Q I am a lesbian and I’ve been dating a woman for four months. We’ve both been through our share of family challenges around our sexual orientation. My parents have really shifted their perspective over the years and are now accepting of my sexuality and lifestyle. My girlfriend’s parents, however, are still hoping that she will “outgrow” her feelings for her “girlfriend” and will marry a “nice boy.” Although she feels strongly that she is a lesbian, the pressure and lack of support from family members are making her ambivalent and scared of committing.
I have met my girlfriend’s parents a couple of times and I understand this is really hard for them, given the cultural background and all the expectations they had of their daughter marrying and giving them grandchildren. They also seem to be very concerned about what their relatives, friends and community will think.
I am just not sure if my girlfriend will be able to make her own decision and live the life that makes her happy. I am afraid of really confronting her on this because I don’t want to put more pressure on her and also don’t want to lose her. It’s really hard to meet someone of my own or very similar culture. She is 26 and moved to the United States 15 years ago from Bangladesh. I am 24, of Indian descent, and have lived here most of my life. We think alike, like similar food, music and have values that we share. I am not sure quite how to proceed.
A Thank you for sharing so much of your struggle. It’s clear that you have accepted your own feelings and sexual orientation. You also seem to be quite aware of the challenges ahead. Four months is a short time to be making major decisions about the possibility of your relationship. You are really still getting to know each other. Much will unfold in the next few months.
If your girlfriend didn’t have parental constraints would she be able to commit more fully to dating women? You are both at pivotal ages, when another level of separation from family happens and making your own decisions becomes more natural. I am curious what your girlfriend thinks about her relationship with you and her process with her family? Is she afraid of losing you? Can she actually see herself being with you even if her parents don’t approve? Would some conversations over several months with her parents be possible and yield some space for her to explore the relationship more freely with you?
Could slowing down benefit you or the relationship? Often when couples feel they are a good match, they jump in and move too quickly and the difficult aspects of personality and background arise without enough trust and experience in working things through. Living in the moment and not knowing the future of your relationship is not easy. However, it might be good idea to let go a bit and give your girlfriend a chance to assess what’s right for her at this stage in her life.
Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist of Indian descent in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit www.wholenesstherapy.com