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How do I make this LDR work? Or what are my options?
August 4, 2011 12:17 AM   Subscribe

Am I being ridiculous in my relationship expectations? How do I figure out what it is I want?

My girlfriend and I are in a LDR spanning the USA and Canada. I am 24, she is 31. She is in Vancouver and I am in the USA. We are two very ambitious people and we both run businesses. Mine is all interweb based, meaning I get to be mobile, while she is tied to Vancouver physically by the business she is newly starting. Her dream and passion.

Other than the logistical problems, there are some other complications as well.

She is Sikh, and I am white. Her parents/family/friends would not be understanding of this... in fact they can't even really know she's dating someone at all, as I understand it.

I have offered to learn Punjabi, learn more about Sikhism, but she will not budge on allowing me to integrate further into her family life at the present moment - which is acceptable to me. I understand that it is a very big deal and I respect that.

So cultural differences mean that it would not make sense for me to move to Vancouver, also, she still wants to travel to California every 3 months, regardless of her business. ALSO, she wants to have her own place in California, for her family to come visit. Fortunately we both completely trust each other, and there are no trust/jealousy issues.

She comes here to California for *roughly* 2-3 months at a time, then leaves for 3 months at a time to work on her business. She is very go with the flow and she is unwilling to give me hard leaving/returning dates, so it is difficult for me to plan anything head, such as trips with each other, etc.

I love her completely, but I want her here physically, is it worth the wait? I think so. The problem is - she seems perfectly content with everything the way it is, as if it could go on like this forever. It's not like "OKAY well after 3 years we'll be able to be with each other." It's more like "WELL everything's great, right?" The reason any of this has come up is because after a discussion she basically told me "WELL if the relationship could be ANYTHING, within the bounds set by my cultural stuff, location stuff, etc. how would YOU want it to be?" And aside from I want us to be together - I don't have an answer.

We had an open relationship originally, and we have talked about going back to that, I've been strongly considering it as it would let me just do my thing and be distracted - but I do not want an open relationship again. I am in love with her. I want her to be the one in my life.

I have all kinds of mixed feelings - I want her with me, while at the same time I want to give her her space. I am feeling unfulfilled in my relationship without her here... It makes me resentful when she IS here. I can logically use my mind all I want, but emotionally I don't know if I have abandonment issues or what, I just feel... resentful and stressed and depressed.

I feel that in my ideal relationship, if my partner is tasked with finding where she is going to lay down her passion, she would sit down with me, given that I am willing to relocate and move around, and we would identify places we could go. We would look for how we could make it work. We would look for places together. We would find a way. I would help her to figure it out, it would be a problem we could solve together.

Am I being needy? What can I do to make her feel as fulfilled and womanly and passionate as possible? I feel like the passion dies with so many miles between us, but then when we're together it lights right back up again.

I have tried to just get over it or push through it before - but it always seems to come back to the same thing. I want us to be closer together. She is unwilling to form any kind of plan, she is comfortable with the relationship as it is. Is this perhaps a case of "She's just not that into you?" I do not feel like a priority anymore. Am I being selfish?
posted by thegmann to Human Relations (34 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't know what your real question is.

Are you "needy" or "selfish"? How would it help you at all for internet commenters to tell you what adjective to put on yourself? Get rid of these adjective questions. "Needy," "selfish" ... those aren't helpful.

Now, again, what are you really trying to do? What do you really want to know? If you're allowed to have your feelings? If you're allowed to want things in a relationship? Of course you are! Where did you get the idea that it isn't OK for you to have feelings or needs in a relationship?

You're the one who gets to decide what your priorities are in life. It doesn't matter what our opinion is. You have to decide what you want, and pursue that. But you seem to be apologizing for having needs. Meanwhile, she gets to set all these rules. It seems like there might be a power imbalance in your relationship.

