Could my ethnicity play a role in my disappointing love life?
February 27, 2016 5:26 PM   Subscribe

I am a 27 year old woman, and have always had horrible luck with relationships. I'm starting to wonder if my ethnicity, culture, background (Asian-Indian/Hindu) could have something to do with it?

For as long as I can remember, I have had horrible luck with men. Every time I fall for someone or get my hopes up, I end up disappointed. The most common situation I've faced is when a man tells me "I'm not ready for a relationship right now," then ends up in a committed one with someone else two months later. It makes me wonder if my ethnicity has something to do with it? (I also need to mention, I promise this post isn't meant to be negative at all. I'm just explaining my situation/experiences, and what I feel may be going on).

The most hurtful situation I was in was being in love with a close friend from college and graduate school for many years. We were friends with benefits, and he always told me he "didn't want a relationship" and "couldn't commit 100 percent to anyone."I was young and naive at the time, and believed that somewhere along the way, he might change his mind. I know we cared very much about each other, and he was there for me a lot through a lot of things I dealt with. We had a friendship like no other, and I loved him very much. I still do. However, he did meet a woman in 2013, and eventually, she did become his girlfriend. And although we kept in touch during the time he was with her, (the contact was mostly initiated by him, saying he thought of me often and missed me; he also cheated on her with me last March), he did end up marrying her toward the end of last year. And, I cannot even put into words how much time and energy I put into wondering what was wrong with me--was I not pretty enough? Is it because I struggle with depression? Was I too young? (He's 35). And--after my father recently mentioned the possibility to me--could it have boiled down my ethnic background at the end? Maybe at the end of the day, he just wanted someone who was also Italian/Irish/Catholic like him. Someone who would make him look good in the eyes of society, someone who would blend in well with his family. And also, make it easier to raise children down the road.

Another reason why I ask this is because I have noticed a trend. A majority of the men I have dated/had an interest in, who didn't want anything serious with me and ended up in relationships with other women--were Caucasian, as were the women they ended up with. I never really put that together until recently, and for years, wondered what it was "about me" that made them go the other way. I think I just always idealized love and figured that ethnic background didn't matter, that when two people love each other, they make it work, they celebrate their differences, instead of seeing them as obstacles. I figured in the 21st Century, things are different. However, looking back on my history, and what my Dad pointed out recently, it makes me think twice about everything. How all of my friends have paired up quickly, effortlessly, and happily the past few years, while I end up alone every time. No one loves me long-term--I feel that I'm seen as a short-term, exotic novelty to have fun with until the right one comes along. I'm considered attractive enough for those few dates, for sex; but I'm never the woman who receives that commitment at the end. So, could it be that maybe it wasn't anything "about" me, but just the fact that my culture and background are different? Maybe the men I met didn't want to deal with those differences down the road?

Finally, if my race is a hindrance to love, what can I do? I grew up in a mostly Caucasian neighborhood, went to a school and university which were also the same. A majority of my coworkers and all of my friends are white. I tried online dating for two years, hoping to meet someone, whether or not from my background. I've asked my parents and other relatives if they know anyone, and didn't meet someone I really clicked with. I'm not sure what to do. Finding love, lasting love, is hard enough as it is--without all these other factors coming into play.

Thank you all so, so much for reading. Any insights, answers, and advice on how to move forward are greatly valued and welcomed. Bright blessings!
posted by summertimesadness1988 to Human Relations (34 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I could absolutely see this as being related to your ethnic background - but from an entirely cultural perspective. It's certainly my perception that many Indian-Americans marry within the Indian-American community, even though they may date people from other ethnicities casually. Even though you are 100% assimilated, the people that you date might assume that you are planning to eventually marry someone from within your ethnic group. Or, maybe they assume that even if you do want to settle down with someone outside it, that your family might take issue and that it would be a huge drag to deal with.

If I were you, I would just go to great lengths to dispel these perceptions (open to marrying someone not Indian, your family's totally cool with it) at the beginning of a relationship, hopefully in a casual/not-weird way. If you're doing online dating, maybe brainstorm good ways to signal that you don't intend/need to marry an Indian-American in your profile. I'm not sure what the best way to do that is, but maybe others have suggestions.
posted by permiechickie at 5:37 PM on February 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

I think it's important not to blame yourself - if your background does have something to do with it, it is only due to the other person's prejudices. And if that's the case, you've dodged some bullets.

