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. 

Q&A.The 4 Golden Rules of a Successful Marriage

Q. I see too many divorces around me. This is making me commitment-phobic. How can I ever find the courage to get married?

-Ankita, Mumbai

It’s good to know that you understand the importance of marriage without getting married. :D

Marriage will remain one of the biggest decisions of your life (if not the biggest one). The first thing to understand about marriage is that it’s always a risk. There is always a chance that things will not work out – five, ten or even twenty years down the line. You can’t eliminate that chance, but you can minimize it – by minimizing the chances of error before marriage.

Let me lay down some basic principles of avoiding common marriage mistakes, for your understanding. I call them the four Golden Rules of marrying the right person at the right time.

Rule #1. Don’t jump too early

A relationship has various stages. The first stage is the mad infatuation/attraction phase when you see nothing but positives in each other. This stage can last for anywhere between two months to more than a year. 

Every relationship starts with this stage, which then gradually culminates into (or doesn’t culminate into) a stable partnership, complete with mutual understanding, appreciation of each other’s needs and some compromises (We all know there’s no perfect relationship with zero compromises from either side). 

marriage phobiaPhoto by Maria Rosaria Sannino

The effects of the infatuation phase on your brain are neurologically and psychologically very similar to those of addictive substances

Hence the first rule of marital success is NOT taking the decision of marriage during this phase, let it crystallize into a more stable relationship stage and then think about marriage. In other words, you should be together at least for 2 years before you decide someone is “The One” of your life. No, that “feeling” that you get in your guts about him/her being “The One” is not a substitute for those years of understanding, fighting and reconciling with each other. 

Rule #2. The recipe for relationship success

The second rule of gauging whether you have a potentially successful relationship is to look at the level of compatibility you share. 

Compatibility = Friendship + Empathy + Mutual Need Fulfilment

Friendship – Understanding and caring for each other as friends. (Thumbrule for gauging the depth of the friendship between two people: Ask yourself, “Would we want each other in our lives even if there were no sexual attraction between us?”) 

Empathy – Understanding where the other person is coming from. Their needs, biases, weaknesses and the roots of all these. Now of course it’s not possible for anyone to figure that out completely for their significant other (Heck! We’d all have to be psychiatrists!). But as long as you genuinely want to and try to understand each other, you’ll find your relationship is attaining new depths. 

Mutual Need Fulfilment – A follow-up step on the last one is a genuine desire to fulfil the needs that one’s partner has from the relationship. The stability of a relationship is determined by each partner’s answer to ONE moot question:  

Are My Needs From This Relationship Getting Fulfilled?

marriage phobiaPhoto by Mustafa Khayat

Rule #3. Marriage means change

The third rule of making your marriage a success is to realize that your life is going to change inside out after marriage, irrespective of how long you’ve been in  a relationship (unless you’ve been in a long live-in relationship), and to understand what these changes would mean for your life. 

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

Rule #4. Questions to ask before marriage

Lastly, to determine whether you’re ready for marriage or not you need to ask yourselves some vital questions. Whether and when you go ahead with the marriage will depend on your answers.
“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
Let me reiterate – following the 4 Golden Rules of Marriage would not ensure that you never have marital stability issues in the next fifty years. But they will ensure that you avoid the easily avoidable but alarmingly common mistakes and thereby increase the chances of success significantly. To test things out better, why don’t you run a covert survey on your divorcee friends to find out how many of them followed all the four rules? ;)

Busting the Top 20 Relationship Myths

“True love conquers all.”

“It was love at first sight.”

“If it’s not forever it’s not love.”

Relationship myths are many. Some harmlessly funny, some dangerously life-destroying if you believe in them.

I thought I’d entertain myself by busting some of the most popular relationship myths this morning. Read on for some laughs and may be a few life lessons.