Do you want to know how I would feel if I were in your position? I would find it a totally unacceptable relationship. I mean: "cultural differences mean that it would not make sense for me to move to Vancouver" — what is that supposed to mean? She won't let you move to where she is because she doesn't want you near her family? I'm not even sure if I'm reading this correctly, because it seems so crazy. But if I am reading it right, that would be an absolute dealbreaker to me. No other factors would matter. But I'm not claiming you should feel the same way I would feel.
posted by John Cohen at 12:35 AM on August 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


I don't think the distance is the issue- the problem is that you want to be in a committed relationship with her, and she does not seem to want to be in one with you- i.e. fine with things the way they are, not making any plans for the future that include you two being together. It's not a failing on either one of your parts that you want different things (you're not needy, she's not unfulfilled), but it may be a good reason to break up.
posted by emd3737 at 12:42 AM on August 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


Well I could break up with her completely....

Or I could get into an open relationship, where we are a couple when in the same place, and anything goes when not.

Or I could wait for her to come around.

I guess that I know what I want, and I can't have it. So I'm trying to find alternatives for the time being?

I don't know... maybe I'm just trying to hold onto a doomed relationship.

I'm so confused.
posted by thegmann at 12:51 AM on August 4, 2011


Yeah. What emd3737 said. But let me give you a little window into the psychology you are falling for here...

"What can I do to make her feel as fulfilled and womanly and passionate as possible?"

This is a false endeavor on your part. She is making you feel as passionate as possible by withholding her *shit* everything at arms length, except when it is on her terms.

RUN.

You want someone who devotes it all. You are the type of person (I can tell) capable of same. This person is not for you and will never match your loyalty.

RUN.
posted by jbenben at 12:51 AM on August 4, 2011 [14 favorites]


It would make no difference even if you could make a decision together on where to live, it sounds like she wants to keep you her dirty little secret. It sounds like the boundaries of her cultural stuff as she puts it, do not allow her to acknowledge you to her family or for you to live together and it sounds like even if she could move her business to be with you, she's not interested.

The way I see it, you're invested, she's not. Which would be fine if you were in an open relationship but you've said you don't want that. It sounds like she's giving you as much as she's prepared to the answer is, is it enough for you. It doesn't seem to be. I don't think you're needy, I just think you both want different things. Personally, I would break up and find someone who wants what you want. Life is too short.
posted by Jubey at 12:52 AM on August 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Upon your update...

Seek someone who will give you what you want.

Focus on the Dynamic, not this or any particular person = Romantic Success.
posted by jbenben at 12:52 AM on August 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


You're the one who gets to decide what your priorities are in life. It doesn't matter what our opinion is. You have to decide what you want, and pursue that. But you seem to be apologizing for having needs. Meanwhile, she gets to set all these rules. It seems like there might be a power imbalance in your relationship.
- Yes


the problem is that you want to be in a committed relationship with her, and she does not seem to want to be in one with you.
- Yes


She is making you feel as passionate as possible by withholding her *shit* everything at arms length, except when it is on her terms.
- And Yes
posted by thegmann at 12:54 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Over the last 20 years I've seen several Sikh, Hindu & Muslim female doctors I know have "hidden" relationships with people they met generally at work. They could socialise with us as a mixed couple but also we were often invited to their family homes. (because we married young and were professionals we were often invited to key family events even as outsiders)
There I saw the pressure on the girl to make an arranged marriage, the constant joking about cousin Ahmed in the Punjab who is now a lawyer, in other words we had a pretty unique insight into both sides of this equation.

I often spoke for hours with the white boy as herworked through his frustrations as you are doing now. The bad news is that learning Punjabi will not help in the least. In fact the only thing that would help now is if you were some kind of internet millionaire.

The white boy could never be invited back home. On one occassion we "hid" a 32 year old paediatrician when she mentioned to her sister that she went on a date with the man she had been seeing for 4 years. Sister mentioned it to Mom, Dad heard about it and it got really ugly.

I only know one of those relationships that worked (Sikh-British)and that was at the cost of the girl being completely cut off from her family, which devastated her. In one other relationship ( Hindu-British) the family made an exception as he was from a very wealthy family and she was the third daughter. The others had made "good marriages" so it wouldn't be such a stain on the family honour given their caste.

My cousin by marriage Jasmine (Hindi father, British mother) is treated by her Indian family as half-cast (to put it politely) the actual term used is far more disgusting. So they couldn't care less when she married a white boy as she wasn't important due to her mixed blood.

