“Prostitution in The Name of An Arranged Marriage.” Deepika’s Story

Below is a heart-rending life story from one of our readers, Deepika. I thank her on behalf of all of you for sharing it with us.

I had an arranged marriage five years ago. We had a nine-month long period of courtship.

Falling in love

It bears mentioning here that through most of my twenties, I’d been in a relationship with my best friend from college.

The relationship was great in every other respect, except that my “boyfriend” and I could not agree on issues of children and our careers.

He expected me to put my career on hold and become the standard IT spouse. I wanted children, he didn’t. No room for negotiations.

Long story short, we broke up months before our wedding. I was heart-broken. I had never considered a future without him. He’d been an integral part of my life since college.

Falling out

I felt as I was missing a limb after we broke up. Did I mention that we belonged to different communities and castes?

It had taken us three years to get my parents’ approval. Yet, here we were, unable to get past the issue of children.

“What kind of man doesn’t want children?” My parents exclaimed in utter bewilderment.

Anyway, we broke up and I moved back to live with my parents. I couldn’t bear living alone; I was completely devastated. I had lost my best friend and not just a boyfriend.

Long story short, I took two years to recover emotionally, and at 29, I was past my shelf life. I created profiles on the matrimonial websites, hoping to meet someone I’d begin to like.

I met men in their 30s who were either looking for a quick fling or men who just wanted to get married. Anyone would do.

After a couple of years of countless dead-ends, I was getting desperate. My clock was ticking loudly and I had always wanted kids.

An arranged marriage?

At the age of 32, I was looking squarely at a childless future. My parents suggested the arranged marriage route.

arranged marriagePhoto by Mr. Seb

I had always been against arranged marriages. I have two aunts who had terrible, abusive arranged marriages. I didn’t want to end up like them. Yet I wanted children, and there wasn’t enough time to build a slow, gradual relationship.

It was out of my desperation that I agreed to meet a prospect. He was extremely well-educated, with a PhD in engineering from a top British university. He was very successful professionally and came from a similar socio-economic background.

Apparently.

After checking for “hygiene” factors, we decided to get married. While I wasn’t attracted to him sexually, I hoped to develop some kind of affection for him over time.

The arranged marriages around me lacked passion. But they seemed to have a time-tested, easy bond of familiarity around them. Much like you and your favourite, worn-out cotton pajamas.

Before marriage, I’d once asked him why he was always on edge, tightly wound up and fiercely on his guard. He’d told me he suffered from social anxiety, that it took him some time to let his guard down. He was shy, he told me. “Give me time,” he said.

Is that what it looks like?

Reality struck the day after our wedding day. The measured, soft-spoken man I had married morphed into a critical, severely controlling, chronically suspicious, angry and hostile stranger.

Nothing I did pleased him. Every action, gesture or word was criticised harshly.

I also discovered that his closeness to his mother and sister bordered on the abnormal.

Our marriage didn’t have two people in it, it had four people. “You’re not married only to me,” he said, “You’re married to my family”. I asked him, “Does it mean that all of us should have sex with each other?” The absurdity of it made no sense.

Every intimate detail of our marriage, including our failure to consummate the marriage, was discussed with his mother and sister.

A bit of friendly motherhood advice

My mother-in-law called my mother and said to her, “Your daughter won’t sleep with my son. Haven’t you taught her the duties of a wife?”

In that family, sex between husband and wife was reduced to an entitlement, a privilege, a right.

Sex was something you did, in darkness, silently, quickly, without affection, without regard for each other, without emotion. Prostitution in the name of marriage.

arranged marriagePhoto by Johan B. Lindega

That was my marriage. An impersonal transaction based on power and privilege. No warmth. No empathy.

No humanity.

A joyless, loveless, humourless meeting of bodies, but not of hearts or minds.

Oh no, all arranged marriages are not like that.

In conclusion

Long story short (OK, not so short). My only advice to young women is: DO NOT marry a man for his education, bank balance or family background. You will wake up every day next to this person.

For two years, I’d wake up next to my ex-husband and want to weep.

I’d married a PhD, a man who made a tidy sum, but who had no empathy, no capacity to feel joy or love. I’d married an emotional void. A repressed man who could feel no emotion but anger.

Compatibility is elusive, but critical to the success of a marriage. That shared laugh, that quick squeeze of the hand, that familiarity, trust and understanding is extremely important.

Be careful who you marry.

It’s the biggest decision of your life.

Are All Arranged Marriages Bad?

I was having the good old love vs arranged marriage debate with a friend a few days back (Yes. Again.) His point was – isn’t dating similar to arranged marriages? A modern arranged marriage is about meeting different people shortlisted by your parents based on certain preset criteria, getting to know them over a period of time and finally selecting one of them. How different is that from inputting certain criteria on a dating website, meeting people based on these and selecting one of them finally?

Not very, I conceded.

But that’s not the image that comes to my mind when I think of arranged marriages. I’m reminded of young girls forced out of jobs and into marriages they weren’t ready for. I’m reminded of young couples forced out of their existing relationships into marriages they never wanted. I’m reminded of incompatible matches made on the basis of castes, religions, gotras and kundlis.

Clearly he and I couldn’t possibly be talking about the same thing even though we both thought we were describing “arranged marriages”. That’s when I realised we need to reclassify marriages.

So what are the different types of arranged marriages?

arranged marriagePhoto by The People Speak!

#1. Guided marriages

In this case a man or a woman willingly allows their parents to look for possible matches for them, at a time when he or she is ready for marriage (not at a point of time chosen unilaterally by the parents). The parents then shortlist a set of possible matches as per criteria jointly decided by the parents and the child (again, not unilaterally dictated by the parents). The child then meets and spends time with the selected people over months/years. They start “dating” the ones they like. Eventually they get married after a year or so of knowing each other, if everything goes as per plan.

