Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.
Dating is hard enough as it is but dating in an Asian American context is made even more difficult because of our culture. Asians pride themselves on their marriages, families, children, and continuation of the family lineage. Despite this obsession on fostering marriage, kids, and culture, I find it striking that most Asian parents never discuss dating thoroughly with their children. Sure they may tell you not to date until you’re “old enough” or “have a good job” but other than that, most Asian Americans enter the dating world with a limited understanding of dating, relationships, and the process of discernment needed to find a good mate.
Because Asian families are so skewed towards the promotion of marriage and children they rarely discuss the crucial period of singlehood and what’s needed to develop there before you launch into the dating scene. Many view singleness as simply the time served to look for a spouse/partner. This is where single people need to re-examine their thoughts on singlehood.
Some past clients would ask in bewilderment to their behavior of girlfriend/boyfriend hopping (i.e. “I don’t know why I am always jumping from one person to another?”). It’s simple, they don’t like being single. They have yet to realize how important it is to not only learn how to handle the anxiety of being single but also to recognize the purpose of singlehood.
Singlehood is not a time where you’re waiting to find someone. Singlehood is the precious time you should devote to finding yourself. You must develop yourself during singlehood or you will lose yourself in a relationship. This is the one opportunity in life where you can truly explore your interests, values, and personal convictions in life. What are your hobbies? Do you prefer a sedentary or active lifestyle? Outside of work, what other organizations or causes do you want to support? How are you connected to your community? Do you have any spiritual or religious values? The strength of a relationship will ultimately hinge on the foundation of who you are as a person separate from your career or your relationship with your partner. You must examine yourself and find your values in life otherwise the core of your being will be missing not only to yourself but to your significant other. How can you ask someone to love you for who you are when you don’t even know who you are?
Some Asian families raise the stakes so high when their children are dating that they see it only from a “success” or “failure” stand-point. We must change this. Dating should be seen as an opportunity to get to know someone and learn something new from another person. If it doesn’t work out, then we should see that as a “success” because now you know what works for you and what doesn’t, as painful as it may be.
Another important question to ask yourself while dating is, “Can this person be my good friend?” If so, then you may have found a great catch. Don’t let the American culture of romanticized love fool you into getting involved in a relationship where the two of you “look good together” but have no friendship to sustain the relationship. On a similar note, physical attraction is important but keep in mind that a relationship built on a foundation of physical intimacy is just one component of love. Don’t ever forget the need for emotional or spiritual intimacy.
*Disclaimer: “Dr. Sam” is a mental health counselor associate accruing hours towards full licensure, not a clinical doctor. All views and advice suggested in his columns are meant to be useful and are based on his experiences. To contact Sam Louie, please visit: www.slacounseling.com or e-mail [email protected].