Relationship myth #1

It’s “true, eternal love” that keeps couples together decade after decade. (Only when added to financial stability, compatibility and lethargy to imagine beyond the status quo.)

relationship mythsPhoto by JanviSharma

Relationship myth #2

Relationships “work themselves out” if “true love” is there. (“True love” is for the first year. At most two. After that it’s consistent, conscious efforts or Goodbye. ;))

Relationship myth #3

If you’re not happy alone, you’ll never be happy in a relationship. (As social animals, humans are programmed by Nature to feel unhappy and lonely when alone. Loneliness is not a thought but an instinct meant to force you to seek out other humans to socialize with. However as intelligent beings, humans can choose to enjoy their singledom instead of sulking through it.)

Relationship myth #4

You’ll “never” be able to forget your ex who just dumped you. (True, you’ll never be able to forget them as long as you continue to focus on them. But you have the option to shift your focus.)

Relationship myth #5

You fell in love “at first sight”. (There’s no such thing as “love at first sight”. There can be “attraction at first sight”, which may or may not turn into a real relationship.)

Relationship myth #6

If you look at someone and feel “This is it!”, it means this is it. (Girl – and I know you’re a girl – run home before you ruin your life! That’s all I can say. It’s compatibility – not whims – that makes relationships work. And when it comes to gauging it, nothing replaces a few years spent together.)

Relationship myth #7

If it’s not “forever” it’s not “love”. (It’s OK to let some things in your life remain perfect. Like memories of a relationship which didn’t culminate into the messy reality of a life together.)

Relationship myth #8

Your life would be so much better “if only” you weren’t in this wretched relationship. (Water the grass on your side to the best of your abilities before you start thinking that the other side is greener. It takes work – not “love and luck” – to make relationships work.)

Relationship myth #9

Being in love is a necessary condition for a successful marriage. (A successful marriage is about making the all-round partnership more value-adding than being alone, for both the partners. The value can be emotional, practical, social, financial or anything else. It can be – and often is – a combination of many of these factors.)

Relationship myth #10

Being in love is a sufficient condition for a successful marriage. (Well, listen to your mother. And read this: Why Marriages and Relationships are like Apples and Oranges (Part 1) & Why Marriages and Relationships are like Apples and Oranges (Part 2))

relationship mythsPhoto by JanviSharma

Relationship myth #11

Everyone falls in love at least once. (Not everyone is sensitive enough to be able to fall in love. Many people spend their lives in “happy arrangements” called “marriages”. And that includes all marriages of convenience, including but not limited to those arranged by one’s parents. ;) )

Relationship myth #12

Compatibility is a necessary condition for falling in love. (Falling in love per se is a random, mad process. It has got nothing to do with marriage, relationship, stability etc. All these factors complicate it at a later stage.)

Relationship myth #13

Falling in love is a sufficient condition for compatibility. (OMG No! Again, read this: “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)

Relationship myth #14

You should get married before you let your relationship become “old” and “boring”. (Only if you’re comfortable taking the biggest decision of your life under the influence of addictive drugs. If you want a stable marriage, spend at least 2 years with each other before deciding to get married.)

Relationship myth #15

While marriage has many disadvantages, some of the biggest advantages are enjoying “true, lasting love”, lifelong romance and sex. (While these things form an important part of a marriage, that part is close to 0.5%. People get married because they crave sharing and companionship).

Relationship myth #16

The low divorce rates in India bear testimony to the fact that arranged marriages foster true compatibility. (It bears testimony to the fact that in India, breaking the bond of marriage – “love” or “arranged” – means a massive loss of face most would do anything to avoid.)

Relationship myth #17

Opposites attract. (As I’ve said many times, it’s compatibility which keeps people together. A certain degree of complementarity can increase compatibility, but extreme divergence – e.g. a firebrand liberal and a diehard conservative – rarely helps create a lasting partnership.)

Relationship myth #18

You’re feeling bored and same-old means you’re not in love with each other. (Boredom and same-old-ness in long term relationships are some of the surest signs of stability)

Relationship myth #19

A relationship is a bond between two people. (A relationship is a chemistry of two families. No, I’m not talking about only the typical Indian version where it’s literally so, but relationships of all forms. Your partner is to a great extent a product of their childhood and their upbringing. You have to understand their childhood and the people they spent it with in order to understand them.)

