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The Desi Battleground of Dating

By November 28, 2018 December 18th, 2018 74 Comments

By: Hamida Begum

As we grow older and have more confidence to think for ourselves, the damage of toxic parenting and dysfunctional families is not easy to forget. Often our trauma is internalised within us and creeps back every now and then. When it comes to relationships or our choice of friends, we tend to push ourselves towards things that are detrimental to us. We put ourselves in familiar situations, situations we have been in before.  So what does this mean for desi people, who have been surrounded or raised by emotionally immature people? I see the impacts of traumatic upbringings reflected in the dating patterns of myself, and my friends. For the desi people who do date, we almost always fall for toxic people who demonstrate the lack of emotional engagement we had in our childhood. This does not mean that we are self-pitying people who bring conflict upon ourselves. Rather, we surround ourselves with what we are used to. Children who come from dysfunctional families, in their adulthood can end up with partners who mirror the behavioural traits our desi parents had. Even though our parents were technically present, they offered little comfort, help and protection. Although I do not intend to discourage or discredit the vast number of desi parents who have met the emotional needs of their children, not everyone has had this privilege.


The desi proverb of ‘what will the people say?’ is only a miniscule which epitomizes the major flaw in desi parenting; being more concerned about the approval of others than the happiness of their own children. The flaws in desi parenting is also a gendered issue. Sons are valued more (in some households), and trusted more, given more independence. Sons drinking, smoking, dating, and committing petty crimes doesn’t damage the family’s honor. Daughters going out with friends for coffee does. Desi daughters are shamed for their every breath, and it leaves them feeling like burdens. Almost every desi girl has wished she was born a boy, at one point. So she could go out, wear what she wanted, talk to who she wanted to, so she didn’t have to clean the house and serve guests when they came, so her parents loved her more.


I often hear my friends or even myself saying “Why do I always go for the wrong people? Why do I find the nice ones boring? Why am I not attracted to people who have the ability to provide a healthy relationship?” But, sometimes I take a step back and wonder if those of us who come from dysfunctional families have ever had that? Do we even know what that feels like? Why do we find it easier to stay in uncompromising, or unstable relationships? Why is it that we find more reasons to stay in situations where the mood is largely determined by the person we’re dating? In many desi households, the mood of the house was determined by the parents and as we are so used to this, we often subjugate ourselves to other people’s wishes, therefore, find it harder to leave things that are below what we deserve.

Why do we find it easier to stay in uncompromising, or unstable relationships?

Sometimes, children of emotionally immature parents often repress their anger or blame themselves for being angry. This has a crucial effect on our approaches to dating or finding ‘the one’. When we feel guilty about expressing our emotions, how can we realistically approach relationships, and love in general?


We have been socialised to not question our parents parenting for fear of belittling them. I completely understand this, but I also understand that parents can make mistakes. In the Western world, our value of existence is determined by our proximity to ‘whiteness’. The supposedly ‘European’ invention of democracy and liberal thinking have been interpreted as a benchmark of success in the world and as something the non-White nations should look up to. When our desi parents raise us, the Western world observes it as a paradox to ‘White’ parenting.

The supposedly ‘European’ invention of democracy and liberal thinking have been interpreted as a benchmark of success

 When we say we had a typical desi upbringing, connotations of violence, sexism and religious tyranny is perceived from the Western lens, in comparison to the ‘White’ upbringing of liberal views, healthy conversations and acceptance. Although both are stereotypes and range vastly from one family to another, we feel guilty, almost as though we are ungrateful to our parents who have struggled in terms of migrating and settling in a world which has never welcomed them on a racial and socio-economic scale. It is important, for ourselves and for our future relationships with others, whether it be platonic or romantic, to understand that although our parents often want the best for us, their methods of achieving that is more complex.


We can start to recover by adjusting our own toxic mindset. When dating, we need to pick up on red flags a lot quicker and not gaslight ourselves in fear of rejection. If the communication and love are not reciprocated, what more of a sign do we need to know that something is unhealthy? It’s easier said than done but healing and recovering from a traumatic childhood is so important for ourselves and for our future. I appreciate the hard work desi parents do for us, but realising that they have made mistakes does not discourage this. Rather than allowing others to control us, we must have the desire to be in control of ourselves.e should not forget what has happened, nor should we blame ourselves. In desi culture, it is somewhat a norm to be physically beaten and emotionally violated. This is what we often consider to be ‘typical desi parenting’. This stereotypes plenty of desi parents as being violent and upholds the colonial view of savage brown person. Although this is a common understanding of desi parents amongst desi children, it should in no way be accepted nor should it be normalised for comedic purposes.


In desi culture, it is somewhat a norm to be physically beaten and emotionally violated

We often heal ourselves through humour and laughing at ourselves for our ‘typical’ upbringing. But, do we laugh at the toxic and unfulfilling relationships that we drive ourselves into as a result of toxic parenting? We fail in seeking therapy and emotional help for our traumatic upbringings due to it being so common. We think that because everyone else has gone through it, why should we be so serious about it? We promise ourselves that we will not inflict the same type of parenting upon our children. We do not promise to heal ourselves first.

Hamida Begum is  a British-Bangladeshi from London that loves music, anime, video games and anything related to intersectional feminism and left-wing politics. She is currently studying my Masters in Migration and Development and have a degree in Politics.


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