Dating Series: Identity crisis
If you have been keeping up with my blog you'll know I recently started a series of posts where I write about my dating life. This post will not just be about a guy I had a relationship with, but also about the common identity crisis that many people who have immigrant parents or grandparents might feel. So if you've experienced this crisis you know what I'm about to describe. Most likely you're a first generation kid or someone whose family follow traditions and customs very strictly. And so you find yourself in a place where everyone else around you does not follow these customs but instead have their own way of doing things. You start to associate yourself with these people because you are seeing them almost as much as you see your family (for example, your classmates). Then you come back home and things are different again. And you wonder where you belong and which one of these cultures you actually identify with. Can you really identify with both without feeling left out at some point? Is it okay to be immersed in both and still somehow maintain a connection with your family? Who are you really? You're not sure.
Sound familiar to anyone? That was most of my childhood. On a more positive note, growing up in New York City gave me the opportunity to meet kids whose parents were immigrants from all over the world.
But let's go back to the dating subject of this post. In my last year of high school and roughly my first year of college, I was in a relationship with a Bengali guy that, unlike me, did not grow up in the states. He was born and raised in Bangladesh so I don't think he had to go through the same identity crisis that I went through when he was younger. He was the first Bengali and Muslim man I actually dated.We started dating while I was on a summer vacation trip to Bangladesh with my family. And logically, you would think I had the most in common with him out all the other guys I've dated. But it was actually the opposite. We didn't have much in common besides the fact that we both spoke the same two languages (Bangla and English) and the fact that we were raised in a Muslim family. But even that felt different. We viewed our religion very differently and we never really sat down and discussed these differences with each other. I didn't mind it too much. Religion is very personal for me and it's something I do purely for myself. I didn't need the guy I was dating to understand it the same way I did.
When we first started dating we went through the typical honeymoon phase. But it's often after that phase couples can figure out if they're really compatible or if they're just limited to that phase. I slowly realized that for us it was the latter. We had good times at first and it really felt like we were there for each other like a typical boyfriend and girlfriend should be. But once the honeymoon phase was over, I slowly started to realize that it wasn't the case. The fact that it was a long distance relationship probably didn't make it easier. We would often try to plan how we were going to be closer, but we would go in circles because neither of us was willing to compromise. What really sticks out to me when I think back to this situation is the fact that I continued this relationship for about two years. Why did I stay in a relationship that clearly wasn't working for us?
I realized after a while that the only reason I stayed with him was that if my parents were to ever find out about this relationship they might actually be able to accept it. There wouldn't be too much of a hassle to explain that this is the guy I want to spend the rest of my life with. He's a hard worker, charismatic, and most importantly, he's a Muslim. A common issue that people with identity crisis face while dating outside their race and/or religion: how do I explain it to my parents?
I started asking myself this questions as I got older. Normally people start thinking of having serious relationships when that's they are ready for. I'm not sure when I was ready to date seriously just for myself. This relationship wasn't about being ready to commit to man for my own personal desires. It was about preventing myself from making the grave mistake of falling in love with a Non-Muslim. I wasn't ready for all the seriousness that comes with a committed relationship. I wasn't ready for compromise and codependency. Maybe I was too young or maybe I wasn't with someone who was compatible enough. It doesn't matter what the reason was, the fact was that I was not ready to commit. Yet I tried to force it because I knew that perhaps one day I might be. And the chances of it being someone my parents would appreciate was slim. I don't live in Bangladesh. I live here in America. Most of the guys I know are anything but Muslim. I figured if I can just make it work with this guy I can get rid of that fear of disappointing my parents.
I'm not sure exactly when I started to realize that this is actually what I was doing. I did have feelings and attraction for this guy, but yet again I was finding that this wasn't enough. And I just ignored my gut feeling all because of a fear. I let myself be immersed in a miserable relationship that involved a lot of emotional drainage. Until one day I realized this isn't what I want. And I can't keep one thing out of fear and use it to prevent me from getting something I might actually want.
So I ended that relationship too. And for a long time, I wondered if I made the right decision. Sometimes I convinced myself I did and other times the thoughts would come back to haunt me. Eventually, after so much going back and forth I realized that I did the right thing. I wanted to experience falling in love. That wasn't love. And perhaps I couldn't help that who I fell in love with wouldn't be someone my parents would approve of. But dammit, I wanted it so bad. I wanted to be selfish.
The end of this blog post segways perfectly into the next story I have to share. I can't imagine why anyone would be interested in my love life but if you are enjoying these posts please let me know. I always love to hear from you. Thank you.