Relationship myth #20

Incessant fighting means “it’s not working”. (Incessant fighting signifies you still care for and fiercely love each other. It’s when fights stop that the end is near.)

Don’t agree with me? There’s one among the twenty which you’ve found to be true in your life? Bash away in the comments. I’m waiting. ;)

Q&A: My Mother Feels Hurt by my Girlfriend’s Family. How to Make Things Work?


I don’t know how to start this story, but let me just start by saying I love my mother. I never had a great relationship with my father and it’s her hard work, dedication, parental love – whatever you call it – that makes me stand where I stand today.

Lion cub in mum's jawsPhoto by klehmkuhl

I now live and work in the US. Four years back I met my girlfriend (let’s call her AK), a half North Indian-half Bengali born and brought up in the US. Her parents ran away from home and married against their parents’ wishes, though later reconciled and now share good relations with their families. I’m glad to have them in my life – they’ve accepted our relationship fully and are very supportive of me.

Recently we started thinking of marriage. I arranged a meeting between my mother and sister and AK’s parents back in India. Neither AK nor I was present in this meeting.

Unfortunately the meeting didn’t last for even 5 min.  My mother was apparently outraged by the way AK’s mother treated her, and also by her attire which my mother deemed inappropriate for a public place.

Later I started hearing different accounts of the event from my mother, sister and AK’s mother. My mother is very angry at the moment and has gone to the extent of telling me to maintain a distance from AK and her family, suggesting they’re the “clever”, “bling-bling” type and not suitable for a guy like me. 

I really love AK and both of us have given a lot to this relationship. But on the other hand I have no clue as to how to placate my mother and start talking to her meaningfully about it.

I don’t want to hurt my mother by going against her wishes. Understandably, AK doesn’t want to force her way into an unwelcoming family either.

I can’t let either of the two people I love the most in this world become the biggest source of sorrow to the other. Please help me.

–          BG, North Carolina


Hi BG, 

Thank you for writing in. 

There are two important questions here:

  1. Should you get married to your current girlfriend?
  2. If yes, how should you proceed?

Let’s look at #1.

There are a couple of issues at play here.

First of all, AK’s family is settled abroad. Her parents are very liberal people, given the fact that they’re an interracial couple who ran away from home, one generation ago. Going by your description, your family seems to be quite traditional. Hence there’s a huge cultural gap between your family and AK’s. One of the reasons for your mother’s outrage is this.

While you may be settling abroad after marriage and your wife may not have to interact much with your mother, are you sure your traditional upbringing and her liberal upbringing will not lead to clashes at some point?

You might consider yourself liberalized. But we can never fully overcome the influences of our childhood even if we want, and deep inside you might hold traditional beliefs, attitudes and worldviews which neither you nor AK are aware of today. Your long relationship would of course have helped you understand each other to a great extent. But you need to do some soul-searching to find out such possible points of disconnect between the two of you (Why not start with listing down the things about AK’s family that you don’t like?). And she needs to do the same. Also discuss this with her parents openly, if you think they can help. Marriage is a BIG decision, and being uncomfortable now is better than making a mistake.

If after the exercise you’re still convinced you’re made for each other, we can move to Question #2.

We know your mother’s reaction to the whole situation.

I understand your parents are either separated or not very close to each other. Your mother loves her son (you) more than anything else. All her life she’s struggled to make sure he reaches where he is today. Naturally, he’s the core of her life.

In such a situation it’s most natural to feel paranoid – at least subconsciously – about someone else (AK) assuming importance in his life.

Inside, your mother is feeling insecure. She’s afraid she’d cease to hold as much importance to you as she holds today, if you marry someone you’ve fallen in love with (as opposed to someone chosen by her and/or the rest of your family). Add to that the fact that the girl’s family is very modern, enlightened, etc. This is intimidating to your mother. She’s afraid you’ll get so enamoured by their sophistication, progressive attitude etc. that you’ll draw closer and closer to them, forgetting her. Of course she also has the real fears of you experiencing a culture shock if you marry into this family (the concern I mentioned earlier).

