An email from an Indian Husband… and a Good Indian Son.

This email affirms what I have always said, that Patriarchy victimizes not just women (of all ages) but also younger men. Younger men find it tougher to complain (or even acknowledge the abuse) because they are not openly ill treated, their abuse is less visible, because it is generally disguised as parental love (and hope and expectations – i.e the concept of Shravan Kumar and Sri Ram like sons).
Dear Indian Homemaker,
I stumbled upon your site a couple of days earlier and was suitably impressed by the quality of discussion on display. Congratulations on providing an excellent sounding board to people who really need it.
I see that it is mostly women who write to you, but since my situation has aspects which relate to some of the issues raised frequently on your blog, I would really appreciate it if you could provide an unbiased opinion to me as well. I am really at my wit’s end here and any advice is welcome. I have spoken with friends, relatives and acquaintances, but what I really need is an opinion from someone who is close to neither me nor my wife and can therefore judge the situation on it’s own merits, without any bias whatsoever. So here goes:
I basically come from a middle-class family that is settled in India. My parents are orthodox in their worldview and beliefs, and have manufactured a comfortable existence for themselves with plenty of like-minded people around them. I benefited from the good education provided to me and by the age of 21, ended up at the place that was then the mecca for Indian software engineers. Living in America was a transformative experience for me. I took to the culture like a fish takes to water. I guess I was already a bit disillusioned by the conservatism of my family and America provided a great break from that. 

Soon, however, my parents started pressurizing me to get married. I did not really want to, so I resisted the pressure for a while. But it slowly became too much to bear. You must understand my situation here; I was already feeling guilty about leaving my parents (who were not in the best of health) and working halfway across the world. They started talking about how much they wanted a grandchild and so on. It just became too much for me to handle and I gave in. That was mistake #1. The second mistake was to agree to have an arranged marriage. I guess that was really foolish but the emotional blackmail did me in.

To cut a long story short, I got married and my erstwhile happy life disappeared in a puff of smoke. My wife is a great person, very caring, very supportive and so on. But the mismatch between us is too great. She comes from a very conservative background, where the “pati-parameshwar” jazz is kind of gospel truth. Unfortunately, I am simply not comfortable with that kind of thing and feel smothered by her constant mothering and cares.

She hated America from Day One. The culture and lifestyle was too different from what she was used to, and she pined for home. Happily, I know that it is not possible to have a partner who meets every expectation of yours, but in my marriage, neither of us meets each others’ expectations at all. Our whole idea of marriage is worlds apart. I find it quite impossible to playact at being the dominant “head of the family” kind of guy. I also feel intensely irritated when she finds it necessary to consult with me before making the smallest of decisions for herself. For instance, I recently bought her a cellular phone and she actually asked me for PERMISSION to call her mother. She once even called me up in the middle of a conference because she had gone to the market and wanted to purchase a deodorant for herself! It is not a question of money. Fate has been kind on me in that regard and we have more than enough to lead a good life. I have never once refused to give her any amount she wanted and as far as I am concerned, my money is her money. She can do whatever in the world she wants with it. I just have a terribly hard time convincing her of that.

Religion is another bone of contention between us. She is a devout Hindu, while I am an atheist. That is not a problem in itself ; she could believe in the Loch Ness monster or the great ZooZoo for all I care. The problems begin when she starts trying to impose her religious beliefs on me. Certain things must not be done on certain days, certain foods must not be eaten, certain drinks must not be consumed. She does not assert these demands forcefully or vocally, but the emotional manipulation is usually enough to make me give up and fall in line. I am tired of falling in line.

The list of problems goes on and on.

There is no emotional connection or intimacy between us. There is no feeling of having lived together more than two years. There is no feeling of being in a romantic relationship. The little disconnects of perception and worldview torment both of us.
I daresay she has a long list of problems with me too. I know this, because I can make out that she is dissatisfied with our marriage. I have even seen her crying about it on occasion and it is really impossible to express how horrible that makes me feel. For some reason, she thinks this is all her fault, when I know it is not. If anything, it is my fault. I was aware of the disconnect between us, but like a damn fool, I thought it would go away with time. I even had these romantic notions of being the savior who would provide her a “better” life.

