A dozen things to discuss before tying the knot for desi couples

I started to write this list after reading the past few posts on IHM’s blog, but was really inspired to finish as a response to this post. While I do agree that the best way to really know about someone is by living with them, which most Indian young men and women cannot even dream of doing before marriage. In my opinion the next best thing one can do is talk and by talk I mean discuss the 12 topics which cause disharmony in a relationship. Here they are in random order.

Living arrangements

  • Nuclear family or joint family
  • If nuclear family, then how far away or close to the in-laws should you want to live. This only applies to couples who live in the same city as their parents
  • If living in a joint family temporarily, then what’s the time frame to move out

Parents

  • Expected behavior towards SIL or DIL
  • Their level of involvement in your marriage
  • How to handle disagreements
  • Who will handle disagreements
  • Money and gift giving
  • What to do in the event they cannot live by themselves anymore

Finances

  • Spending habits
  • Saving habits
  • Debt and loans if any
  • Contribution towards the family  expenses
  • Planning for retirement, education, vacations etc

Children

  • When
  • How many
  • How far apart
  • How will they be raised

Job and Career

  • Ambitions
  • Discuss the other person’s job requirements  i.e. travel, work hours etc
  • Define what is a non negotiable job or career change
  • Time off from work, sabbaticals, higher education, relocation etc

Household responsibilities

  • Expectations from each other
  • What is a fair division of labor
  • Hired help

Religion

  • How to incorporate each other’s faith if belonging to different religions
  • The customs and traditions you will be comfortable following from the other person’s faith
  • Which religion will the kids follow
  • Even if you happen belong to the same religion /caste/ sub-sect do discuss the customs and practices that you are aware of and are comfortable following
  • Level of involvement with religion

Health

  • Major surgeries and genetic conditions
  • Communicable diseases
  • Wishes you need honored when something unforeseen happens

Food

  • Food allergies
  • Food preferences i.e. vegetarian, non-vegetarian, kosher, halal, vegan etc
  • Types of food that can be cooked or served at home

Culture and Personal Habits

  • The similarities and differences between your background, habits etc
  • The things you’d be willing to incorporate into your life from your partner’s culture
  • Things that you do not agree about your partner’s culture
  • Daily habits i.e. cleanliness, hygiene, toileting.

Sex

  • How much and how often
  • What is okay
  • What is a complete no-no

Misc

  • Pets
  • Political beliefs
  • Hobbies

I am not suggesting by any means that one has to print a copy of this post and read from it when meeting prospective grooms or brides for the first time, but if you feel you like the person across the table and would like know if you could fall in and be in love with them for the rest of your life feel free to discuss any and all of the points mentioned in the post.

Reader Questions – Divorce, Doctors, Movie night and A walk in the park

The following are some questions posed by a reader and my answers

A girl is in a relationship, her husband has been good to her. But she has started to feel she has grown apart and wants a divorce although her husband loves her- you support this.

Let’s say a married woman starts to like another man and she wants to legally end the current marriage with a divorce, although her husband loves her – in a marriage, it has become one sided love from husband – And she wants a divorce.

Why have they grown apart?  What do you mean by “being good”? Traditionally a husband was said to be  “good” and “loving”  if he could provide the wife with food, clothing and a place to sleep. There was no expectation towards the husband to meet  or fulfill a wife’s emotional, intellectual or physical needs and desires. Men just took what they needed without even asking for it. Also, many times each spouse may grow and evolve very differently in a marriage, so sometimes instead of  growing together they grow apart. This is not uncommon.  Marriage when done right can be the most fulfilling, satisfying and fun filled experience of one’s life. But when its not working can be the most lonely and excruciating  journey ever.

As long as there is no physical, mental, emotional abuse or threat of violence and if this particular woman wants to, then the couple can try to work on their marriage by getting some counselling and trying to make the relationship work. If the woman is unwilling to further, work on the marriage then its best for the husband to let her go and try to find happiness elsewhere.

