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Author Topic: life, marriage, self-esteem and sex
eryn_smiles
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Hi guys,
Im 23 and pretty new here although I've been reading the main site for a while and I think its great. I just wanted to talk a bit about my issues and was hoping i could hear other peoples' thoughts about things.

This year hasnt been the easiest time for me. Ive been taking antidepressants for some months and still i cry every day. But things are better than they used to be for sure.

I come from a conservative south asian family but we live in the west. My parents have gotten to the stage of looking for a partner for me. I feel so uneasy about this, but when i bring it up with them they just discount my concerns. I have never had a boyfriend or girlfriend or anything. I've never kissed anyone romantically or even touched anyone in a romantic way. Part of the reason is that my family wouldnt approve but another part of it is fear of rejection and fear of getting myself into trouble. I also think its because im just not attractive to people. I feel bad about my body and cover it up. I feel i dont want anyone to really see it properly. I am so careful in that i dont drink or go to clubs or wear revealing clothes or even dance with anyone. But its getting lonely being so careful.

i know that when my parents find this man for me, perhaps it will help my loneliness. I hope so much that he'll be gentle and patient with me because im scared of showing my body to him too. Another complication is that ive really started to notice myself being attracted to women. Im way too scared to make a move, but when i masturbate and reach orgasm im always wishing i was with a woman. i find myself having sexual feelings and masturbating alot these days but afterwards i really feel sad that i have no-one to even think about sharing these things with. i dont know what i will do if im not attracted to him, could i make myself more attracted? More importantly, what if hes not attracted to me? how will we make this work?

As an aside, im studying to be a doctor. Overall it really makes me happy. But one thing that strikes me is how much of a fraud i feel like when i talk to people more than ten years younger than me about safe sex and condoms and contraceptive pills.....i feel so ridiculous advising people about safe sex when in my heart i dont know the first thing about being happy sexually. Oh dear, im crying.

thanks for reading this far, any comments much appreciated

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Heather
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I have to say, if you're routinely giving women under the age of 13 BCPs, I'd advise you check out literature on hormonal methods, younger women and bones mass. But that's just an aside.

You're primarily asking here about arranged marriage, something which is, I'm afraid, really far afield of our expertise around here. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea how I'd advise anyone to deal with arranged marriage issues because it is just so, so far outside my sphere of experience, professionally or personally.

But for certain, if you suspect or know that you're lesbian, while I understand it's a huge cultural conflict, I'd strongly advise you to do what you can to put off any relationships with men that aren't elective for you. Finding yourself trapped in a marriage with someone who is of a gender that you're not attracted to -- and to whom you have any obligation to be sexual with -- generally has pretty negative results on a person.

To boot, you are a legal adult, and arranged marriage is NOT something you have to agree to. I get that not agreeing may mean anything from a rift with your family to them disowning you, but if it is not something you really want, I'd suggest you consider breaking from that tradition.

None of this, too, means you can't have friends. Friends to go out with, friends to talk to, friends so you aren't so lonely. What is your support base like in terms of friends?

Too, you don't have to feel like a fraud in your practice when it comes to sex. Plenty of doctors give people surgeries all the time they have never had themselves and can't emotionally understand (heck, welcome to most of the history of women's healthcare). ALL the time. So, if when you're giving this advice, you simply are not claiming to have experience you don't, I don't see an issue. Advising patients of how to do things for their health that you know, academically, are appropriate and sound is enough as a doctor: you don't have to know how it works for yourself, even though it can obviously be helpful when you do, you know?

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eryn_smiles
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thanks Heather

Of course with women under 13 I would first explore their reasons for starting sexual activity so early and start by recommending barrier methods.

I do have 4 or 5 close friends at the moment. I see them not as often as I'd like to because of hospital. But they are what really keep me going these days. I talk to them about work stress and marriage but not about feelings for women. They too are pretty conservative.