I made a mistake and have been paying hugely for it. Worse, someone else is having to pay for my mistake too. The only way I know to correct the mistake is divorce by mutual consent, but that would be like using sulfuric acid to clean my teeth. Even a casual mention of divorce is enough to cause my wife to start crying. And I know that where she comes from, a divorce would cause her to be stigmatized for no fault of her own. How can I bring that on to someone who trusted me, to someone who I promised to protect? I cannot.

But what else can I do? I see little hope of things improving between us. Divorce would probably be like the end of the world for her. I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place and have no idea what to do.

A friend recently suggested marriage counseling. Do you think it might be helpful in our case? Do you have any other suggestions? If so, I’d be infinitely grateful if I could hear them.

Eagerly awaiting your reply.

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162 thoughts on “An email from an Indian Husband… and a Good Indian Son.

  1. I personally see a problem of lack of open communication – am not sure how marriage counseling work but if it open a free channel of communication, go for it.
    You both need to sit and talk your hearts out – u r blessed in so many ways – leaving in a free society – no parental pressure at home (atleast not physically near) – I assume your wife is not working – see what she is interested in – get her to drive on her own – go to places together – ask her to manage the finances completely – make the home budget – go shopping together – share your past experiences – I believe talking helps most problems and I am really hoping it will do the same in your case!

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    • Talking helps only when both people have an open mind and are willing to discuss absolutely anything under the sun. This poor chap has mentioned that his wife becomes emotionally distressed at even the casual mention of divorce.

      If they sat down to “talk openly”, I can see how it will play out even now. The moment he bring up the issue of problems in the marriage, she will start blaming herself. If divorce is mentioned even in a glancing manner, it’s all over. She’s crimp up, shut down and that’s the end of that. She’ll also be devastated. Open communication only works when each party is well…open you. If certain subjects are taboo or if one party has too firm a view of something, there’s no scope for open communication.

      It’s hard for me to express how sorry I feel for this poor guy – and the woman he’s living with. I really see no way out without devastating her for no fault of hers. It would be absolutely awesome if she could find a way to freely discuss certain things – but from what he’s laid out in his mail it’s not going to happen.

      Not a very useful comment I know, but the poor guy’s stuck so badly my heart bleeds for him. All because of a stupid mistake he made once and now has to pay for the rest of his life.

      I would blame the parents, but what’s the use of doing that now?

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      • Counselling may be a good idea. It would help to create common ground between you and your wife. You are a remarkably sensitive and caring person and a good counsellor would be able to help you use these qualities to build a better relationship with your wife. I agree with Bhagwad that talking by itself won’t help, but a lot of Yuvika’s advice is good and her suggestions about getting your wife exposed to the world could be explored, perhaps with a counsellor’s help at first.

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    • …I made a mistake and have been paying hugely for it. …

      We choose our actions and along come the consequences.
      http://​girlsguidetosurvival​.wordpress.com/all-a​bout-relationships/a​sk-before-marrying/

      These same points could be used after marriage to chart a communication path.

      L​iving in US of A set you free and you thought it will do the same to her.

      Everyone will be telling you to have an open communication but none will tell you how to. So here you go…
      http://girlsguidetos​urvival.wordpress.co​m/all-about-relation​ships/feeling-and-ex​pressing-your-emotio​ns/

      There will be lots of drama and lots of emotional manipulation but sustain consistency and you’ll get there…

      http://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/all-about-relationships/lets-talk-communication-deadlock/

      When will desis grow up and learn what it means to be in a relationship?
      http://​girlsguidetosurvival​.wordpress.com/all-a​bout-relationships/c​ouples-counseling-fa​q/
      Why are desis so affraid of marriage counselling. It works only if you work on it. It is not a pill you swallow and all ills will be cures. You’ll get what you put in counselling, it is hard work.

      Divorce is not the solution here coz’ you’ll do extactly what you did the first time.
      Peace,
      Desi Girl

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    • You seem to be such a caring and sincere person. You should be proud. Its warming that you are being so sensitive of the pain your wife.

      First things first – stop the blame game. Your focus right now should be on setting things right rather than unearthing what went wrong. Its NOT YOUR FAULT. Nor is it of your parents. All they wished for was conventional happiness, they did not see this coming much like you did not. If anything it was just an error of judgement. Mistakes happen. So stop feeling sorry for your wife, stop being angry with yourself and your family.