It is not just a religion and a language difference, it goes to the heart of who she feels she is. The network of family obligation and pavolvian response to same is so profound that the only way I can see this work is to accpet the relationship as it is NOW, this is as good as it gets.
posted by Wilder at 12:57 AM on August 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


Thanks Wilder, yes, as far as the family thing, I have recognized how deep this goes. She is a VERY vocal person when it comes to racial/political/cultural injustices, as she spent a long time working for NGOs in Africa, so it was very surprising and interesting when I discovered this side of her.
posted by thegmann at 1:02 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess that I know what I want, and I can't have it. So I'm trying to find alternatives for the time being?

Alternatives for the time being? It sounds like she'll never be on the same page you are and it sounds like you're not ok with that - which is completely reasonable! However, it takes 2 people to make a relationship work... and right now you just have 1.

"WELL if the relationship could be ANYTHING, within the bounds set by my cultural stuff, location stuff, etc. how would YOU want it to be?"

That's not letting your relationship be anything. That's asking what your relationship could potentially be under the same strict guidelines she has already given you. It's basically not a question at all, I have no idea why she asked you that because um hello, if it could be ANYTHING it wouldn't have a bunch of limitations! It sounds as if she's refusing to compromise with you at all and is insisting you find your place within her rigid system, which sounds like a hidden international sometimes fuckbuddy.

Sorry to be so harsh but it really seems like you're selling yourself short in this scenario! You deserve to have a relationship that is fulfilling for you and gives you what you want which this relationship isn't. I'd talk to her about this, tell her you're not satisfied and this is why. If she says that this is her "cultural stuff, location stuff, etc." and insists that it's not going to change, then you either have to accept it or break up.
posted by buteo at 1:33 AM on August 4, 2011


Thanks Buteo,

I don't think you're being harsh, I agree with you.


If the question was if it could be ANYTHING, what would it be?

Well I think we'd be working on a project together.

We'd travel and vacation together.

We'd plan things together.

We'd be a big part of not just each other's lives, but each other's families, friends, etc.

If she was working on the same project, I'd come to Vancouver, or she'd come here.

I would take it pretty much as it is now, but with us together instead of apart.


I think I'd be willing to be in an open relationship with someone else, I'm comfortable with it, but not her, I think it would have too many messy feelings at this point.
posted by thegmann at 1:42 AM on August 4, 2011


A serious relationship requires a little bit of a leap of faith on behalf of *both* parties. It doesn't seem like your girlfriend is ready to do that.

I couldn't know if she's just following what she's been taught, following the path of least resistance, or what, but she's not giving you a lot of room to move.

Try to talk to her. Explain that things aren't working. Ask her if she has a possible solution. Otherwise, it might be something that can't happen, for whatever stupid reason.
posted by Gilbert at 2:06 AM on August 4, 2011


as if it could go on like this forever

Will her parents be comfortable with her being apparently single forever? Presumably some day, the pressure to marry a nice culturally appropriate man is going to reach the point where she has to decide between you and her parents.

For that matter, some day you are going to meet someone else that you can imagine moving in with and having a family with (supposing you want a family), and then you are going to have a hard choice to make too.

Right now I think there are three options in your position:

1. Deliberately decide to continue as you are until one of you chooses someone else, or until you start to want a family. Accept that at some point there is going to be an unsatisfactory ending, and decide that it's worth it.

2. Ask your GF to make the choice between you and her parents. Now. Hope that she chooses you. Otherwise, break up.

3. Break things off now because you don't want to put up with option 1 and you are not committed enough for option 2.

I think each of these options could be reasonable for some people. I'm not all that excited about commitment and family, so I could see myself being comfortable with option 1. I think most people would not be comfortable with a long term relationship that isn't going anywhere (just look for past AskMes about guys who won't propose!), and would want to choose either 2 or 3.

What I don't think you should do, is let things drag on as they are just because you don't want to rock the boat, and then end up hating your girlfriend when she eventually announces her engagement to someone else.
posted by emilyw at 2:35 AM on August 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm a little taken aback at the negativity in some of these comments. If she were to take the path of least resistance believe me it would look nothing like this!

I would hazard a guess that some of these responders have never known anyone from one of the Asian cultures and with the additional information you've given here I would like to point out that your partner has been very honest with you regarding what she can and can't do.
She's old enough now and has had a good experience of the world to know which battles are important to her.

