I’ve Hidden My Non-Muslim Boyfriend From My Parents For 2 Years

Your parents are probably judgmental with your choices in baes, that’s what parents are for. They probably hated that skater boy drug dealer you dated in high school, and they probably weren’t so keen on that 40-year-old you casually dated when you were 22.

But your idea of strict parental standards is probably nothing compared to Fatima’s.

Fatima is your average 23-year-old girl when she’s out with friends, but when she’s home with her Pakistani, Muslim family, she hides that side of her life completely. On top of that, she’s only allowed to date guys who share her religious beliefs. While she doesn’t wear a hijab, her family still has very strict religious standards that they expect from her.

The problem is that Fatima is dating a guy she met in college who has no religious beliefs whatsoever. They’ve dated for two years and her parents don’t even know he exists. We talked to Fatima about the realities of dating out of your religion while having a strict Muslim family.

Have your family members talked to you about the type of guy they want you to end up with? What are the “requirements?” 

This is talked about all the time, especially once you graduate college. In our culture (Pakistani), the most important thing is to marry someone in your religion (Muslim) – and not just Muslim, there are different sects or types of Muslim, so the person you marry has to be that specific sect too, which is basically only possible with your parents setting you up with people to meet and you figuring out who’s normal or not.

The person doesn’t have to necessarily be Pakistani, but it’s definitely preferred. There are people who convert their girlfriends/boyfriends from different religions and ethnicities and it’s kinda like, “whoa, I can’t believe they found someone outside of our culture and did that.” But yeah, the number one requirement is definitely religion, there is no question about it. I don’t know anyone out of all my friends who have grown up here who would go against that requirement, it’s that big of a deal.

Your current boyfriend is not Muslim, does that mean you have to keep him a secret?

My current boyfriend doesn’t believe in religion at all, which is a huge problem because he doesn’t understand the seriousness of mine. His family is pretty laid back and doesn’t really make a big deal about religion. We’ve been together over two years and I’ve only told a few family members who I knew wouldn’t care. I haven’t told my parents and he hasn’t met anyone in my family at all. I literally had to change my phone background [which was a picture of us] every time I was visiting family. Now that we’ve been dating for so long it kinda freaks me out, how to keep going like this in secret.

Does this bother him at all? Or is he pretty understanding?

It bothers him because family is so important to him and I don’t blame him for being annoyed by it. I think the frustration comes from him not being able to understand where I’m coming from. Like, he finds it so ridiculous and hard to believe and at times he’s like, “There’s no way this is true” or “I doubt they would really care that much,” but they really would. This has been one of the major issues and sources of fights in our relationship.

Does your boyfriend’s family know about you?

Yeah, I’ve stayed at his house multiple times and have met all his family members/extended family. I think this is why it makes it a lot worse for him.

How long have you guys been dating? Have you ever considered your family’s reaction if you two were to move in together or take more serious steps?

Over two years. And my parents would seriously die if we moved in together. I can’t even think about how that would end. It would just be horrible, I would never do it. If we wanted to take more serious steps I’d have to convince him to convert to Islam.

Have you ever dated or hooked up with someone that your parents would approve of?


Do you keep most aspects of your life secret from your mom? What about your siblings?

My siblings are cool and on the same page as me. My parents don’t know anything about my social life. They have no idea that I drink, that I’ve had sex, smoked, go out, or anything about the clothes I wear. They never knew what I was wearing to prom or homecoming in high school, in college they had no idea what I was doing on the weekends. It would kill them if they knew I drank. They are very oblivious because they both grew up in another country. [But since] I have to hide all of that, it’s pretty exhausting.

You can’t drink because of your religion, right? Does nobody else in your family drink? Or do they hide it like you?

Drinking is against my religion. Everyone in my family that does drink hides it the same way as I do. So if I’m ever going out, I can’t come home that night, I have to pretend I’m going somewhere random and spending the night at a friend’s house.

Some of your siblings are now married, how did they feel about dating expectations when they were younger?

Most of my siblings dated other people when they were younger and kept it a secret, but all ended up with people my parents approved of because of their religion and everything.

Do you feel like you’ll eventually end up wth a Pakistani guy? Or no way?

I’m not against the idea, I have nothing against Pakistani guys, I just haven’t ever found someone who’s on the same page as me. Honestly, I feel like finding a cool guy who’s the same religion and has the same background as me is the most ideal situation because then they’d get where I was coming from and wouldn’t be so weirded out by my life of hiding everything.

What age do most Pakistani/Muslim girls get married at?

From 23-27 is usually when they get married, if you reach your 30’s and you’re not married people think its weird and kinda judge you for it.

Do you think your current boyfriend would ever consider converting eventually if you guys stay together? Does it bother you that your relationship might have an “expiration date” because of your religion?

I feel like if it came down to it he would, but I don’t even know if I want him to have to do that for me if he doesn’t genuinely want to. It’s kind of a big deal and a long process so someone has to really want it in order to go through with it. The expiration date definitely makes it stressful. I feel like I have more pressure than most people in relationships because I have to keep all these things in mind at all times. Especially as I get older, the idea of religion getting in the way of us being together long term definitely becomes a bigger deal and adds a lot of pressure on our relationship.

Do you want children in the future? Would you raise them to be Muslim?

Yes, I want children. I would raise them Muslim, but not as strict.

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