Again,  from your second scenario,  the woman has made her decision. Although this situation is sad, there is no point in holding on to someone who doesn’t want to be with you.  My one suggestion would be to end the marriage first and then find another guy, ( unless it was the husband’s abuse which drove her into the arms of another man and even then it still better to end the current relationship first ). I am not very familiar with the divorce laws in India, in the USA although some states require you to submit a reason for the divorce like infidelity or abuse, many of them are called ” no fault states” meaning that no matter what the internal dynamics, if one spouse wants out of the marriage then he/she should be able to get out. There is no way to stall or “not give” your spouse a divorce.

The husband does not like his wife visiting a male gynaecologist – what will you say?

It’s okay if he doesn’t like it, as long as he does not stop her from getting the necessary medical services.

A husband is not fine with his wife going out with her male friend often, and he certainly does not like it when she spends nights in his home watching movies – don’t you think he is well within his rights?

This is a relationship problem and not a social issue, there is no law that prevents a woman from having friends of the opposite sex. You did not mention if she goes alone to this male friend’s house, takes her husband along, whether this male friend has a girlfriend/wife/partner or even if a group of friends get together for a weekend movie night.  As you have said it yourself, she is only watching movies, from what I see her only crime would be to maybe neglect her share of household chores if she spends too much time this activity.

A husband sees his wife walking hand in hand with a male friend of hers in a park and his wife does not like him bringing the topic up- what would you expect him to do, as a feminist?

What was this husband doing in the park? Was he following her, or was he there already when his wife arrived with the male friend? Also, was this husband alone or did he have some kind of company, cause if he did then I see how the wife would not want him to bring up her mistakes or infractions.

Hope this helps.

P.S I realize that some of the things I’ve proposed are not very common in India like marriage counselling. So I’d appreciate if readers can offer me other perspectives.

What to do when when a wife forges ahead…Reply to comments part 2

This post is a response to the following comments

She is well within her rights to ask for a divorce now, as she is now higher up, and you have the inferiority complex.
In case of that, step aside as a graceful man from her life and let her marry a man of her status.
Do not stand in the way of a modern woman.

Those of us who are married are all well within our rights to ask for a divorce whether we are better than our spouses in any way or not. So unless this woman was in a toxic relationship before the promotion and looking/ waiting for some way or opportunity to get out of it, I don’t see the need for a divorce in this case.

Also I don’t think that the man has an inferiority complex, a little insecurity, yes, but inferiority, no.  With most of us having been indoctrinated from a very young age about specific gender roles and duties that women and men have, I think its only natural for someone to feel conflicted and confused when faced with a situation like this. Remember he did not say that he has asked his wife to refuse the offer, he said that she did not tell him her decision to accept or refuse, which shows that she is free to make her own decisions. But its nice that he is attempting to find a way to work through this, which is a good start.

What to do when when a wife forges ahead…Reply to comments part 1

This post is a response to the following comments

Hey, how about the disciplinary action part?
If he felt you were harsh on him, and said that at home, how would you handle that?

I am not too sure, what you exactly mean by ‘disciplinary action”. Is it asking the employee to be at work on time, to spend less time checking his phone /internet while at work, reduce the time spent on idle chatting during working hours, to be polite to customers and co-workers.  Or is it censuring against stealing from the company, harassing / threatening the safety  co-workers, chronic negligence in performing the duties that one is hired and paid for.

If its the former, then I have already answered your question in my previous post, the wife needs to do this and do it impartially and fairly and without guilt and with confidence. She needs to enforce her authority at work and the husband needs to respect that. If the husband feels that the wife was harsh with him, he should approach her either formally at work, like he would any other boss or even casually at home if he feels comfortable doing it this way ( this is just because he ends up spending a lot more time with the boss outside of work).

Also, it is the duty of any good boss or manager to get the point across without insulting, demeaning or personally attacking the employee..

