How I Told My Desi Parents I was Dating

We asked British Asians how they told their Desi parents that they are dating, a question which revealed some interesting findings.

How I Told My Desi Parents I was Dating f

“We must move on from the olden times."

Telling your parents you are dating or that you are in a long term relationship can be daunting, but telling your Desi parents is a whole other story!

The days of getting a ‘matchmaker’ setting you up with someone is ancient history. In present-day society it is much more common we find our own partners.

Online dating has become a more common practice, where lots of British Asians find their life partners on dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, Dil Mil or Shaddi.com just to name a few.

Even with this new way of dating, we still find it hard to tell our parents.

We look into the reasons why and spoke to British Asians from South Asian communities to gain some insight.

So, why do we not tell our Desi parents we are dating?

We take a look at finding some answers to this question.

Key Reasons

How I Told My Desi Parents I was Dating - reasons

As the new generation of British Asians emerges, it seems that from the early 2000s onwards, we still find it difficult to be open with our parents.

We explore some of the reasons why this tends to be the case.

Long List or Needs to Fit a ‘Criteria’

Dating is hard enough but imagine having a strict criterion from your parents and wanting to know every detail even before you have met!

Expectations are a major aspect of what Desi parents want when it comes to finding a partner and they can cover many aspects of life.

The criteria could be a long list which can include occupation, education, job history, looks, height and family background.

Without a doubt, caste and religion also play an important role in this list.

Therefore, dating is not as straightforward as it seems when it comes to Desi parents.

Shame on the Family

In the Desi world, it was seen that monogamy and arranged marriages were the only options. However, in the western world, this isn’t the case.

A lot of British Asians date and even have sex before marriage, however, it has always been something that is kept a secret and has an association with ‘shame’ – especially for girls.

Shame is brought onto the family if you are seen with a boy.

Due to shame being brought on a family, there is often the need to hide the life of dating because of the fears of this shame.

The fear of gossip and ‘what people will say’ often can replace the happiness of a couple if they are caught dating due to this shame.

Shame, honour and ‘izzat’ all play a role as to how Desi parents can react, if and when they are told that a child of theirs has been dating.

There is also a difference in how mothers and fathers react as well. Fathers tend to be a bigger challenge if it becomes an issue related to shame.

Pressure to Get Married

If all is well and you are dating the right person, the requirement of getting married straight away is another added pressure which escalates.

When you are dating as a British Asian, your parents feel that you must marry quickly because although you have found your life partner; it is the best way to reduce gossip and rumours about you ‘dating’.

As soon as Desi parents get involved, you find control can shift very quickly from dating and enjoying time together to engagement dates being set and preparations starting.

However, sometimes dating doesn’t always mean you are suited to each other which is what you find out when you date or get to know each other.

Hence, many relationships are kept a secret for a very long time and possibly remain this way, especially, if they never progress towards a marriage.

There are many young British Asians who will have dated but then not married. Thus, highlighting unless the person is the ‘one’, it’s best to keep it a secret.

Therefore, the difference in mindset between younger British Asians and parents means that it is best to secretly date until you are ready to marry and then tell the family.

Mother and Daughter Experience

To get an insight, DESIblitz spoke to a mother and daughter duo from Birmingham. Pam* (mother) was born and raised in India and came to the UK to get married when she was only 18.

Ammy* (daughter), was born and raised in the UK, went to university and works in account management.

Ammy, aged 27, has a very different lifestyle compared to her mother at the same age. By the time Pam was 27, she was married, had three children and was working to support her family.

The contrast in both generations is what can be viewed as changes in the life of British Asians through the decades and the influence of western ways.

Ammy

How old were you when you told your parents that you dating?

“Around 20-21.”

What was their reaction?

“It was okay as mum had gone through a lot with our older brother so her mind was more open.

“I told mum I was going to date this guy I met at uni, however, it didn’t workout.

“However, this opened her mind moving forwards and I could quite openly discuss my dating life with her.

“When we were younger though, mum didn’t want us having any dating experiences. She was strictly against boyfriends whilst we were at school.

“I think when I was at uni and she met some of my male friends she realised that I was getting older and was able to open up more about me dating and settling down.”