      Now the first thing that you really need to do is to ask yourself whether you want to stay in this marriage or want a way out. If eventually you stayed or left what would you be most happy about and what would you miss. A simple list of pros and cons of this marriage. If you think may be you could stay in the marriage given some changes then I suggest you work on the marriage before calling it quits. Quitting today or a year later does not make much of a difference. Quitting after giving it your best or quitting without trying makes a world of difference.

      Counseling does not seem like a practical option for you at the moment because you are in the US and I am not sure of how much help a counselor there might be considering that the whole understanding of marriage is very different. The last thing you want right now is someone who might be judging this marriage on parameters very different from what you judge. Also convincing your wife to come to counseling might be a challenge and make her fall apart.

      What you can instead do is make an effort to open up to you about your marriage and expectations. Maybe you can tell her a fictional story about a workshop at work about client-provider relationship and tell her how beneficial it was, so want to “experiment” if this proves correct for other relationships.
      Open up about what your needs are, what your expectations are from this marriage and maybe suggest subtly on how some of these are not possible because the two of you come from conservative families and therefore cannot change. Give her examples of how people (someone like the two of you) “adapted” to each others expectations and needs. When she sees that your expectations of a wife is different from the wife she is, she will be willing to make some changes to adapt and fit-in and please you. After all, all that patnis want is to please their “Parmeshwars”.

      Be patient and do not be judgemental. You seem like a really good man and I am sure your wife sees you the same way too. When she realizes that her stubbornness to not adapt to you is making you sad, she will definitely change to have you in her life.

      Remember no mistake you make will cost you a lifetime. Everything passes. Do not be afraid to make a decision because you are scared of the consequences. Every action comes with consequences that cannot be predicted. Gather courage and ACT. Its better than just hanging in there.

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      • If you do want a councilor, though, consider someone from an Indian background. There are lots of Indian psychologists in the United States… especially if you live in the major cities.

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  2. Wow. It never ceases to amaze me how Indian young people who are educated, financially independent, even living abroad and of a liberal mindset, allow themselves to be emotionally blackmailed by their parents into something as crucial as marriage. It is also amazing to me how parents match said guy or girl with someone paavam, often in total ignorance as to who their child really is.

    Anyway, this guy is already married so too late for that discussion. Two years seems like a long time but maybe it takes longer to develop affection where there is no initial attraction? How about trying to be friends first – fogorget that you are married and approach it as getting to know a friend. In a way, she has been supplanted into your world so try to be gentle with her. If you didn’t have to contemplate living with her for the rest of your life, are there things about her you would like. Let her get to know you as a friend first too. Maybe you need to explain that to her – that you two need to get to know each other as people… don’t broach divorce yet, because it just seems to make her freeze up as you said.

    Do you have female friends there? Maybe one of them could get to know her and then suggest to your wife that she can be herself and need not see you as the lord and master. I think once your wife really gets the idea that all men do not want a ‘good’ wife, she might come into her own more. That’s not to say that you will like what she becomes but at least she won’t be cowering before you life a mouse. I also think that once she gets a taste of being free, she will take to it like a fish to water.

    Could you encourage her to get a job? That might help her get more confidence, make more friends and be exposed to more diverse ideas.

    Not sure counselling in the US would help because I have a feeling that those counsellors would not have the cultural background to deal with this very Indian problem.

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    • “Do you have female friends there? Maybe one of them could get to know her and then suggest to your wife that she can be herself and need not see you as the lord and master.”

      I won’t suggest this solution, especially for someone coming from a conservative background as her. Male and female friendships are not seen in a good light where she comes from. This might even make things worse. On the other hand, if she makes friends of her own (and not with her husband’s friends) then things might work out differently.

      The best advice I can offer would be getting her in different social situations without the crutches called you. May be let her join some art classes, or any other hobbies she might have. Having her own friend circle might help her though not with the conservative american desi crowd (they are worse than conservative crowd of India). Insist on it, even if she resists at first. It might be scary for her to be in such a situation initially. Make sure to let her know that this is not a punishment of any kind and be supportive and patient.