On the other hand, if the employee/ husband is in trouble for threatening or harming  the health and safety of the company, its employees or clients then this wife has a much bigger problem than just having to take disciplinary action against her man. This is if her husband is actually guilty of the said infractions.  She needs to take a long hard look at the relationship first in this case. As a woman myself I would not recommend staying with someone like that without getting help both for the person  who made the mistake and finding ways to make your relationship work after that.

If you knew the tonight that you’d be taking a disciplinary action tomorrow, (and let’s spice it up here, he is in a romantic mood tonight), would you let him know or hint?

Again, if you had to fire your husband for repeatedly trying to warm the buns of his coworkers with his hands, for stealing from the company or even threatening the safety of employees, having a romantic time would be the last thing  at least on my mind.  That being said the minor day to day happenings should not matter at all, once both parties understand their roles, rules and boundaries.  Also,  when at home its nice to remove the boss, worker badges and just be a loving couple.

If there was a meeting about his performance with other managers and he is anxious to know what went on, and asks….. how would you react, especially if his performance is not very good?

This has also been answered. He should not ask, she should not volunteer any information that needs to be kept confidential for the time being. The key is to learn the difference between keeping things on the job in confidence and keeping secrets from your spouse. These are two different things.

And you have to promote a person – your husband and another person are the candidates – both equally qualified in every aspect and performing equally – equally deserving of promotion, but you can promote only one – who would you promote?

Many times promotion is not making one person in charge of another, but rather giving them an increase in responsibility or money or even a better title. Two people can be promoted at the same time. Promotions are not done by one person, usually there is multiple levels of OK’s needed to promote someone. Also, no two persons are exactly, equal in every aspect so an ideal situation would be to see which person’s strengths benefit the company and promote that person. This would be the right thing to do.


What to do when culture holds you back from happiness

This is a reply/ comment that I posted to a question posed by a woman here, who felt torn between her culture/family and her happiness.

First of all congratulations on finding a partner who is kind, affectionate, treats First of all congratulations on finding a partner, who treats you as an equal, is making you happy, respects you and above all values you.

Now for your parents / society. Did you ever tell your parents the true story of what went on in your marriage before your divorce? If you did, what did your parents do? Did they intervene/ try to help you in some way or did they come up with the it’s your fate / destiny or he will eventually change dialogue.

If you did not tell your parents, then you have to come clean now and tell them about the time in hell that you had with your ex. This is not because you are required to tell your parents everything, but because you feel that their approval is necessary. Its going to be a slow road, but i’m sure that if they really love you, even if they disapprove on the outside they will be secretly happy that their daughter found happiness.

Society, culture and traditions’ real purpose was to create order out of chaos and to help people live a harmonious life. Culture wasn’t supposed to be stagnant, culture is supposed to evolve and accommodate. Having lived in the US for close to a decade I can tell you that there are aspects of both cultures that are same, nosy MILs, abusive husbands, dependent parents, tiffs with family and siblings, etc. The only difference is that here I feel people give themselves permission to be happy and find happiness more easily. Which is what you should do too.  Also, you are not the first person in the so called society to divorce or marry out if caste/culture/ religion etc. Its been done before and will be done more often in the future.

If your new guy (i’m not even going to call him american guy) is all what you have said then he’s probably smart enough to know that you are still conflicted and he still is with you which also makes him extremely patient. Which is also a good quality in a partner.

Do not even think of marriage yet, try to be happy in your relationship first. Make a two column list write down things about your ex and your boyfriend and compare, read it whenever you feel a longing for your former life. Find a good therapist, go alone first and sort out your feelings, then go with him. Do a workshop for inter racial or intercultural couples, start a blog ( there are many blogs written by women who aren’t desi married to Indian/paki/bangladeshi guys).

Lastly, while its certainly possible to go through life without a partner, a loving, supportive and caring partner enhances that experience a hundred fold. So GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION to BE HAPPY. Hope this helps.