It is completely consistent in her worldview to be vocal about racial injustice and still follow a pretty restrictive family behavior like not bringing the white boy home and thereby cutting herself off from her family completely.

She is being "allowed" quite an amount of freedom to pursue her own needs and desires within this different worldview and she has worked out exactly how far she is willing to go from the mainstream of her worldview towards someone she clealry has feelings for.

But I do think it is significant that you are quite a bit younger than her because most western men would have great difficulty accepting the parts of her she is willing to share with you. I also think it is significant she is willing to countenance an "open" relationship as that is quite rare in my experience of professional women from her cultural background

Western culture is all about the cult of the individual and in that cult there is a requirement that when you fall in love you dedicate the major part of your being to the other.

That is not the way her particular culture works and you are caught between both. This is not a value judgement of "free" Western relationships are better than anything else! RAH_RAH! (at least I hope it isn't) but you have to take responsibilty for the belief within yourself that you should be the most important person in her life and therfore any decisions she makes must be in favour of a life with you as an exclusive couple.

Your entire upbringing prepared you for a very different relationship to this so I do feel that the frustrations you express are very normal. I do not think that the relationship will move further towards your ideal, though.
posted by Wilder at 2:36 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wilder made an important point.

I too come from a culture where relationship norms differ significantly from those of main-stream Western culture (and even more from certain non-mainstream practices), and years ago had a boyfriend who was on the very edge of what would have been deemed acceptable to my family (for different reasons than yours, though). In that situation, I would have fought hard for our relationship - if it had presented itself as something I can fight for at all. What I mean by this: my boyfriend wanted a generic "being together", with no official commitment, such as officially moving in, or getting married (this would have been the only acceptable thing to my parents anyway - but I would have fought for the unformalized version tooth and nail), he didn't want to assume any of the social responsibilities of being my boyfriend etc. Now I know that in Western culture a fuzzy "wanting to be together" counts as major commitment, and that the two people involved in a relationship have an equal share in deciding what that relationship looks like. But then, him pestering me to be less secretive about him whilst not coming up with any acceptable plan seemed pretty much a passive-aggressive attempt to get me to dump him (regardless of the fact that he was very vocal and very loving otherwise - his refusal to fullfil his role as the "man" in the relationship was enough to cast a shadow on everything else). So I broke up with him.

So, if I were in your shoes, I would set about researching the situation independently. Keeping in mind what Wilder said, I would try to figure out if and under what circumstances you can penetrate this cultural barrier. Then weigh up to what extent you are willing to take the necessary steps (which you hopefully will discover are not beyond your reach). Maybe try to contact members of the respective community in your own town, especially authority figures, and get their input on your situation. Alternatively you can do same on the internet. You can then approach your girlfriend differently, tell her you spoke to such-and-such wise person in her community, you learned that if X, then you might have a better chance to eventually be accepted by community members, even as an addition to the family, etc.

Maybe all she needs is to see you taking an active role, from her perspective. And, judging from my past experience, it is quite possible that having any sort of relationship with you, even the current one which dissatisfies you, is a huge sign of committment and love on her part. It might quite literally seem to her as though she is living life on the edge already, risking to commit social and familial suicide, for someone who is too meh about her to take the reigns in his hands and do what it takes to enable her to fight for your presence in her life as you want it.

Only you can be a judge of whether the above would be useful in your particular situation, and if you are willing to really go out of your comfortzone for her. She quite possibly is so far from her own comfort zone already that she doesn't even remember what it looks like.

Alternatively, you will find out that she is only lukewarm about you. But, even if that is painful and you might resent the work you put into this relationship, in the long term it is much better to give things an honest go and cut your losses if things turn out subpar. You sound like someone who is ready to be in a peaceful and loving relationship, and the way things stand at the moment, this is not it.
posted by miorita at 3:17 AM on August 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


She is Sikh, and I am white. Her parents/family/friends would not be understanding of this... in fact they can't even really know she's dating someone at all, as I understand it. I have offered to learn Punjabi, learn more about Sikhism, but she will not budge on allowing me to integrate further into her family life at the present moment - which is acceptable to me. I understand that it is a very big deal and I respect that.

Look, just cut to the chase here. All these issues of location and schedules and countries and travel aside, you love and want to build a life with this woman. What you need to know is: with her family the way it is, would she ever marry you?

