Rewinding to Rochelle: Part 1 – The Mug Incident

Trigger Warning: This contains content that may be upsetting to some readers. While the incidents are real, all names are fictitious.

Rochelle was the sweetest girl I had ever met until this point. Just a few days before, Rochelle and I had become official girlfriend and boyfriend.

We were drinking tea with her mother, who was visiting from out of town. I stepped away to the bathroom for a minute and when I came back, she whispered in my ear:

Why the f*** didn’t you put your mug into the sink?

This blog entry is the beginning of my “Rewinding to Rochelle” series on what an abusive relationship can look like, based on real dating experiences from my past. My goal is to help you identify, avoid, and leave abusive relationships, by writing about red flags that I had dismissed at the time.

Back to Rochelle, you might be wondering why I had stayed with her – for two painful years. Well, I was young and had never had a girlfriend before. I had no good role models and desperately want to feel loved. Here was the main problem:

I was so insecure about my own self-worth that I couldn’t tell whether the problem was with me or with her.

In hindsight, the problem was clearly with her. While there are arguments in all relationships – and sometimes we regret things that we say – the question is whether there is a pattern of disproportionate and disrespectful language like the above. If there is, it’s an abusive relationship.

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Interview: Dating as an Asian-American Man – Part 2

Note: Please make sure that you have read Part 1 first.

The Dating Introvert: What have you been doing to get better at dating?

Fu Quan: By making more mistakes than I dare admit 🙂 I would say I have been trying, adjusting, and trying again.

One problem was an inadequate set of reference points. My parents pressured me to do well academically all the way through to the end of my undergraduate degree, so I didn’t focus on social skills, and was completely oblivious to flirting. And, unlike American kids, I almost didn’t even think about sex because of the intense focus needed to get good grades.

Then, suddenly after my first degree, my parents were asking me about when they will have grandchildren! It is odd in America to graduate from college and not have any dating knowledge, let alone dating experience. My parents never talked about sex, and I rarely saw them hug or kiss.

… physical and verbal expressions of love is not commonplace. Whether it is between parents or parents and their children.
   https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/minority-report/201506/5-asian-love-languages

The Dating Introvert: And what about that “Three Date Rule” you mentioned?

Fu Quan: Yes :), my parents come from a time of arranged marriages. Their relationship started with a mutual introduction by their parents, followed by a small number of dates, and then the wedding. As a result, a date is taken much more seriously when compared to American culture.

So even though I know intellectually that America operates differently, I would be far too nervous on dates.

The Dating Introvert: I’ve got to say: The more I hear from you, the tougher it sounds.

Fu Quan: Yes, I think what helped me was to stop seeing my dating problems as personal failures. After all, I’m battling major cross-cultural differences!

I feel the culture I’m from focuses a lot on maintaining “face” – in other words, keeping up appearances. People may choose to suffer for years, or even life, to avoid the “shame” of admitting they have problem and asking for help. Rather, I ask sympathetic friends or a culturally-informed counselor for dating advice.

The Dating Introvert: Fu Quan, you’ve clearly done a lot of thinking about culture clash and dating. Do you have any other advice you would like to share with other Asian-American men?

Fu Quan: I can only speak from my perspective as a Chinese-American influenced by both cultures. I suppose men from some other Southeast Asian countries might share similar experiences. In any case, my advice is that it’s easier to date a woman in a similar situation – someone who is also caught between two cultures.

This is not always possible, so I would also recommend the following:

  1. Understand your dating audience: Americans care about dressing well, confidence/assertiveness, and social skills a lot more than education. People might regard your PhD as impressive, but it won’t help you get a date. This is hard to believe coming from my background, but it is true.
  2. Be aware of different attitudes towards sex: American culture is much more sexualized. So if you want to save yourself for marriage, ignore the fools on the internet who are shaming you for being a virgin. On the other hand, if you choose to have pre-marital sex, this is America, and you should not feel guilty about it.
  3. Relax! As I said, Americans do not take dates – especially first dates – as seriously. If you want to get to know a woman better, just ask her out. Go on dates with more women and discover who you really like, rather than worrying about the wedding.
  4. Acknowledge that dating can be tough: It is tough for many people but unfortunately, it may be even tougher for you due to cultural differences.

The Dating Introvert: Fu Quan, that was some pretty fascinating stuff! Thank you for the perspective – it will be great for the blog.

Fu Quan: You are welcome. I hope your readers like it.

The Dating Introvert: Until next time my friends, keep dating!