Book Excerpt

Dating the Ethnic Man


Walk around any major North American city and you will see couples made up of different racial backgrounds romantically gazing into each other’s eyes, expressing their pleasure in dating each other. Daily, you are inundated with images of people from different races, seemingly happy together. While eating breakfast, you switch on the television and find popular networks glamorizing celebrities in interracial relationships. At work, you learn of an office romance between the new blond in high heels and the well-dressed executive in matching turban. During lunch, you notice the Japanese owner of your favourite sushi restaurant openly flirting with his Caucasian waitresses. After work, you pick up the New York Times and read that cross-cultural dating is on the rise. You decide to head downtown for dinner. Strolling down Main Street, you notice what’s playing at the local theatre—The White Masai, director Hermine Huntgeburth’s interpretation of Corinne Hoffman’s bestseller, in which a Swiss-German tourist falls in love with Lemalian, a Masai warrior from the Samburu tribe, in Kenya. Going to bed that night, you close your eyes, comforted by the idea that multiculturalism is alive and well. Sweet dreams.
 Nightmares, however, are what my clients experience in their romantic relationships. I have seen many clients suffering from what I call “romantic culture clash,” whereby Western individualistic (Caucasian) and Eastern collectivistic (ethnic) romantic values collide. This clash causes numerous relationship problems, frustration, misunderstanding and defeat—all of which are regularly expressed by my multicultural clients:

My black boyfriend criticizes everything about my race. What’s that about?” (Caucasian female)
“I’ve got a thing for oriental men. My friends think I’m weird. Is it okay to be attracted to a specific race?” (Caucasian female)
“Though my Persian boyfriend says he loves me, he refuses to introduce me to his family. He’s not gay, and he assures me that he’s not married. I don’t understand what the problem is.” (Caucasian female)
“My parents didn’t understand that, in Canadian culture, having sex with a woman didn’t mean that you had to marry her.” (Korean man)
“In my culture, even dating is frowned upon, but I’ve met an amazing Caucasian woman I want to go out with. I need support if I’m going to do this.” (Pakistani male)

  Such concerns are common on the international dating scene, where interracial dating thrives. This book is designed to give Caucasian women a better understanding of the issues involved in dating the ethnic man so that they have more control over their romantic destiny.
  I believe that if there’s a problem in Caucasian women’s relationships with ethnic men, it’s not because there’s something wrong with these women; it’s because no one ever taught them about the nature of the ethnic man—until now!
  While some relationship guides teach women how to manipulate their man to gain short-term privileges, this book takes an open, honest, non-judgemental approach to helping Caucasian women determine whether their relationships with an ethnic partner are best for them, long term.
  While other relationship books may group the qualities of all men into one generic category, Dating the Ethnic Man dissects men, uncovering the differences between the typical Caucasian male, who follows the individualistic culture, and the ethnic man, who typically follows a collectivistic way of life. An awareness of these differences is essential for Caucasian women who wish to romantically engage with ethnic men.
  This book exposes the truth about the ethnic man, revealing his family dynamics, his cultural expectations and, most importantly, his intent in dating you, a Caucasian woman. In reading the many different true stories about multicultural relationships, in this book, you will gain more insight into some of the questions you may have been asking yourself:

  • Who is the ethnic man?
  • How can I recognize him?
  • How is he different from the typical Caucasian man?
  • Why does he date Caucasian women?
  • Why is he attractive to me, a Caucasian woman?
  • What are the challenges in dating the ethnic man?
  • Are there solutions to the problems?
  • How can I test his sincerity to me and to our relationship?

