10 Years Later: What I Learned From The Man Who Told Me I Was Not His Ideal Woman

November 7, 2012  |  



About 10 years ago, I dated an Asian man. This in and of itself was not particularly unique. By that point I’d dated white men, black men and Hispanic men and briefly had an Asian pseudo-boyfriend in high school. As a biracial woman who grew up in a family where get-togethers looked like diversity workshops, I viewed interracial dating as ordinary. I was interested in getting to know an individual, not some member of a particular racial group. Apparently my then-boyfriend didn’t feel the same way.

He told me at some early stage of our relationship—I don’t remember if we were still friends or had become romantically involved—that his ideal woman was half-white and half-Asian, supposedly because he thought that mix produced the best-looking females. I suspect there was more to it than just appearance. In a society where “white is right,” he probably felt that a half-white, half-Asian significant other would allow him to remain loyal to his family’s cultural traditions while he racially “upgraded” in his own mind.

And I guess it was his right to have his own “ideal woman.” We all have qualities that we seek in a potential partner, whether they’re mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, financial or racial. I’m just not sure he needed to make it so clear that my half-Italian, half-black background didn’t conform to his version of perfect.

There were other warning signs I should have heeded. We worked for the same company and he insisted on hiding our relationship from co-workers. When he called me at work he would give a fake name and scold me if I accidentally slipped and called him by his real one. When I called him at work he’d tell his co-workers it was “the Lauren from the food court,” though I’ve never had a food court affiliation.

His so-called reasoning was that he was slightly higher on the professional food chain than I was, and he didn’t want to jeopardize his position by dating a subordinate—even though we worked at different stores and he was not my boss. The real reason, I know now, was that he was ashamed of me. And if I’d had enough courage to open my eyes and confront that fact, I would have had no option but to leave.

Instead I hung around until he got tired of me. I almost wasn’t surprised when he broke up with me a few months later and told me that despite his previous declarations of love, which had come complete with a bouquet of handmade, tissue-paper roses on Valentine’s Day, he never actually loved me.

Immature as his actions seem to me now, he was not really the problem. The issue was not that he painted a picture of an ideal woman who was not me, or that he hid our relationship from co-workers, or that he took back the love he’d professed. The real issue was that I chose to be with someone who did all of these things.

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  • Learning & Growing

    I can SO relate to this post!

    Upon moving to NYC from CA two years ago, I dated a guy for some time. As I got to know him, he was very critical of me. I thought I had done well so far as I successfully moved across the country by myself and was in graduate school and working part-time. He made it clear that he was “used to” dating lawyers, bankers and doctors and that I was not on the same level. He would always try to tell me to do things like speak a certain way, or do a certain thing his way. He wasn’t necessarily controlling but I felt like he was trying to change me. We would argue all the time yet had very strong chemistry. One night he was drunk and called me at 3am and said something along the lines of “you need to hurry up and finish school. I can’t have you where you are.” At that moment, I felt belittled and insulted. I asked him why he was always critical of me, as if I wasn’t sufficient enough for him and he responded “Because I think I can change you.” As we slowly but surely drifted apart I began therapy and went through a brief depression. During that time, I’m not sure how to explain it, but I went through some sort of transformation. In my therapy sessions, I finally confronted the underlying, unresolved issues of my past, which explained why I stayed with a man who didn’t think much of me for so long. Growing up, the expectation bar was set so high by my parents. Once I reached a goal, the bar would become higher. I never thought I was good enough. So when I was with this man, although I knew it was unhealthy for me, his criticism was familiar. I also felt, in a way, that I deserved to be treated that way because I feel like the demise of my former relationship was my fault. Ultimately, I think dysfunctional relationships are the ones you learn the biggest lessons from. Like anything in life, adversity makes you stronger, wiser and better. It was a tough process but that transformation was definitely something I think I needed to happen. The unfortunate part was that it happened with that guy.

    Thanks for your post! 🙂

  • Pingback: What I learned from a dysfunctional relationship | Madame Noire … | Love Advice()

  • Abetterme

    I went through something similarly only my break up pushed me to be a better me. After our break up I requested that he never speak to me again. Its been three years and no contact has been made from either party. Recently, I’ve wanted to contact my ex.However, i remain hesitant because
    1. I doubt a friendship will develop
    2. We’ve both moved on
    3. I dont need closure (or maybe I do)
    In the end, I would want to have a simple conversation letting him know I forgive him, Im a better person and I do not hate him.

