As an Iranian-American (IA), I know how hard dating can be within our community. Generally speaking, without considering different cultural perspectives, dating can be a hard process. When we look at how cultures view dating the issue grows in its complexity. Some couples who are from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds spend time in premarital and marital counseling in order to work through different aspects of their respective cultures in order to better understand how they can affect the relationship. For example, you may be dating an Iranian and find yourself facing many obstacles that come along with the Iranian culture but not being able to discuss it with others. Not only do your ethnic and cultural identity play a huge role in your relationship, but it can also influence your selection of a partner and your dating patterns.
Some examples are:
Experiencing disapproval and/or negative messages from one or both parents, and/or family members regarding who you choose to date or your current partner.
Being Iranian but having to take the religious pole test–ensuring that the person you date identifies with the same religion.
Navigating through independent discovery while wanting to stay connected to your family. Iranians normally identify themselves within a collectivistic culture and by its nature it can be difficult to distance yourself from your family and their views. At the same time it is important to establish healthy boundaries that allow for self-discovery.
Finding it difficult to understand and balance traditional Iranian thought within an American cultural context.
Even with respect to my own cultural background I find it difficult at times to openly discuss issues relating to relationships and mental health. The stigma around mental health within the Iranian community can hinder seeking out help. I am aware of how the Iranian-American culture affects and influences dating. Let’s actually talk about the understood “taboo”.
Therapy can provide a safe space where one can speak openly and honestly, receive support ,and seek out guidance in establishing clear expectations of what one desires. Talking about these issues doesn’t come naturally for most of us and it is when we begin to step out of the way it has been, and start to move towards how we want to be, that change and growth occurs.
Negeen Moussavian is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #129033