I am well aware that i cannot be coerced into marriage. But i love and need my family so much. And i dont want them to be ashamed of me. Homosexuality is still illegal back home where most of the family still lives and i am certainly no activist. please dont judge me for this. what i really want is to feel more positive and hopeful about this marriage and to be happy being intimate with my husband. i am wondering what i can do to make this a reality.

I understand what youre saying about advising patients based on my academic knowledge. I guess it was just wishful thinking and impatience on my part that I could be more experienced with all of this.

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Heather
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Hey, no judgment here. It's still hard enough to be queer and out even in more progressive circles and culture: I'm entirely sympathetic towards people in very conservative circles or communities.

But if you are gay, then chances are that sex with a male husband is not something you can somehow make be something happy. You say you're attracted to women, but you haven't said if you are attracted to men or not, so I can't really get a full picture of your status here.

Obviously, too, being happy with someone sexually is about a lot of things. It's about feeling some sexual chemistry, about feeling safe with that person, about you and that person being responsive, compassionate and creative partners with one another, and you and that person liking and caring about each other, including both of you WANTING to have sex with that person. We generally can't make ourselves want to be sexual with someone: we really either do or we don't. Certainly, our feelings sometimes change over time, so someone we didn't want to have sex with at one time, we may want to later, and vice-versa.

Like I said, arranged marriage and adjusting to it is really out of my ken. I'm a very western feminist, so you and I are likely very different people in this department with very different backgrounds. Heck, personally, I don't even do or want marriage at all.

But this is an international site, so someone else may fall upon this post who is more well-versed with this issue, and/or does have more personal experience or understanding of how it all works.

But it does sound like you could, at the very least, use a friend or two who are a bit more diverse, and who you really could talk to about whatever you wanted, without worrying about being in the closet? How about any other medical students you might know?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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eryn_smiles
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I am attracted to both women and men, but for women it is stronger. Can i ask, is it possible to really know who you are attracted to without experiencing any kind of sexual contact with other people? I know that what we think about when pleasuring ourselves is not necessarily what we want in real life.

What i really have doubts about is how i will be attracted to someone that has been picked out for me. I hope so much that i'll feel safe with him because i dont feel safe with many people.

Medical school is pretty diverse. There are a few people i suspect are gay or bisexual. But there isnt anyone i can think of who is really openly out. I think our clinical environment is not always as inclusive of minorities as it should be. It seems safer to blend in. I have seriously thought about going along to the GLBT club at uni but am not sure what i would say if it somehow got back to my parents. I've also noticed that almost all of its members are western and white (no offence!) and im not sure i'd really relate.

thank you though, for letting me get this out here. i really respect and admire feminists and know that i wouldnt be a student doctor today if not for them. i hope that in my practice at least, i will be able to help women and present a full range of choices.

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Heather
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quote:
Can i ask, is it possible to really know who you are attracted to without experiencing any kind of sexual contact with other people? I know that what we think about when pleasuring ourselves is not necessarily what we want in real life.
Well, heterosexuals sure think we can. [Smile] But really, to some degree, sure we can. We don't just have fantasy to draw on: we notice who we're attracted to in daily life, who we feel like we'd want to pursue relationships with, what feels right for us. Too, deciding what group of people we're attracted to by sexual experiences with just a couple people in that group also only tells us so much. I mean, I know for a fact that my preference (I personally identify as a bisexual dyke) is to be with women, but my partner of the last couple years whom I adore is male. The fact that I enjoy being with him doesn't mean I'd prefer men, you know? And had I had one or two female partners with whom my experiences weren't satisfying or good only would have meant I wasn't so great with THOSE individuals, not women as a whole. Make sense?

quote:
What i really have doubts about is how i will be attracted to someone that has been picked out for me. I hope so much that i'll feel safe with him because i dont feel safe with many people.
Knowing so little about arranged marriages, how much of a say do you get in this choice of person?

I also hear you with GLBT community and worries about being found out, and the fact that in many places, people in those communities are so infrequently minorities. A lot of that has to do with the fact that for most racial minorities, it is a LOT tougher to be queer and be out because of both intolerance within those communities as well as the fact that compounded minority (as in, both female and asian, or both asian and gay) is really hard, and our white culture sure doesn't make it any easier.