A minuscule but increasing proportion of modern, ultra-urban arranged marriages are done this way nowadays. As you can see, this is a win-win solution for everyone. This doesn’t, in any way, sacrifice anyone’s freedom and no one – leave alone me – can possibly have anything against a spontaneous exercise of free will by every individual concerned. I’m all for guided marriages.

#2.  Forced marriages

This, on the other hand, is a decision  on a person’s marriage taken unilaterally by their parents and extended family. Usually it’s the family which decides the timing of the marriage. They select a set of potential matches. The final selection might be made by the guy/girl themselves. But the base criteria for selection are laid out by the parents (including caste, religion etc.).

Sadly, forced marriages often involve coercing a guy/ girl OUT of an EXISTING relationship into an unwanted marriage. It can also involve getting a daughter, or even son, married off at a much earlier life stage than they’re ready for.

Now this, as we all know, is a kind of marriage that doesn’t recognise the concept of individual freedom. By failing to take individual choice into account, this sometimes sacrifices the happiness of the new couple.

wife sex before marriagePhoto by VishalSinghx

Unfortunately, a significant proportion of Indian arranged marriages end up going down the forced route. I’m sure you’ll agree – no rational person in their right mind can support such coercion of innocent individuals into a life they never wanted. Neither do I.

Have you had an arranged marriage? Have you observed one from close quarters? Was it guided or forced? Share the experience with us by leaving a comment. 

How to Deal with Mother-in-law: 9 Steps

Oh yes. That eternally perplexing question of married Indian women, “How to deal with mother-in-law?”

Before we dive into this explosive topic, here are a few disclaimers. ;)

Disclaimer 1: This is not about all mothers-in-law. Only the kind which made you google “How to deal with mother-in-law”. :D

Disclaimer 2: If you’re a guy, this is not about your mother but the mothers of all those other married men you know. :P You can skip today’s post – and refer your wife/girlfriend to it instead. ;)

How to deal with mother-in-law – Rule 1. Familiarize

The first and most important step you can take to improve your relationship with your mother-in-law is to spend ample time with her before marriage, both in the presence and absence of your fiancé. I’d recommend you start interacting regularly with her at least a year prior to your marriage. Go shopping with her, watch a movie with her or accompany your boyfriend’s family on a holiday at home/day trip. This will ensure the two of you get to know each other in a relaxed, no-pressure environment and set expectations accordingly.

How to deal with mother-in-law – Rule 2. Detach yourself

Irrespective of how much you like or don’t like your mother-in-law, you may not always be in a position to choose how much you interact with her. In such a situation you need to deal with your mother-in-law in a way that’s healthy to both of you. And the first step to that is to detach yourself emotionally.

  • Do not try to look upon her as your “other mother”. That perspective is guaranteed to lead to shock & disappointment. Not necessarily because of any fault of hers, but because our parents are our parents. Expecting an in-law to be “like them” is unfair to the in-law.
  • Let go of unrealistic expectations from her. There would be aspects of her you won’t like. Do not expect her to change.
  • Look upon her as an acquaintance, a bit like a professional contact – someone you do not need to like as a person but still need to treat with respect.

How to deal with mother-in-lawPhoto by Daljeet Mayn

How to deal with mother-in-law – Rule 3. Boundaries

Define clear boundaries of what is acceptable and what is not, both for her and yourself (if required, also for your husband). Once you’ve committed to certain boundaries, it’s your utmost responsibility to honour your side of them.

Do not discuss these boundaries directly with her – coming from an earlier generation she might misunderstand. Agree on them with your spouse instead.

Boundaries should be objective and specific. For example, “I guarantee I’ll treat her with respect at all times, irrespective of her own behaviour. In return I must have the guarantee that she’d not stay with us for more than xyz days/weeks per year/month.” Note the level of objectivity in the condition. Do not accept a boundary condition from her side that is open to interpretation, e.g. “She should treat me with respect.” 

How to deal with mother-in-law – Rule 4. Show respect

You don’t need to like her as a person but keep your judgements to yourself. By virtue of your relationship, she deserves respectful treatment from you, just as you deserve respectful treatment from her. Maintain your distance but treat her with respect, even if she does not return the favour. Sounds like a typical Indian male chauvinist from the 19th century speaking? :D Read on to find out why.

How to deal with mother-in-law – Rule 5. Safety first

I suggest you refrain from showing anything but respect to her not because I believe that’s the “right” thing to do irrespective of circumstances, but because I want you to steer clear of the consequences of doing otherwise. For example if her verbal remarks hurt you and you retort, she’s likely to talk to your husband about it. When she does, you’ll have no ways to prove that you were “provoked”.  It will become a subjective battle of your words against hers and no one ever wins those. So the key is to not give her any opportunity whatsoever of badmouthing you to your husband.

How to deal with mother-in-lawPhoto by abhishek_815

How to deal with mother-in-law – Rule 6. Don’t be a punch-bag

Does this mean you should become meek and accept everything your mother-in-law does? No. A funny thing about human emotions is that, when people attack others they expect response, and feel powerless if there’s none. If you feel your mother-in-law is deliberately trying to disturb you, your strongest defence is a complete refusal to respond.

This does not mean you patiently tolerate everything she says or does without protest. That will give her the impression that you accept her position of superiority. If she says/does anything so provocative that you feel unable to control yourself, excuse yourself (tell her you’re suddenly feeling unwell or something) and leave the room.

How to deal with mother-in-law – Rule 7. Assert yourself

Even if you don’t protest against her not-so-friendly actions, your mere refusal to be a punch-bag might come across as an insult to her. In case she discusses this with your husband and you find yourself facing accusations from him, you need to assert yourself. Tell him these exact words: “It’s not within my rights to treat others with disrespect in my interactions with them. But it is within my rights to decide who I interact with and how much, right? I left the room because certain things she said made me feel bad, and I didn’t want to hurt her by protesting. You’re not telling me that part of my responsibility is to willingly let her hurt me, are you?” No self-respecting man worth his salt would say a “yes” to this. (If he does, you’ve married the wrong man. Flash him your most charming smile and say “Goodbye.” :D)

How to deal with mother-in-law – Rule 8. Don’t try “ideal”

Does your mother-in-law unwittingly set unrealistic standards for you? Do her criticisms make you feel like you can never be “good enough”? For example, are you made to feel like you’re never doing “enough” of the household chores, or “adjusting” enough, or showing her enough respect? If you let yourself be affected by others’ perceptions of you, you might be eroding away your self-esteem dangerously. She’s entitled to her views. But you’re extraordinary the way you are, and how you compare with her idea of the “ideal daughter-in-law” is in no way a measure of your worth as a human being. So do not try to change yourself to earn her (or anyone else’s) approval. Go back to point #3 and let go of the rest.

