Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Line Between Protection and Control

When bringing a partner into a new culture, the lines between protection and control blur. One of the things that frustrated me about moving to India was the lack of independence I felt. I found it difficult there to determine what was culture shock, what was a legitimate or validated feeling of being controlled and what was a misunderstanding or cultural difference.

As I've said many times, I can be quite stubborn and I know this. It's not a personality trait that is easily changed. So before going to India, hubby and I had many discussions about what would be expected of me to adhere to the family rules and societal customs. We agreed on many points and on others we did not. Of course, I hadn't been to India yet so these discussions had to be somewhat flexible on both our parts since he had also never entertained a foreigner.

I'm sure some of you may have some difficulty with some of the rules I agreed to and I'm okay with that. They're certainly not for everyone but I was quite comfortable agreeing to rules like:
  • Never leave the house alone.
  • Not run around in view of prying eyes scantily clad
I didn't do those things here in the states and I didn't intend to do them while in India. I had all sorts of pre-programmed fears of 'things that happen in other countries' and visions of Locked Up Abroad playing through my head. Yes, I do tend to worry too much sometimes!

Now my hubby is here. He too had fears for coming to a new country. He worried about things, just not the same things as I did. His concern was whether or not I would take care of him. During his roughest culture shock phase, he experienced a lack of control over his life, his surroundings, etc. Often times he accused me of controlling him and said I was holding him hostage.

Oh, there's that word! I used it way too much while I was in India. I couldn't quite put my finger on why I felt that way because I had agreed not to leave the house alone and the one time I fought with hubby so I could go out alone, it didn't change that feeling. Back then I had no idea that I was experiencing this lack of control and I don't think hubby understood it while he was feeling it.

To be clear, I was not holding him hostage. Hubby has had free reign over the house, could go out anytime and with anyone he wanted and did quite often, and there were pretty much no restrictions placed on him EXCEPT for times he went with me to work and I had to go to a few unsavory places. (You can read that as racist asshole communities. :P) During those times I requested hubby to keep a low profile and stay with me rather than splitting off by himself. My protective instincts kicked in.

Hubby often stated that some of the things he requested of me while in India were for my protection. I don't understand his reasoning (even now) but I do understand the feeling behind them and I feel it warrants discussion here on my blog. Some of you may have faced or be facing the same things and I feel like we could have a healthy discussion about this topic.

When I first arrived in India I noticed hubby would fuss any time I was outside on our 3rd floor terrace and anyone else in the neighborhood of the male persuasion was also out on theirs. He insisted he was protecting me by telling me to go back inside our room. Ummm how? I wasn't looking at anyone and could care less what they were doing. I was taking in the sights in the street below, enjoying the breeze as it kissed my skin or simply just relaxing in a different environment.

Hubby was dead sure that these men were looking at me in a bad way and that they may think that I might want them somehow. Again, I was baffled. How the hell would some man interpret my sitting on my own terrace ignoring him completely and reading a book as my indication of wanting to ravage his body???? Naturally, hubby and I argued on this point a few times. After all, I am a stubborn American and I wasn't giving up my right to sit outside on my own terrace because some jackass might see the outline of my butt as I stood at the edge and looked down in the streets, etc.

Fast forward to now that hubby is here in the states. I'm trying to give him the full experience of life here and even though that's hard with my work and other obligations, I've managed to take him to quite a few places. One incident was when I took him to a club. He was drinking of course and kept swearing that the alcohol wasn't strong and wasn't affecting him. I knew better and he just wouldn't believe me in spite of the fact he was knocking over bar stools, spilling drinks left and right, etc. He wouldn't accept that his motor functioning was clearly impaired.

My protective instincts kicked in when he pulled out a very large amount of money and started dropping the bills on his lap trying to count them. Now, counting money is just not hubby's best subject when he's sober and pulling all that money out in front of strangers at a club put my instincts into overdrive. I immediately confiscated the money, fussed at him and again asked him how he could feel like he wasn't drunk. I was angry.

