Dating & Marrying Ethnic Men

Question of the Week: Dating After Sexual Assault

**Attention all–I got this question today, and because of the sensitive nature of the post, I brought in a licensed therapist, Tina Tessina, PhD, to chime in. As always, feel free to pass along your sage advice. Let’s take good care of this girl.**

— Christelyn


Hello Christelyn 🙂

I’ve been lurking for a few months now. I was wondering if you would be willing to give me some advice about rainbeau dating? If not or you’re too busy, it’s totally fine, but I don’t know who else to ask.

I started dating my first rainbeau during the Christmas holidays. His name is Pavel and he’s 2 years younger than me (26), just moved here from Russia about 2 years ago, and we work together. I met him after I was hired in October; we work in separate but closely related departments. The short version of the long story behind this is that, before I met this guy, I wanted nothing to do with men at all and was focused on rebuilding my life after a bunch of miserable events happened to me beginning in 2010. I thought Pavel was very sweet and gentlemanly and of course I’m really attracted to him, I just thought I was okay with dreaming about dating him and leaving it at that. He always paused to say hi to me in the hallways when he saw me, and then on Christmas Eve while we were working overtime he bumped into me four times, and the fourth time he asked for my number (while he was blushing beet-red!) so we could see Mission Impossible together. We went the following weekday and had a good time.

Since then he’s asked me out another 5 times: New Years’ Eve where we hung out at a bar and grill until midnight (and he tried to kiss me, but I was too shy and just gave him a hug), the next Saturday night for cheesecake and coffee, then a movie a few days later, pizza the next week, and a Vietnamese restaurant this past Wednesday (last week). There’s a lot that Pavel does before dates and in between them that makes me wonder if he has potential to be “the one”, which is exciting because I really wasn’t looking for him (didn’t even think he existed).

– he’s always the one to suggest the date

– always asks me at least a few days in advance (the time we went out for pizza was the only time we went out at the last minute)

– he’s very discreet at work, although one time he asked (blushing again) if he could kiss my cheek in a hallway where we were the only two people around. I think I did the right thing by refusing

– may be trivial, but he pays for everything

– drives to pick me up at home and when he drops me off he walks me to the door, plus he opens doors for me

– isn’t shy at all about being seen in public holding hands with a black girl – I know that’s not a big thing anymore but it is my first time dating a rainbeau, plus in the city where we live you don’t run into many bw/wm couples and I do notice we get looks occasionally. I’m learning to put that stuff out of my head, and I never mention it to Pavel.

– we’ve only gone as physically far as kissing; the first time I let him kiss my lips was during our last date after Pavel called me his girlfriend. I felt I had to tell him (very very briefly!) about the experiences I had last year on date 4 because he kept asking for a kiss that I wouldn’t allow, but it led to a talk and Pavel is okay with not sleeping with me.

– this is probably bad, but we’ve had a couple of sleepovers at his place all initiated by him, starting date 5 because of a freak snowstorm while we were eating takeout pizza at his place that made it impossible for him to drive out the same night. Because I ended up feeling comfortable that night, I agreed to let him take me back to his place last week after the Vietnamese restaurant and slept over again (both times fully clothed!). Pavel made me breakfast in the morning and had me stay over until 4 in the afternoon before he drove me home. At night I noticed that Pavel curls himself around me to sleep and doesn’t move, ever!

– he calls me beautiful, smart, sweet, tender, as well as pet names like “my baby”, “my queen” (lol), plus he’s wondered aloud about what our kids would be like and told me a story about a famous Russian poet whose grandfather was black (it’s silly but I looked it up!)

– he texts me sometimes to wish me a goodnight, he always seems interested in what’s going on with my life, too, and he’s always trying to make me laugh or smile

– he’s introduced me to his roommate

But the reason why I’m writing to you is because of some doubts I’m having. I don’t know if it’s just me believing deep down as usual that I’m not lovable, and that tainting my perspective, or that I want to find something wrong with Pavel because I’ve never had a dating relationship show so much promise, or what. I know it’s still very early to be making judgments – we’ve only been going out for a month now. I’ll just list why lately I’ve been feeling nervous:

