Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Many Meanings of Marriage

The longer I'm involved in an intercultural marriage and all the relationships that come with it, the more I question and think on what marriage actually means.

In my own culture, growing up marriage was all about love. If you loved someone you got married to them and you made a life. Little thought was given to true compatibility, whether or not your families got along, or even if you could actually make the marriage work whenever trouble arose. Some searching is done but there's an overall belief in love finding you.

In my husbands culture, marriage is more focused on duty, family compatibility, family background and more. A lot of searching is involved to find a woman with the right credentials so to speak. Whole families are involved, long time friendships are challenged and lots of quesions that most Americans wouldn't dream of asking are asked.

I'm a people watcher. I love to view life around me, see how people react to the stimulus around them and to each other. I like to observe how they walk, talk, etc. You can learn a lot about human nature this way.

In American culture people tend to be wreckless and careless with their lives, often not thinking about the life altering choices they make very much before making their choice. They're driven by impulse and they want immediate gratification.

In Indian culture I've seen people who are in love have to fight seemingly insurmountable obstacles to have a love marriage however, traditionally love is not considered a serious factor in selecting a mate. Sometimes it is even laughed at or mocked that two people could love each other before marriage. Women marry men they don't love under the expectation they will be a good provider and husband. Men marry women they don't love because of the anticipated wifely duties.

People can be cold and calculated based on that sense of duty. If you don't give it to them, they can become down right evil. If they perceive someone else a threat to it, they can do unthinkable things to that person. Of course that holds true in any culture however, I'm only speaking in regards to the marriage and the cruelty that can ensue in these circumstances.

In looking at all of these variables I see in the lives and marriages around me - on both sides of the world - I can't help but realize how many different meanings there can be to marriage. Some expect honor, others love at any cost, yet others expect duty. Love only complicates it further as different cultures define love very differently, and so do individual people.

Love can be as simple as picking a flower on the way home because it reminded you of your spouse and as grand as building a dream home to show your financial power. There's really no set definition to love. It's not simply a silly American ideal and it's not wrong to label intense emotions as feelings of love. True lasting love just requires these gestures, whatever they may be to you, to continue on at random throughout your life.

If stability = a good marriage for you, then you must have daily stability to stay happy in that marriage.
If material possessions = a good marriage for you, then you must continually have them to have a happy marriage.
If emotional support = a good marriage for you, then you need your partner to be there for you regularly in order to stay happy in the marriage.

For me, I need the emotional support. I don't need or want anything material. I could live in a tree in the woods and be satisfied as long as my husband is there with me to make me feel safe and secure. I want a husband I can talk to, who will listen...just listen. I want a husband who gets angry with me when it's appropriate and who just hugs me gently when I need human contact.

What about you, what makes a marriage truly good to you?


  1. Hmm, what to make of marriage. Haven't you heard of the Hindi proverb "Shaadi ke Ladoo jo kaye wo pachtaye, jo naa kaye wo bhi pachtaye" (Those who taste the Ladoo of marriage repent afterwards, those who do not even they repent) LOL. It is a humorous take on marriage.

    As an Indian we don't put so much thought on marriage, we take it for granted. Growing up I knew that marriage is something which would happen in distant future and no use losing sleep over it. Love was something that happened only in bollywood movies and perhpas has no existance in real life. Everyone gets to marry, fair chance for everyone, I guess. So, we spend our lives in blissfull ignorance and leave all our worries to our parents. However, these days young people are taking their own decisions which is a good thing. Some of my friends did get fall in love and got married. Love marriages are kind of envied and scoffed off at the same time.

    Believe me, arranged marriage is a pain in the neck once you start searching for prospective bride/groom. Then there are hundreds of permutations and combinations to work out. Advertiments in papers/websites, word of mouth, quiet and exercise.

    Once this cumbersome process and elaborate marriage are over their is something else to deal with. The MIL and DIL riddle. Ninety percent of the time is lost in fire fighting and there is no time left to know each other. There is no time to address the issues that you discussed above. You have to deal with everything at once with a water hose ready every time to douse the fire that might erupt. Indian marriage do have love but you have to look very hard to find it, may be stuck in some obscure corner. Slowly but gently couples extract it out. It takes some time to understant that we do love each other.

    I do believe that financial stablity is the most important ingridient of a good marriage more than love. Couples must asess this aspect before marriage. Young couple get married and then can't figure out why they are not happy. It is because they are not earning/saving well. This happens in arranged marriage when the boy's family hids certain "facts" and get their beloved son married. The next thing is sexual/emotional maturity. This is a very troublesome area in Indian marriage. sex is a very akward thing both for men an women when they have been told otherwise. Indian marriages could do with some orientation and council before marriage.