Otherwise, not wanting to commit to someone and then commiting to someone else doesn't necessarily mean there was something wrong with your relationship, but rather that this new person made them feel differently. It's not necessarily a cognitive thing, it sometimes just happens.
posted by papayaninja at 5:43 PM on February 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

I grew up in a mostly Caucasian neighborhood, went to a school and university which were also the same. A majority of my coworkers and all of my friends are white.

is entirely sufficient to explain

A majority of the men I have dated/had an interest in, who didn't want anything serious with me and ended up in relationships with other women--were Caucasian, as were the women they ended up with.

Your experiences sound pretty typical of dating, regardless of ethnicity: you both try, things don't work out, one or both of you comes to a conclusion about why, and then that hypothesis is painfully debunked when he settles down with what feels like the next woman he meets. It stinks. It doesn't mean he was lying and it DEFINITELY doesn't mean there was anything "wrong" with you, in his eyes or otherwise. (Otherwise there are about 7 billion things wrong with every single one of us!)

That's not to say race couldn't matter; people don't necessarily have direct access to their own reasons for doing things, and of course it's possible. (As permiechickie mentions, maybe especially if there are possible assumptions about your priorities, or maybe if you're dating especially religious sorts who couldn't see themselves marrying someone of a different religion.)

But this is the sort of question that never has a satisfactory answer anyway. Until you're the one inexplicably happy.
posted by cogitron at 5:44 PM on February 27, 2016 [10 favorites]

I know so many caucasian women who can tell the same story. Heartbreak and never being 'the one' is a very common scenario for women and men from all ethnic backgrounds. While I can't say your experiences were definitively not related to your ethnicity, I can say there is a very good chance they were not.
posted by cecic at 5:45 PM on February 27, 2016 [23 favorites]

I'm Caucasian, female and 40. My experience is very similar to yours. I like a man, he seems to like me, but then he breaks up with me (or ghosts) and often winds up getting serious with someone else shortly after. Rinse and repeat.

I can't tell you anything about what's going on in the heads of the men you've dated, but please know you are not alone in having this type of experience.
posted by bunderful at 5:47 PM on February 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

It's like how that thing you're looking for is always in the last place you look. Things don't work out, until they do. Your experience is mine and a lot of other women (and men) in their late twenties.
posted by pintapicasso at 5:48 PM on February 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I live in Toronto where mixed marriages are so common - most of my cousins are in mixed marriages. I find the more urban the area, the more people are open to dating mixed. If you are in a small town then I could see it being more of a challenge because all they will know is what they've seen on tv, which isn't much sadly.

It sounds to me like you aren't valuing yourself enough and you are putting up with substandard guys. I'm white and I've totally gotten the "I'm not ready" song and dance. The faster you ditch those dudes the sooner you'll meet your guy. From your post I'm getting the sense you're waiting to be chosen by someone else, waiting to be loved by them - a traditional and passive attitude. Be more active in your decisions and actions. Try not settling for FWB or casual sex but tell them up front you're looking for something serious and that will weed out the weenies. Leave em if they're not what you want. Good luck!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:52 PM on February 27, 2016 [23 favorites]

I don't think this is related to your ethnicity, I think it's just all part of the "joy" of modern dating. I'm a 27 year old white woman and I have very similar issues when trying to date straight men. They often ghost or tell white lies to end things. It really sucks, but we'll just have to try to not take it personally.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 5:56 PM on February 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm South Asian as well, and I remember thinking about this exact issue just a short while before I met my now-husband. I grew up in India, where I had a boyfriend for a couple years in college. Then I moved to the US for grad school and almost immediately got into a relationship with an American (white) guy. That went on probably longer than it should have (about 3 years) and then followed a period of about two years where I felt that I had no luck with guys at all. I went on lots of unsatisfying OkCupid dates, sometimes with guys I would later discover had girlfriends or even wives (!). It was kind of nuts, and I felt that I had almost exhausted the datable population of my small university town, or at least the ones that seemed even slightly interested in me. This was around the time that OKTrends was around and I remember reading the stats about how poorly black women did on OKCupid. Now I wasn't black, but rather dark-skinned, and I definitely wondered about the impact that was having on my dating prospects.