  Dating the Ethnic Man is the next-best thing to therapy: it is authentic, practical and based on real examples from real people. It takes a delicate subject and explores it in a practical, sensitive manner. My belief, supported by over 12 years of practice, is that Caucasian women date ethnic men in the same way they date Caucasian men; they use the same language, actions and references. For example, while Caucasian women believe that love is a prerequisite to marriage, what they fail to realize is that, for many ethnic men whose culture favours arranged marriage, love is expected to follow marriage. It soon becomes apparent that mixed relationships demand cultural sensitivity and openness toward learning about one’s partner and his or her culture. In order for you to commune with your ethnic partner, you must be open to exploring and embracing the differences and not resist the unknown.
  Let’s consider another paradox: while sex with a Caucasian man typically creates more intimacy between you both, having premarital sex with an ethnic man often creates an emotional chasm. The ethnic man, though motivated by sex, quickly loses respect for his partner if she engages in premarital sex with him, as he then considers her to be ‘impure’ and unworthy of marriage. This book will address this and many other related issues, offering suggestions on how to help ‘free’ your partner from his cultural restraints. The lessons contained within will help him re-assess his cultural take on sex and dating and embrace the equality that needs to exist in a relationship with a Western woman.
  To the Westerner, the foundation or common denominator that glues people together is intimacy, which is normally associated with both partners openly and honestly sharing their ideas, thoughts and passion with each other. This type of connectedness would typically bring two lovers closer together in emotional bliss. To the typical ethnic man, however, intimacy only comes after he has achieved happiness for his family. In other words, his family’s happiness takes precedence over his and his partner’s.
  In speaking about the ethnic man, I am referring generally to any non-white man who is influenced by a collectivistic culture. More specifically, he is a first-, second- or third-generation immigrant to the West who lives according to Eastern perceptions, worldview, culture and religion. This book offers many solutions and possible scenarios relating to the type of ethnic person Caucasians should date. Those who refuse to be victimized by, or to blindly adhere to, the pressures of their family to conform to cultural expectations are sometimes referred to as ‘bananas’, ‘Oreos’ or ‘coconuts’1. These are the men who are able to dissociate from their cultural ‘taboos’ and accept the individual freedom of choice that needs to be present when dating someone Caucasian.
  In accordance with this definition, I, as a second-generation immigrant from Fiji Islands, am a ‘coconut’. I was raised in a traditional Muslim home and was expected to comply with all the rules of the traditional ethnic community. While at home, I was the ideal son, helping out around the house, respecting my parents, taking care of my younger brother, never swearing and never showing any interest in having sex before marriage. When among my peers, however, I behaved like a typical Westerner, following an individualistic lifestyle. Growing up with peers in similar circumstances, I gained first-hand insights as to why the stereotypical ethnic man cannot and does not commit to his Caucasian partner.
  My personal insights led to my career as a therapist, educator, and advice columnist, specializing in cross-cultural relationships. Specifically, I work with intercultural individuals and couples (which include interracial, cross-cultural and interfaith pairings). My specialized knowledge comes largely from discussions with my clients and students. They have taught me about gender relations, intergenerational dynamics and misunderstandings, and child-rearing issues across cultures. For many years, I’ve pondered cross-cultural dating, parental attitudes, the pros and cons of arranged marriage, what place religious beliefs have in romantic relationships, conflict resolution, and how to create a better romantic relationship.
  A few years after I hung out my professional shingle, I began to get calls from individuals and couples who were in cross-cultural relationships and wanted a therapist who understood the people, family dynamics and cultural expectations of different cultures. Though my clients include people of all sexual orientations, cultures, religions and backgrounds, I have found that, because of my rare understanding of multicultural dynamics, those individuals and couples in cross-cultural relationships find my approach most helpful. Eventually, I became known in the counselling profession and by the media as the ‘go-to’ guy when it came to multicultural relationship issues, and as the only person providing “ethnic sex therapy” (Maclean’s magazine, cover, November 26, 2007).
  I owe much to my clients and students who have agreed to me using their personal stories in this book. Their stories are real, but their identities have been concealed. Every day at work, I am faced with the realities that form the foundation of this book. I see individuals who claim to love each other, but complain that their relationship is devoid of intimacy and commitment. I hear from Caucasian women who cannot understand why their relationship with an ethnic man has to be a game of hide-and-seek with regard to his family. I hear from women who are frustrated and resentful because they feel they must repress their outgoing personality, otherwise their ethnic partner will see them as being overly flirtatious with other men. I see ethnic men who are unaware that they criticize everything about their Caucasian partner’s race. I hear stories from Caucasian women who seek closure after being dumped by their ethnic partner, suddenly and for no apparent reason. I also hear from the partners who secretly date these women, knowing all the while that the relationship is doomed. I see individuals from cross-cultural parents, who never bond with either culture and are unable to form any type of personal identity or sense of belonging. They all come through my office doors because, despite the many barriers placed in their way, they intrinsically feel that there is hope. They yearn to understand.
  You probably have your own story to tell and may be in a relationship with an ethnic man, facing issues foreign to you. Or you may have been in a relationship that ended poorly and are seeking insights as a form of closure. Or you may be interested in striking up a relationship with a particular man of ethnic origin, but are cautious, wondering about the chances of it working. Whatever your reasons for reading this book, the case histories and discussions reported in the following chapters will give you an in-depth understanding of the challenges inherent in multicultural relationships.
  Dating the Ethnic Man enables you to partake in an open, honest, non-judgmental, reflective and soul-searching experience. It encourages you to question your motives as well as those of your partner, and it allows for personal enlightenment through fearlessly challenging the traditional cultural pressures that intervene and pose a threat to what could potentially be a nurturing and passionate union. By answering the ‘Questions for contemplation’(at the end of most chapters) and by completing the Compatibility test(Chapter 30), you will gain valuable insights into the dynamics of intercultural dating.
  In working through this book, you are committing to a process of discovery and understanding that will enable you to gain control of your romantic life. Of all the many factors (age, education, beauty, background) that determine who you would like to date and eventually marry, commitment to the relationship is pivotal. Without it, you are in for a rocky and ultimately unfulfilling ride; with it, you can enjoy a journey rich in culture, community and cooperation.

1 In this context, ‘banana’ (yellow on the outside and white on the inside) refers to an Asian man or woman who has adopted Western culture; ‘coconut’ (brown on the outside and white on the inside) refers to Middle-Eastern and South Asian men or women living a Western lifestyle; and ‘Oreo’ (black on the outside and white inside) refers to a black person who has adopted a Western way of life. These individuals choose not to play the game the way their parents want them to.


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