Were you nervous to tell them?

“Yes! It’s always nerve-wracking telling your parents big decisions in life and this would be the first time I ever spoke to mum about boys.

“However, luckily mum always treated us more as friends which meant that she was really open to me wanting to date.

“I was quite surprised at how she reacted so calmly but it made me feel at ease. It did make me nervous if my relationship did not work out but that is life’s learning curves.”

What advice do you give to people wanting to tell their parents that they are dating?

“It’s really hard and scary but you should be honest with them. I am quite lucky that I had an open mum, however, I know that not everyone’s parents are.

“I would say is that our mum had to adapt a lot coming from India, so I know other parents are also capable of adapting.

“I am sure if you are open and honest they will come round, even if it takes a while they will do what makes you happy.

“It may also be easier if you talk to an aunt or uncle first that you could confide in that may give you some good advice on how to approach your parents.

“They are our parents, so they’ll always want the best for us.”

Pam 

How old were your children when they told you that they were dating?

“I have 3 children, all mid-20s now. My eldest son, and two daughters when they told me they were around 18 –20 years old.

“To be honest some of my kids didn’t tell me, I found out myself!”

What was your reaction?

“I was shocked! I couldn’t believe it. I always encouraged my children to study! So, when I found out they were dating at the ages of 18, 19 I thought it was too young.

“When they were younger, my kids kept their relationships from me, as it’s frowned upon and as parents, we want the best match!

“However, now that my kids are older, I now understand the importance of dating and getting to know the person before taking a big step like marriage.”

Why do you think in Desi culture children are afraid to tell their parents they are dating?

“Desi parents still have an old fashioned mentality and are overprotective of their children.

“They also want their children to get an education and career first before they start dating.

“In our culture, we had mainly arranged marriages and ‘love’ marriages were always looked at as a negative thing.

“I was always told that arranged marriages were the only way. I think this rubbed off onto my kids as when they got older, and into relationships, they hid them.

“I was shocked at first, but after learning and developing myself I have learnt that I have to trust my kids’ choice and let them make a few mistakes.”

What advice do you give to parents whose children have told them that they are dating?

“We must move on from the olden times. Parents must be educated on this subject especially who are living with their parents.

“We should be able to trust our and give them education and discussion on how to safely date. Our children should be able to speak openly about who they are dating.

“Parents should not put on too much pressure on them for marriage.

“Let them learn about each other’s compatibilities.”

“Today’s generation has too much choice but not enough commitment so, therefore, it’s harder for them who are looking for serious relationships.

“My youngest is dating and I tell her that it is like trial and error sometimes. You win some and sometimes you lose some.

“We need to learn to go with the flow. Let our children make mistakes so they can learn from them. Be there for them when they need you and let them be independent.

Telling Desi Parents as Girls

How I Told My Desi Parents I was Dating - couple

To understand how difficult it is for girls compared to boys, DESIblitz spoke with Kiran*, 27, and Tanisha*, 27, from Wolverhampton, to hear their dating experiences and how they told their parents.

Tanisha

How old were you when you told your parents that you are dating?

“I think I was 24 after my cousin made a joke about me being on Tinder to my mum. However, I don’t mention any kind of dating with my dad.

“I think we both like to keep that separate.”

What was their reaction?

“My mum was happy that I was actually going out and trying to find someone, at 24 she started to worry that I haven’t found anyone yet.

“However, if I was a lot younger, 16 for example she would not be happy if I was dating or had a boyfriend.” 

Were you nervous to tell them?

“Not nervous, just a little awkward as I’ve never had an open conversation about my dating life.

“To be honest I rarely speak about it now unless my mum asks.

“I do go on a few dates and wouldn’t want to tell my family about every guy I meet, as they’ll probably judge my choice in guys.

“However, I think it’s down to luck and choice. If I found the right guy or had a boyfriend for a while then I would be more than happy to tell my family.”

If you had siblings did it make it harder or easier for you to tell your parents? 

“I don’t think it made it easier or more difficult, however, now my sister is engaged. I think the pressure lies on me a bit more than before to find someone.”

What advice do you give to people wanting to tell their parents that they are dating?

