I fell in love. I fell in love hard. After a few years of dating and multiple breakups in between we were finally together. However, even in the midst of these ups and downs I knew I needed to tell my parents. They didn’t need to know the exact details and certainly didn’t need to know all the details, but I figured they needed to know. So, my parents have been in the loop regarding the seriousness of my relationship for the very beginning.
Within a few months of officially dating I told my parents I was serious about Shreemati and that I loved her very much. In fact my sister and mother both talked to Shreemati during this time. I felt the communication needed to be open and I needed to be up front with everybody. I needed Shreemati to know that I was for real and that I’d be willing to deal with the consequences. I needed my parents to start imagining this future and start dealing with it sooner rather than later.
As things progressed, Shreemati and I eventually visited Nepal. It was an official introduction trip. She met everybody and everybody met her. It was a great time, however, later that year we broke up. We still had some issues to work out. Things were not as smooth as we had thought. I didn’t tell my parents of this breakup. I didn’t feel it was necessary for them to know right away, but I was planning to tell them if it became “permanent”. I really felt like things would work itself out and we’d be back together again. I also figured that news of this breakup would affect their support later.
I bring this up because I am reading about a lot of relationships where the guy hasn’t told his parents and the years are just ticking by. I know everyone’s situation is different. But I will say this, there does come a point where a man has to be a man and talk to the parents like a man and face the consequences. Its pretty plain and simple.
Dragging it out and just kicking the can doesn’t help in the long term. If you love her and you’re worked out all your issues (and you’re already living with her), then its time to deal with the consequences. I don’t think its fair to the woman or to yourself to keep dragging. Afterall its not like you just woke up one day and realized there would be consequences. You knew there would be consequence for becoming involved with a Western woman for the day you left South Asia.
One of my mangers gave me a book called “Eat That Frog”. It is a self hep book that provides tips on how to better manage your time and get things done. The idea being that you do the most uncomfortable task first thing in the morning. That way you can enjoy the rest of the day doing the stuff you like to do. Similarly, once you’ve been dating for a year and you’re serious its time to eat the frog, tell the parents and enjoy the relationship.
I know it’s not easy. Believe me. I’ve been through it. But let me tell you this, even the most hard core parents will eventually bless your union once the grand-kids arrive. South Asian parents (regardless of how traditional) will melt their hearts out when they see your offspring. So, it’s only bad for a few years!
This past weekend my Pakistani friend, lets call him D, married an American woman, lets call her S. I can’t really say we’re very close friends but we’re certainly close enough to be invited to their wedding. Unlike some wedding invitations this one specifically encouraged us to bring our kids. We found out later that kids would give the bride flowers as she entered the room. A very nice touch.
Since D is a Muslim and S is from with a Christian tradition (can’t remember exactly), I was interested to see how their ceremony would be handled. From knowing D I know he is pretty much a non-practicing Muslim. He appreciates the traditions but he’s not going to the Haaj anytime soon. I don’t know much about S’s religion again from what I can tell she’s not a tithing member of any congregation. So, both are very nominal in their faiths.
The ceremony was held in a meeting center and religious artifacts of either religion was absent. The chairs were lined up neatly with flowers along the aisle. There was a podium with some colors, a canvas and behind it was an arch made of some green branches and leaves. Nothing terribly religious or sacred in the traditional sense. For the most part it was a secular affair. There was profession of commitment, honor, respect and love, and only a few references to a generic God.
I don’t know what kind of wedding they had in Pakistan, but I would assume (based on the pictures that were on display), that it was a fairly religious ceremony. I have never been to a Muslim wedding, so I am making a huge assumption. I know that the Hindu ceremony is a religious ceremony and there is no way around it. I’m assuming Muslim weddings are religious and there is no way around it. Perhaps because of this they chose a secular setting for their US wedding – I don’t know.
I walked away from this secular wedding wondering about wedding ceremonies in general. Not marriage but just the ceremony and the role God should play. Obviously they can have any type of wedding they want and I’m not here criticizing that at all (so please do not take this blog post to mean that at all).
I’ve always held the view that weddings are religious events. It is a commitment you make in the presence of God himself and you set out to keep this commitment with God’s help and grace. When this aspect is removed from a public ceremony I just feel that a large part of something important is missing.
Now you’re probably wondering what kind of wedding we had. I’ll tell you one of these days. But for now I want to hear your thoughts on secular weddings.
Over the past few months I’ve subscribed to quite a few inter-cultural relationship blogs. My focus has been on those between South Asians and Western women. And while this is not a scientific survey by any means these blogs tend to be written by women, and mostly younger women in their mid to late 20s. There are a few older women. Most of the relationships are a few years old. Many of the couples are either living together (before marriage) or they’ve just recently gotten engaged and/or married.
In terms of world views it appears the women in these relationships tend to be white and very liberal in their world view. Liberal defined both politically and socially. They have a very post-modern view of the world and are open minded. In face they place a high value on being open minded. I’ve read of some who are even “secret Muslims” – in a fun and cute kind of way.
In terms of family dynamics this white liberal woman is very assertive and opinionated – whether this is expressed openly or passively. Many seem to have tension with their new mother-in-laws or soon to be mother-in-laws. Some are very argumentative in their approach to their relationships and even to the new culture that they are about to be so integrated with. Somehow their man is above all this stuff but his culture is certainly something that cannot be tolerated or needs to be changed.
In many cases I see many couples as being overly naive in their assessment of what it takes to make an inter-cultural relationship with South Asians succeed. It’s one thing to be in love in your 20s with an exotic man from a far away place, but its quite another to stick it through for 60+ years. While I am no expert in this, I do think some sober thinking is needed – because the practical and the mundane become reality at some point and once the “love-bubble” fades you have to make choices.
I bring all this up because the South Asian culture is inherently conservative. It is religiously and socially conservative. Family is supreme. Relationships are king and social norms are extremely rigid. Family dealings are long term and require much work. In-laws are really not in-laws, they’re in-your-face. Family expectations from cousins-thrice-removed are real. Communication is very different – more passive aggressive than direct for the most part. Ideas are diametrically different – of course the daughter-in-law needs to serve tea and so on and so forth.
One day every inter-cultural relationship needs to deal with this – not in a theoretical love will carry us through kind of manner – but in a practical kind of way. Then there are children and their upbringing – and interaction between their grandparents (on both sides).
What I’m saying is not that these relationships will not succeed (I’m in one and have a personal stake in its success) but rather, the liberated post-modern liberal white woman will need to realize the extent to which her liberation, her post-modernism and her liberalism will be challenged by a culture and tradition older than most civilizations on earth. I have seen many walk away because their ultra-feminist ideals were more important than family peace and harmony.
Overcoming this is a tall order. It can only be conquered when you recognize how tall the order is and ensuring that you have a worldview strong enough to carry you through.