Saas bahuPhoto by Shrihari

Let me tell you first off that arranging a meeting between the two mothers as a starter to this relationship was a mistake. You should’ve told her four years ago that there’s someone you like. You should have gone on to talk about her with your mother over all of your calls over the next one year. Eventually you should have let AK and your mother interact telephonically over the next couple of years before you let the girl’s parents meet her. Check this: How to Impress your Girlfriend/Boyfriend’s Parents

However what’s past is past. Now your job is to allay your mother’s fears. You can try the following:

  1. Empathize: Do not mention anything about AK to your mother for a few days now. She’s hurt (quite understandably). Right now your responsibility is to be by her side. For the next few days call her more often than usual. Talk to her very lovingly. No need to bring up the girl’s mother incident (that will lead to more negative emotions on the part of both of you) but ask her often how she’s feeling, how her day was etc. She must feel her pain is as much yours as hers.
  2. Explain: Whenever you think your mother has recovered from this incident, apologize profusely for it. Subsequently tell her gently that she’s totally justified in her reaction given the impression of the girl’s family that she got, but you’ve interacted with them for years and they’re very good people (I hope that’s what you believe ;)). Give her a few instances of the care for you that they’ve shown over the years (may be you have dinner with them often, or they help you with your settling down challenges in a new country… ). In the end repeat to your mother that you’re very disappointed by the way things turned out in their very short meeting and you’re trying to understand why the girl’s family acted in the way they did (even if you’re not doing this ;) ). The objective here is to make your mother believe that you understand her pain and are not suffering from the “son is a son until he takes a wife” syndrome.
  3. Help them become friends: Your mother will not react favourably to the above approach the first time. Keep trying it from time to time (Don’t do it in every conversation – you’ll lose her trust). In the meantime keep mentioning AK casually every now and then. (AK topped her class… AK makes such delicious cakes… AK gave me a beautiful sweater, I’ll send you photos of it… ). Also get AK to say hi to your mother sometime. One very important word of caution – do not make up nice stuff about her to impress your mother, highlight only the real positive aspects of her. Otherwise there will be expectation mismatches and severe strains within the family later. On the same note, encourage AK to be herself – instead of going out of her way to be impressive – while she’s on call with your mother.
  4. Don’t overdo it: Always remember, half of your battle is already won. Your mother, at the end of the day, wants your happiness more than anything else. The very fact that she’d agreed to meet the girl’s family in spite of the fact that they’re settled abroad and are – well – very different from your own is a sign that she’s at least OK with the marriage in principle. So just make sure you take it very carefully from here on. There is no need to put in unnecessary extra efforts – just let things flow naturally while ensuring no further damage occurs.

Let me know how things go. All the best. :)

“When Should I Get Married?” 10 Questions I Wish I Had Asked Myself Before Getting Married – Part 2

Hello penguins! In the last post I talked about 5 of the top 10 questions you must ask yourself (and your boyfriend/girlfriend) to determine whether you’re ready to get married. Here are the last 5.

1.      Do we know each other’s negative sides and have strategies to deal with them?

Do you know what your boyfriend is like when he’s really (I mean really really) angry?

You can’t live without your dogs. Do you know if she can live with them?

Are you too ambitious for him/her?

Before you decide when to get married, make sure you know about (most of) those aspects of your partner which you don’t like. For this, you need to know each other closely enough. Don’t decide to get married in a rush (like I did, and had to put in a lot for effort later, before we came close to finding solutions).

When should I get marriedPhoto by midgetmanofsteel

The second step after figuring each other out is learning to deal with each other. When you should get married will depend largely on what kind of time you take to develop strategies to handle each other’s negative sides.

