Q. I’m 26, Indian, living in the US. I have been seeing this guy (also Indian, based in the US) for 2.5 years now. We are of the same age.

Everything seems perfect in the relationship. His parents have accepted me happily. My parents are neither too approving, nor too disapproving of him, but have accepted my decision to get married to him, on condition of us getting married soon. Now here’s where the problem arises. My parents have been pressurizing me to get married for a very long time, starting at a time when I was not ready for marriage at all.

When they found out about my boyfriend, they insisted on talking to him about marriage. He came to my place and met my mother (when she was here). She liked him but he made it clear that he needed more time for marriage. I had trouble accepting it, but I did. I felt proud of his honesty and staunch refusal to lie in order to appease my family.

That was a year back. Late Last year we visited India together and he took the initiative to meet my family again, this time with his parents. I got my hopes high, but unfortunately his father told my family that he needed two more years before he was ready for marriage.

I broke up with him out of shock and pain, as at this point I had been ready to take the plunge for quite a while myself. But well, of course, we patched up.

Marriage avoidancePhoto by Irudayam

Sometime around March this year he started talking openly about marriage and declared that I’m the one for him. Gaining confidence in his intentions, I decided to stop throwing hints and told him that it’s no longer about parental pressure, and that I had been ready for quite a while. He was somewhat shocked. I asked him whether he had intentions of marrying within the year at least. He again backtracked, mentioning something vague about next year. 

I am not sure where to go from here. Everything is great between us, just that he keeps trying to buy time. Sometimes I even wonder whether he really is The One. I’m also tired of my parents continuously pressurizing me for getting married. I strive to make everyone happy but this is draining me completely. Please help.

-Smitha

A. Marriage is a life-altering decision Smitha. The only way you can increase the chances of making yours a success is to spend a few years with each other before marriage, and ask yourselves the right questions. 

From giving up the freedom to sleep through the weekend to making your peace with differences in food habits – marriage will change your life in more ways than you can imagine, irrespective of how many years you might have been together. 

Hence, the first step to making a marriage work is to understand this change.

Why Marriages and Relationships are like Apples and Oranges (Part 1) 
Why Marriages and Relationships are like Apples and Oranges (Part 2) 

Once you have some vague mental pictures of how your life is going to change after marriage, you need to start asking the right questions to yourself and your partner, to gauge whether you’re both ready to get married – now and with each other.

“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

Hence, I’d strongly suggest against calling off a stable relationship of 2.5 years just for the sake of a disagreement over when you should get married, when you have such great compatibility. Consider giving him time if he needs, but not until you both agree on the terms. Read on to find out what I mean. 

The first step for you is to have an open but calm conversation with him. Ask him what is the reason he’s postponing the marriage again and again. Is it emotional readiness, financial issues, panic for losing personal space … what exactly is it that’s bothering him? It’s vital for the stability of this relationship that you’re both very clear on the reasons for delaying the marriage. Be extra careful to create a peaceful, non-threatening, supportive environment that helps him open up. As of today, he’s obviously scared of something – your reaction, your parents reaction, repercussions for the relationship etc – which is making him hold back from you on his real worries. Help him trust you completely. I cannot emphasize the importance of mutual trust enough for taking your relationship (and future marriage) forward from this point. 

Once you know the aspects of his concern, try to address them. 

Marriage avoidancePhoto by dmixo6

Is it finances that he’s worried about? Discuss and come to an agreement of how you’ll handle your finances (All funds common, one joint account plus individual accounts for each of you, completely separate accounts with expenses designated for each partner are just some of your options. Make sure by the end the arrangement is clear to and works for both of you.)

Is it personal space? This one’s more difficult to resolve. But you have to drive towards defining clear rules, like: I’d accompany you on all your activities and you’ll do the same for me, OR we’d each have one day of the two-day weekend to ourselves without the interference of the other, OR we’d each take solo trips sometimes, and that should be acceptable to the other partner. I’m just trying to give you some ideas of how rules of marital relationship look. Work out your own, making sure they distribute rights and responsibilities equitably,  without favouring any one partner over the other. 

Hope by now you have an idea what sort of conversations I’m encouraging you to have with your partner. Please go through the articles I mentioned before – they’d help you think about the aspects you need to take into account in this discussion. Some of the factors might even involve the parents on both sides. Each of you can discuss it with your parents, come back, and agree with your partner on what is acceptable. I’d suggest you don’t involve your parents directly in your discussion of your “Code of Marriage”, so to speak. :)

The second step from your side is to get him to commit to a marriage date, but only after you’ve successfully addressed all his concerns in the manner described above. Let him pick the date, don’t force a date earlier than what he’s comfortable with. But you should make it clear that once committed, you’d expect him to that date. If needed, announce the date to your family, friends, his family etc. (with his permission, of course). This would create some positive pressure on him to not go back on his words. 

What do you think of this situation, penguins? Let me know by leaving a comment. :)