How to deal with mother-in-law – Rule 9. Distance yourself

If possible, don’t live with your parents-in-law. They can be the nicest people ever but everyone needs personal space. Sharing yours with someone who’s not immediate family/partner but holds a purported position of authority is almost certain to create some degree of stress, even if it is not verbalized. If anecdotal evidence is anything to go by, moving out of the family home almost always leads to an improvement in the relationship between a woman and her in-laws.

How do you deal with your mother-in-law? Are you one of those lucky daughters-in-law with a nice and friendly mother-in-law? Do let us know by leaving a comment. 

Why “The Groom’s Side” Will Continue to Act High-Handed with You

An acquaintance of mine is now in the process of having her marriage arranged. She meets a new prospective groom every other day (and becomes ever so rich in the Hilarious Life Experience department).We were recently chitchatting about one such experience she had a few days back. She seemed really annoyed with the way the guy and his family treated her in their first (and understandably, only) meeting. Apparently they said they’d like it if she discontinued working after marriage, acted rude all along and to top it all – the guy’s mother took her to the kitchen where she had to demonstrate her cooking skills by preparing a few dishes of her choice under her probing gaze.

“But wasn’t that expected?” I wondered aloud. I’m not sure whether it was my reaction or the groom’s family’s actions which outraged her more.

“What do you mean?” She exclaimed.

“Well, you’ve chosen to have an arranged marriage. We all know that the bride/groom selection within the settings of an arranged marriage is a process which has been traditionally disparaging of women. It’s a patent fact that it is still thought of by most Indians – like this guy you unfortunately met – as the man’s privilege to pick and choose the women he’s presented with. If you wanted to be treated with the respect and equality you deserve, shouldn’t you have chosen the more natural way of getting married instead?”

“What do you mean??”

Arranged MarriagePhoto by Praveen_Verma

I realized the short version of my views on this had confused her more. So I explained, this time in detail.

“Let’s start from the A, B, C, shall we? Marriage in general is understood to be a way of giving legal validity to a bond of love between two people (and when I say “love”, I’m NOT talking about crazy, head over heels infatuation but a deep, stable bond between two people built over time, and based on shared values, beliefs, personalities etc.). So marriage is understood as a consequence of two people wanting to be with each other. Here the partner is primary and marriage is secondary because the marriage is a consequence of the existence of the partner. 

Only among certain specific communities (like the majority of people in the Indian subcontinent, some parts of middle East, some parts of China, a few thousand followers of the Unification Church in the US & Europe etc.) it is thought of as the exact opposite of that – a lifelong contract between two people based on various factors, which may or may not culminate in love (again, by love I don’t mean an emotional state but a bond based on compatibility). Here the marriage itself is primary. The partner is secondary, and hence easily replaceable.  

What happens when you’re easily replaceable?

Let’s take an example. Let’s say someone hires you for your unique qualities. They’ve got a job which you – and only you in this world – can perform. What salary would you ask for? As much as you want, right? Because no matter how much you ask for, the employer has to hire you because no one in this whole world can perform your job. In this case your replaceability is zero – you’re irreplaceable. (Think of superstars. They’re paid so highly because they’re unique – completely irreplaceable. Amitabh Bachchan doesn’t get paid for doing his job – acting or whatever. He gets paid for being him.)

On the other hand if you go to someone and offer to wash their floor, what salary would you ask for? Not very high, right? In this case you don’t get to name a price you’d like because yours is a relatively low-skilled job. Hence you’re easily replaceable. The employer is looking for enough skills to get his floor washed; he’s not looking for you specifically. If you don’t want to work for the price the employer is ready to pay you, someone else will.

Hence, the more replaceable you are, the less is your bargaining power.

Coming back to the marriage scene in the Indian context – marriage has been traditionally considered the ultimate achievement of a woman’s life, but not so for men. Even though in a sufficiently large pool of single people (as large as the population of a country/state/city) there would always be roughly equal no. of men and women, for cultural reasons the perceived risk of not being married is much, much higher for an Indian woman than it is for an Indian man. Hence the woman (and/or her family) becomes the “weaker side”, so to speak, in the Indian arranged marriage market. (Think of the earlier employer-employee example. Theoretically speaking both of them need each other equally. But practically, it’s an employers’ market.)

wife sex before marriagePhoto by VishalSinghx

Because of the partner being easily replaceable to followers of the second school of thought on marriage, the bargaining power of the weaker side goes drastically down in case of marriages among these people. As a natural consequence, the stronger side gets to call the shots. This can lead to all sorts of consequences like the stronger side taking an obvious upper hand, treating the weaker side disrespectfully (like in your case), expecting the weaker side to compensate financially in return for the “favour” they’re doing them. (“Since you’re easily replaceable, if you don’t pay someone else will.” That’s what’s called dowry. ;) )

Compare that with a natural process of marriage – “Love marriage”, as it is called in India. Someone wants to marry you because they love you. Hence you’re unique – they want to marry you, not just anybody. You’re irreplaceable to each other. Hence both of you are on equal footing. None is in a position to take an obvious upper-hand.

Anyone is free to choose either of the two interpretations of marriage for themselves. In a patriarchal society like India, in the context of arranged marriage, the various unkind gestures of the guy’s side which you’ve described are all very logical, easily deductible, natural consequences of following the second process of marriage. Particular families can of course be kind and gentle people who choose not to use the privilege which is logically theirs. But in general it’s surprising that these acts can come across as surprising to people who’ve willingly chosen to follow this process of marriage. 