If the answer is no, then all of this is for nothing. Because statistically, there is virtually no chance that this woman will not be getting married. So if there's no chance she's marrying you, pack it in and get on with the getting over heartbreak part. If the answer is yes, then you can work out together what it is that might make you acceptable to her family, or make her not care that you are not.

An open relationship is not IMHO the answer to this dilemma. An open relationship should never, ever be used to fill the gaps in your primary relationship for oh so many reasons. If you are not building secondaries from a rock solid foundation in your foundation, you imperil everything and everyone. You will add more drama and doubt and heartache to this, not less.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:17 AM on August 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


And yet, my take on it is that things might be a WHOLE lot different if you proposed. My own husband didn't introduce me to his non-Angli family until just before we got married. Not till it was a sure thing.

I'm not saying you should marry her, but her name might be mud if she is not perceived to be a virgin when it's time to marry. Dating you in the open essentially declares her as having "lost" her virginity/marriageability. It's a commodity...and if you're not prepared to commit to her for life, why would she give away her plausible deniability?
posted by taff at 4:25 AM on August 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


One thing you may have to prepare yourself for is that there is already an arranged someone in the picture back home.

Two Asian surgeons I know married but live completely separate lives as that resolved the pressure both were getting from family and neither had a particularly significant other.

When we socialise with the families for big events, everyone enviously refers to their two homes and such busy professional people , etc., etc., but I've spent more time in her house than the husband has.

In the UK given that we now have a few more decades under our belt of largescale Bangla, Punjabi, etc., immigration there certainly are a few women who actually don't marry. But only where they are really independant financially and that often includes supporting parents, extended family members education, etc., This may be one of the reasons she is so passionate about her business.
posted by Wilder at 5:10 AM on August 4, 2011


I don't know, I'm a little uncomfortable with the wholesale generalizations being made about Indian women in this thread. There's definitely some truth to them, but it all depends highly upon the particular family circumstances. I'm an Indian woman in a happy committed relationship with a white guy -- my extended family knows about him, and their reaction has been far from negative (if anything, I'm wishing I hadn't told them because they like him so much they want us to get married right away). Before this, I've been in relationships with an Indian guy (back in India) and another white guy, both times with my family's knowledge. I'm hardly unique in this respect -- within just my circle of friends I know of at least half a dozen Indian women who are dating non-Indian guys, and several interracial marriages. Hell, an Indian woman who is a friend of a friend just got married to a white woman under New York's new gay marriage laws (and had a lovely wedding with parents in attendance).

This is not to say that her family may not be conservative -- they well might be. It's just that when people are really committed to someone, they find ways of making it work. To give you an example, I didn't tell my grandparents about my last white boyfriend, probably because in my heart of hearts I didn't really completely believe that it would work. This time round, I'm completely convinced about my own feelings in the matter -- I'm willing to take more risks to bring my extended family around because their pressure one way or the other is unlikely to sway my own decisions. So my gut feeling about your situation is that she is not serious enough about you to jump through all the hoops that her family might want her to jump through before agreeing to the marriage. It's highly unlikely, though, to be a cut-and-dried "you can't get married to a white guy and must have an arranged marriage issue." If it were, at 31, she'd already be married.
posted by peacheater at 5:49 AM on August 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


i don't think people are making unfair generalizations about indian woman or relationships, they're saying that this woman specifically sounds like she fits into certain ideas about family and relationships from what she herself has told him. if she were from a non-conservative family, the idea of him ever meeting her family wouldn't be so crazy.

i've actually dated a man and a woman who were from similarly conservative homes (although from a different race). the woman, of course, would be closeted forever (her father didn't even know her true major in college because it was too leftist). we'd be best friends to the outside world. she was the youngest daughter, so she might have been able to get away with never getting married, but she would certainly never have a public relationship to me. i loved her dearly and wanted nothing but to make a life with her. we broke it off. what we wanted and what we each could give didn't line up.

the man i dated, i made an offhand comment to him about what his mother would think of me. he answered very matter of factly that his mother would never know of me. i didn't love this man, he was just someone to have fun with, so i pushed any ideas of it moving forward and we had a great couple of years - when he was in town, we'd spend time together, when he wasn't,i entertained myself elsewhere. we're still really good friends.