In the end, it was all moot, as I met my delightful husband, who is white, but not American, and I didn't have to worry about any of this stuff any more. It's probably true that there may be fewer people interested in you because you're South Asian, or not Christian - just as there may be fewer people interested in you if you're overweight, or have tattoos, or multiple piercings. But in the end, you just need one person - someone who will love you as you are, someone who will think these all these traits are positives, not negatives.
posted by peacheater at 5:59 PM on February 27, 2016 [6 favorites]

I and most of my women friends of colour have had this experience of being subtly (or overtly) degraded, disrespected, and not considered valid as "real" partners. Good enough to fuck but not date, good enough to date but not marry, good enough to be a secondary but not primary partner. You are not imagining things or making things up. I urge you to talk to your WOC friends who date interracially (and especially those who date white people), as I think they will be better able to support you than AskMe which is overwhelmingly white.

I personally retired from dating white people and being sexually available to them and my life has improved for it; perhaps that's too drastic for you, but just wanted to put it out there that it is a viable option.
posted by sea change at 6:19 PM on February 27, 2016 [47 favorites]

I think that regardless of ethnicity, whenever anyone breaks up because they "don't want a relationship now," it means they "don't want s relationship with you."
posted by J. Wilson at 6:46 PM on February 27, 2016 [6 favorites]

I have a similar background to you, but limited personal experience with this due to marrying young, so take this with a grain of salt. But absolutely, I think it takes a special person who is in the majority (white, Christian) and is truly willing to look at a minority as a life partner. I mean, obviously none of us can tell you if this is what's going on with the guys you're talking about, but I definitely think it's a factor. As for how you move forward... I don't know. You could try taking a break from dating white guys. You could try thinking about whether there were any yellow flags raised during your previous relationships... did they treat you as exotic somehow, did they express discomfort about meeting your family, that kind of thing, and if there were, look out for those early on in future relationships.

From another perspective, though, there ARE people out there for whom this won't be an issue (I married one!) and maybe you don't need to change a thing. 27 is young and you've spent years on this one guy who turned out to be a dead end. My parents would regularly tell me that I would never be accepted, understood, or loved because of my ethnicity and appearance. And I certainly faced some of that, I do think it's an issue... but I think they were wrong about everybody being intolerant of people who are not like them. Some people are genuinely open to others who don't necessarily look like them or grow up the same way, and some people aren't.
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:03 PM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am from the same background as you, except that I didn't grow up in white/Caucasian neighborhoods. I personally would take what your father has said with a grain of salt--my parents have been telling me similar things my whole life: that white people will never accept me or view me as truly American, that white people (and especially men) are untrustworthy, that mixed marriages are not as valid or meaningful (though among my family friends, I would say one-half to two-thirds are in mixed marriages).

This kind of thinking definitely did a number on my sense of identity and self-worth as a young girl. Since then, I've come to understand that a lot of this is from their vastly different personal experiences, as first-generation immigrants who speak English as a second language and from their fear of me losing my culture and assimilating entirely, so constantly telling me that I'll never be accepted by white people, however assimilated I appear, is a rather manipulative way of ensuring that I will never view myself as fully American.

Your father's motives and thinking may be different but it's definitely something I've seen *a lot* among first-generation immigrant parents. And yeah, there are definitely racist white guys out there who don't take non-white women seriously as partners but there are many, many who are not racist and do and as I've said, I know many Indian women in relationships with white (and East Asian and black and Hispanic) men, so I wouldn't assume that it's some kind of curse that you will never overcome. Internalizing the belief that your race is the culprit may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your race isn't something you can change, so why bother thinking about this?
posted by armadillo1224 at 7:13 PM on February 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

You might find this episode of the podcast "StartUp" helpful or interesting -- that season followed an online dating company, and that particular episode focused on the problems people of color face in the dating world.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:13 PM on February 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

I'm Indian as well and grew up in a white neighborhood as well. I don't much care if I retain or lose my cultural traditions (I have issues with a lot of cultural expectations of me).