That’s all I meant. :) ”

Well let’s not go into what happened next. Let’s just say … she was a very nice person. ;)

What about you? Irate? Angry? Hurt? Happy? Vindicated? Completely confused and decided never to come back?

Whatever is your reaction, I want to know it. Do pour in the comments. Let’s find out the truth. If it exists. :P 

On Sex Before Marriage (Again) – Part 1

Yeah. Again, after Q&A. My Wife Has Had Sex Before Marriage!

Because sex is serious business.

Especially if it happens in India.  

Especially if a woman is involved. ;)

And totally, if the woman is not married to the man.

Well we all (should) know these petty facts, but I felt the need to repeat them here as I was reminded of these once again (quite forcefully), after I wrote that piece

As you can see, there are 46 comments on that piece up till now (thanks so much guys for taking out the time to share your views :)). Let’s just say not all of those friendly commenters did me the favour because they wanted to convey their unqualified support of my views (the piece contained none, but more about that later).

moving out of homePhoto by Sephiroty Fiesta

These comments let me see how strongly the youth of this country feels about sex before marriage. That was quite an eye-opener. So much heated discussion started around this that I thought it’s time I gave it a little more prominence. In the form of actual posts, to be precise. So starting today I’d post my responses to some very interesting comments and questions about sex before marriage from time to time.  

I’ll start with one of the very commonly raised questions:

It’s the girl’s fault to have not disclosed the facts about her past affair before marriage. Why are you silent on that?

“It’s the girl’s fault to have not disclosed the facts about her past affair before marriage.” Theoretically speaking you’re right. But knowing the practical reality of India, I think we need to go a bit deeper here before coming to a conclusion. If a prospective groom doesn’t enquire specifically about a girl’s virginity – and I’m sure you’d agree – the girl would hardly have any reason to take the initiative to convey this info to the guy. So in this case unless the guy had asked this question specifically, she had no way of knowing how particular he was about this issue.

You’re right, telling the truth is undoubtedly the right thing to do under all circumstances. But I believe if you expect anyone to tell you the truth about anything, you should provide them a safe environment for it (unless we’re talking about illegitimate activities, or activities which violate others’ rights etc.). If a person knows they might be compromising their own safety, security, mental peace etc. by telling the truth, is it really fair to hold them fully accountable for not telling the truth? (Don’t get so angry just as yet. Read on. :D)

Think of it from the girl’s perspective. With the vilification of premarital sex in the Indian society, would it have been safe for her to tell a prospective groom about her past? What if the guy announces it to her family and walks away from the relationship? What kind of consequences do you think the girl can expect, from her own family and the society? How easy do you think it would be for her family to get a guy for her subsequently?

arranged marriagePhoto by The People Speak!

Given the realities of our society, if a guy is too particular about his wife’s virginity pre-marriage, the onus lies on him to find out the truth without hurting the girl’s dignity. Here’s a suggestion for how you can go about it.

At a very initial stage, find a way to have a discussion with the girl alone. Tell her, “Marriage is a life-altering decision. I believe we should have a clear understanding with each other before such a decision is made. I’m sure you understand the gravity of the mistake that we would be committing if we take such an important decision on the basis of incomplete information. Given this context, I want you to know that there are certain things which are unacceptable to me when it comes to my future wife. I respect your privacy, hence I won’t ask you any questions about these aspects. I’ll just tell you what these factors are and request you to cancel the marriage from your side (telling you don’t like me) if any of this applies to you. The list goes:

1. She should not smoke/drink…
2. She should not be a non-vegetarian…
3. She should be a virgin at the time of marriage… ”

The list here is just an example (I’m by no means supporting or opposing the values espoused here). The point here is, you need to provide her a list instead of a single criterion like virginity, so that her privacy is protected. If she cancels the marriage you’d know she ticks one of your “strictly prohibited” boxes, without knowing which one.

I’m sure you understand, as one of the several prospective grooms the girl would meet in the process of her arranged marriage, you have no right to ask for private information like whether she’s a virgin. (If you don’t become her husband, you’re just another guy on the street, remember?) However, you have a right to cancel the marriage if she doesn’t satisfy your criteria (which, in this case, includes virginity). The only way to protect both her rights and yours is through mature and respectful dialogue, as suggested here.

What do you think guys? Bring on your views. I’m waiting. :)

iMarriages: Compatibility through Arranged Marriages?

I don’t quite support arranged marriages.

There. I said it.

I feel the matching process followed in case of modern day Indian arranged marriages is extremely superficial. For example castes, income and food habits are matched very carefully, but personality types, interests, bents of mind etc. are usually completely disregarded. (No, five meetings before marriage don’t help you know anyone.) This approach is very likely to lead to wrong matches and ruin lives, as the rising divorce rates would tell you.

But reality cannot be wished away. And an inevitable arranged marriage is the reality of 80%+ young Indians even today. Within that context, is there a way for them to find a partner who’s not only a “good match” but also actually compatible?

I searched and searched until I found something interesting – iMarriages. The first thing that drew me to this portal was its one-of-a-kind name. Simple, yet powerful in its emphasis on “I” – the symbol of individuality. I instantly felt that this was something different, something new, something unique. I decided to check it out. 

If there ever existed such a thing as a matrimony portal with a heart, iMarriages is it. For starters, it assumes you’re human (as opposed to goods to be exchanged :D). It assumes you have a head and a heart. And it also recognizes the fact that spending your life with someone is not only about compatible income levels and family backgrounds, but much more importantly about compatible mindsets.

