Friday, January 31, 2014

Needs vs. Wants

Before moving to India, I did all I could to prepare myself. I had visited before but I had no idea just how different life would be on a daily basis. I still had a tourist mindset and thought (based off of that mindset) I would be fine. I was a little apprehensive about how to manage living without my family around and being so far from home. It's not like you can run back home when things aren't going well you know.

I talked to people online and offline. I asked tons of questions, spent countless hours on Google trying to find out everything I could so that I could prepare for my life. So when hubby was preparing to come live with me, I tried to afford him the same opportunities. I sent him links and resources, started helping him get connected with the Indian community here, etc.

He wasn't quite as receptive. His way of thinking turned out to be that life was great here, this was the land of riches, etc. blah blah blah. Basically whatever he saw on TV, Jerry Springer included, must be an accurate representation of US life. I saw him looking for these things after he got here lol.

It wasn't long after he got here that I discovered hubby defined quality of life much different than I did. He defined happiness by needs and deeds. Our ideals of needs differed and there was only me to engage in all the deeds he felt he needed done.

In India, hubby had a pretty well-defined role in the home. He went out and did whatever his parents needed him to. He went to get the wheat for rotis, fix motorcycle tires as needed, run small errands, etc. When he got to the US, there was none of that for him to do anymore. Hubby really doesn't walk lol. I remember in India he would drive to the store regardless of how close it might be. I don't think he ever walked further than just in his street.

That was possible here, but not the same. We lived about 1/2 KM from the closest store. We lived about 2 KM from the Indian-owned store he liked the best, the closest one being about 1 KM. There was a grocery store and shopping center 1 KM away. The entire downtown area (it wasn't as big as that might sound) was about 1 KM. He had complete freedom....with nowhere to go.

He had no household responsibilities other than to cook for and clean up after himself. So it's not hard to imagine why he would feel like he wasn't needed here in the US a mere week after arrival.

Based on my definition of "need," he was right. I didn't need someone to do the running for me or be the head of the household. I was already doing all of that. So he needed to redefine what he considered his own personal value and I had to find ways to make him feel included, important and wanted. (Yes, I'm too stubborn to say I need a man LOL. Let me have my arrogance on this one. K. Thanx.)

I really, really, really, really (can I stress that enough?) wanted someone to come home to at night and share my work stories. I wanted someone to chat with in the car on long drives. I wanted someone to cook me food, tell me when I'm wrong and make me a better person. I wanted someone to be my support, spend husband/wife time with. My needs for him, in the beginning, were to be my support system. My long-term goal was to get him a job and build him up to be my partner just like he was in India.

Hubby struggled with that immensely. He knew how to cook and clean and I even blogged here about him having done it while living in India. He enjoyed cooking. But  for some reason he refused to do it here (in the beginning).

In India, I rejected the kitchen anytime someone else might need it. I didn't want to be in the way. I couldn't understand why hubby would reject the kitchen when he had 100% free access to it any time of day. I had trouble understanding why he felt so un-needed when I took him everywhere with me (which to me meant I wanted to spend time with him) and when he didn't go I came home and curled up with him to share my day. I simply had no idea what he meant.

This was to be a point of contention in our marriage that required a lot of discussion and work. be continued!

In the mean time, I found these resources and wanted to share them with you.

James Michael Sama: Intercultural relationships and ‘Individualistic Romanticism’ (Guest Post)

Choose Help: Building an Intercultural Relationship - Overcoming Differences


  1. The first time my husband saw an "American" kitchen my husband was rather intimidated by all the unfamiliar 'machinery' in there - i.e. dishwasher, garbage disposal, microwave, oven, trash compacter, stand mixer, etc.
    Maybe that was what was going on with your husband?

  2. re the walking: as my husband explained to me, only poor people and foreign tourists walk in India. If you have a little money, you go in auto, after that, you might have your own bike. A step up from that is a motorbike, and if you are really well off, you have a car and someone who drives it for you. Never, at any time, did I get my husband to walk anywhere with me in India. Always on the motorbike.

  3. This is a good point. Hubby never walked anywhere in India. I used to pick at him and call him lazy for it. I was joking then but now I see just how ingrained this was in his mind. I love walking. To me, I would jump at the chance to walk places. Of course, now that hubby has been here a while he has relaxed this walking standard a bit and now goes out for leisurely walks.

  4. I felt the same way seeing the Indian kitchen only opposite. I was in awe of everything being done 'the hard way' so to speak lol. I didn't push hubby to do too much work in the beginning. I just asked him to dump any leftovers from his plate in the trash and put his dishes in the sink. He felt insulted by this at first, I think he even mentioned specifically once how I made a big deal out of cleaning up a little bit of his mess. It was definitely a huge adjustment for us both to go through.

  5. I think he is unsettled by the quiet and uniformity of western life. He must be thinking where are the crowds? why is everything so quiet? Food must be an issue too. Must be missing his rajma chawal. India is dynamic and ever changing. Imagine stuck in a western traffic where no one honks, everything is organized, serene. At home, you push a switch there, turn a knob and things get done, easy. Those Indians who go to a western country also find most westerners aloof and individualistic. It is cultural but very unsettling for a newcomer. In short, he must be missing the unpredictability of Indian life. I have never been to America, but according to the accounts of recent settlers, I can an make an intelligent guess.

  6. Hubby actually likes the quiet here. I used to giggle in India when he would tell me he couldn't sleep unless there was pin-drop silence around him. As if that ever happens in the inner-city! I don't remember a single quiet moment while I lived there.

    Still, it was a big adjustment for him to come here. That was expected. I don't think he was prepared for it much at all.