Dating/finding a relationship has never been a problem for me at all when I've dated white guys or Indian guys. I'm in my 30s, and I think I might be different in you in that I was in a long term relationship with a white guy, then had a couple of relationships after that in which the guys were more invested, but I just felt like they expected too much from me.

One of my (half Latina half German, utterly gorgeous, PhD in the hard sciences) friends had guys either treat her shitty or fall madly, controllingly in love with her---that's on the guys. She's married now, with a baby on the way, but had a lot of dating experience and heartbreak.

She and I talked once about how odd it is that when you have already been in a relationship and you get out of it, and you're radiating that " I'm not sure about a relationship" vibe, they want you so badly to be their girlfriend. She was right when she said, "It's like they smell it on you."

being happy and relaxed and feeling loved and liking yourself and not pining, it attracts guys.

Get a little older, go through the dating, get more experience and stronger and less piney for a relationship, and you'll see.
posted by discopolo at 7:34 PM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I wrote something longer, but screw it. Forget your dad and anyone who ended up with a white girl after you (wouldn't it be fetishsizing you if they only dated South East Asian women, anyway??)


FWIW - I entirely agree with you that skin color and culture should not be a barrier to love or marriage and people who think about that (thanks, dad!) are dinosaurs.

You do you. It all doesn't work out until it does. I, too, have a long list of bf's who committed to others after dating me. Whatever. Now that I'm with my husband, I'm glad I got who I got.
posted by jbenben at 7:38 PM on February 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

I used to feel the same way as you, but then I had a realization that really put everything in perspective, and made me feel better, I guess: in life - and particularly in relationships - you can do everything right, and still fail. You can still suffer, and there is nothing you can do - nor is there a particular kind of person you can be - to prevent that from happening.

Certainly nobody's perfect, although there are people who are, for example, more conventionally attractive than others. That doesn't make them immune to misfortune, though. It doesn't matter who you are, or what the color of your skin is - you could be Miss America, meet the love of your life tomorrow, end up getting married down the road, and the very next day - your loved one gets hit by a truck walking to work. Or they have a heart attack at breakfast and you come back into the kitchen to see them slumped into their cereal.

Or you could find out that they'd been cheating on you all this time. Or they could be in the military and get called to duty in some foreign country and you end up not seeing them for a couple of years. And divorce is always a possibility. You could end up hating each other after ten years of marriage, but decide to stick it out for the kids, if nothing else. Being beautiful may make it easier for you to get into a relationship, but it won't save you from being abused, dumped, or being cheated on - or just having something downright horrible happen down the road.

There's nothing wrong or sad about all this, about all this uncertainty - it's just sort of intrinsically how life is. So much of what happens in life, and in relationships, is just out of our control. For a very long time I thought it would be downright terrible if I never met that special someone and ended up in a relationship. But as I became older, I started to realize just how screwed up many relationships are and how horribly people can treat each other, even those whom they apparently love. Then I also realized that it wouldn't be such a terrible thing after all if nothing ever worked out, because in that case I couldn't have guaranteed that my life would've necessarily been better off if something had worked out. That sort of realization, I think, is pretty liberating, and I wish you the best of luck.
posted by un petit cadeau at 7:39 PM on February 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Also, I once went out with maybe the best looking white guy I've ever dated who had previously been in a relationship with an Indian woman he had been deeply in love with (yeah, guess why he asked me out lol). She'd broken his heart and trust by breaking up with him, then getting married to some Indian rando picked out by her parents 3 months later in a huge ceremony. He was clearly still hurting from it, it seemed so cruel.

So, some non-Indian ppl just assume that we'll hurt them and end up with an Indian guy our parents choose anyway. They might be trying to cut their losses.
posted by discopolo at 7:41 PM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Btw, the white guy who used you to cheat on his white wife? He's clearly not a good guy with integrity and character, or as worthy of love as you think he is. He sounds messed up AF and that's not uncommon. There are good guys and guys who are lacking in the character department and will never be worth the affection given to them. You basically gave this guy too much credit and that's your mind tricking you into thinking he's better than he is. He's character-challenged.