Yes, that’s right. iMarriages is a matrimonial service that finds you matches based on your personality. It takes you through a rigorous personality assessment questionnaire which helps you determine your own personality type. Subsequently when you search for profiles the system calls out which of the potential partners have personality types matching yours!

iMarriages - Matrimonial service with a heart

You work for money. But your hobbies are activities you choose to pursue simply because they give you pleasure. Hence your hobbies and interests provide a window into the kind of person you are. iMarriages knows that. Hence this portal has half a page of your profile dedicated to your hobbies.

iMarriages - Matrimonial service with a heart

iMarriages takes your individuality seriously. It lets you search profiles based on a very detailed criteria list.

iMarriages - Matrimonial service with a heart

“What’s so new about that?” You might wonder. Well it’s the simple fact that iMarriages also lets you block messages from users who do not match your set criteria – a feature that’s unique among all Indian matrimonial service-providers.

If that was not enough to set it apart from all other Indian matrimony portals, iMarriages even offers you free relationship advice and fun marriage games. You see, I already told you – unlike most other Indian matrimonial service-providers, to iMarriages you’re a thinking, feeling, fun individual. :D

iMarriages - Matrimonial service with a heart

Other Indian Matrimony Portals

iMarriages - Matrimonial service with a heart

iMarriages

Be it the delectable dessert at the end of a sumptuous meal or the nerve-racking climax at the end of a gripping thriller – the best bit of always comes at its end. And here it is for you – iMarriages is completely free. That’s right iMarriages is India’s only prominent marriage portal that’s completely free to use. And yes that includes contacting potential mates and even online chat.

By the time I finished browsing through the portal I was certain – on iMarriages, you can eat the cake of arranged marriage and have it too. iMarriages is not a matrimonial portal, it’s almost a dating cum matrimonial portal. And that makes it fun, lively and yet practical – just what you need for your quest for that special someone. 

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post.

How to Have a Moving Out of Home Conversation with Your Parents: 5 Steps

We’ve talked at length about intercaste marriages, inter-religious marriages, how to convince your parents of your love marriage etc. We’ve also talked about what to do when your parents just won’t agree to your marriage. I’ve always been a firebrand when it comes to taking a side here – either suck it up and do as they say, or move out of your home and marry whoever you want to marry.
I’m surprised (and proud) to know just how many of you have followed that advice and made a bold decision. Congratulations on having been able to achieve clarity and purpose. But now what? Are you prepared to have the moving out of home conversation with your parents? Here are some tips to help you out with it.

Moving out of home – Rule #1. Write a letter

This is going to be a sensitive and delicate communication between you and two of the most important people in your life. Due to the explosive nature of the subject of your intercaste marriage, emotions will run high. Irrespective of what you say, misunderstandings are very likely. To minimize any misinterpretation of your intentions, put it all down on a piece of paper and mail it to your parents (send them an email, if they’re tech-savvy ;)). If you start with an oral conversation on moving out of the family home, it’s likely to turn into an ugly family battle.

Of course you’ll be called for a “discussion” subsequent to writing your letter, but this will make sure at least your starting position is crystal clear to your parents.

Moving out of home – Rule #2. Tell them you trust them

So what do you write in your letter?

The key is to avoid blame games and emotional blackmailing at all costs. Do not take an accusatory line of reasoning like the following:

You didn’t accept my marriage. This shows you don’t care for my happiness. Hence I’m leaving home.

moving out of homePhoto by Sephiroty Fiesta

Instead, take an accommodative and respectful approach. Tell them you trust their intentions as your parents. Something like:

I’m sure you want nothing but my happiness. I understand you don’t know Jane [insert your girlfriend’s name] closely enough, and hence you’re afraid she’d not make me happy. But I’ve known her for a sufficiently long period of time, and as of today I’m reasonably confident she would. I’m sure after some time when you see for yourself that we’re happy together, you’ll feel happy for us and accept our marriage with open arms.

Moving out of home – Rule #3. Explain rationally

Explain rationally: They’re your parents. It’s your duty to treat them with respect, even if you disagree with them. In your letter, tell them clearly that you respect them today as much as you always have. Explain that your moving out is not a gesture of rebellion but a practical solution that takes care of everybody’s interests as much as possible.

#1. You’ve already explained that you’re confident your decision (that of marrying your girlfriend) is the best one. You’ve also declared your belief that your parents will one day realize it. (As I explained earlier – tell them you trust their intentions.)

Hence it’s not about reconsidering your decision, but about taking the best actions given your decision.  

#2. You have responsibilities to your parents and your future wife. Hence it’s your duty to strive to maximize their combined happiness.  

#3. Hence you cannot imagine knowingly putting all of them in a stressful situation. Which is what you envision is going to happen if you marry your girlfriend and continue living with your parents. You cannot let your parents and your wife stress each other just because of you. Hence you’ve taken the decision of living away from your parents till all of you can live together in peace and harmony.

Your explanation should be as logical, as practical and as non-accusatory as that.

Moving out of home – Rule #4. If they threaten to disown you…

Be prepared for this threat even before you start this conversation with your parents.

When it comes, keep clam. A very tiny percentage of parents who threaten to disown their sons if they marry their girlfriends actually carry out that threat. Most accept the son and his wife after a few years at max.

Secondly, if you’re having this conversation with your parents I’d assume you’ve thought it all out very carefully already.  That would mean you’re certain in your mind that it will make you more unhappy to live without your girlfriend forever than it will make you to live without your parents forever (not suggesting that’s a great option).

Hence, DO NOT react to the threat.

Simply say very politely, “I’m sure you’re saying that just out of momentary anger. I’m sure you’ll accept us when you see us happy and realize that this was indeed the best decision.”

moving out of homePhoto by waqar bukhari

Moving out of home – Rule #5. If they threaten suicide…

Now this is unfortunate.

We’ve all heard those anecdotes of parents locking their daughter up in the home for stopping her from contacting her boyfriend, and getting her married off forcibly.

Almost every day some honour killing (killing of couples for daring to marry against family’s wishes) incident or the other is reported in the newspapers.

Reports of young couples committing suicide over parental disapproval of their relationships also keep hitting us at a steady rate.

Couple in Love Commits Suicide

Runaway Couple in Suicide Pact

Couple Commit Suicide by Jumping Before Train in UP

Tell me, how many incidences of parents committing suicide over children’s marriages have you heard of?

