Greetings, Sparklers, from the secret underground (and, recently, underwater) lair of Auntie SparkNotes! I'll be on a brief hiatus while we wait to get the SparkLife office back online in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, but I'll be back to advice-giving before you know it. In the meantime, you can always browse the archives for previously-answered questions using those nifty tags at the bottom of the post.
I have a bit of a dilemma involving a guy I really like and my parents.
You see, my parents are very strict about dating (my dad more than my mom), and technically, I'm not allowed to date right now. Here's where the guy comes in- he's my number one best friend, and has always been there for me. Last March, we both admitted that we had more-than-friends feelings toward each other, but decided to remain friends because I didn't want, and couldn't be, in a relationship. Ever since then, we've been moving at a 'relationship speed'. Sure, the two of us are still best friends, but that friendship now includes romantic things like dates and occasionally kissing. My problem is that I feel so guilty doing this with him while my parents are clueless. I wish I could talk about it with them, and I've implicitly brought up relationships with them, only to be turned down and given a 'you better not get into one' speech. If they found out about the more-than-friends actions between this guy and me, I'm sure I'd lose both the trust of my parents and my best friend. What should I do Auntie? The guilt is gnawing away at me.
Hey, look at that: yet another letter for the ever-growing file entitled Dating Bans, And Why They Are Terrible!
And before we go any further, let's talk a little bit about having permission to date—and why, so often, not having permission results in messes just like this one. Because here's the thing: dedicated parents can forbid you from the trappings of dating. They can tell you you're not allowed to officially be, or be alone, with a guy you're interested in. They can keep you from going to parties, or dinner, or the movies, with a person of your preferred sex. They can bust into your hangouts with a spotlight and an air horn in an attempt to interrupt any makeouts-in-the-making.
But what they can't forbid, no matter how much they'd like to, are your relationships—and that's not can't as in shouldn't, but can't as in CAN'T, as in physically-by-nature-this-is-not-possible.
Relationships happen, whether people want them to or not, and your affection for your friend (and his for you) isn't something your parents can control. In fact, it's not even something you can control. It's in the nature of feelings to be what they are, whether or not they're convenient, whether or not you have permission, and whether or not you wish they were something else. You can't love this guy less or differently just because it's against the rules. And the only thing you're guilty of, possibly, is not severing all contact with your friend when you realized you'd fallen for each other—and I'd hope that even you can recognize your rightness in choosing not to do something so stupid, pointless, and cruel.
So before we go any further, please open your eyes to the ridiculous nature of your parents' demand that you "not get into" a relationship—which amounts, more or less, to "Don't feel your feelings!" It's one they had no right to make, and one no human being could hope to obey. And then, stop beating yourself up for losing a game that was always, inevitably, unwinnable.
As for what happens next, this is where I'd recommend reopening the subject with your parents, calmly discussing their reasons for wanting you to avoid romantic entanglements, and seeing if you can address them in a way that doesn't involve regulating the unregulatable. For instance, if your folks cited concerns about you losing focus on your schoolwork as a result of dating, then you could suggest making your dating privileges contingent upon you maintaining the same GPA you've always had; if it's your safety they're worried about, you can offer to take a self-defense class. The idea is to work together to figure out a system that's comfortable for everyone, and that holds you accountable for behaving maturely, without trying to deny your basic humanity in the bargain.
But if they're not open to that—or if you know they're not, and you'd rather not take another run at what you know to be an unyielding brick wall—then let me be the first to suggest that you not change a single thing... and just continue, discreetly, to enjoy the requited crush that's fallen right in your lap.
Because as far as the rules can be reasonably applied, you haven't broken any of them. You're not "technically" allowed to date, right? Well, hey: technically, you aren't dating. You said it yourself: you agreed to remain friends, in order to abide by your parents' wishes. Only as you've discovered, choosing not to label yourselves a couple doesn't make a damn bit of difference in making your time together romantic rather than platonic; it's how you feel about each other that changes things, and that's not your fault. And despite what you may have been led to believe, you're not required to divulge every last intimate detail of your interpersonal relationships—be they friendships, romances, or something else — to anyone. Your parents aren't entitled to know about everything you think, feel, and do. It's your right as a human being to have secrets, and your prerogative to decide when or with whom you share them. Even kids with no restrictions on dating still don't tell their parents about every date, every kiss, every mutual confession of adoration. Why? Because what the inner workings of a person's heart are nobody else's business.
And when it comes to your parents, it's enough that they know this friend, and know you're spending time with him; they don't need to know that your relationship has become something more than strictly friendly. And as such, there's no reason in the world why you shouldn't keep right on doing what you're doing... and no reason in the world why you should feel even the littlest bit guilty about doing it. And I hope you won't, because love is a pretty great thing.
Have you ever dated in secret? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.