the trick is setting expectations and figuring out if you've compromised too much. in the first instance, i'd have to give up too much of what i needed to fit into her world. in the second instance, we were both on the same page from the beginning so no feelings got hurt.

one of the best pieces of advice i've ever received from metafilter is "listen to what they're telling you." she's telling you she's never going to "come around" that this is the exact relationship she wants. now it's your turn to decide if that hard line is one you can live by.
posted by nadawi at 6:13 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Eventually she is going to break up with you and marry someone with whom she can have a public, family-oriented life. In the meantime, the status quo suits her just fine.
posted by hermitosis at 6:45 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


She's not going to marry someone who isn't Sikh. Period. The consequences for her are too great for her to deal with if she picks you. She won't pick you.

Sorry.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:25 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


If the question was if it could be ANYTHING, what would it be?

Well I think we'd be working on a project together.

We'd travel and vacation together.

We'd plan things together.

We'd be a big part of not just each other's lives, but each other's families, friends, etc.


This is not too much to ask for. She has explicitly told you that she is fine with the current situation and sees no reason to change it, and as others have said there's no guarantee that she will ever be the kind of committed long term partner you are looking for. Obviously it's tough when you have feelings for someone, but at a certain point you have to ask yourself what you need in a relationship and not settle for anyone who doesn't give you at least the bare minimum of what you need.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:26 AM on August 4, 2011


You sound very accommodating, and I suspect that a partner will genuinely appreciate how far you're willing to go to build a relationship with someone. To build on the advice that nadawi references, and to co-opt a bit of Dan Savage advice: "When you are receiving mixed signals, listen to the ones that aren't telling you what you want to hear."

I think what you really need to be asking yourself is: what life have you been avoiding living because you've been investing so heavily in this seemingly illusory relationship with a woman unable and unwilling to commit to you. And then you should work on starting to live that life.
posted by jph at 7:53 AM on August 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Everyone has extenuating circumstances that will make their parents potentially love/hate prospective partners. At some point, you need to choose to live your own life.

She's not choosing to live her's with you. Full stop.

Either she's proud to be with you and willing to fight or cut out those who aren't on board with her program - or she's not. She's clearly not. Go find someone worthy of your attention.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 9:40 AM on August 4, 2011


I also think that this thread has many comments generalizing far too broadly and strongly about Indian and Sikh culture. For example (I'm not trying to pick on anyone, but):

I would hazard a guess that some of these responders have never known anyone from one of the Asian cultures

Hmm... well, I've known many Sikh, Hindu and Muslim people from India and Pakistan who are second-generation Canadians (i.e. sons and daughters of immigrants, but either born or largely grew up in Canada) and Americans. Almost all of those I know or knew, who were also in close, committed relationships or marriages seemed to form these relationships freely, with or without partners of their own culture or religion. That is, they were all "love matches", not arranged marriages, and most of them were cross-cultural. Again, in my admittedly anecdotal experience which may be biased, because it is clear that some families will be much more conservative and traditional than others, and it is possible or even likely that I was less exposed to those. The Sikh community in Vancouver, I should mention, has the reputation -- deserved or not, I don't know -- of being particularly close-knit and conservative, so there's that.

But that's not the point. The question is not whether Sikhism prevents or allows her marrying you or you ever being accepted by her family. The question is really all about her, her family, and your relationship. You need to ask her, in no uncertain terms, whether a relationship with the features you want (permanence, co-location, children?, etc.) is possible (and therefore you can work towards that) or a complete non-starter and will never happen. If she tells you its the latter, then it doesn't matter why that is, you need to accept that very tragic reality and all the pain and loneliness that will be yours for however long it takes to recover after you two break up and say good bye to each other.
posted by bumpkin at 12:34 PM on August 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bumpkin, et al:

I would hate to think that I (or any other poster) was dispensing advice from an assumptive or stereotyped position about Indian or Sikh culture. Working from the poster's words, it doesn't seem like this particular family is one of those in which blended values for the second generation are acceptable:

She is Sikh, and I am white. Her parents/family/friends would not be understanding of this... in fact they can't even really know she's dating someone at all, as I understand it.