I can tell you – zero. That’s because they don’t happen. Emotionally blackmailing children out of marrying someone they love is quite an unfortunate action on the part of a parent. And it’s one that can well become a serious jolt to mutual trust between parents and children.

Be sure it’s not a real threat. Again, stay calm and do not react. Simply say very politely, “I’m sure you’re saying that just out of momentary anger. I’m sure you want me to be happy, and you’ll not do any such thing which will make me deeply unhappy.”

Have you ever tried to discuss moving out of home with your parents?

Have you helped a friend through this challenging process?

Tell us about your experience in the comments.

Why I Can’t Support “Blind” Marriages

Compatibility is one of those elusive, unmeasurable, undefined secret ingredients of successful marriages.

Can we determine the level of compatibility between two people with 100% certainty?

Never.

But through spending sufficient time with each other over a long enough period of time and through asking the right questions we can form an idea. That’s the best we can do to help ourselves take the biggest decision of our lives. Those of you who’ve been following this site for a while are familiar with these thoughts already. :)

But we want shortcuts. We want quick fix solutions. Unfortunately, such solutions rarely work in the long run.

I recently had a very interesting conversation about how we should go about gauging compatibility before marriage and whether there are any quick fix solutions to it. Here are some excerpts. Do let me know what you think. :)

arranged marriagePhoto by The People Speak!

Someone: What should I do to determine compatibility through a few meetings in case of arranged marriages?

Me: In my opinion, even in case of arranged marriages there’s no easy replacement for a real courtship of at least two year – not after fixing the marriage date, like they do in case of modern Indian arranged marriages – but before you decide to get married to each other.
“But what happens if after investing two long years we decide not to get married?” You might ask.
When I say date each other for two years, I don’t mean date each other exclusively. You’re not in a relationship or anything, you’ve met through matchmaking. So you don’t have the responsibilities that come with a commitment. Feel free to date more than one people at the same time, but disclose it to all the people involved

Someone: In the Indian societal set-up this arrangement is not going to be even acceptable- leave alone successful- beyond the tiniest fraction of arranged marriages taking place in the few metro cities.

Dating more than one person at a time?

Guys might just about escape any stigma or adverse remarks, but what about the girl? In a country where you need the flimsiest of excuses to set tongues wagging about “loose character”, dating multiple guys openly is the equivalent of showing a red cloth to the bull. Even if the girl cares two pence, her parents are unlikely to be unaffected by the constant insinuations.
My perspective is that of a guy hailing from a conservative family in a tier-2 city. I have been witness to innumerable instances of such “whispers” and comments being passed and I dare say that most folks outside metros (where I have been living for the last 2.5 years or so) harbor the same mindset- or worse.

Me: When I say date, I mean interact over a period of time after meeting through an arranged marriage channel (“getting to know each other” over months, sometimes more than a year, as is already common in case of modern arranged marriages). Most people do meet and interact with more than one “prospect” over the same period of time – otherwise how would you choose a partner in the limited timeframe of an arranged marriage preamble?

What I’m suggesting here is you do that for at least two years BEFORE, not AFTER you decide to get married. If you’ve already decided to get married, spending time with each other isn’t aiding your decision, which is the whole point of dating in the first place. :-)

A lot of people in India cannot afford 10 years of school education for their children. While this is unfortunate, this doesn’t take away anything from the importance of education for children.

Similarly, some conservative aspects of the Indian culture might make it impossible for you to interact with a “prospect” for a sufficiently long period of time before making a decision. That’s unfortunate. That doesn’t take away anything from the importance of these interactions in gauging compatibility between the two people. :)  Like I said, the thumbrule is – you should interact for at least 2 years before you can understand a person at least to some extent, which is essential to taking a decision as important as marriage.

If that’s not possible, well you’d be taking a higher risk with your marriage decision. :-) There is no shortcut to knowing a person. The criteria that are usually checked at the time of an arranged marriage like family backgrounds, education, financial status etc. are at best hygiene factors – they ensure a basic match between the tangible aspects of the two people’s lives. They don’t say ANYTHING about compatibility – a match between the type of people they are.

What if one of you is an honest, straight forward person while the other is manipulative?

What if one of you is a diehard conservative, while the other is a free-spirited liberal? (inside their heart. I understand on the surface everyone is expected to act conservative in the kind of scenario you’ve described. :D)

I’m sure you understand that such basic differences in nature, values and beliefs of the two people is sure to lead to an unhappy marriage (I wouldn’t say a failed marriage because Indians don’t divorce. :D)

arranged marriagePhoto by Neelan – God’s self portrait

The only way to even begin to gauge such aspects of a person is to keep spending time with them over a sufficiently long period of time. This will NOT ensure a happy marriage (nothing can, because people can change 5 years later, fall in love with someone else etc.). But it will reduce the risk of a mistake significantly. :)

Similarly, this is not to say 100% of “blind” marriages (arranged marriages where the bride and the groom don’t even get to see each other more than a few times before marriage) are sure to be unhappy. If you’re lucky you’ll coincidentally find someone compatible to you even through the “blind” process. But it would still be that – a very lucky coincidence.  :)

Realistically speaking, while a blind marriage may not be the best option, if it’s your only option you’d have to make it work, even if your spouse doesn’t turn out to be exactly what you needed. A mental readiness for making all necessary compromises, a willingness to treat the other person with respect no matter how much you like or dislike them and continuing to set clear boundaries and rules of the relationship as you discover each other are essential to making it a stable, peaceful union.

Interracial Marriage: 7 Tips for “Two States” Couples

Disclaimers first: For want of a better term I’ve used the phrase “interracial marriage” to mean marriage between people from different Indian states. Whether they can be technically called different “races” is, of course, debatable.

Young people today are much more mobile than they were a generation ago. Interracial marriages are hence becoming increasingly common in India.