Also, obviously there are Indian guys who cheat on their wives who are white or Indian or whatever. White guys cheat on white women, or he could have married you and cheated on you. Don't measure other guys against him and don't be so desperate for a relationship, and figure out who and what kind of person makes you happy. I know you'll find someone once your head and heart agreed that falling for useless guys is a no no.

Btw, you're only 27. Most of my friends didn't start getting married until their early thirties. Actually the spike I'm experiencing is right now---everyone is suddenly getting hitched at 36-37 to guys in their 40s who are marrying for the first time (with the exception of one friend whose fiancé who is 8 yrs younger than she is).
posted by discopolo at 8:02 PM on February 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm a white woman, so I hesitate to answer this as I can't answer you from your perspective, but most of my long-term relationships have been with someone of a different race (or Jewish vs my being raised Catholic, which has some of the same implications in the view of some). I'm pretty ambivalent about race and have dated men of just about every color, including Indian (although that happened to be when I was much younger and marriage wasn't necessarily in discussion yet). I have heard some shocking stuff from other people leading me to believe that a lot of people really don't fully accept the idea of seriously being with someone of a different color or cultural background. People are racist in ways they don't even realize.

That said, I have also had, continuously, the experience of men not wanting to commit. I actually tend to date men who don't go on to get married to the next person, or at all (yet, anyway), so I can tell you that this is also a thing and not necessarily about you or your race.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 8:11 PM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

short answer: Nah.

long answer: It may have something to do with your setting, though. I mean, if you're in a place that enforces white supremacist norms --as do most places that are majority white) -- it may behoove you to move to a place where people are more accepting, and where you can make friends and interact with a more diverse crowd. If you can't move right this second, then be cognizant that this may be a problem and give yourself a goddamn break. Because you can use it. You're so hard on yourself in this AskMe.

If you want anecdata, here it is: I'm Indian-American, 29, not conventionally attractive by white supremacist standards, and I haven't had problems dating since I went to college eleven years ago. (I'm now married, so there's a significant impediment to dating.)

However, my high school was majority white, and since nobody found me attractive there, I never even thought about dating. My friends didn't consider me good-looking either, which is why they never bothered to set me up with guy friends or whatever, it was just universally decided that I was too ugly to get laid. When I went to my state university, which is more diverse by leaps and bounds, I soon learned what a crock of shit that was.

I can't promise an insta-change or anything like that, but when you said that you grew up and are in mostly white dominated places, serious red flags and bells went up for me. For people like us, settings like that are toxic and until we leave them, we have no idea.
posted by orangutan at 9:08 PM on February 27, 2016 [13 favorites]


"I'm not ready for a relationship right now [with you]" is soooooooooooo common. You need to learn to take that at face value and be like "Thanks for letting me know BYE." You will never "convince" them to love you or want a relationship with you by hanging around or sleeping with them.

About race, I have been thinking about this, too. I'm half black, half white, but a lot of people can't tell what I am—I'm just "not white" = "not like them."

You might think of it this way: you are like an exotic vacation. Really fun and exciting to visit, for a certain period of time. And then they go home, back to the real world. Few run-of-the-mill white Americans decide to live abroad permanently. Maybe it's a long weekend, maybe it's a semester abroad. But they come back. Doesn't occur to them that they would ever stay. And then once they're back home, they will have such fond memories of the trip. They might even take a quick trip back. But they'll always go home again.

Now certainly there are white people/men who get serious with non-white people/women. My guess is that you'd have higher odds in large, diverse cities—where the diversity is mixed, not segregated—or with non-Americans.
posted by thebazilist at 10:23 PM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

The most common situation I've faced is when a man tells me "I'm not ready for a relationship right now," then ends up in a committed one with someone else two months later.

Someone told me the exact same thing. We're the same ethnicity (Jewish). Within about a year, she was engaged.

Getting a disingenuous "I'm not ready for a relationship right now" is not a sign of racism. It's such a cliche that there was an AskMe comment about it which got hundreds of favorites.