  • I’m in this place currently (the longing to lay on the floor, in a sleeping bag, in front of the tv.) I divorced earlier this year from a 15ish year marriage/relationship from a man who really had absolutely no real respect for me and treated me terribly, all behind my back. When the truth finally came out, it was like the flood gates burst open to reveal the tidal wave of negative thoughts and feelings you could have for a person. While treading water and just trying to keep my head up, some bad and not-so-great decisions were made. I don’t look back on those with any regrets, really, but I will admit it’s made the healing process more drawn out. I consciously made the decision to be involved with these people, for better or worse. My ex husband made me very aware of how badly I lost my own sense of self. Kicking him out and going through with the divorce I realized I didn’t know who I was anymore and to this day I’m still not sure, but I’m getting a little closer. The relationships/trysts after the divorce, fun as they may have been, made me realize that I do have a strong bit of self-respect and there are some things I am just not willing to put up with from anyone, especially from someone who wants to get close. They’ve also helped me grow a thicker skin, but it’s still pretty thin and not nearly strong enough. these relationships have all helped to illustrate to me just how really strong I am and really how interesting and intriguing life is.

    • Reenie

      I’m coming out of an eleven year marriage to an African man who showed his true self when he told me that I wasn’t special, but his new woman was. That was a low blow to my self esteem. I had done so much for this man- helped him start a business, get his citizenship, get a driver’s license, buy a home and cars. etc. etc. – and to hear him say those words to me was too much to bear. After that, I gathered what was left of my pitiful self and reinvented myself into the strong self-assured entrepreneurial woman that I am today. Now, when he wants to talk to me about anything, I let him wait a few days or weeks before I return his call, and even then I don’t jump to help him like I used to. He now has to pay for my advice, because I’m just that special.


  • Hildy

    lady30, I’m so sorry you had to go all through this. I know, us women tend to bear with anything once we are in love, but we should never ever let anyone to bring us down, none of our collegues, none of our friends or family has the right to terrorize us – literally – and this applies to our relationships as well! A real partner and lover should make you feel like you were the queen of the world (okay we all knnow the truth, but in our sweet little worlds that we create with our partners, we must at least feel that we are the best for him). I also experienced this type of terror when I was younger. I have to tell you that I think most of the time, these men suffer from the lack of confidence, and unworthy in the relationship, sometimes even sense that they are not as good as we are and they are just trying to balance this feeling by putting us to the ground. In my example, I dated a guy who constantly terrorized me because of my weight. I have to add I’ a european woman, and that time I was 22years old. I was a doing sports before as well, but this guy turned me into a fitness freak working out 4-5 times a week,being on planned diet, I was 52 kilograms for my 175 cms (110 pounds; 5,7 feet tall) and had no fat on my body, my mum was even worried about me being anorexic! Thank God I realized on time (after a few months), that it was not normal for me to feel ugly and fat by my bfriend’s side, while all the possible males I bumped into was trying to to hook me up……
    This experience had a bad effect on my confidence in a long term, but looking back to it, now I realizedit made me stronger and more sure about what I want from a man and a relationship in general. Try to think positive and never loose your faith in yourself! God Bless!

  • Pingback: 10 Years Later: What I learned from the man who told me I was not his ideal woman « Lauren Carter()

  • clove8canela

    Yes! But unfortunately I stayed in it much longer than you did and we weren’t even official, we just did all the things people in relationships do, without being in, well, um, a relationship. And the reason for this you ask? Because, essentially I wasn’t his ideal woman, or as he put it, someone he could see himself marrying. Really?? I was only (a naive) 19 at the time, he was 21, and honestly I wasn’t even looking for all that.

    Needless to say, after much frustration, heartache, many tears and prayer, I decided to end it ( whatever it was we were doing – after 3-4 yrs.), to avoid anymore frustration, tears & heartache. But as you said, you live & you learn, I’m older and wiser, and I would never voluntarily participate in any semblance of that. I needed to go through that so lesson definitely learned. Great article.

  • kierah

    Wow! Cinderella has got people all effed up! Ideal partners don’t exist. They are created in a person’s imagination. You’ll never meet someone who ticks all the boxes on your fantasy checklist.
    Lauren has dated men from all over the spectrum so all those dates were people that couldn’t have been representative of her ideal.

    You date all kinds of people, fall in love with personality inside, and that becomes the mate for you. It’s okay to date someone who is not your ideal or vice versa. As long you can grow to appreciate the value in someone that you never knew you wanted and the miracle in that journey, you can make the relationship work.