An interracial marriage is a marriage across cultural barriers. If you are in an interracial relationship, you know that it has its own set of challenges. Here are some tips to help you deal with them.  

Interracial marriage – Rule #1. Know your differences

India is NOT a homogenous country. Each state has its distinct and novel culture (which gives our country its uniquely rich heritage). If you come from different states, recognize that there are cultural differences between the two of you. Don’t go down the blissfully ignorant “people are people” path – pretending you’re just two individuals with no cultural baggage. That approach is likely to lead to nasty surprises as you discover predictable differences which you assumed didn’t exist.

Ask questions. Make it a point to have fun chats about each other’s food, festivals, social norms etc. from time to time. This will help you appreciate your differences in a relaxed non-threatening environment (instead of having them thrust down your throat by an in-law post-marriage, for example). Being open and inclusive is about respecting differences among people, not about wishing them away.

interracial marriagePhoto by alisa carolina

Interracial marriage – Rule #2. Know their family

Attend family holidays/functions with your significant other’s family and encourage them to do the same with you. A holiday is a great occasion to get to know a culture, a family, their values, habits, beliefs etc. It’s also a great opportunity to help them look past the cultural barrier and start seeing you as part of the family already. Getting to know each other’s families sufficiently well before marriage is key to familial harmony, especially in case of an interracial marriage.

Interracial marriage – Rule #3. Boundaries

What is your strategy of handling cultural conflicts as and when they arise?

If one of you is a vegetarian and the other is not, how are you going to plan your meals?

What would each of you do when you want to watch movies in your language?

How are you going to celebrate major religious festivals – your way or their?

Most couples in interracial marriages struggle with such situations because either of them tries to “adjust” to the other’s culture, suppressing their own beliefs and preferences. That approach is likely to create dissatisfaction, leading to communication gap and loss of intimacy in the long run.

Instead anticipate the predictable conflicts before marriage and define clear rules & boundaries for handling them. For example:

I’ll cook my non-veg food separately and share the rest of the food items with you.

Each of us will have half-a-day per weekend to ourselves when we can engage in activities and people specifically related to our culture, without having to include the other person.

In alternate years we’ll celebrate Diwali with my folks and your folks.

You get the idea.

Interracial marriage – Rule #4. Children

Which values and beliefs are you going to hand down to your children? Will they learn both your languages? How will you make sure they absorb the best of both the cultures of their parents? If your cultures are widely divergent it’s essential you agree on at least some broad principles regarding children. For example:

“They’ll spend one vacation per year with each set of grandparents.”

“We’ll raise them vegetarians/non-vegetarians.”

Etc.

Interracial marriage – Rule #5. Independence

Not all of us have the same level of involvement with our respective cultures. Some of us have a more global/more pan-Indian outlook, whereas others are more of a product of their home culture. Needless to say, interracial marriages work only for people who’re individualistic and highly independent of their families. If part of your core identity is made up of your home culture, your inter-cultural relationship is unlikely to work in the long run.

interracial marriagePhoto by kbhatia1967

Interracial marriage – Rule #6. Culture vulture?

Each culture is extraordinary in its own ways. No culture can be “superior” or “inferior” to any other. However all over the world the cultures of the majority, the powerful and the rich usually become the “dominant cultures” – cultures everyone else wants to emulate.  If one partner in your relationship is from a dominant culture, you need to make sure none of you are in this relationship because you want to “become part of” the dominant culture (while it sounds bizarre, such unions are very common all over the world).

This tendency may not always be deliberate. But watch out for obvious signs such as the partner from the “dominant culture” being treated as a trophy, the other partner making all attempts to “blend in” with the “dominant culture” instead of showing equal respect to both cultures etc.

Interracial marriage – Rule #7. Strength of your relationship

You’re not prey to the “Love conquers all” myth, are you? As I’ve harped many times, a successful marriage is NOT about love and luck but about sharing and compatibility. If you choose to get married your cultural differences will affect your relationship in ways you cannot anticipate today.

Do you have enough common grounds to stand on?

Have you spent enough time (I mean years, not months :D) together and are completely sure he/she is The One for you?

Take time to decide whether your worldviews, basic values and beliefs are sufficiently aligned, and whether your relationship is strong enough to beat the odds.

Are you in an interracial marriage or relationship? Is it more or less challenging than you’d expected? Let us know by leaving a comment. 

Q&A. Has He Married Me Just to Obtain a Green Card?

Q. I’m an Indian-born US citizen. I’m physically challenged (paraplegic), currently living in India with my mother on an OCI visa for my treatment. My dad still works in the US – we couldn’t have borne the costs of my treatment otherwise. My husband is from India but living in Canada on a work permit.

We met online and hit it off almost instantly. He started with treating me with all the love and attention I could ask for – talking to me every day, even during work. He’d sleep late to talk to me, he’d wake up early to talk to me, he’d text me during work, we’d Skype every day for 2-3 hours and even if we didn’t have anything to talk about, we’d talk or just sit there looking at each other.

I asked him about his goals, ambitions, likes and dislikes. It’s crazy how similar we seemed in every respect. It made me feel as though we’re meant for each other.

Finally after about talking to each other for about two months, he dropped the “L” bomb. At this point the feeling was mutual. We started a long distance relationship. Everything was going great.

After we’d been in a relationship for about a month, it was time for me and my mum to visit my dad in the US. During my stay there we started talking about a green card for him so he could fulfil his dreams of starting his career in the US. He was fiercely against it at first, saying “I don’t want to use you like that”.

Married for greeen cardPhoto by naturalhomecures34

After a while, he agreed and said it was okay if we got married and filed for a green card for him. After a couple more days, I spent $400.00 on a ticket to see him in Canada (my mom came with me). Everything was perfect till then. 

It was in Canada that the first signs of trouble started to appear. For instance, there was this incident of him getting furious with me quite unexpectedly when I told him I wanted to visit the hookah bar with him (a place he frequented for smoking hookah, which I thought would be fun). He was very rude. I was so shocked that I couldn’t say anything. Later I forgave him as I assumed he’d reacted because he couldn’t afford it. (A couple of days after I left, he bought a hookah so that he could smoke at home with his friends).