That sounds traditional and conservative to me. But you're right; everyone's anecdotal experience will bias them. As it happens, I have three peers (all second generation, all very western) who each ended up in arranged marriages to my enormous surprise. These are much more notable to me than the friends who didn't and made their own matches, so I guess there's some confirmation bias or something going on there.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:15 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am East Indian. I am not Sikh, but my subculture involves extended family and arranged marriages and Shaadi.com and crying and fasting parents who insist you stop dating non-Indians as a teenager.

I have advised my cousins and Indian friends who have dated white boys not to tell their parents. I have strongly advised it. I still strongly believe in it.

I would tell any Hindu woman who is considering having a romantic relationship with a non-Indian to keep it a secret UNTIL there's a marriage proposal, and then be sure to make up a story of how you two met and why you guys both want to get married.

Growing up in India, Canada, and England (or going to any of those countries as a university student), Indian women are told over and over again that men of all colors will want to take advantage of you and then will dump you. This is how we are coaxed into thinking that arranged marriage will work out (you might notice that some Indian men and women tend to get arranged marriages immediately after a painful breakup with a non-Indian partner or an unsuitable partner (say a Muslim-Hindu affair)).

We are told that sexual relationships before marriage is like whoring yourself out. And when we are young and don't get into complicated relationships, we agree because, as my mother was fond of saying, "[Westerners] change partners like shoes."

The way I would counsel you to see it is that your girlfriend has taken a HUGE step by being involved with you at all, and not breaking up with you yet. There is no way she's just having fun with you until she gets an arranged marriage. Furthermore, if arranged marriage was a huge deal in her family, she would have already had one, because we're counseled against marrying divorcees and the thought is that that's all that's left for women over 28.

You really have to understand: she's probably afraid that you're going to change your mind overnight, or that you're cheating on her or that you really aren't committed. You just want to date her. Being someone's boyfriend is a good thing in Western culture, but the general sentiment in Indian culture (especially the more conservative one the generation before us brought here--it's like 1970's India) is that being someone's girlfriend is like telling people that you're having sexual relations with a guy who doesn't even know if he wants to marry you.

Why should she embarrass herself and ruin her relationship with her family for you when she might just feel that you're unsure or you have a track record of being a serial monogamist.

Anyway, I just wanted to give you another point of view. She seems to have a lot on her plate right now and that she's coming down to see you for stretches suggests to me that she's invested in you, because lying to your family is not a good feeling. Trying to explain to your future husband through an arranged marriage that you had a boyfriend and a broken relationship---not fun or appealing.



[I came all the way back to AskMetafilter to tell this to you. I had to ask Jessamyn to reactivate my account and everything. So I hope you take what I say seriously, and don't dump her based on any theories of "Oh, if she wanted you, she would fight her family for you." She can't rely on you for support because you're just her boyfriend who may dump her or decide he's done with the relationship on a dime. She needs her family, and maybe one day you're let her know how serious you are about committing to her and she can trust you not to be the waffling/commitment-phobe Western man we were warned against.]
posted by anniecat at 6:17 PM on August 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


I hope you take what I say seriously, and don't dump her based on any theories of "Oh, if she wanted you, she would fight her family for you."

I agree that what anniecat says should be taken seriously. And maybe you shouldn't dump her based on that theory...

But — you are still free to dump her simply because the situation doesn't work for you. You aren't obligated to turn your relationship into a seminar in multiculturalism. If she isn't giving you what you want/need, then leave. Her ethnic/religious background might have a profound affect on her standards for relationships, but you're still you, and you're allowed to have your own standards.
posted by John Cohen at 9:57 PM on August 4, 2011


effect! not affect! I do know the difference.
posted by John Cohen at 9:58 PM on August 4, 2011


Anniecat, thank you so much, I just happened to come check this out one more time, and your viewpoint definitely helped me.

Unfortunately, I don't think that the family thing really is the issue here... One thing that I failed to mention, which I probably should have, it was just becoming a complex story, is that she has been married before, not in an arranged marriage, but to a sikh, who she had to fight her family tooth and nail for. His family ended up basically being a bunch of assholes, treating her like a slave, and it was not changing, so she divorced him and did not look back. This was years ago.

I have expressed to her in very calm words what I am looking for, in that I want us to figure out a life together, even if it means hiding me from her family, etc.

