Ask Natalie: Cultural clashes in new relationship?

DEAR NATALIE: Recently I started dating a man from India. I am not Indian. I am white, and we really have hit it off. He is wonderful, generous and kind, but we’ve only gone out a few times, and he is moving really fast. He is showering me with gifts and promises that are starting to make me uncomfortable.

Natalie Bencivenga

How do I tell him that he is being too aggressive and that he needs to slow down? Is this a cultural thing that I am not getting? I don’t want to come off as distant or ungrateful, but the amount of attention he shows me (texting me all through the day, flowers during the work week, surprises, etc.) are starting to raise eyebrows from colleagues and family.

Is he coming on too strong or am I just cold? — AMERICAN GIRL

DEAR AMERICAN GIRL: While I don’t think it is wise to make sweeping generalizations about one culture based on isolated experiences, there could be a cultural component as to why you are feeling out of sorts. But most likely it is your preconceived impressions of his culture that are clouding your judgment and experience here.

I have dated men of different backgrounds, and some were affectionate, others not so much. Some smother, some you can’t even get to text you back, and if you are lucky, you end up finding that one gem that you just vibe with. It has little to do with culture and mostly to do with individuals and their personal journeys. Let go of your fears of saying or doing or reacting in the “appropriate” way, and focus instead on how it makes you feel when he showers you with attention and gifts.

If you are truly uncomfortable, just tell him. Say gently, “I am so flattered by the thoughtful gifts and gestures. I am just feeling a little overwhelmed by all of it and was hoping we could take a step back and get to know each other a bit better before making promises or giving each other gifts.” He may not have realized it was upsetting you, or maybe he thought that you are supposed to behave like that when starting a new relationship.

As far as it raising eyebrows of colleagues and family, dare I say that they may be a little jealous? Wouldn’t it be nice to get flowers and gifts? People like to be cynical and even cruel to satisfy their own feelings of insecurity and disappointment in life, so don’t let them dictate to you how and what you should feel. Remember, you are in these relationships, not them.

Natalie’s Networking Tip of the Week: Don’t be afraid to speak up if you are interested in getting to know someone or would like a contact of yours to refer you to someone that you’ve been wanting to connect with. The whole point of networking is building relationships and finding the ones that create reciprocity that helps both parties reach their goals.

Natalie Bencivenga is the Post-Gazette’s Seen and society editor. She has a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pittsburgh. Need advice? Send questions to Follow Natalie on Twitter @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci.

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