After the incident occurred I got to thinking. Was I protecting him or controlling him? I wasn't sure. I didn't keep his money after fussing at him. I counted it, sorted it into sets and gave it back and told him to separate it in his pockets so he wouldn't get it mixed up. He had allotted money for different things and I felt like that ensured he didn't spend it and not get what he actually wanted. He was happy about that.

The whole thing got me thinking about protection and control. Clearly in India hubby had this same protective instincts about the watchful eyes of unruly male neighbors (his perception, not mine...I didn't know them). In both instances we fussed at each other which I feel like was more about control than protection. What were we protecting each other from? In India he felt like he was protecting my honor. In the US, I felt like I was protecting him from getting robbed. The instincts and ideals weren't bad but I think in both examples, the actions were somewhat controlling.

Yes, we may have to learn our lessons the hard way but at what point does it become too risky? While I can't answer that for you and your relationship, I can tell you that it's important to establish these guidelines before you run into any problems. Had hubby and I discussed the money incident before going to the club, he may not have done it. (And yes, I'm sure his impairment affected his decision making but had we planned better the incident may never have occurred.)

Control can be a good thing if managed properly. Maybe one spouse prefers that the other manage all the money in the household and dole out allowances. Since money is often a touchy subject, maybe one spouse prefers to manage all the cleaning in the home so it will meet their specifications and hygiene standards. Many aspects of home life could be controlled by one partner and no one would perceive it as being bad.

It is likewise good for us as individuals to feel in control of something. Whether it be our own dressing habits, career or right to stay home and raise children, or even time management. We just have to learn how to manage it and not be controlling of others inappropriately, especially those we want to spend the rest of our lives with.

Try to think about your strengths and weaknesses. Now think about your spouses. What are some acceptable protections you would want them to take for you?
What would they want you to take for them?
Where do you feel the line should be drawn so it doesn't become more controlling than you can deal with (because sometimes you want control in a relationship)?

106 comments:

  1. Control to a certain degree is for the best. Everyone needs it at certain times when they themselves cannot take full control of the situation. I think you both were trying to protect each other. It's a huge shock going to a different culture, you wouldn't know everything that may or may not happen.

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  2. Terry My Journey With CandidaMarch 5, 2014 at 7:51 PM

    I too would have had a hard time with not being able to go out alone.. not even on the patio. I think my Hubs tries to control me in some ways, and I think I also do it to him.

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  3. Mandy Young CarterMarch 5, 2014 at 9:24 PM

    My husband and I have issues as do all marriages but luckily controlling on either of our sides is not one of them. I am a control freak of my own actions but I really do not get affected or feel the need to control anyone else's behaviors or activities. I cannot imagine how it must have felt to be told not to go somewhere or stand somewhere because someone might look at me and have dirty thoughts.

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  4. It's hard to walk that fine line between protection and control. I think husbands would always label it control while we feel that we are just looking out for them.

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  5. Jennifer WilliamsMarch 6, 2014 at 12:55 AM

    I am lucky, we actually get along in so many ways. Things that are big issues in other relationships are not there in ours. Now when we first got together, we argued quite a bit over things. It takes time to adjust to each other and moving from country to country would make it harder I imagine. I can understand your being protective when he pulled out the money and I do not think it was controlling. I also understand his trying to protect you from the men on the balcony. Maybe he knows things you do not - of course I was attacked in my past so I would steer clear anyway.

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  6. It's so true when you say that we need to learn how to manage it, and not be controlling. I know a lot of couples who have a hard time with that.

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  7. Having my partner tell me what to do, when to do it, and where to do it wouldn't fly with me. Perhaps that has to do with the cultural differences. I believe everyone has the right to make their own choices; controlling another person isn't something I'm interesting in doing - or having done to me.

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  8. It's amazing some of the cultural shocks that can come up that you wouldn't even consider (such as the terrace). It's interesting to read your stories.

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  9. Thank you for sharing such an insightful post. I can only imagine the struggles you both experienced adjusting to such big changes. For me, I think anytime safety is a factor a spouse should step in.

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  10. Very interesting post. I think a marriage is full of give and take, and you and your husband seem to work together to find a balance. Especially when it comes to maintaining some individual control while not being to controlling of your spouse.