And of course. Like I said, I'm sorry there are parts of your issues I just can't speak to without talking out of my butt, but you're free to gab about this here as much as you like.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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eryn_smiles
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That does make sense. From the way i was brought up though, Im so unlikely to be having sexual experiences with more than one or two people during my life. Even if my family were not around, theres something i cant get over in my own mind. I guess my culture has driven into me that partnership is something that lasts a lifetime. I hope so much that it will be with someone i could adore.

My parents have a 'list' of potential people in mind. They are from the same ethnic group as us, have the same religion and caste, are close to me in age, have good jobs and professional qualifications, and come from "decent families" (!!) Then i meet them, and we see if we click. if we do click (over a period of months), we marry.

But heck there is so much pressure i feel from this. My aunts use me as a role model for their daughters. My parents send my photo to random people overseas. And i get the feeling that some of the interested parties are interested purely because of my future job. I hate the way that people are judged in my culture, i hate that a woman who becomes pregnant out of marriage can never marry. I hate how anyone who sees you in a mildly compromising position will nark to your parents supposedly in your best interests.

gosh listen to me whinge, sorry. its really not that bad. just needed to vent.

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Narwhal
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Hey, I don't think you're whinging at all. I'm trying to deal with a conservative family in which arranged marriages are the norm, too, so I think I see where you're coming from with that. [Smile] It's not compounded for me by any question over orientation, though I can imagine that that's really difficult for you!

It's sounding like it might help if you could get a break from some of this pressure over marriage--would it be possible to sit down with your parents and tell them that's not something you're ready to deal with right now? I don't know what you have in mind for those choices over the long term--obviously it's one thing if you want to try and make a marriage work, and quite another if that's not something you want to consider at all--but in the short run, if you can ease some of that pressure, and also establish that you get to have a say in these things, it might help you.

In any case, I wish you all the best [Smile]

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eryn_smiles
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Thank you Narwhal, yeah i am thinking of having a good talk to my parents about this when i head home. Before that though, i have to meet one man. I feel pretty nervous about it. Hope it goes ok. I think marriage is something i do want to make work in the long run but there are lots of other thoughts in my mind these days too. I think it really would help for me to feel like im controlling my own life to some extent.

Its nice to know im not alone with this conservative stuff.

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eryn_smiles
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This is horrible and embarrassing. The man I was supposed to meet stood me up. After my parents met his parents and liked them. What am i supposed to say to my parents? That the precious boy from the good family is a jerk? I know that I didnt really want to meet him anyway but the fact is that I've never gone out with anyone and i feel so unwanted and unattractive right now.

I do need a break from this mess. Nobody is telling me how this is supposed to work. Its not good for my self-esteem.

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LivingTree
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Being stood up sucks [Frown]

But remember, he hasn't met *you* yet, so it clearly can't be an expression of his opinion of you.

Maybe he's just as scared of arranged marriages. . .maybe he's realizing he's not heterosexual. . . maybe he's just a jerk. . . maybe something came up outside his control. . . maybe he's flaky. . . Whatever it is, it isn't about you.

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eryn_smiles
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thanks LivingTree, that helped.

I just need a little teary vent tonight. Hope its ok. On the one hand i feel pathetic that im so inexperienced at my age. That i've never even kissed anyone. I crave touch and I masturbate and even when im not doing it im thinking about it. I feel jealous of my friend who got engaged to her longterm partner recently and i hate that i feel jealous because she deserves every happiness. I want a loving partner very much and i think i have so much love saved up to give.

On the other hand i feel very scared about the arrangement my parents are making. Im scared that none of those men will want me and even if one does i wont be a good traditional wife like my mother. I crave sex very much but i dont even want to show a man my body. And im clearly not too successful at finding my own partners either. Why i am i scared even to hold someone's hand to dance? Why am i so suspicious if someone asks me for my number? Why cant i look a sexy woman in the eye and say something coherent when i spend all day at the hospital acting confident? Why cant i just like myself and see myself as an ok person instead of just crying like a loser that no-one will want.