      Unfortunately, I have friends in exactly same situation. All I can say that you are not alone. There others who made the same mistake as you did. I know of wives who refuse to come out of the kitchen and talk to the guests (and not because they are rude) even though they have been in US for years.

      Hope something works out for you. If you do try marriage counselling, make sure you find an Indian counselor.

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      • You may have a point about the ‘husband’s female friend’ angle Richa. But a married female friend of liberal mindset could work no? In fact, a married friend would be better as she would be able to provide a married person’s perspective, to show that a marriage can work and thrive without the woman bowing and scraping and that men even enjoy such marriages.

        But yeah, interest classes or a job where she meets different people and makes her own friends is a better idea. Just that it might take longer for this kind of confidence-building and friendship to happen than say if a woman already known to her offers some advice.

        Also wanted to add that part of the reason the wife may be mroe clingy and high-strung than normal is because of homesickness. She is probably isolated in her problems – she can’t call her folks and tell them over the phone because they might freak out at the hint of marital problems and she doesn’t have close friends there she can confide in.

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      • Don’t agree that the counsellor needs to be Indian. A good counsellor will be able to understand how the different outooks are affecting the relationship. S/he wouldn’t need to know the culture itself to do this.

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      • I disagree. The concept of arranged marriage, the nuances it creates in the relationship, the impact of the larger family, the way it shapes roles – all this is so pertinent to the problem here. A counsellor who doesn’t understand these nuances would be giving advice only based on theory. There may be some parts of our pysches that are universal, but so much else is shaped and influenced by culture.

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      • I am not sure a female friend of the husband will work, married or not. I think the wife will always see her as someone her husband admire/looks up to (the reason for friendship). That’s reason enough for jealousy or in worst case scenario an inferiority complex in the wife. the relationship will be always a bit skewed. I think it will be better if someone she makes friends with helps her out.

        I agree about homesickness but again I think that wouldn’t subside unless she makes her own social circle here. She will always pine for people back home otherwise.

        I agree that counselor needs to understand Indian culture and I would prefer an Indian. It will ease the couples, especially the wife, in therapy. She won’t be as defensive about the cultural differences. In my opinion a non-Indian telling her anything won’t be as effective. Just my opinion…

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      • I have to agree with The Bride. Getting the POV of another married Indian woman might help. There is a different way to introduce this friend if there is a fear that this man’s wife will feel intimidated that the woman friend might have other feelings for her husband. The guy can invite the couple (both the woman friend and her husband) for lunch or dinner over weekends. The more they meet his wife will be able to see how liberal the friend is and what kind of a open relationship the couple share. I know so many of my friends who change once they come to US just by seeing very liberal couples like my husband and me and some of our friends. Whenever I have seen very conservative couples (at least one among them has to be a good friend) I have invited them over and have dropped hints if I have felt the husband to be too conservative!

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  3. It is very sad to know about such discontent in marriages. I was just thinking of marriage counseling when I read the last line. The husband at least stands in a better position because he is more aware of the situation. When the wife becomes more aware…we can expect some improvement in the mental state of the two, I hope.

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  4. IH, one presumes that education is encouraged , where your wife comes from. Have you tried suggesting that she take up some classes that teach her some skill, at the local community college extension classes (where there will be people her age and even maybe older)? you can even offer to drop and collect her , so she realises that she has your full encouragement and support, and maybe phase things out slowly in case she herself drives.

    I know people who did some simple accounting classes and worked later. Nothing that brought in a big chunk of salary, but something that introduced the lady to another mix of people. Maybe then she will get the confidence to decide some things on her own.

    America is a big culture shock for some. But having local friends sometimes lets you know that people everywhere are same. And that interaction will allow her to rationalize why people can think differently than her (your atheism, etc). I think there has to be an effort at travelling halfway from both sides.

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  5. Can’t understand why parents arrange marriages that match caste and community and horoscopes without realising that there are a hundred more things that have to match for a relationship to even get started off.

    I think, yes, like Suranga said, traveling halfway is necessary. Does IH know anyone to whom his wife would listen and express herself and cross her self-imposed cultural boundaries to meet him halfway? That ‘mediator’ would also have to put across to IH about what adjustments and compromises he has to make…because it takes a long time for anyone to change so much to accommodate such massive differences. Can’t expect IH or IH’s wife to transform their ideas in a short while.