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  11. My husband and I don't tend to get protective over each other, but we do of our children. I think the kids should be daring and explore and he thinks they should be so safe. So, its just perception.

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  12. I remember being very protective of my American husband when we visited India. I was worried that my husband would be looked down upon because he does not have a four year college degree (and sure enough, this was brought up in some insidious ways over the course of our stay) or a job that many in my family would consider "worthy" (i.e., doctor or engineer). As a result, I would simply not translate for my husband when someone made such a comment, would give that person persona non grata status in my mind and not bother visiting them ever again. I also didn't translate when people would come up and ask for money thinking since the husband is White he must be rich.

    I've often wondered if I should have told my husband the kind of comments thrown his way and if I should have let him fight his own fight (but then, he doesn't fight- he is more the ignore and don't care types).

    I've also noticed that many Indians seem to take the presence of an American as a chance to bring the entire country (USA) down "a peg or two". We heard plenty of comments on Bush, and how Americans make such a big deal about "everything", and how children in American say they are "starving" without ever having understood the meaning of poverty.

    Needless to say, I have no regard left for anyone in my family but I also say good riddance- this means I don't have to put up with their company if ever my husband and I visit India again.

    Raina.

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  13. To me it sounds like a difference in culture rather than control. I would have done the same thing and taken the money when he had it out and then just given it back later when he was sober.

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  14. It was definitely a difficult transition. North India is more traditional than South India and women visiting or living in southern areas have more freedom and independence.

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  15. That's really sad but I know how you feel. I've heard and dealt with the same. I think you did the right thing not telling your husband these comments. It would only have hurt him and no good would come from it.

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  16. That's a good point! It is perception and what each of us thinks is dangerous and why. This is based on our own life experiences and we need to find a balance.

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  17. Thank you. It's often difficult to find that balance. It's uncomfortable to know someone might suffer but that you can't step in and take over and control the situation.

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  18. I think you're right on this one. Its the definition of safety that changes. I also think communication is important and you have to talk to each other about your concerns.

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  19. Yes! I never would have suspected that standing outside on my own terrace would become an issue. It was a hard concept to grasp.

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  20. I actually agree with you. This is something that has been the source of many arguments and heated discussions. I don't allow control but I am willing to compromise on issues that I can tolerate and he's just as stubborn as me.

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  21. It's difficult to adjust. We all think we know best but don't realize that what is best in our life might not be best in someone else's.

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  22. Such an insightful post, I think if it was me I would definitely have found it hard to get used to it, but I love that you have a way to manage it - I think we all live in different ways and as long as you are comfortable with it all thats what matters. x

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  23. Thank you. Home is a place of rest and comfort. It's easy to live in the same area and I now value that concept. I have a much better understanding of just how beautiful staying in the same area can be. Going abroad taught me that.

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  24. You're right. I had to consider his knowledge of the situation and at the time I wasn't being mindful of that. It's very difficult for me to understand it. Communication is the key.

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  25. Thank you. You're absolutely right. We can't know everything and we do have to try to be mindful of each other's knowledge in our home countries.

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  26. I think we all do it. I know I still do try to control my husband some but not in harmful ways. I feel a need to teach sometimes and that's probably not good either. We're finding our happy medium though.

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  27. It felt odd! I didn't expect it or understand it and thus I rebelled against it. It's something I may never understand.

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  28. Good point lol. I hear a lot of husbands say their wives are bossy or controlling and in reality it's not that at all. We have our responsibilities and we are just managing all that has been put on our plate, that may come across as pushy sometimes but it's not really the same thing as controlling.

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  29. Thanks for sharing this one and this is mostly being misinterpreted by many.. there is a thin line between the two. Thanks for sharing us this post.

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  30. This is a great post. It sounds like difference in culture.

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  31. I don't think we're protective of each other really. We're protective of our children, me more then him in some ways. That's quite a move and quite a difference in cultures, I don't think that's one we could undertake without discussing the cultural differences ad nauseum.

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  32. I'm not sure if we are controlling of each other. I guess we would say that of the kids though.

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  33. I think it is difficult when you come from two different cultures to see where each other is coming from at times. It sounds like your and your husband keep communication flowing, though, and that makes all the difference.

