Islam, Pakistan and I really don’t know how to deal with her. Through the years I have taken to ignoring her remarks because I feel that it will end in an argument and cause tension between my husband and I, which I don’t want. My children are still young and so they don’t understand the conflict at all. But I know that I will have to address the in-laws issue soon, as I firmly believe that my children should have a happy and innocent childhood, not one where they are acutely aware of being different because of underhand comments from my mother-in-law.
I wish I had given my own parents more credit over the years. Now that everyone has shown their true colours, I miss my parents very much and will happily deal with them taking liberties with me over dealing with my in-laws any time of the day!