I’m dating someone who is neither the same race nor religion. How should I tell my parents, who expect me 1) not to be dating right now but to be studying, and 2) to be married in two years to someone who is the same race and religion of their choosing?

Merri: This is another one of those instances where you have to weigh what you know about your parents and your relationship with them because no one else is going to be able to have those answers for you. You have to be prepared for the possibility — probability, even — that it’s going to be a lot of work and might be one of the scariest things you do; but if you care about your partner and your relationship you’re going to have to do it eventually, and in the end it’ll be worth it.

The easier part will probably be telling your parents that you’re dating. Preferably do this in person, and pick a time when they’re in a good mood. Let them know why you’re responsible and mature enough to be dating, and reassure them that it’s not interfering with your studies. Talk about how awesome your partner is and the positive effects that the relationship is having on your life and happiness. Your parents know that this conversation would happen one day, so they’ll probably be less fussy about it than you might expect.

The harder part will probably be talking to your parents about race and religion. If you think it’ll be easier, you can bring this up in the same conversation and get it all over with in one go. But it might also be easier to let your parents digest the news before starting on the next point. Beware that you might not have a choice and your parents might bring up race and religion when you first tell them you’re dating anyway — so be prepared regardless. When the topic comes up, emphasize your partner’s positive traits and do not tolerate racist responses from your parents. It might be hard to stand up for your partner and your relationship to a possible racist response, but ultimately your partner deserves it from you.

If possible, tell family members that you know will be sympathetic first — maybe siblings or other relatives you trust and you know will be more receptive. They can help support you and lend you strength, and maybe even help speed your parents along the path to acceptance. In the same vein, don’t be afraid to also have this conversation with your partner — in all likelihood they’re also anxious about giving the news to their parents and can be a good source of support and advice. Just make sure your stress about your parents doesn’t end up creating new tensions with your partner.

As always with breaking news your parents might not be receptive to, be patient — if they are as resistant as you expect them to be, then it’ll probably take some time and many more of the same conversations and answering the same questions multiple times. Also be aware that eventually even if they do accept the relationship, it doesn’t meant that the racism or whatever will just go away. The nature of relationships is that the hard work is never one and done — and this is no exception, but look forward to it getting easier after taking the difficult first step.

Webster: Two steps:

1. Get your boo to convert. You can do that online, right?

2. Also get your boo to convert race while they’re at it — if Rachel Dolezal can do it, then anyone can, for love!