The fact that men date you and later date white women could be easily explained by the fact a large percentage of the population is white, so it's a matter of odds.
posted by John Cohen at 10:34 PM on February 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I'm a SE Asian woman and I've been in several long, serious relationships with white guys that could have but never quite did turn into marriages. After me they all went on to date/marry white women. I always felt that they were happy to date (especially if we were living somewhere more liberal than their hometowns), but in the end, they wouldn't take the final step -- partially because... It's just easier to date someone like yourself. I mean, interracial dating in the US is mostly not a huge deal now, but there's still ten thousand little things that you have to face that white/white couples don't. In the end, despite being liberal dudes who were interested in my culture and whatnot, I think they felt at least some (not entirely conscious?) urge to choose a more comfortable option cuz marriage is ~for life~. I don't think, as minority women, we can discount that underlying social pressure.
posted by ohkay at 10:59 PM on February 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


I also missed that your FWB guy cheated with you. Ugh. No. No no no no.

He's not the wonderful person you thought he was! Man, what a mindfuck. It's just him. He was skillfully charming enough to make you feel special enough to get hooked on him, and sufficiently selfish enough to keep you successfully in his thrall when he knew he would never be with you. Having lived this, I wish a thousand times I could snap us both out of that spell when it was first cast upon us.

You are ready for a whole new playing field, where you get to choose a genuine partner who truly loves you and is faithful and loyal. He's a cheater! He has poor character! He was NOTHING like you on the inside, where it counts.

You dodged a bullet. REJOICE!
posted by jbenben at 11:03 PM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm a WOC, and for the most part I date people of other ethnicities. Perhaps this is partly about your race and culture; sadly, your dating pool is smaller than the white version of yours would be. Also, it's just more difficult - people want easy, especially as they think about integrating extended families and having children.

My experiences are a bit different, though. It helps that I live in a large, diverse Canadian city. The other thing is I take a very conservative approach to dating white guys who might not fully understand the implications of dating interracially. It means I've dated a lot less than I otherwise would have, and categorically avoid casual/FWB sorts of things, but it also means that I date people who have their eyes open and don't fetishize women of my race. The women I know who aren't as careful about weeding out guys who don't really get it...well, they have different outcomes. That said, none of this is your fault; it sounds like some of the guys you've dated suck as people in general, and wouldn't have been a good partner to you even if you were white.

What I will say, though, is that I've been pretty wary of dating people I believed to be from any sort of conservative background. I really don't want to waste time on someone whose family is unlikely to accept me, so I'm pretty fast about sussing out whether someone's from a liberal, secular family. It's a big reason why I've never been able to give any serious consideration to the South Asian guys I've briefly dated - there's often a lingering sense of "why bother if their family is 95% likely to be weird about this?" Discopolo made a related point earlier in the thread; it's something worth thinking about and addressing with the people you're dating.
posted by blerghamot at 12:08 AM on February 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

I agree that buying into your dad's narrative here is not a good idea. Race may or may not have played a role in your - heartbreaking but unfortunately very common - experiences of relationships not working out. Maybe, in addition to being wrong for you in other ways, these particular guys had hang ups about race. But that certainly doesn't mean anything about guys - of whatever race - that you will encounter in the future. It's fatalistic to believe that it does - both inaccurate and bad for you, in that believing it will affect your confidence and happiness in your own skin and the attitudes you take into your next relationship.

Also, the fact that you have spent years asking "what is wrong with me?" is kind of troubling, even if you come up with some answer other than race. I can't emphasise enough how much, for example, I think you've dodged a bullet with your college friend and it troubles me that you see this as a story of a failure ("what did I do wrong?") as opposed to a story of an escape ("what will I never put up with again?"). If he didn't marry you because of your race, that proves he's wrong for you - but then, if he had married you, apparently that wouldn't have meant extending respect or fidelity to you anyway, given his treatment of his current wife. So getting away from him is a 100% win - if he needed to be persuaded to 'overlook' your race and is self-involved and inconsiderate in his understanding of marriage, he would have been an awful husband.

