Asian Dating

A Cultural Conundrum

Posted Oct 23, 2015

//www.flickr.com/photos/39056106@N00/8609834555">IMG_1896</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a>
Source: photo credit: <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/%3Ca%20href%3D"http://www.flickr.com/photos/39056106">http://www.flickr.com/photos/39056106@N00/8609834555">IMG_1896</a> via <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/%3Ca%20href%3D"http://photopin.com">http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/%3Ca%20href%3D"https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a>

Dating is hard enough as it is but dating in an Asian-American context is made even more difficult because of potential cultural differences.

Traditional Asians pride themselves on their marriages, families, children, and continuation of the family lineage so when their sons/daughters begin dating someone they don't approve of, it's going to a difficult process.

 Usually, one side or both sets of parents are dead set against them dating their significant other.  Sometimes it's because one person is dating someone Caucasian.  Other times it's because they're of a different Asian ethnicity.  There are also instances when it's not relegated to ethnicity or culture but due to socioeconomic status and/or educational attainment.

Regardless of the differences, if the couple truly desires to stay together and are committed to the relationship then my recommendation in therapy is for them to stay the course.  But I also know from many different couples that this can mean facing possible ostracism from family members.  In some examples, parents won't acknowledge or talk to the couple or the significant other whom they disapprove of.  Some refuse to attend the weddings.  In extreme cases, parents will disown their children because of their marital choices.

So why do traditional Asian parents have their panties in a bunch?  Why can't they just accept their children's dating/marital partners?  Part of this lies in the ethnocentrism or racism involved.  Yes, Asians can be racist if you don't already know it.  Those from the motherland would prefer to have their children marry within the culture because of the belief that keeping one's ethnic line pure is better than intermixing with another culture.  

An example of this could be a Korean mother who disapproves of their Korean-American daughter dating a Vietnamese-American man.  In this example, we could have more than ethnic racism in play.  There's also the U.S. immigration patterns that set the two groups apart.  Korean immigration started shortly after the Korean War and peaked during the 70's the 80's whereas Vietnamese and other SE Asian groups began after the Vietnam War.  As one of the newest immigrant groups, many SE Asians may not only face discrimination from the larger Caucasian community but within more Americanized Asians.  This type of racism based on acculturation or lack of acculturation to the U.S. is not uncommon when I hear couples sharing about their struggles. 

Another issue is the fact that Asian parents struggle with the autonomy that their Americanized children are learning in the U.S.  In traditional Asian cultures where collectivism rules, input for many decisions are shared or made by the elders in the family.  But in the U.S., where individualism reigns, these Americanized children buck the tradition of getting parental blessing on dating or marriage partners, and thus the strain becomes much more evident.

So do you have to choose between your dating or marital partner and your parents?  I wish that wasn't the case but when Asian parents make that threat, you may have to call their bluff if you feel your relationship is worth it.