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  34. Veronica SolomonMarch 7, 2014 at 5:06 PM

    Different cultures can be shocking to relationship. Looks like you are finding ways to handle things. I know I like feeling protected in a relationship but certainly not controlled

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  35. I will try to understand your feelings in this post. I think it's normal to be protective to our husbands. As for your situation, you guys just came back to US so there are things that you need to adjust again here. That happened to me 6 years ago until now. As long as you are there for each other and you prioritize each other among things, your relationship will last longer.

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  36. Yeah, we both work hard at keeping communication going. It's not always easy and some of the conversations are hard to have but we do it. It's been working out great.

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  37. Thank you. You make a great point. We have to prioritize each other. We have to make it a point to work at this relationship together even when things are hard to sort out.

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  38. It does take time to get comfortable with the different cultures, even if you both come from the same city/state/country. Individual families can sometimes be very different among the same races. It's a great feeling when you can finally get to that comfort level in each other's worlds. :)

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  39. Thank you. It does take time to understand new places. You're never sure what is and isn't safe in that area. You have to learn about it and discover life to really know what you can and can't do.

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  40. I think your husband was protecting you from the malicious (& often wildly fabricated) gossip mill when you were sitting on the terrace in Punjab. (you probably weren't aware how nasty, ridiculously exaggerated, & ever present gossip is in India - i certainly wasn't when I 1st lived here).
    I think you were protecting your husband from making a fool of himself & becoming a crime victim being drunk in a public club in the US.
    That sort of control is OK.
    I just walked about 1/2 a mile to the 'departmental' store here in Nepal WITHOUT my husband getting numerous phone calls from concerned friends & neighbors as to 'why is your wife walking alone by herself?' - now this is a 1st in 13 yrs!!!! YAY!!!

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  41. You're right but there are other times when control can be a bad thing, even when it doesn't feel like it. I would like to think I've done pretty good at not controlling hubby in a bad way and I don't think he's controlling me in a bad way though it doesn't always feel that way. One of the things I learned with the codependency is that control isn't always bad overall but that it sometimes becomes an ugly monster we connect with when we're not paying attention.

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  42. Alexandra MadhavanMarch 9, 2014 at 5:04 PM

    It is definitely different for a woman going to India (3rd most dangerous country for a woman) than a man coming to the US....I was not given any instructions per se, but I learned pretty quick to 'jaisa desh vaisa bhes' and dress as the locals do, aka get my ass a salwar kameez set (or ten! lol)
    In India I also missed my independence as I had never got out by myself, hubby wouldn't allow it. I did not feel as though it was controlling, only practical, because at the time we stayed there my Telugu was limited.
    I think also due to a global patriarchal mindset, women are more familiar with being more controlled/given advices, whereas men are not - they rebel against it. Especially I find that Asian men/Indian men DO NOT like to be told what to do, or how to do it.
    In India, my hubby does not step in too much when men glare, if it is really uncomfortable then he shouts at them. But he does not hide me, as it is just unavoidable with us being a mixed couple. Although there was that one time we were in a restaurant (in India), and the man from the kitchen was staring at me so hard, I mentioned to hubby that I was feeling uncomfortable, and then he immediately stood up in front of the entire restaurant and screamed to the man "PUT YOUR EYES BACK IN YOUR OWN HEAD A**HOLE" . I had never heard hubby be like that but I thought it was totally hot....LMAO.......

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  43. I'm pretty sure my husband would love it if I took to cooking as your husband has. So far he's out of luck!

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  44. This looks amazing. I think you did great. You can cook for me anytime.

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  45. There are so many times that I want to take a picture of whatever I'm making and forget to after I've already had half my plate! This looks yummy!

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  46. Jennifer WilliamsMarch 10, 2014 at 9:27 PM

    I completely understand not being able to be two people, that is one reason I finally quit my job to stay home. My husband attempted to learn to cook but I got sick of food coming out of a freakin box! I love cooking shows, they give me ideas all the time and teach me a lot.

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  47. Looks healthy, not at all greasy! Hope it was tasty too! LOL

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  48. This looks really delicious :). Seems like you're becoming an amazing cook!