For example, decide whether you’re ready to live pet-less for the rest of your life for the sake of your pet-o-phobic partner. Make your peace with your partner’s may-not-be-so-awesome career before you’ve decided to get married. Taking the plunge carrying qualms and disappointments  in your mind is a near-perfect formula for marital disaster.

2.      Do we respect and admire each other as individuals?

Are you in love? Great. But it also means you have a fancy pair of glasses on your eyes (I know I had). Glasses which make him/her seem like The Best Thing on Earth, The Thing to die for, The Thing to live for.

Of course I’m joking. Of course you’re not going to think about marriage in that stage of your relationship. The stage when everything looks pink. Unfortunately I did, and I really hope and wish (and warn) that you don’t.

You love each other and care for each other. But also ask yourselves whether you value each other as individuals, for the qualities that you have (and beauty or physical attractiveness is not one of them, because its magic wears off). If you’ve never bothered about those, start now. You don’t want to know what happens when you marry someone thinking they’re gold and your shared life proves them to be only glittery, and not gold.  

3.      Have we become part of each other’s family?

I cannot emphasize the importance of this one enough, especially in an Indian context. Knowing each other’s families and becoming integrated is important not only because you’re expected to spend time with them after marriage, but much more importantly, because you can’t know a person fully unless you know their family. When you’ve spent time with your partner in their home, with their family – you get to know them in their most comfortable context. It’s here that you get to see their truest self.

This is important especially if you and your partner have met each other at a later stage in life (say, after college). Never make the mistake of taking your relationship too far (close to marriage, that is) without knowing your partner’s family well enough. People grow out of their homes and can develop an exterior which doesn’t show their true self, their core values and beliefs. When you spend enough time with their family, get to know about their childhood, their relationship with their parents and closest friends – you get to look past that veneer.

When should I get marriedPhoto by rikhei

Secondly of course there’s the question of developing a relationship with each other’s families. This involves knowing their positives, negatives, expectations from you etc. You might like them, you might not. But in any case you need to have your strategy of dealing with them in the best possible way. This strategy is best developed over time, in a no-pressure situation. In other words, before marriage (unlike me ;)).

4.      Can I see him/her as a parent of my children?

The import of this one of course needs no re-emphasis. Does it fill your heart with happiness to think of having children with him/her one day? Is he/she the kind of person you’d want to share your genes with, in the form of your legacy in this world?

On this count, the question of his/her family comes into play once again. You might love each other and want to live with each other. But before deciding when to get married, be conscious of the fact that your children are as much a product of your family, as hers/his. Are you happy to think of your child as a dot on the line of his/her family?

If not, think again. And very carefully.

5.      Is he/she The One?

I’m an idealist when it comes to love. I believe in all the good old concepts like there being a special someone waiting for each of us, and a couple being two parts of a whole which fit perfectly into each other, and each other only. While everything I’ve mentioned so far is crucial to deciding when to get married, nothing replaces that special connection you feel with him/her which you’ve never felt before. Only this morning I was thinking of how meeting your Special One is like resonance in physics – you’ll never get to see the how much your heart can fly unless you’ve hit the resonant frequency, of which there’s only one in this world. In fact I posted about it (along with a lot of other fun, romantic and quirky quotes) in our Facebook Page.

If this box is not ticked, deal’s sure off. No questions asked.

And after many shameful confessions of not asking (most of) the right questions before marriage, I’m bloated with pride to inform you that this one is something I managed to tick the first thing after I met him. :D

6.      Is there a #6?

Well there wouldn’t be, but as our most enthusiastic friend and follower Connie Omari has pointed out in the comments to the last post, a shared spiritual (NOT religious) belief is crucial too. You’re an atheist, your partner goes to the temple every Thursday, you’re fighting about it every day and you’re still hoping it’ll all be ok after marriage – unlikely to work.

What are the questions you’re planning to go over before your marriage?

What did you ask and what did you forget to ask before your marriage?

I can’t wait to hear it all out in the comments.

Have a great day!