Can I suggest that you abandon the "what's wrong with me" question completely and ask, instead, "why was that guy wrong for me? What is it that I actually want in a man and will look for in dating?" For example: not a racist, not a game-player, not someone who cheats, or treats your culture like an exotic eccentricity or seems uncomfortable with your religion. It's not that you need to persuade some guy, any guy, to put up with your race and age and values. It's that you need to avoid bothering with men for whom these issues are a factor, and to drop them like a hot potato when they say something racist or exoticising or offer you a relationship on terms that you don't want.
posted by Aravis76 at 12:47 AM on February 28, 2016 [6 favorites]

Haven't read al the comments but came in to note that two of my Caucasian cousins have married Asian women and I haven't registred any racial issues at all.
That does not mean that such issues don't exist, rather that one has to be attentive to wether the person or family of a person one is engaged with harbors racist thinking. It's frustrating.
posted by mumimor at 4:48 AM on February 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, babe. I am similar to you in that I am a minority (mixed black & white) who grew up in a very white place and dated white men. (Reader, I even married one.) I also have spent time trying to tease out what is racism, what is whatever else and ... well, it is a losing battle in love, for me. Because some men probably didn't want to date me because I wasn't white, but also some men didn't want to date me because I was smarter than them or chubby or whatever. And my actual goal was to find someone who was excited to be with me and treated me well. And that didn't happen until I was able to have high standards and just plain drop dudes who weren't great. And I was old! and fat! and black! and who was I to have such high standards? But it worked.

Getting to this point took the worst break up of my life and about a year of ensuing therapy. The dude who initiated that break up told me I was a decent person but not good enough to be his wife (!!!). (He also threw a whiskey in my face, but I digress.) And I believed him. And spent a year in therapy coming to unbelieve and met my husband and well, now I have new problems because life. But you can do this. Maybe people are racist and it is super depressing but you can't fix that. What you can fix is only having the highest standards for dating you. I promise it will pay off.

I send you all the affection and sympathy I wish I could return to my younger self.
posted by dame at 5:14 AM on February 28, 2016 [18 favorites]

Have you considered asking him what his issue with commiting to you was?

Not at all to win him back, but to see if he will be honest and tell you?

If he says anything that's encoded "not white" then you'll know he's a racist asshole and it will stop you from ever considering talking to him again.

If he says anything else, then you'll know he's a cold hearted motherfucking loser and (see above).

I once asked a guy who did this to me "why?" a year or so later. He said "well, it's not like you'd ever be able to have a family" (hysterectomy). I couldn't stop laughing. I had been dumping dudes for 15 years because they didn't want babies. Now I'm inches away from foster & adoption certified and he is still single and sad.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 10:02 AM on February 28, 2016

I'm an East Asian dude married to a white lady, so your situation is different, and I might be full of it. I will say that being an ethnic minority probably made things more difficult. I have absolutely no idea how much more difficult, because, well, much like dame says above, there were other reasons people weren't dating me, like being shy or my being a giant nerd or whatever.

I guess in the end I figured that it didn't really matter, in the end, exactly why people didn't want to be in a relationship with me -- if they didn't like me, I wasn't going to be dating them. Which sounds glib and isn't necessarily the easiest thing to just do, but that's all I have.

Good luck with everything.
posted by Comrade_robot at 1:19 PM on February 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

Impossible to know, but yes I’d say it is a factor, although not an insurmountable factor, and not the whole explanation (not that you were implying it was). I definitely notice that smart, interesting, attractive friends of mine of South Asian background receive less romantic interest than my white friends of about the same level of desirability. One acquaintance was even so bold as to tell me he wasn’t interested in one of these friends because of her racial background, and another who claimed to be egalitarian and kind of social-activist-y answered yes to an OK cupid question about preferring to date someone of their own racial background (white) and did not realise why this was a huge worry. I’ve also noticed in my circle of acquaintances that white guys can punch a category or two above their weight if their partners are of South Asian background (nerdy guys in their mid to late 20s still fussing around working out what they want to do and where their income stream will come from dating stunning women of South Asian background with impressive careers, but not the other way round).

Do the guys you’ve dated ever make hints that they’d be more comfortable with a stock standard white girl? A white friend with proudly traditional immigrant Eastern European parents had this experience with a long-term partner actually admitting this to her (that he didn’t find her slight “foreignness” and her parents’ not completely mainstream western worldview appealing in a long term partner), but maybe the partner actually owned up to it because it wasn’t about race but cultural background so he felt like it was OK to say it and that there wasn’t a need to hide/deeply reflect on these ideas.
posted by hotcoroner at 10:04 PM on February 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

As a dark-skinned African-American woman I feel pretty confident saying "Yes, but..."

