"Ask Dr. Tracy"

3/9/97 Advice Column

East Meets/Loves West,
Bothered by her Past,
Norwegian Girls

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I have a problem that I can't seem to find an answer to on your web page. Hopefully, you can help me out with this.

I am an Asian-American. My family immigrated to this country when I was just a tot. As a result, I adopted much of the American culture. Many of my friends are Americans and personally, I don't think much about my slanty eyes or black hair when I'm around them. Maybe that's why I love my friends so much. They accepted me for the person on the inside. For that I am eternally grateful.

I am 21 years old and currently in college. A year ago, I met this wonderful American guy and I really think that he's the one. He's the most sweetest and caring person I have ever met. When I'm with him, nothing else in the world matters. But we've been taking things real slow. Even though we know that we love each other, we still have not said those three magical words to every girl longs to hear. This is mainly due to our culture differences.

My mom had sat me down in the beginning of my freshman year and we had a long chat about my future. Thing were a little awkward at first, but I knew that I had to make her understand that I could never picture myself with someone of my own race. But I chickened out. All I could say was, "Mom, what if I met an American guy?" She hesitated, but then proceeded to tell me that it was OKAY if I found myself someone not from the same race, but she felt that I would do "better" in life if I married within my race. But she doesn't understand. I may look like an Asian on the outside, but inside I am more American and Asian... much more. I just don't see myself with someone from my own race.

His family is another obstacle that we have to overcome. I have met his family and we seem to get along pretty well, but I can't help feeling like an outsider everytime I'm with them. My boyfriend has a brother that married a Hispanic a while back. Their grandparents refused to go to their wedding at first, but they eventually reconsidered after much convincing from the other family members. Now there is still tension between the brother and the grandparents even after all these years.

What should I do? I love my boyfriend more than anything in the world. So much that I'm willing to leave him so that I don't cause the tension in his family. Am I right for feeling this way? I believe that a family bond is the most important and I don't want to come between him and his family. I don't know what to do at this point. I love him. I really do. He is and will forever be my other half. My heart could belong to no other. But I know that if I keep pretending that this problem doesn't exist like I have for the past year, it's only going to be harder when and if I have to leave him. I guess that my family is willing to accept him. I mean, my parents really like him but I can't help wondering if he would ever feel comfortable when HE'S the only white in an all-Asian household. Please help me.

Dear Asian-American,

Continue to take things slowly. After all, you are both young. On the other hand, you must face facts. He's always going to be Caucasian and you will always be Asian.

Of course we all want to think that inter-religious, interracial relationships are no longer a problem these days. This is mostly true in places like Hawaii, where rainbow families delight in their diversity. Elsewhere, old prejudices linger. There are always those people who will look at you funny. You will always be the Asian he married, he'll always be the Gaijin you married.

It would be a mistake to minimize the problem because of how "American" you feel. Instead, face it squarely and discuss it frankly with your guy. If you're both serious enough about each other to be thinking of marriage, let him begin working on his family. And you work on yours. Make sure they understand how important this relationship is to you and how much you want their love and support. Most families eventually come around, but as you've seen, there's often leftover tension, especially within the older generations.

Between yourselves, accept and love your differences. Enjoy and learn from what each other's different culture has to offer. Society will not be fully accepting, and you will experience discomforts from time to time. If you love each other enough, it's a small price to pay. If you don't love each other enough, the price is huge.

Wishing you love,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I've read most of your web page and I think it's wonderful. I've read about qualifying someone, among other things. The person I'm seeing passes all of the criterion you describe. I've been with her for about a month and a half. My problem is she had a drug problems in the past as well as other desturbing characteristics. I'm bothered about what she's has done in the past, but she has been perfect otherwise. She said she wanted to be up front with me so that I know where she comes from.

She tells me things that she says she feels uncomfortable about, but feels she needs to let me know so that she can be honest and up front with me. Her description of her drug addiction was hard to take. I care for her and don't want to think such horrible things happened to her. She has been very reliable and giving. She is sensitive to my needs. If I tell her something is bothering me she imediately responds affectionately and remedies the problem. Nothing she has said contradicts what I've observed. I feel she has been honest to me and cares about me. She said she has been clean for over a year. None of the things she says indicates someone abusive or slutty, but rather someone who was self destructive.

I want to know if this should be considered a drawback or if these things are something I can overlook, so that I can totally except that she is not the person she used to be. Is it possible for someone to rehabilitate so thoroughly the way she has appeared to? What should I do? I have confronted her about this and she understands where I come from, but it still bothers me. Am I the problem, by not accepting her past flaws? I guess I'm worried about her.

Dear Worried,

We all grow and change, and your girlfriend is not the same person she was. If she told you about her troubled past, that was done with trust that you'd be able to accept and forgive. You must deal with that sensitively and thoughtfully, rather than "confronting" her about it, which will quickly destroy your relationship's potential.

Yes, full rehabilitation is possible. Many people give up drugs, drinking and other abusive or anti-social activities. They get into them when they're young, and then they recover. They can even turn out to be a better person. A person who's been through recovery has learned compassion, they've developed soul, they have depth. With you, on the other hand, these may be untested qualities.

Since she's done nothing to make you doubt her rehabilitation, and you obviously care for her, it's time for the thoughtful part. First of all, you haven't really been dating long enough to think you fully know each other. "Time will tell" applies to any relationship, but in your case there's a valid question of whether her rehabilitation will stick. Only time, and your supportive help, will answer that.

If her turnaround proves stable and lasting, and you stay with or marry the "new her," your forgiveness of her past will have to be strong, because you'll have to live with the reputation of the "old her." You'll have to be prepared to defend her without hesitation from the most vicious gossip. Read "The Steps To Commitment" in my Library and see if you can visualize going through those with this woman.

If you think this through clearly and decide that you're prepared to go forward, then show some sensitivity. Remind yourself that without the life she had, she'd be someone entirely different and you maybe wouldn't love her at all. Then forgive her past totally and love her unconditionally for the loving person she is today.

The past can't be changed, and while others may bring it up in the future, you should never do so. Above all, you shouldn't let it ruin the present.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

Im a 16 year ol girl from Norway. My girlfriend and I are interested in the same boy. I have been unhappy in Love with my last boyfriend for the last 9 months, and this is the first time Iv had feelings for anyone else. My girlfriend was just dumped by her boyfriend, and I think she also like this boy. Im not sure which one of us he likes. What should we do?

Dear Unhappy Norwegian Girls,

You've both had bad relationships. She just got dumped and you've been unhappy in love for the last nine months. now you both want the same guy. You two are going from one destructive relationship to another.

Stop seeing any men for a while. Then, talk to your friend and see if you can decide between you which one of you should get the guy. If you can't agree, then you should both give him up to save your friendship.

Guys will come and go, and there will be many more for you both. Girlfriends can be yours for a lifetime. Right now, I'd say a good girlfriend is worth a lot more than some guy you aren't sure is interested in either one of you.

Wishing you happiness,

Dr. Tracy

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