    I agree with The Bride that an American counselor would have no clue about the cultural context. It needs someone who understands both cultures. Desi counselors must be available there, no? South Asian women’s groups could possibly help?

    I’ve met such women in the US, brand new brides reeling under the culture shock and trying to be the ideal wife according to century-old Indian standards. It was difficult for me to even spend half an hour with them!

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    • Hello Stars,
      I also remember meeting such freshly-minted brides who were trying to assimilate and become self-sufficient while being ideal Indian wives at the same time. As a graduate student, I used to study with a couple of newly married Indian women who got straight As (more than the B+ I mostly managed) but also cooked twice a day and entertained visiting in-laws who insisted on being waited on hand and foot. I studied with them everyday and admired their ability to wear so many hats with such grace and good humour.
      In my experience, most Indian women, even those from small towns and conservative backgrounds, find life in the US to be a liberating, positive experience, recession and lay-offs notwithstanding.

      It is commonly believed that Indian women prefer marrying H1-Bs and US citizens because they desire a higher standard of living…fancy cars and big houses. I have come to believe that the personal freedom that the US offers is also an equally strong “attraction” for many.

      Many “NRI” Indians publicly pay homage to “Indian values” but will privately tell you that they find life in India suffocating and confining.

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  6. How utterly sad! This women is now manipulating the man and society is manipulating her. Like Bhagwad, I also see no way out except for a divorce by mutual consent. I think that perhaps she can start studying and he can give her all support she requires for standing on her own feet. It is not fair that he should have to live with a mistake all his life but he can certainly help in making her life easier. And she should NEVER go back to her family unless they decide to accept her, divorce and all. Easier said than done, I know. But somewhere or the other, you have to put down your feet, come what may.

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  7. It’s hard to lose a whole lifetime’s worth of conditioning. Maybe she wants to be more empowered herself but either doesn’t know how or doesn’t have the courage to do so? The fundamental question here is, in my opinion, what you view as a better life, does she view as a corruption of her values?

    My personal opinion is that when there is no abuse (either physical or mental), it might be worthwhile to try a bit of counselling. I think the local Hindu Temple(s) would have a few resources you can tap into. Basically because your wife might be more comfortable with a counsellor who’s of Indian origin.

    I wonder if it’s clear to her that you’re primarily concerned about her happiness and don’t want to use the threat of divorce as “punishment”. I mean, it might be clear to you but it may not be to her. Maybe even invite her to participate in this discussion and share her side of the story?

    It’s not the “make it work at all costs” approach I’m suggesting here but rather the “let’s see if there’s something we’re missing” approach. Since money is not an issue, what have you really got to lose by trying counselling? The fact that you’re asking this community for an opinion tells me that you’re open to all solutions and are not just looking for the best way to get a divorce. Either way, good luck to you both.

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  8. @IH,

    Just read your sad story.

    You communicate very well indeed and I was impressed with your use of the language to bring out your dilemma.

    None of us here are professional counselors.
    We can only give you an unbiased opinion.
    Have hope and be patient.
    You are better off than some other couples I know.
    I will reply in greater detail later after collecting and organising my thoughts.

    Regards
    GV

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  9. I think you should first make her feel secure about the marriage and your regard for her if at all she is to adapt to the country and the new culture. Right now, she’s probably terrified that she’s not pleasing you enough to actually open up and be herself. All this mothering and caring are probably the ways she knows of letting you know that she’s trying- I know that it can be annoying but try to understand the intentions behind it. A lot of men actually want this from their wives, so she’s only doing what she’s observed. From the kind of setup she comes from, this is the expression of love that she has learnt…don’t look down upon it or be dismissive because you’ll only frustrate her more. Instead, show your appreciation for what she does but at the same time, encourage her to be more independent- introduce her to other women who have similarly come to the US after marriage and have adapted themselves to its culture slowly (make sure they are not condescending though), go out on weekend trips…I don’t know what her qualifications or interests are…but try and find suitable places where she will be comfortable in indulging them- even a yoga class is not a bad idea to start meeting new people and making friends! Right now, you are the center of her universe and she probably wonders what else she can do to make this work- things won’t change overnight and it will be a gradual and often painful process for everything to fall in place…prepare yourself mentally for it if you don’t think divorce is an option.