“When Should I Get Married?” 10 Questions I Wish I Had Asked Myself Before Getting Married – Part 1

Do you know that less than 1 lac Indians are Googling about when they should get married as compared to 33.5 lac Googling “marriage” per month? That’s less than 3% marriage maturity. Dumb, I say. But not much more than I was of course, when I took the plunge without bothering about whether I was really ready to get married.

How we came to make it work eventually is another story for another day.;)

Today I want to share with you my “hindsight” (they’re always priceless, you know) on the questions you should ask yourself to gauge whether you’re ready to get married. Now of course the number of questions you should ask yourselves before getting married is not ten, it’s more in the range of three and a half thousand. But I’ve tried to sum all that up in these ten questions in today’s (and the next) post. There are gazillions of other questions you can and should ask each other before proceeding to say “I do”, but these ten are ones you absolutely cannot afford to miss.

When to get marriedPhoto by Marriage Bureau

1.      Am I ready to settle down?

Marriage always involves sacrificing freedom, in some form or the other.

It involves giving up (some of) those late nights.

It might mean spending less time with your parents or friends.

It means cutting back on Facebooking at 2 am.

It means being unable to blog 24X7 (in my case :P).

Depending on where these activities figure on your priority list, gauge carefully whether you’re ready for married life.     

2.      Are our visions of The Ideal Life similar?

You’re in love with the idea of a fast-paced life full of fine dining, dancing and partying in a metro, whereas your girlfriend/boyfriend can’t give up on their Neo-Luddite dreams of going back to the slow and peaceful lifestyle of their small hometown/village where everyone knew everyone else by first name.

Fun starts with shopping and ends with Son of Sardar for your partner, and you’ll have to replace those items with Fellini and Karnatik classical music when you think about yourself.

If your and your partner’s lifestyle choices and aspirations are as apart as the poles, while you can still be in love, you’re probably not ready to get married (yet). What we like (and can live with) within the limited window of a relationship, can become a dealbreaker when it comes to spending your life with someone.

Think about it.

3.      Are our life and career goals aligned?

If you really want children but your girlfriend/boyfriend really doesn’t want any, it’s unlikely that you’ll be happy in a life shared with each other. Same if you want your career to span five continents and your partner wants geographical stability.

Take time to discuss your life and career goals before you decide to get married to avoid serious crises later. ;)

When to get marriedPhoto by somaksarkar

4.      Do we know each other’s needs and have strategies to satisfy them?

I have a bit of need for dependency (embarrassing I know).

Our whirlwind courtship was woefully inadequate to give him any wind of this. We spent our first six months miscommunicating, creating wrong expectations, breaking them and each other’s bones – well almost – in the process, till he finally got it. And the funny thing is I had no idea that he had no idea about it. We tend to assume our partners will magically understand everything about us, you see.

What are your emotional and other needs from each other?

Are both of you ready to put in the efforts to provide these?

Unless you’ve answered the above two questions to the satisfaction of both of you, you’re probably not ready to get married.

5.      Do we know everything (relevant) about each other?

Even in the midst of my raving mania of falling head-over-heels in love (when I met Shubho) I had the good sense to anticipate this one – if you get married on the basis of false impressions, you’re in for trouble.  You wouldn’t believe this – within days of our first date I’d told him the darkest and deepest of my secrets. And he did the same.

Yes, some of them were shocking to him.

Maybe some of them made him think twice.

But I don’t think we’d have been able to give stability to our commitment if we hadn’t been able to cultivate each other’s deepest trust. And needless to say, deciding to share your life with someone without creating complete trust between yourselves is wildly and disastrously a bit stupid.

What are the other questions that bother you when you think about taking your relationship to the next level? Tell me by about them by leaving a comment. In the meantime stay tuned for part 2 of today’s post where I’ll talk about the next 5 of the 10 crucial questions to ask yourselves before tying the knot. 

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

In my last post I talked about three of the six major changes which couples need to anticipate when they take their long term relationship to the next level, namely marriage. These three are-

  1. Discovering many minute aspects of your partner after marriage, which might be underwhelming to you and which you’ve had no chance to find out earlier
  2. Marriage invariably brings loss of freedom – at least to some extent
  3. Adjusting with expectations which the Indian Extended Families on both sides develop once you get married

Today we’ll look at the other three changes you should be prepared for before tying the knot.