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  49. I wonder if I can teach my other half to cook anything, he's not too much of a cooker lol x

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  50. Thrill of the ChasesMarch 10, 2014 at 10:14 PM

    What a great idea to teach him to cook! It's actually very loving for both of you & now he will have the skills if he ever wants to make you a special dinner just because. I think it's sweet. & those brussel sprouts looked great!

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  51. I love grilled chicken and this recipe looks like it really came out good. Great job!

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  52. That looks pretty good if you ask me! Nice job

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  53. It really sounds like they all go very well together. I don't cook very often, but I just may have to try this out.

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  54. MJ @theflyingcouponerMarch 10, 2014 at 11:21 PM

    This look amazing! Great work both of you!

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  55. You certainly did score! That looks really quite delicious. I need to teach my husband to cook to take the pressure off of me.

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  56. It turned out well and I am sure you felt satisfied with it too - great!

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  57. Hubby is the cook in our family as well and he loves doing it. Now he's out of commission just having knee surgery my mother in law is doing the cooking. Someone needs to teach her a thing or two because she's a greasy cook as well.

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  58. This is a great idea Looks very yummy! I recently started cooking with olive oil. I love it!

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  59. It looks like he did a good job! He cooked you things you like and it looks appetizing too, he even sliced the eggs. Go hubby!

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  60. That looks really good to me as well. I think it is cool he took lesson via skype. How fun! A for effort :)

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  61. I think that its really neat that your husband took lessons from his family members over Skype. What a great way to stay connected from afar!

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  62. JadeLouise DesignsMarch 11, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    I seriously think every man needs to know how to cook! I mean, if he lives on his own, he should be able to feed himself. If he is married, he should be able to help out you know for those days that mOm is sick. Or just to be kind. But in your case, I'd say it is a MUST; because yes, you can't be two people...the breadwinner and breadcooker.

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  63. My husband always his own white pasta sauce. I think he picked it up from me!

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  64. Marni | Love and Duck FatMarch 11, 2014 at 3:03 PM

    Bravo to hubby in the kitchen! Mine cooks pretty well but I usually kick him out b/c that's my domain.

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  65. That is great. All I can get my husband to do is grill. lol

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  66. How great that your husband developed such a love for cooking! Now I wish someone would teach me some skills!

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  67. Terry My Journey With CandidaMarch 11, 2014 at 3:54 PM

    I guess I didn't know Indian food was greasy and oily. Goes to show how much I know about the Indian culture.

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  68. I've never considered cooking adding boiled eggs to my dinner plate. What a great way to amp up the protein level of the meal!

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  69. I have to say, I love boiled eggs- especially when they accompany a main dish as a side. I could eat boiled eggs all the time, and those Brussels look so yummy!

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  70. My other half isn't a cook at all - would love it if he was I have to say :D.

    So cool that you managed to teach him a different way of cooking as well. x

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  71. Wow! Good job for encouraging your husband to be a cook. That is one delicious meal!

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  72. It is so sad the things that still go on today. I think things have gotten better, but they are still unacceptable. I had no idea that this day existed, thank you for sharing.

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  73. I think it's great that he cooks!! I personally hate cooking dinner every night. I wish i had someone to do it! :)

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  74. haha score, indeed! <3 I wish i can make that too.

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  75. Yummy! I wish my hubby would cook more often, but oh well :P

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  76. It's so awesome how your husband is trying to make you feel at home and cooking for you too!

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  77. Onica {MommyFactor}March 12, 2014 at 11:18 AM

    Having a husband who can cook is a great thing. Enjoy and show his encouragement and appreciation. His food looks amazing.

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  78. What a wonderful hubby you have for trying to make you job easier by cooking.

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  79. I'm loving the "breadcooker" line. You're absolutely right. I can't be both and I won't be.

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  80. It's mostly North Indian food. They get more cold weather there and the oil was once used to preserve things so the food lasted longer. That doesn't make it any more appetizing now but at least I know where all that oil usage comes from.

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  81. Yes! And very easy to add too. Though I wouldn't recommend too many of them. Usually 1-2 eggs is more than enough. I find any more than that is too heavy.

