Like many other cultures, the South Asian community has its own set of traditions and customs especially when it comes to love, relationships and marriage. However, many western cultures are joined with the SA culture in its views on values and morals especially when tender young hearts are involved. Many parents believe that certain rules and guidelines need to be in place for young people when it comes to dating and relationships – often a certain age is cited when a child could date and sometimes there is no permission to date at all. The main purpose of dating allows both the boy and the girl to get to know one another, but more importantly get to know themselves and trust their instincts. The SA community for the most part, does not believe in dating and it is sometimes done in secret. But in the end, all parents want to do is to keep their children safe from harm and heartbreak, regardless of their culture.

Dear Didi,

I have always considered myself a good and obedient daughter, but recently something has happened that has me questioning both myself and my parents’ wishes. My family is traditional Pakistani and does not believe in marriage or dating outside my culture. At University, however, I met a young man who is not of my culture studying in the same program together. We became close study buddies and I guess love blossomed from this. I do not consider myself to have dated him, and we have not done anything physical, but he asked me on a date the other day and I am at a quandary. I really do care for him but am not allowed to date without my parents’ approval. The gentleman in question is of Italian descent and is Roman Catholic but I feel as if I love him anyway. Didi how do I get my parents to agree with my heart? Am I being disobedient in wanting to be with him? I am so confused I do not know what to do. Please, any advice you can give will be most welcome.

Confused and Alone

Dear Confused and Alone,

Always know that you are a good and obedient daughter – you have already proven that since you have made decisions that you have felt were right for you and your parents who have guided you up until this point. That’s all that can be expected of you. Understand, that as much as parents try to be everything to their children, sometimes they just don’t know what to do or say until they are coached themselves by their children. One thing that we don’t often get from our South Asian parents is guidance when it comes to relationships and what we should look for in our partner. Often people fixate on the sexual part of a relationship rather than the emotional aspect of it – and talking about sex makes quite a few people uncomfortable. It certainly is a subject that is taboo and off-limits in polite company, as they say. You have said that there is nothing physical about your relationship which allows us to focus on the relationship and falling in love. South Asian community has families with many different variants of comfort between the parents and their children. I would urge you to speak with your mother or a female member of your family to talk about their views on relationships which will give you some insight. What they have found has worked in their relationships and things that haven’t. Although it seems like it is the early days, this may very well lead to love and marriage so you need to be prepared for a reaction from your family if you go to them with this relationship. This conversation with your mother will let you know where they are coming from. Also talk to your friend – be honest with him and tell him that you had always viewed him as a friend and him asking you out now may change your friendship. Remember that Catholics have been raised with very strict rules and guidelines regarding marriage and relationships; therefore, he would be familiar with some of the same constraints that you face. Be completely honest with him about your thoughts and feelings… and your lack of experience with dating and relationships. If he cares about you and wants to be part of your life, he will understand and support you as you go on this journey with you to see where this leads. If it’s friendship – it could be a friendship that lasts a lifetime or if it doesn’t work out you will have learned something or if it becomes more, you will be able to built a strong foundation that will allow you to feel you are no longer alone and certainly not confused. You just may have found your life partner!  

I too have a very close relationship with my parents. I remember when I went to university and my first year was very difficult. I had always been a good and obedient daughter which I wanted to continue even though I was out of sight far away. I even asked permission from my parents to go to a mixer dance at the start of the school year.     At the time it seemed a bit silly but there was actually a conversation that occurred that I still remember to this day. A young South Asian boy who was on my brother’s floor at residence made a snide remark that many SA girls had a secret life from their parents when they move away from home. He said that my parents probably didn’t even know that I was going to a dance – I was able to tell him with confidence that yes I had told them and they were aware. It was always important to me to preserve the trust and respect between myself and my parents. I am very different than my other siblings and therefore, I wanted things unlike what my parents had ever heard of before. I was breaking new ground. I was opening them up to new things. I was letting them know that I was still the same little girl that I had always been but having new experiences that was shaping the person that I was becoming. That I was growing up but I wanted to make sure that I was communicating with my parents so they too could come along for the ride.

Thinking back what was your first relationship… and how did it turn out?



By Kulbinder Saran Caldwell, CPC

Twitter: @DearDIDI_KSC