In no uncertain terms she told me that just her coming out here at all was a pretty big commitment, and that she will more than likely be travelling alone in the future, and she would be spending large amounts of time away from me, simply because it is the way she lives her life.

There is no lack of LOVE in this relationship - I don't think I've expressed that enough. We love each other dearly and tell each other that all of the time. We are supportive of each other, and there is no secret between us.

She is comfortable with simply being exclusive - but without any growth in the relationship. She does not wish for it to be anything serious - not specifically because I'm white, but because it is her personal preference at this time. She wants it all to be in the now, whatever she feels, whenever she feels, without any commitments.

As a result of this we have decided it is best to go our separate ways. She loves me and wants me to be happy - I love her and I don't want to pressure her. It is unfortunate, but we both have different wants and needs.

I wish there was another way - I have prayed and thought and tried to solve this problem, like it was a word problem, but there just is no answer that is happy for everyone. It sucks, it hurts, truly this is the first time since I was 15 that I've felt like I might never find someone like this again. A beautiful, spiritual, intelligent, centered, well-travelled girl with her masters degree who starts businesses and works for non-profits? Not to mention one that I have no trust issues with?

Part of me wants to just wait around, endure the pain, and see what happens. Another part of me says that I should just get over it and keep living my life.

Now I'm depressed. I think there's a reddit for that.
posted by thegmann at 1:14 AM on August 5, 2011


Also, NO I would NEVER dump her based on the idea of "Oh, if she wanted you, she would fight her family for you." That would be selfish of me. Especially knowing how important family is to her - she absolutely loves her mother and father and it would be devastating for her to feel she'd caused them pain.
posted by thegmann at 1:18 AM on August 5, 2011


I think a lot of the answers above give you an insight into both ends of the spectrum, as far as the culture is concerned i.e. she is either conveniently using you or belongs to a conservative family. Personally, I have a tough time believing the latter- how is such an independent person unable to exercise this independence when it comes to a single personal decision. It seems to be a sort of identity crisis or one of taking a firm stance that a lot of asians born in the west suffer from. It also seems like this comes with the territory if you choose to date a person with this background. If you cannot take a firm stance with your conservative family then don't date people outside your community!! And if you do, don't thrash the other person and their feelings around because you cannot stand up to your family.

Aside from the cultural issues, a few things stick out in your post. You have a LOT of plans for your life together. And she is happy with the status quo. Have you two discussed both of your long-term plans? Have you mentioned to her how unhappy the current situation is making you feel? Did she tell you whether its family issues that are keeping her from taking steps to solve this problem or is it just a concise "what's wrong with the way things are"? You deserve to know the "whys" behind her decision and she needs to tell you that much. No matter how much in love you are (and you seem to be way more in love with her than the other way round), these feelings have to be reciprocated if you want to move forward in your relationship with this person. And no matter how much in love you are, you have to disconnect your love for this person and acknowledge how this person is treating you. Your needs aren't being met. Are the two of you acknowledging this imbalance and taking steps to improve this situation? Why or why not? Address that irrespective of LDRs or cultures.

Remember, don't forget to love your self before you start loving another. You are not being treated right.
posted by xm at 8:42 AM on August 5, 2011


"You have a LOT of plans for your life together. And she is happy with the status quo. Have you two discussed both of your long-term plans? Have you mentioned to her how unhappy the current situation is making you feel? Did she tell you whether its family issues that are keeping her from taking steps to solve this problem or is it just a concise "what's wrong with the way things are"?"


I don't think I have too many plans really... I mostly just want her with me, and want to know that I can rely on her.

What is the status quo you refer to?

She definitely knows how unhappy the current situation has been making me, but she is not willing to compromise. She respects her self too much, but in a lot of situations I see her more as stubborn for the sake of being stubborn. Unfortunately it's also a trait that makes her attractive to me.

It's pretty much just a concise "What's wrong with the way things are?"

I think that a big part of it is that she's busy and working hard, as am I, but through those times of work she is okay with being alone, or at least without her partner. In fact she enjoys it as we can get in each other's way and begin to resent each other when we are both busy. I on the other hand want my partner with me, to share my successes with me.

It becomes hard for me to focus on my work and on my self, when she is gone. It's like my motivation is partially linked to her presence.
posted by thegmann at 2:51 PM on August 5, 2011


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