“If you can it’s nice to have an open conversation with your family about your dating life, but only when you’re ready and comfortable to talk to your family about it.

“I think it’s generally nice to talk about dating if that’s with your friends or family. Everyone’s different and I personally prefer to talk to my friends about it.”

Kiran

How old were you when you told your parents that you are dating?

“I don’t think I ever told them. Dating was just not a thing growing up, almost like it didn’t even exist.

“Then all of sudden there were questions of settling down and getting married mid-20s (zero to 100 real fast I know!)

“I have told my mum I’m going on dates in my 20s here and there, but stopped recently as she gets too excited after a first date!”

What was their reaction?

“My mum gets super excited and assumes if he’s nice enough there’s a wedding to prepare for!

“I don’t think she grasps how online app dating works and how casual and fleeting first dates can be.” 

Were you nervous to tell them?

“Yes, as we haven’t had many conversations about relationships and dating growing up, I had no idea about their views.”

If you had siblings did it make it harder or easier for you to tell your parents? 

“Easier. My brother is older and he’s open about who he’s dating. It doesn’t feel like a path less travelled that way if I wanted to approach the topic.”

What advice do you give to people wanting to tell their parents that they are dating?

“Try to jump into just having a conversation with them. Even if they don’t agree or react in a negative way towards your dating life.

“It tends to get easier the more you communicate with them and hopefully, they can understand you more and appreciate you keeping them in the loop.”

Telling Desi Parents as Boys

How I Told My Desi Parents I was Dating - boys

To find out if only girls feel the pressure, we also asked a few young men about their experiences when it came to revealing that they were dating to their parents.

Nish

Nish*, 25, is from Birmingham, working as an accountant.

How old were you when you told your parents that you are dating?

“I was 23 years old.”

What was their reaction?

“Mum understood it and was happy to hear me doing it, dad was a bit against it.”

Were you nervous to tell them?

“I was mad nervous but I was running out of excuses when coming home!”

What advice do you give to people wanting to tell their parents that they are dating?

“Make your intentions clear with the person first, say it early on that marriage is the goal and then tell your parents.

“That way the whole ‘dating to marry’ concept works better for more traditional families.”

Sameer

Sameer*, 26, is from Warwick, working as an IT specialist.

How old were you when you told your parents that you are dating?

“I had just turned 25. It was soon after my birthday.”

What was their reaction?

“Both of my parents were a little quiet after they absorbed what I had told them.

“My mother questioned me if I was being ‘good’ and was not doing anything ‘silly’.

“My father did not look impressed but knew that we were living in a different era and had to accept what I told them.

“After some time, they both came round to the idea and often heard me speaking to my girlfriend on the phone.”

Were you nervous to tell them?

“Yes. I was very nervous but I just felt I needed them to know.

“I still remember the day. We were all in the kitchen after having dinner and I spoke out saying, I had something to tell them.

“They looked worried but after I told them, it sort of looked as if they were relieved that it was not something else.

“I do wonder what they thought I was going to tell them!”

What advice do you give to people wanting to tell their parents that they are dating?

“I think you have to be the judge of your own actions and destiny. Most likely most Asians date in secret and are very scared of saying anything to their parents because of the fear of negative reactions.

“But telling them can only make it easier for you when it comes to choosing someone you want to marry.

“So, finding the right time is important, especially, if you are in a serious relationship.

“I’ve now introduced my girlfriend to my parents and they can see that I am happy.

“And yes, they have questioned if I am going to marry her! Which is the next challenge I have with them…”

Overall times have changed, the modern world has provided the freedom to allow young British Asians to be more open with their Desi parents.

It can be hard to discuss your dating life with your Desi parents but in the long run, it means you will have a better relationship with them.

With dating apps, social media and virtual dates it means Desi people can connect and get to know each other before marriage. This leads to relationships which can offer an insight into partners.

Desi parents are getting used to the idea of dating, which alludes to the hope that the next generation of British Asians from the South Asian communities can be more open and honest without the pressures of marriage.


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Kirandeep currently works in marketing and does photography and writing in her spare time. Her passions are fashion, travel and beauty! Her motto is: “The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.”

*Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.




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