Yes, your race/ethnicity is probably an obstacle in your dating life. Some men will not be able to see you romantically at all. They have a picture in their head of what kind of woman they want in their lives, and for some men, you are not it. But, do you want to fit in that picture? Even if they were to grudgingly allow themselves to see you as a romantic partner, would you want someone who wasn't interested in your family, your culture or the ineffable things that make you, you (which presumably include growing up South Asian)?

You sound like you're looking for long-term commitment (possibly marriage?), which means partnership, intimacy, and trust. To get there you need openness, vulnerability, and acceptance. If someone claims to love you while wishing away your race, you'll never feel comfortable enough to be open or trust enough to be vulnerable. Having someone rule you out because of your race SUCKS--a lot (believe me, I know) but it can be helpful to think of their prejudice as a filter for your dating pool.

To answer your question of 'what to do now' I have some general suggestions and some more concrete ones.
  • First and foremost ,you have to love yourself best and value yourself most. From your discussion of the "friend with benefits," I wonder if you have trouble asserting your needs in a relationship. Make your needs clear early and often. Speak up at the first signs of negligence, dismissiveness, or disrespect. If the bad behavior continues, walk away without hesitation, and don't look back.
  • Please don't let slimmer prospects be a reason for accepting garbage behavior. Whether your partner is 1-in-50 or 1-in-5, he just needs to be the one for you.
  • Are you waiting for "the right guy" to start living your fullest life? For your own sake, please try not to fall into this mindset. Don't wait to do the things that interest you, be it travel, or cooking lessons, or swing dancing. Liking your life will making you happier and more confident--a chain to link with, rather than a hole to fill.
  • You mentioned that you're the only person of color in your work and friendship circles; consider seeking out some more colorful environs. Chances are, any guy who's interested in interracial dating will not be the most content/comfortable in a monochrome environment himself.
Now I don't want to make this post "It Gets Better" for Colored Girls (When OK Cupid Isn't Enough) but I met my (white) husband while in the Peace Corps and at peak IDGAF. At that point in my life I'd had one high school boyfriend and had spent ages 18-24 with a few crushes and no romantic action. (Also college was majority white, and my workplaces were either majority women or LGBT). I dieted; I changed my hair; I wept and prayed and wondered what was wrong with me. Then, for reasons I can't recall, I leaned into the idea that maybe it wasn't going to happen for me, at least not in DC.

After a long peer into the void I shrugged and let myself just have fun. I invested more in my friendships; I got more involved in the things I cared about (church, dancing, volunteering, and writing). I lived without looking around so much. Then I went to Peace Corps where I meet my guy at a Halloween party. I don't think I had ever been more myself, than I was that night. He accepted me as I was (bubbly, black weirdo); heck he even liked me, all of me. And that's what you can build a life on.
posted by CatastropheWaitress at 3:16 PM on March 2, 2016 [9 favorites]

FWIW, I'm Indian too, and though I never dated or pursued white guys, I have had weird interactions that make me feel self conscious about my race. Like, I'll meet someone in a social context and strike up a friendly conversation (not at all flirtatious), and they'll start backing away/mentioning their girlfriend/answer in a borderline rude manner. I don't think there's any so repulsive about me, and I've almost never received such a reaction from a non-white person of any race. These are "liberal" men, educated, non-religious, living in big cities, men who probably vote for progressive immigration laws and rail against racism on Facebook, and yet have no friends that aren't from their own background. etc. So yes, but...

I noticed several questions in your posting history about your disappointment at your lack of love life, and I'm wondering if it's become an all-consuming fear that's feeding itself. People are not drawn to unhappy or desperate individuals. Take a few months to focus on yourself... go on casual dates if it happens, but don't search actively on OkCupid or look for a serious relationship. Spend that time on work and your hobbies. Once you feel more confident, things will fall into place. And you're only 27! There's plenty of time.
posted by redlines at 9:17 PM on March 7, 2016

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