Generation/culture gap + relatively young relationship, please advise.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Relevant background: Female, 21-turning-22-next-month, full-blooded Asian, agnostic/can't-give-a-damn religiously.
Parents: Traditional, stereotypical Asian overprotective parents, somewhat religious.
I'm an university student at a decent school in my second-to-last year of my degree. My grades are mediocre-to-solid if not great (spoiled by one particular year), with a healthy amount of relevant work experience. I'm generally logical to the point of that I'm told I'm being cold; in reality, while I'm as emotional as the next person I just try very very hard not to let that affect my judgements.
My relationship history is very sparse. I had a brief fling two years back with a guy I sort of worked with (same workplace, didn't see each other very much). He was (much) older, charming, very similar interests and while in general I knew it wouldn't work in the long term I still put a lot of stock into it. Until I discovered he had a girlfriend. I was furious, hurt, the whole nine yards, and somehow through a mix of guilt and pain and genuine like for the guy still tried to remain friends. He took that as to mean that I'm okay being the other woman and tried sexing me up a few times, which was met with very angry refusals. This fling, coupled with an overwhelming courseload and the job and first time moving out to dorm led to my mental health spiralling downwards and I pretty much bombed that year, failed two courses, and flunked out of my honours degree (back to major now). Stupid? Yeah, what can I say, he was my first kiss. And up until now, he was the only person I've ever touched in a sexual sense.
Anyway. I've since then gotten my act together (ditched the jerk and didn't look back, plus took a year off getting relevant work experience far away), thought a lot about what my dealbreakers are in a relationship and generally love myself through my single life. I'm okay with being celibate and single (one of my rules for myself is that I will not have sexual relations with anyone I'm not in a serious relationship with, although I don't care if other people have casual sex as long as they're safe about it). I consider myself liberal, even if the choices I make for myself are on the conservative end; I don't begrudge others for my choices.
So now that I'm back home, I've gotten my head screwed on right and am at least solidly trucking along in my life again, I've met this really lovely guy my age and we've been dating for...close to half a year now. He is aware of my sparse sexual history and why (I've alluded to the important parts, he never asked for more details and just accepted it), has no problems with the fact I'm a virgin, and seem more than happy to show/teach/explore. We've never had an argument (granted, relationship's still young); there's been hurt feelings once or twice but was resolved, our communication seems solid (although generally I bring up things I think are issues and the boy wasn't even aware that it was worth worrying about, but we've both told each other straight up to bring up anything we're concerned about) and generally speaking we're really quite happy together.
However, my parents are (understandably) wary. They don't precisely know that previous jerk played a large part in my breakdown, but they know there was a guy and it ended badly and it was roughly around the same time. Not hard to connect dots. And that this current guy is my first serious boyfriend, the first one they've met...they're going a little crazy. Particularly worrying for them is a) sex and b) staying over.
I view sex (not that I've had it, being a virgin) as a bonding experience, something fun to share between you and your partner. Parents are of the view that sex is sacred/for marriage/etc. The notion of me staying over at my boyfriend's place is unthinkable, inappropriate, etc. etc. what have you. Sleeping around leads to diseases, girls get hurt more easily than guys, yadda yadda.
I'm aware that it's unlikely this guy will be my life mate. I'm not concerned about that--life is a journey, this is an experience, what have you. I'm happy with him now. I am educated on sex ed in school, and read pretty thoroughly on my own outside of school; I haven't slept with my boyfriend yet but I insisted both of us get tested before we even got to handjobs (we're both clean). We've talked frankly about options for contraception and what would happen if I was to accidentally get pregnant even despite precautions. And no, I still haven't slept with him yet. I'd like to think the both of us are being mature and careful here.
Obviously, given my parents' views on sex and intimacy I'm not exactly about to tell them in full detail why I'm not worried about STIs and pregnancy, because that'd be outright admitting that I intend on sleeping with him. Speaking in the theoretical does nothing to assuage their fears, because "it's different when it's happening to you, and accidents happen". They're convinced that I'll turn into a sobbing wreck if the boyfriend leaves me/if we break up, and doesn't believe me when I say that "I promise, I'll survive". I'm not saying it won't hurt; of course it will. But through the first disaster of a fling I went through a lot of (online, through reading the Green and another level headed advice community) therapy, did a lot of thinking, and generally came to the conclusion that relationships add to my life but cannot be my life and that I am a perfectly lovable, self-sufficient human being on my own. And having worked towards that, I worked my way out of my downward spiral.
I'm generally pretty much a straight arrow; drinking/drugs/staying out uber late partying has never appealed to me, and generally speaking save for that school year of insanity I think I've a pretty level head on my shoulders, and I wish I could get my parents to just trust me a little more. I'm at the point where I feel cornered and defensive about my choices and if something does go wrong, I'd never tell them because I don't feel like I'd get any more than "we told you so". These conflicting beliefs come to a head whenever I bring up my boyfriend in a slightly more serious context: Staying over at his place for the night, go out with him for a late date and/or out with friends (I have a curfew for midnight), what have you. To them, dating a boy means hand holding and dates once a week and god forbid we want to do anything else more sexual than that.
I get that they're worried and scared for me. I really do. And I know that it's not only a generation gap, but the cultural gap plays a huge part in it too. But at the same time, I'm getting tired of being patronized to and that "it's your first serious relationship, it won't last, it won't even matter in a few years". Be that as it may (or may not), this guy is important to me now.
Complicating the problem is that we have a serious language barrier; I grew up in the Americas and English, while not my first language, is my primary language. Theirs is Chinese. There are some concepts like intimacy != sex that I cannot articulate in Chinese for the life of me, and I'm at my wit's end as to how to make them trust me, and my boyfriend, a little more.
Yes, he has met them. No, they haven't said much (language barrier, again; the parents feel awkward, say hi, and get out of our way).
I don't feel it's fair to tell the boyfriend "no, there's no way I can sleep over at your place until after I graduate because my parents feel uncomfortable" when I don't share their beliefs (and it's our relationship, not theirs, right?). But to them, it's family first, and he might abandon me but they never will. I'm already feeling a little starved for attention because I rely a lot on physical contact (kisses, touches, hugs...not even sex) to feel close, and school schedules between the boyfriend and I (different schools, 1.5 hours between our homes) make that very difficult already. But to hear them say "concentrate on school, he's just a boy" (and yes, I do study a lot) and "it's not necessary for you to stay over, why do it? It's not necessary and it's inappropriate" just drives me a little crazy because these are my (our) needs in our relationship, not theirs.
Neither me nor my boyfriend like the idea of sneaking around behind their backs; to us, nothing we're doing is anything to be ashamed of (and lies have a habit of being exposed and blowing up anyway). But this does mean that it's turning into open discussion which seems to go in nothing but circles.
So, hive mind, what's a girl to do? For the record, yes, I am contemplating moving out for next year to dorms again, but 1) I don't know if this relationship will last that long (although I sure hope it will) and 2) that does nothing for the now.