We went back to the States. A felt he was starting to change. He stopped Skyping me as much, we would fight more, and he stopped giving me time. After a month, my mom and I made another trip to Canada to meet him. It wasn’t any better this time. His treatment of me became even more rude, unpredictable, most alarmingly – unexplainable.

He would even insult my mom or avoid her quite obviously. I thought that he might be frustrated because of work so I didn’t bother him too much.

His friends, he, my mom and I had planned a trip to Vegas to celebrate Christmas and New Year together. We got married in Vegas so I could file for his green card. Things weren’t that great in Vegas. He bought a really expensive DSLR camera. Whenever we’d pass by something cool my mom or I would tell him to come and take photos. He’d rudely tell us something like, “I don’t like all this, why do we have to take pictures?” But whenever his friends would tell him to take a picture, he wouldn’t say a word and would start to pose for them.

Later we came back to India and he went back to Canada. Recently I asked him to take photos of himself for his birthday and share. Bizarrely, he became furious and seemed incapable of appreciating my desire to feel included.

I’ve asked him to set his profile picture on FaceBook to something with him and I in it. He doesn’t want to do that. Neither does he want to change his WhatsApp picture to something with both of us together. 

When he came on Christmas, I gifted him a beautiful watch from Skagen. It was a silver netted band with a black dial. Not too big, not too small. He didn’t appreciate it and started saying that I should have consulted him before buying. My dad was there and he was really upset. He didn’t even thank me verbally. His friends gifted him a cheap watch from WalMart with a big dial and he loved it! I felt so hurt.

Long story short, I feel I’ve dropped completely out of his priority list. He doesn’t call/Skype/communicate much (in spite of ours being a long distance relationship), doesn’t appreciate me for who I am (doesn’t encourage me on my efforts to improve my physical condition, forced me to get myself a makeover) and doesn’t even appreciate my efforts to make it work in spite of all this.

I haven’t been happy these days, all I’ve been doing is feeling lonely and crying a lot because I feel I ruined my life. He doesn’t please me sexually either. He finishes before I do and doesn’t have the courtesy to help me finish.

He expects everything to be done his way and is really arrogant, insensitive and stubborn. He curses, fights, and screams like a baby! I don’t know if I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life.

Is he acting this way just for his green card? Should I divorce him? He’s coming to US in July and I’m also going there. What should I do?

-Anonymous 

A. A few red flags according to me:

#1. You’ve married too early      and without knowing each other closely enough. I understand you married      early to give him the advantage of the green card. But in general it’s not      a good idea to be married at a time when your relationship is going to      remain long distance for an indefinite period.

Why Marriages and Relationships are like Apples and Oranges (Part 1) 
Why Marriages and Relationships are like Apples and Oranges (Part 2).
“When Should I Get Married?” 10 Questions I Wish I Had Asked Myself Before Getting Married – Part 1
“When Should I Get Married?” 10 Questions I Wish I Had Asked Myself Before Getting Married – Part 2 

Married for greeen cardPhoto by Kitty Allison

#2. You’ve said he’d sometimes      insult your mother or not talk to her. I think you’re making a mistake by      involving your mother too much in your relationship. (That’s what it seems      from the limited amount of information that I have. Pardon me if I’m      mistaken.) For example, your mother accompanied you to Canada when you      went to meet him. Your mother was present throughout your honeymoon in Las      Vegas even after your wedding. This is definitely not acceptable from any      spouse’s point of view. I understand that she needs to take care of you      because of your condition. Hence ask your husband openly whether your      mother’s presence is disturbing to him. If you want honest answers, don’t      make this sound like a threat. In your situation, ideally your spouse should be either willing (and able) to take care of you all by themselves, or at peace with the constant presence of your mother. He can’t eat the cake and have it too. Encourage him to choose one of the two options.

My reading of the situation: 

Your guy is taking you for granted. And you’re blind in love, even if you don’t want to admit it. Otherwise he wouldn’t have tried to change you completely and you wouldn’t have obliged by making over your wardrobe etc.

This may or may not mean that he doesn’t love you. It might just be that he really wasn’t mentally ready for marriage but did it early because of the green card and now feels trapped. It may be that he feels that he can trust you and hence feels it’s OK to treat you the way he wants (which is not a valid assumption). 

You can choose to give this relationship another chance, or you can end it. All I can tell you is that it’s not certain that he doesn’t care for you. Not yet. 

If you choose to try again, the first step is to talk. Have an open but mature & non-threatening discussion about your needs. Tell him openly which of his behaviours hurt you. Ask him directly if there’s anything he needs from the relationship that he’s not getting. Emphasize that you’re willing to work for keeping the two of you together. 

At a marriage stage as early as yours, communication is a huge challenge. The experience of my own marriage tells me this. You’re interpreting his actions in certain ways, which may be entirely off target. The same might be happening in his head. The fact that you’re based in different continents doesn’t help matters either. In this situation, instead of drawing conclusions about intentions from each other’s behaviours, open up and ask. 

In this regard, the importance of remaining calm cannot be stressed enough. This will become another meaningless, exhausting fight unless you promise yourself never to lose temper even if he does. If he gets defensive your responsibility is to re-clarify the objective of the discussion, emphasizing the fact that this is not a blame game. 

No one is perfect. All couples achieve peace and happiness through finding middle grounds and you can do the same. If you can resolve your misunderstandings – all my prayers for your undying love! :) If you can’t, you’d at least know you did everything you could before giving up. And make no mistake – giving up is an option (if you don’t get satisfactory responses from him within a reasonable period of time, for example), and it’s as good an option as staying back. Do not go down the lane of self-loathing thinking breaking up is a morally wrong or selfish choice. Remember: 

Life is too short to chase anything but happiness.

We remain in relationships as long as they give us peace, happiness and overall fulfilment, and not when they start having a generally negative effect on our lives.

All the best. :)