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eryn_smiles
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I know that my situation is probably much different than many of yours and that there is a whole lot to read and reply to on these boards....but i was wondering if anyone had some advice for me about how to change my mindset. Sometimes these issues really get me down.

thank you

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Windy-La Raindrop
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I may not be from an Asian family, I may not be facing up to an arranged marriage, I may not be in any internal or external conflict over my sexual orientation, but I do know what it's like to be constantly scared. It took me forever to come out to my family because I was afraid; I was literally petrified to ask out the girl I was attracted to. And being that sort of opressively scared all the time tends to leak out into other parts of your life; it erodes your self-confidence and happiness. It is in no way a good or positive way to live.

So the only advice I can offer you is to try something that scares you. It doesn't have to be something huge. But just try it: talk to a potential friend at the hospital, say something to that sexy woman you see. And even if the coworker snubs you or the words that come out of your mouth aren't even close to coherent, hopefully you can take what you've learned and apply that when you try again. And hey, there's always the option that things turn out well too. [Wink] It's easy to forget that, living with the fears that you do.

I wish you luck and hugs and support.
~Windy-La

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eryn_smiles
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Thanks, Windy-la
I will take some risks with people, definately to meet more friends and to get involved with stuff outside work.

I think part of the reason I dont try to meet women and talk is that i know I will most likely be married within the next 5 years. What if I fall for someone and then have to marry someone else? And if i do meet a woman, what do i say about my longterm plans? Do you think it would be better to just wait and meet the men that my parents like? A pretty passive and safe approach, i know.

Any thoughts?

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Windy-La Raindrop
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I know that waiting to meet your parent's planned potential partners for you does feel passive and safe, and could be argued as the best road out of this for now... but I'd be careful. I know (this one's from experience) that talking yourself into a relationship with someone just because they're a nice person can end disastrously if you're not really sexually attracted. As you've said, you can be (somewhat?) attracted to men, but if you're not attracted to the man your parents pick... you're in trouble. Not only are you facing marriage in a much more immediate situation, you've been lying to your parents by ommission for years. By taking the passive route, you are implying that you're okay with everything that's going on, and it's pretty clear that you aren't.

And if you meet a woman (heck, if you meet a supportive friend), hopefully, they will be the kind of people that are willing to work with you on this; either to be understanding and give you space, or help you work out some way to talk to your parents at a future date. Having a forum like this is pretty amazing, but having real-life people to talk to is irreplacable.

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I'm not as random as you think I salad.

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eryn_smiles
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So, I met a man a few weeks ago. He visited my family and brought along his family. It wasnt as bad as I expected. He's nice. He seemed to like me. But I dont know how i feel about him. Hes been calling and texting alot these days...and trying to bring me food and coffee. Which is flattering, because during the days i felt really bad about myself, i used to think no-one would ever want me. But this guy seems to want me, and not only because thats what his parents want too. And he respects that i work alot and that i work hard.

I feel grateful for his kindness and his willingness to 'court' me and give me a chance. But I am not so attracted to him. Which is worrying. I dont want to mislead such a nice person. So really, i guess i should end it gently. And go and meet some women before my parents find me another man....

Any thoughts?

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Narwhal
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Aw, internet hugs for you. I can relate to the feeling that if anyone shows an interest, when you've been feeling like nobody ever would, it's flattering, and really tempting to go along with it. Been there, done that.

If you're not attracted to him, and/or if a relationship or marriage with a man is something you don't want to even consider, then I agree that it's best just to end it now.

Have you had an opportunity to talk to your parents about your plans at all? I know that's hard, but especially in cultures where parents are traditionally very involved in arranging marriages, it's much better to be honest with your parents about what you really want. Otherwise, they'll probably keep trying to arrange a marriage for you, thinking that it will make you happy, and it will be hard for them to understand why you keep turning down suitors.

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eryn_smiles
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Thanks Narwhal, hugs back at you [Razz]

I had a long conversation/disagreement/fight with my mum on the phone last night. It kind of ended with, her saying "why are you just trying to annoy us?" "fine then, we'll just stop looking for people, you do whatever you want!" (sarcastic..)