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  82. I loved it. It had so much flavor and appeal that I didn't want to stop eating it.

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  83. I agree. It's so refreshing and wonderful I can come home and ask him to make me something after a long hard day.

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  84. Mine wasn't either. He spent his whole life having everything cooked for him. He had never even helped cut veggies or peel potatoes before I met him.

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  85. Yeah I intend to be at home a lot more once he gets a good job. He's looking but is holding out for the kind of job his parents would be proud of.

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  86. I love it when my hubby cooks too! Most of the time I'm the one cooking but with both of us working, it's not to not have to come right now and cook EVERY night!

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  87. That meal looks wonderful and so inviting. I want to make that I love Brussels sprouts and I am always trying to find new ways to make them

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  88. TouristMeetsTravelerMarch 12, 2014 at 11:19 PM

    You husband is just like mine, he does all the cooking too. I hate cooking.

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  89. I think it is so awesome that you taught your husband how to cook. Looks like he did an excellent job.

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  90. Money is the root of all evil, I say this all the time and totally agree that it's one of the main reasons people get divorced. Sad, but true.

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  91. This was such a great article. I'm looking to marry my sweetheart and these tips sparked some really great things we should discuss. Thank you!

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  92. These are good tips for every relationship. Didn't think on the holidays point before.

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  93. I think so many of these issues should be talked about no matter what ethnicity you are marrying. Great tips to remember.

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  94. very good tips for any relationship....In India guests also can become a issue:)

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  95. You should never compromise on something you feel strongly about. It's good you already realize that. Trying to give up things you are committed to is always a bad thing - unless its soda or smoking. :)

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  96. Thank you. There are Indians who have more than 2, but while living there, most of the ones I saw only had 2. It's not that much different than here in the states where many people have 2 as well. The difference lies in there being a much larger population in India.

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  97. For us, we've had a lot of communication on what things to keep and what to give up. He's learned cooking and cleaning to help out and is learning more independence overall. I've had to learn how/when to keep my mouth shut and I've also had to participate in family gatherings in which I was the main attraction. It's all harmless but sacrificial on both our parts.

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  98. Oh absolutely! The way to agree to disagree is a very good solution. Hubby and I have had to do that with Indian food since I found I'm allergic to 2 of the main ingredients in a lot of the meals. Being able to disagree respectfully is a key to harmony in the relationship.

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  99. Thank you! Discussing how many kids is an often overlooked item. Most people talk about having kids but not how many. Kids are a big expense and that also scares some people more than just the having them and being a parent part. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  100. I agree! It's good to address issues before one person, or both, get emotional about them or before they're ready to start doing things like the holiday itself or having babies.

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  101. LOL. I still call Native Americans Indians sometimes myself. Old habits are hard to break. We're not alone, most of America still does it, even some Native Americans!

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  102. Your relationship is a perfect example of some of what I was trying to portray then. There are some differences between you, but not the vast differences other multi-racial couples may see. Both being American, you don't have to think about the unique things from each country but there are still other things to discuss. A lot of girls meet men from other cultures who are Americanized somewhat and they don't know that the man has still been brought up in a traditional sense and still adheres to some customs. Indians usually don't discuss marriage at all until after it happens and that can lead to a lot of trouble later. Thank you for sharing!

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  103. Yes exactly! When I accepted my husbands marriage proposal, I had no idea our wedding would last 10 days for example. Of course, I adjusted to that quickly as it was fairly harmless - though nerve wracking - other things would not have been so easy to adjust to. It's so good to discuss things before agreeing to the marriage.

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  104. It is! Not because of the money itself but because of the different ideals on how to spend it and what is worth paying for. Some may want more children or special foods while the other wants more clothes or spending money. If you don't discuss it, the money begins to control you and things can get very ugly very quickly.

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  105. I'm glad they sparked discussion for you. I wish you a long, happy married life. :)

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  106. Yes guests can certainly be an issue! Unlike the US, guests show up anytime, any hour and you need to be prepared to host them. In the US, most visits are planned and if someone shows up unannounced, not much hosting is expected. Of course, there's a lot more to guests visits but it's too much to write in a comment.

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