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Dear Demetria: 

I’ve been with my guy for almost a year. I am completely in love. We talk every day; he tells me he loves me almost every day. I’m black. He’s white and Jewish. He always talks about “If we’re married … ” and about being together in the future. But our relationship is a secret. He tells me his family won’t accept us. He has to marry a white Jew. But then he also tells me if he could get away from his family, he would be with me. What should I do? —Anonymous 

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I’m concerned about the vast disconnect between his words and actions. He’s telling you he loves you, but he’s treating you as if he is ashamed of you. That is not OK. Unless he’s willing to claim you publicly and to his family, you should tell him that while you’ve enjoyed the good times you’ve shared, you’re no longer willing to be kept a secret. Either he claims you publicly to his friends and family or the relationship is over.

Your guy’s talk about a future of forever-ever with you sounds romantic. But they are empty words. It doesn’t serve you well to hang on to the parts of his conversations about the future that you want to hear and then overlook what else he’s saying because it doesn't align with the future you want with him. His I-love-yous come with a really big “but.”

Listen to what he’s saying. It’s “I love you … but this is temporary.” “I love you … but I’m marrying a Jewish girl.” “I love you … but my family comes first.” There are certain conditions under which he feels he can be with you, and he’s not willing to create them. 

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Just to be clear, he likes you. I don’t doubt that he has strong feelings for you. But when push comes to shove, his loyalty is to his family, and their expectations matter more to him than his feelings for you. 

I acknowledge that it’s a hard position to be in, choosing your family over someone you love. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be forced to choose my family over someone I cared about, even loved. I don’t envy him at all here.

But do understand, he has a choice. He isn’t the first Jewish man to face the dilemma of abiding by his mother’s wishes to marry a nice Jewish girl or following his heart. He also wouldn’t be the first man to declare, “I’m my own man,” and choose the woman he loves over his controlling family and their traditions. 

Maybe he’ll be that man someday. But he isn’t now. Currently, he’s having his clichéd cake and eating it too, presenting himself as a dutiful son to his family but lying to them by omission about his relationship with you. I warn you to be wary of the man who is comfortable living a duplicitous life. He’s a good liar to his family, the people he places before you. There’s no telling what he’s also lying about to you, the person who means less to him. 

I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here. Perhaps he’s well-intentioned but deeply conflicted. It’s understandable, but it’s still not OK for you. You deserve better than a man who believes he needs to hide you because he doesn’t think you’re good enough. That’s what is at the root of this.  

It’s time for you to respect yourself more and stand up for yourself, too. Tell him that you’re no longer willing to be a secret and either he tells his family about you and makes an introduction or you’ll no longer stay in the relationship. Maybe that will be the push he needs to make a decision. If not, this will give you absolute clarity on where he stands with his family (as if his saying it wasn’t already enough). 

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If he’s not willing to meet your terms, thank him for his time and the shared memories, then ask him to call you if and when he decides that you are enough and he is ready to claim you. 

Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at askdemetria@theroot.com.

Previously in Ask Demetria: “Should I Propose to My Man?”