A unique issue for first-generation American-born South Asians is that many prefer the Western method to finding your life partner: dating. Since many of their parents are immigrants and probably had arranged marriages, they aren’t able to turn to their parents for help on learning how to navigate the dating scene.
As they embark on the journey of finding a significant other, a common concern South Asians who are dating have is why they end up dating the same type of person repeatedly. Interestingly, the answer to this relies mainly on self-reflection, as who you choose to date is often based on patterns that you have learned in childhood and adolescence. For example:
Shalini just broke up with her fourth boyfriend and she was frustrated with why she was 29 years old and still couldn’t find a long-term relationship. When she sat down to think about what was common between the four of them, she kept concluding that they were all selfish. However, the reflection cannot stop there as the common factor between all four of them was Shalini, meaning she repeatedly chose selfish boyfriends.
Looking back on her history, Shalini realized that by dating selfish boyfriends, she was in the position of always giving. She would compromise more, be more flexible, and generally felt more anxiety than her boyfriend about the stability of their relationship. With this realization, she made the connection with her childhood experience of watching her parents’ relationship.
Her parents were unhappily married. Her father often demanded that his needs and desires to be met by his wife immediately. When they argued, her father would leave without notice to go for a drive or a walk. As a young child, that caused her high anxiety as she was worried he had gone forever. She also saw her mother experiencing high anxiety waiting for Shalini’s father to come home. While she waited, she cooked his favorite dessert, cleaned the house or completed other tasks to cater to his wishes so that he would not leave again.
Shalini, observing this dynamic in the relationship, had grown up with an intrinsic belief that men will be more selfish and that women should be as flexible as possible to help keep them happy. She also grew up believing that a high level of anxiety within a relationship is normal.
Her relationships never worked out because she was more independent than her mother and could never fully cater to the demands of her boyfriends. When they would become upset, she would try to fall back into the role of the over-compromising girlfriend, only to feel resentful later. This would result in recurring arguments and an eventual demise of the relationship.
With this new insight, Shalini realized that she was looking for relationships that were unhealthy because that is what she was familiar with. From this point on, it is inevitable that Shalini will choose higher quality boyfriends as she will be careful to notice these characteristics that she often had gravitated to before without even realizing it.
Many of our decisions are made based on information and experiences that are so ingrained into our thought process that we never think twice about the possibility that our information or these experiences might be hurting us in how we live our life. By taking the time to look carefully at what we assume to be true and questioning why something else can’t be the truth, we open ourselves to making conscious decisions instead of falling into habitual patterns automatically.
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