I asked how they would feel if i ended up with someone who was Christian/Chinese/European/etc....insert whatever (didnt mention a woman). They said it would hurt them. And the way that they would cope with that hurt is to stop caring so much about whats going on with me and distance themselves.

They did say that they would never disown me or chase me away. But i still felt pretty upset about what they'd said. Unfortunately i backed down and told them to keep looking for people and that i'd give them a fair chance. And i will give them a fair chance. But i feel like a coward today.

Mum asked me why i'd even agreed to meet this man if i wasnt interested in someone that they had found for me. I told her about how it feels nice when someone is acutally interested in you, regardless of who that is. And, as you say, how tempting it is to go along with it. She basically told me to stop playing games and not to be too choosy. She said that just because one person showed an interest in me, it doesnt mean other people will. Ouch!

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Narwhal
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Ouch indeed. It must have really hurt to hear your parents say these things. But it must have taken a lot of courage for you to have that conversation at all, so I really don't see anything cowardly about your response. I know how difficult it can be even to take the first steps.

I'd suggest giving your parents some time to cool down. Maybe the next time you discuss things with them, they will be a little more ready to consider your point of view, and you will feel a little stronger.

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eryn_smiles
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Im finding this too hard right now. He keeps contacting me and he's lovely too. I really feel like i need more experience with relationships before i settle down though. Im finding it hard to let him go. What if I dont find someone as good as him? Im not that desirable. Im starting to believe what my mother said. Im scared that this guy might be the only person who'll be interested in me. So I should hang on to him. Im kind of attracted to him. I can imagine sleeping with him. But I guess it doesnt really turn me on, like when i think about women. How on earth can i tell him that? Sometimes i feel so surprised that he would be into me. Self-worth is not an easy thing to cultivate, you know?
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eryn_smiles
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Im still going out with him. And spoke to my parents again. I really wish these conversations didnt end with my mother getting all huffy and giving the phone to dad. We live in different cities so its not like i can just go give her a hug ;-(

Also been weaning myself off antidepressants, which is a step in the right direction i think. My GP's a good support. But my sleeps really dropped back while the tears are creeping back. I cried in the hospital toilets last week. I just finished off a busy placement at work for which i received a "borderline pass"- disappointing.

I feel like i dont have the energy to be queer right now, (if that makes any kind of sense!). I dont have the energy to push it with my parents when they cant even handle the idea of me marrying a westernised person (or heaven forbid, not getting married by the time im 30!). Apparently westernized people cant commit, thats why they get divorced alot.

I dont have the strength to go out and meet queer women and explain my situation. I know there must be gay women from the indian subcontinent. But i sure havent met any. I'd love to meet one.

Its true that i cant really control my fantasies and attractions. But i can control how i act on them and whether i indulge them. I dont know- maybe this is denial or repression. Or maybe its just a way to make a reasonable livable life for myself.

Meanwhile, Im still with him. Hes incredibly kind to me. He offers to pick me up after night shift although its completely out of his way. Hes improving his english (for me!). Im not sure if bisexuality is quite in his vocabulary, but one of these days i might teach him. Im starting to believe that what we have might be a reasonable beginning to a marriage.

Im not really sure what im asking for advice about. But as always, i'd love to hear anyones thoughts.

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eryn_smiles
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I broke up with him. I know it was the right thing to do. I was starting to feel like i needed to avoid him and making excuses not to see him. I felt guilty that he was more into this than i was and that i didnt feel attracted to him.

He took it very well, almost finished my sentence for me. He thanked me for telling him early. I hope that i can find someone who treats me as kindly and with as much care as he did.

My parents didnt take it particularly well. They're looking for other men.

And I went along to this queer youth drop-in-centre. I made myself stay there for more than 5 minutes. Had a long conversation with a guy who works there. Im really glad i stayed and i think im going back soon. Turns out there are a few indian and asian gay people around [Smile]

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