It’s a familiar scenario for many of us who have been in interracial relationships: The parents don’t approve. You can either give up on the relationship, give up on your parents — or find ways for your parents to accept your significant other.
In a now-viral Facebook post, Chinese-American Clarence Tan, 30, yesterday shared his own story of how he went down that get-on-board-or-else route, detailing what it took for his Singapore-born dad to accept the woman he was dating at the time, Edna Sophia, 26, who is from Ghana, West Africa.
Tan wrote of his father’s initial pushback, and how he and Sophia pushed forward, in a post he put up in “subtle Asian traits,” a closed Facebook group for people who share memes, videos and stories related to the Asian and Asian diaspora experience, where it has garnered over 100,000 reactions and nearly 10,000 comments since its publication yesterday morning.
As Tan told Coconuts Singapore today, the couple dated for three years after initially meeting at a church in 2016. They tied the knot a month ago on Aug. 10 and currently live in Missouri.
Their road to marriage wasn’t all smooth-sailing, though — in his original post, Tan wrote of the stigma that exists within Chinese (and many other Asian cultural communities) that comes with dating an African person. His father was born in Singapore, while his mother was born in Hong Kong, and though both had moved to the US a long time ago — before Tan was even born — they still had er, shall we say, old-country ideas and biases about what their children’s ideal partners should look like.
Tan said that early on in his relationship with Sophia, his father told him that dating someone from such a different culture could lead to a bad marriage full of clashes, or if Tan were to ever decide to move to Asia, that it could even pose professional challenges for him.
Out of all of his family members, Tan said, it was the most difficult to see his dad — who he is the closest to — be unapproving and unsupportive of his relationship.
“My dad is a great father and I respect him a lot. He has an incredible work ethic, sacrificed a lot to provide us, and always put our family first – I attribute most of who I am today to the example he set. So it was extremely upsetting when he told me he didn’t approve of my wife (then-girlfriend),” wrote Tan.
His dad also told him: “Clarence, this is your choice, so you can do whatever you want. But don’t expect my blessing.”
Rather than give up on his relationship with Sophia, however, Tan persisted and kept bringing her over to meet his family for dinner in spite of his dad constantly giving her a “weird look of disapproval.”
“At the same time, it was unbearable for then-girlfriend as she could feel like she wasn’t welcomed,” Tan wrote, adding that he sometimes had to lie to Sophia by telling her that she had been invited over for dinner even when she hadn’t been.
Tan’s efforts in getting his family to get to know Sophia better eventually paid off, he said, especially when his family discovered how supportive she had been of him in his business — not just by putting her own time and energy into helping him build it, but even by giving him occasional financial support.
“I had purposely kept (the financial situation) silent as it was embarrassing – but they (the family) eventually found out that it was their son who had lucked out,” Tan said, adding that his family had also come to see that Sophia is an “intelligent, kind, caring and polite” person.
“After enough invites and conversations, they realized that this is for real and they started opening up to her,” wrote Tan in the original post.
By the time Tan and Sophia got married, said Tan, the couple had the family’s full support — and that his father had “never looked happier” than on their wedding day.
Reflecting on everything that has happened during their relationship, Sophia told Coconuts Singapore: “It’s been an interesting journey, but I’m so grateful for how everything turned out. His dad sees me as his daughter now.”
Tan’s also got some words of wisdom for anyone who might be struggling with the same situation that he did: “Identify the foundational values, faith, and qualities that you and your significant other share, especially since values are so extremely important in a relationship or marriage.”
“Be honest with your parents in a respectful way — it helps letting your parents know it’s serious, and it helps your significant other know that you’re not hiding them, which causes a lot of arguments.”