    Though I do not like the recklessness of western marriages, I like the way they are based on love and compatability. Sometime I feel western people are die hard romantics. There is less ambiguity. Atleast you guys have to deal with each other only and there is way out if things don't work out, difficult maybe but there is way out. Our marriages are lot more confusing.


    1. Financial stability is a dire need but, you have to assess what level of it you need as well. I'm one of the few who had rather have less in life. I don't want or need 3 cars when only 2 of us drive for example. In the US it's not uncommon for people to over-indulge like that. I'm very functional based. I like for everything I own to serve a purpose, or more than one, and if it doesn't, I don't want it. It bothers me. It's only been since I met my Punjabi husband that I feel like it's okay and somewhat satisfying to have things that are pretty or just nice to have. I'm slowly getting into the glitz and glam things but in small doses and I still need them to serve a purpose lol.

      I can see some of the dynamics of the Indian MIL/DIL relationship. I feel really fortunate to have been blessed with the MIL I got. She's amazing but I still feel a bit tormented that she is losing out on teaching me all the ways of the home and how to take care of things in Indian life. I came to the marriage knowing how to cook and clean and wanting to do those things. We did get some time together in the kitchen and around the house, working with the maid but I can imagine the beauty and bonding that happens when 2 women do get along and can spend time like that together daily. I miss her...can you tell?

      Western marriages can be somewhat reckless, that's true. As women tend to progress more toward equality here though, I'm hoping a lot of that balances out. We have more say so maybe that will eventually mean we take advantage of it and start thinking too instead of just acting on impulses.

    2. there is something else. A man's membership is renewed after marriage. He lives in the same house, family but is relationship has changed. He is a married man so his integrity is doubtful. He has to redefine all his relationship with everyone. It is an experience only a man can tell.

      what is expected of u as married women is more or less defined but what is expected of u as a married man is fuzzy. is marriage all about only one thing? can u remain a loving husband and a loving son at the same time?

      This question is like a cruise missile that hits u suddenly and shakes your very existence.

      This happens because naively believe that since his family accepts him they will love his wife too and vice versa. I mean what's not love about his wife/mother? nor that simple. The rest of the life is spent trying to solve the riddle.

      as they say people find time to hate but no time to love.


    3. I've seen the hardship placed on my husband to "not change after marriage" and I've written about it here. I did my best to encourage him to be a better son and husband altogether. I knew it was something he had to learn. I think that could be a big part of why his family love me as they do. To me, they do still matter and I wanted him to be an honorable man. That's important. I think my ideals lined up a lot with his family which really helped.

  2. as far as financial stability is concerned a man must assess his situation honestly. If he not prepared for marriage might as well not marry at all. here he needs to use his brain and not his heart. He won't be happy any way. I have seen people living on credit cards. This is criminal negligence towards your spouse.


  3. Of all the different meanings of marriage & love in between Desi & American culture the one that stands out the most to me is the "sense of duty."
    By that I mean in Desi cultures you primarily express love and affection by doing things for your partner & family. Whether washing clothes, cooking, working to pay the bills - whatever.
    Whereas love & affection are primarily expressed in American culture through romantic gestures such as saying I love you, giving useless gifts like jewelry & flowers, physical intimacy etc. There is a sense of duty to provide for your family & partner but that isn't really considered an expression of love. I find this to be a problem in many intercultural marriages I've seen.

    I do think financial stability should be more of a priority in American marriages. Love won't pay the bills & if 2 partners are going to be fighting over what money is to be spent on and how much or how little debt they're comfortable accruing - that marriage won't last. I've seen way too many American couples who rack up bankruptcy after bankruptcy because neither partner has a clue how to manage their finances. In fact I know a few American couples who can't even afford to get divorced!

    1. Excellent points! I think I got a bit lucky on some of those fronts. My hubby is romantic but still has that sense of duty as well. I don't know if he's lucky or not though. I don't see my chores as loving gestures but I do them because I can't stand not to. I would go nuts without being able to do work and chores. I'm not nearly as romantic as he is either lol.

      Financial stability is a definite must and learning to live under your means - as in spending less than you earn - is a serious challenge in the US. This is one of the reasons I don't watch TV or spend all my time being bombarded by ads and such. I don't need my mind warped into thinking I should buy things I don't need or even want.

      I've spent years downsizing and trying to customize my life to be more minimalist. It's been quite an adventure. Right now I'm struggling with having to purchase things I had rather live without because I can't find any way not to (time and physical constraints are the culprit). I find I'm still owning more stuff than I want to keep up with. I'll get there though. Now if only I can get hubby on board with that ideal for life. He's so into the bling and the glam. Hazards of being with a Punjabi I guess.

    2. punjabis have this problem. In many ways they are like Americans. WeSt progressed because of industrial revolution. so there was always something to sell. something new. I guess it is both a boon and bane.