  • Machelle Kwan

    I”m glad this woman found healing and growth in her heartache. No one has the right to make anyone feel inferior. In this world, you have to find people who appreciate and value you just the way you are. Never mind what any else thinks about you. Love YOURSELF. Because in the end, people who look for perfection are often extremely flawed themselves. They keep looking for “ideal” but most of the time they end up with NOTHING.

  • Machelle Kwan

    Wow what a sad story. I would never allow a man to “hide” me from the people in his life. If i’m not good enough to be with you in public, i’m not good enough in private either. See that’s why I don’t like interracial dating. When men of other races date black women, I feel like there’s an ulterior motive most of time. You just never know when those guys are being sincere or just trying to have some fun.

    • TRUTH IS


    • Happens with other gals, too. There are just some real a**hole guys that will say/do anything to get what they want if they know/think they can.

  • Yes I have! I date this guy who was half-Black, half-Mexican. I was seventeen at the time and he was eighteen turning nineteen. He was the first guy I had a serious relationship with. He kept talking about how he couldn’t seem to get into me. He told I was nothing like his ex (she was better), he got mad at because I couldn’t attend his birthday party and he was somewhat controlling. I left because he cheated on me on my birthday which was the final straw, also the night before him and I had a big argument and I was in tears the next day. Now that I think about it, he put through so much. I’m glad I left because I found out so much dirt on him. Not only that but karma bit him in the butt real good. His next girlfriend who was 13 had cheated on him and had a baby with someone else. He had a thing about dating girls were 17; best thing I never had.

  • DeepThinker

    What a great article from a great writer! Many of us (self-included) have been where she’s been. My first boyfriend treated me just like that, he was very insecure about himself, but was clever enough to exploit my low self-worth, in order to keep me “in line” so that I would never feel confident enough to realize I deserved better and leave him. I finally did leave him after two and a half years. He stalked me and tried every way possible to bad mouth me to others. Fast forward TWENTY years later, he’s married, but still cannot resist his occasional need to “reach out to me” to remind me he still exists and of our “history” together. What he doesn’t know is how strong and uplifted I have become and that a guy of his caliber can’t even get me to look in his direction much less date.

    • L-Boogie

      LOL! At his occasional need to reach out. LO!

    • dc

      I am dealing w/ that issue now. except my ex cheated on me w/ a woman of lower value, hood rat by all means of the definition, he to has many issues of low self esteem and treats ppl horribly while still trying to maintain an image that he is not that bad when he really is…as u said above…I have better options in men than he does in women..So I see the link now. My low self esteem/self worth drew an even more insure person in my life who acts out his insecurities in many diff ways..I should have never looked his way to begin w/ but like a dummy i did and now paying the price for my poor decision…DeepThinker thanks for the clarity…I hope to one day be as strong as you …Thanks!

      • I’m right there with ya. My ex husband cheated on me several times and did so much worse. After dropping him, I hooked up with someone who I thought was a 180….turns out, it’s just a different bag altogether. My eyes are opening now to see that I’m attracting what I’m feeling inside: insecure, low self esteem, low self worth and a lot of shame. I’m trying to just keep myself busy now to cope with the feelings of loneliness so I don’t continue to make the same mistakes and hopefully create more positive emotions/feelings on the inside to attract that on the outside.

  • chanela

    I really didn’t like how the author kept calling him “my asian boyfriend” why not just give him a fake name?

    this is why i don’t see myself ever dating an asian man even though i just ADORE them! asian culture sees white people as the ultimate prize. they even have hire random white men to sit next to them in meetings so that they look more professional and so that people can take them seriously. (true story). asian men can GET IT, but they’d never want me *shrug*

  • SunshineBlossom

    This was an absolutely beautifully crafted piece of art. You touched on an issue many of us go through on the journey of discovering ourselves and what it means to be a mature woman in society. I always used to blame god for the things that went wrong in my life. And now at this juncture I see that while less than desirable, they were necessary tests to home my resilience and sense of identity and place in a world where we are objectified by men (to an extent). I hope that more women read this and take stock of their own lives to achieve the same feeling of growth.

  • Candacey Doris

    I’m glad you learned from this. We all either earn by experience or by the experiences of others. I’m just glad he didn’t hurt you too much. Some women get some serious self esteem issues from jerks like your ex.

  • afroveda

    “I believe that the relationships we have, especially the dysfunctional ones, can teach us important lessons about who we are. I believe that often times those dysfunctional relationships mirror some dysfunction within ourselves that we can’t see unless it’s externalized. In this case, my Asian boyfriend was a manifestation of my own shame and lack of self-worth.”

    Wow. You better preach!