– Pavel never ever calls me. His English isn’t perfect and I thought maybe it could be that he’s not sure how to carry a conversation while we’re not face to face, because sometimes in person we misunderstand each other. Guys also hate the phone, right? I wish I knew more about his culture and if it’s normal in other countries for men not to feel the need to call a lady they’re seeing so much, because I’d be okay with it. I don’t call him, either, not out of spite, but I just feel like we should have our time apart since we see each other 4 days out of the work week even if we don’t go out. He does text, though, usually to ask me out (which is better than phone time)

– I got nervous early on that Pavel just wanted to take me out to have a work fling, and I started talking about relationships on the third date, I think. I asked the dreaded “where is this going” so early it’s ridiculous, and he got wide-eyed and told me he wasn’t looking for a girlfriend. The next date, he told me how much he wanted a certain girl to be his girlfriend, but he was afraid she would say no. After our 5th date in the morning, I woke up and saw Pavel on his laptop chatting with a white girl, and I asked to be taken home immediately. On the ride home I told him I had been hoping that things would lead to us being exclusive but I didn’t think we were on the same page, and Pavel was like “I don’t understand what you’re talking about, I was just talking on the computer, I didn’t think something like that could make you so upset, I’m not dating you and I will stay your friend”. I was so confused and I cried the whole night. The next day at work I was polite when I saw him but I gave him the cold shoulder, and I think he picked up on it because he tried to make conversation a few times, but after he asked me what was wrong and I acted indifferent, I kept seeing him around where I was working a lot that day. Then the next day he found me again and asked me if he could see me again. I said I would be busy, and he seemed so dejected. He asked a few more times before the end of his shift, and when I got home I started to think I overreacted to everything and pushed for the “girlfriend” title too fast and just made myself look high-strung and anxious to him, and I should give him a few more chances for at least another month before I stopped dating him because he didn’t want to claim me. I’m so embarrassed to have even typed all of that. Do you think I overreacted? When he did call me his girlfriend the following date, it wasn’t because I mentioned it first.

– Pavel’s very open with me and tells me things without my asking. He’s told me a few times in the beginning how much he just loves women in general – is that a red flag? He also tells me stories about himself and his ex-girlfriend in Russia, not ad nauseum, but it makes me wonder if he’s on the rebound or not completely over her.

– After this past restaurant/sleepover date that I think was our best yet just because it was so lighthearted and fun, and Pavel texting me on Friday to wish me goodnight and that he missed me already, I’ve missed work since Saturday due to illness and I haven’t heard from him yet about another date. I know he’s probably worked every day that I haven’t been there. Am I worrying for nothing, even though it will be a week tomorrow?

Maybe I shouldn’t be dating so soon after trauma, I don’t know. I just really like him, but I don’t want to be taken advantage of or deceived, or get hurt by men anymore. I’d really appreciate your help, Christelyn!



Dear Evelyn:

I think you’re doing a pretty good job of keeping your budding relationship with Pavel clear. You were able to say “no” when he wanted to move too fast, which is good. However, I think you must be really hurting from something that happened in the past, which is affecting your ability to know what’s OK and not in this relationship. Be aware that it takes months, not just a few dates, to really know if a guy is trustworthy or not. It’s important to take your time, not get ahead of the early stage of this relationship, and allow things to develop before you decide this is the one for you. There are several articles on my website which will be helpful to you: Friends With Benefits; Guidelines for Being Understood by Your Partner; Guidelines for Successful Dating; How to Keep Yourself Out of a Violent Relationship and Handling The Green-Eyed Monster

If there’s a way you can get some therapy (there’s free or low-cost therapy available most everywhere) it would be very beneficial for healing the issues of your past, and making sure you don’t carry them with you to the next relationship. Check out the Mental Health America website search tool or, even though you’re not suicidal the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800 273-TALK) will refer you to a good low-cost counselor. Catholic charities also offers low-cost counseling. Do an online search for Catholic Charities and your city. You do not need a religious affiliation to get counseling there. has online support groups that can also help.

I think you’ve made a good start here, with a guy who sounds like a good bet, but you won’t know for a while. Just keep the conversation open and moving, until you know what you need to know, and you have a chance to work things out together. Don’t do anything you don’t want to do. I’m wishing you love and a lasting relationship.

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D.
[email protected]

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