Taking responsibility

One of the most important changes which people struggle to adjust to after marriage, is taking responsibility for yourself and someone else. Marriage means suddenly you’re not a kid anymore. You’re expected to build a life together, from scratch. And that involves everything from remembering to buy your daily groceries to taking joint decisions regarding buying your first home – things you never bothered about when you were on your own, even if you were in a relationship.

Relationship after marriagePhoto by preety1996

There probably aren’t too many easy ways out of this one – apart from being mentally prepared. The more mature you are as an adult, the easier it will be for you to adjust after marriage. Train yourselves up for the change. Discuss it often with your fiancé. Try to form a mental picture of Life After Marriage. The clearer this picture is the better. In order to create this picture, ask each other (mundane and intensely boring but important) questions like –

“Do we need to buy a car? If yes, when? How do we need to plan for it?”

“How many vacations are we going to take every year? How do we decide the locations? What about the finances?”

“How are we going to manage our daily meals? Who’s going to cook? Are we going to need help?”

It’s not necessary to ask each possible question or to have answers to all of them up front. But the more questions you ask before marriage, the easier it will be for both of you to grasp and adjust to the realities after marriage.

Sharing your finances

Do you know that economic tensions or financial disagreements figure among the top five reasons people divorce, all around the world? Money is something most of us take very seriously because of the immense effort we have to put in to earn it. Sharing not only your finances, but also decisions regarding your finances with someone else is a thought which throws most people off balance.

Relationship after marriagePhoto by 61@NO2

My take – get thrown off balance before you’re thrown out of your peace of mind when you reinvent the wheel after marriage. That is to say, like all other major changes, this change should also be handled through discussion before marriage.

Do you want to maintain your separate finances and pay for your own expenses?

Do you want to have a joint account for regular expenses with separate individual accounts for personal expenses?

Do you want all your finances completely shared?

Discuss these and all other questions regarding finances as openly as possible before marriage and try to find solutions both you and your partner are genuinely comfortable with.
If one of you is not earning (enough), the issue can become even more complex – it then becomes one of self-esteem. Even in that case discuss out the financial arrangement between the two of you (things like whether one of you is going to provide a monthly allowance to the other, or share your money completely, etc.) before marriage.

Could you be…taking each other for granted?

Another subtle yet important change which individuals complain of after marriage is a sudden drop in the level of attention they enjoy from their partner.
The reason of course is what I call The “Gotcha!” Syndrome. Even if you have been in a relationship for years and you were always very sure of getting married to each other, let’s face it – people break up. And it’s pretty easy. Compare that with marriages in India which are thought of as quite permanent and rarely break up – India has a mind boggling rate of divorce of ~1% (even though two of the major reasons for that could be the harrowing process of getting a divorce and the social taboo associated with it, if you ask me ;) ). So that means after your marriage, you’re really unlikely to leave your partner. This sometimes translates into a taken-for-granted attitude one’s partner after marriage.

The cure?

Well, the cure is to give yourself and your partner time to adjust to the new realities and to discover the new form of love after marriage. Empathy and communication are vital too. If you’re feeling neglected by your spouse after marriage, let them know. Make sure you’re setting the right expectations for each other. Needless to say, you can’t expect any improvement if you make this issue into a fight. Discussing it in a calm and mature way is key.
Often the solution lies in people realizing the value of true love, over external displays of attention – and that realization takes some experience. Certain behaviours could be natural in the context of a non-live-in relationship where you spend very limited time with each other every day, but impossible in the context of life after marriage. You need to realize that this seldom means loss of love. (That is to say – if you’re feeling neglected because your husband isn’t taking you out to movies every weekend, grow up!)

Did you face any other major change when you moved from being in a relationship to being married? Share your learnings with us through the comments. Have a nice day!