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    • I think this is really an apt comment for the situation. Very well put explanation!

      To change someone else, one must first change themselves so the husband should change to see the wife in better light and give her the security in marriage that she seeks. After he gives her sense of security, I think marriage counseling (with desi marriage counselor) can really help. Till then, she will continue to be anxious of every action she does minding what he might think (most likely in unfavorable light unconsciously).

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  10. Indian Husband, I can relate to the situation you are unfortunately stuck in. I few points that I would like to share with you-

    1. It has been difficult for you and it will continue to be tough while you are trying to work things out. But don’t loose hope, there are many things in your favor- you have your heart in the right place and you yourself are on the right path.  one way or the other, things will only improve from now. Also, your wife is a wonderful human being.

    2. The primary difference between you and your wife is that you are a rational, reasonable, logical ‘adult’ and your wife is not due to years and years of social conditioning. She also lacks the exposure that you got at a relatively young age in the land of freedom.

    3. Before marriage counseling and finding out ways to make the marriage work, your wife can benefit tremendously from psychological counseling (I may not be able to explain this perfectly, but you will get the gist and can then look up the net) – which is the same all over the world and not specific to Indian culture. In this counseling she can learn about our various ego states (Child, Parent and Adult ego states) and realize that she is dominated by her Child and Parent ego states while her Adult ego state is very underdeveloped (where as yours is well developed). She, along with her counselor, can then work out ways to develop her Adult ego state and start thinking more rationally and logically, become open to new ideas and actively start working on her decision making capabilities using her Adult ego state. It would help you, your relationship and your understanding of the situation, if you too attend these sessions with her.

    4. Once your wife has made some progress in this direction, you can simultaneously start taking marriage counseling.

    5. You can also encourage her to socialize with Indians in your area, take up a course or a job. I have never been to USA but I believe there are a lot of religious, custom following, temple going Indians there; your wife might feel at home in such a group. Encourage her to have a life of her own. Get to understand what her hobbies are…given her upbringing, she might be good at stitching, knitting, painting, cooking etc. Encourage her to take up a course in these areas, it will add to her self-confidence.

    6. Every woman on this earth enjoys shopping and loves prettifying herself (and receiving compliments). Try taking her shopping for clothes, lingerie, make-up, perfumes etc. I personally feel that if she starts feeling comfortable and beautiful in western clothes..she would also start opening up more to their ways. It might benefit your intimacy issues too.

    7. It is also equally important that you continue to take good care of yourself…continue to have a life of your own without feeling guilty…meet with your circle of friends…you can also ask your wife to join in at time. You are also emotionally vulnerable as you are desperately seeking emotional connection and support. You may never think of cheating your wife physically but do take care to not become too emotionally dependent on an outsider. Try keep your and her parents out of this situation. I don’t think they can add value in any way, but can surely make things more difficult for the two of you. Her parents might feel you are corrupting her!

    8. Goodluck- you are a great guy 

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  11. The way I see it, it’s going to be a long process. Hopefully you have the patience for all of these things to happen and the willingness to facilitate.

    a) She has to become her own person. One whole individual, not just one half of a couple. Discover hobbies, take classes, find a job, make friends….whatever makes her feel she’s in control of her life and comfortable in this country. You’ll have to facilitate all of this.

    b) You have to realize that this (point a above) might never happen. Ask yourself if you’d be willing to give it a shot in India, in that case. She might become a more confident version of herself in India.

    b) She has to get rid of at least some of that conditioning. And for the rest, you’ll have to live with it. Ask yourself if you’re okay with that.

    c) She might become her own person and then realize on her own that your marriage won’t work, for whatever reasons. Unfortunately, not everyone wants the marriage to end, at this point. Some people will get it out of their system via negative behaviors. Some people will continue those behaviors for the rest of their lives but not get out of the marriage. Ask yourself if that’s acceptable to you.

    d) Realize that you alone are not at fault here. Your wife is also an adult and an equal participant in the decision to marry you. Her parents and yours also had a role to play. You can’t tell yourself that anything you do in terms of seeking your own happiness is like punishing her for something “that’s not even her fault.” You need to ask yourself how far you’ll go. Where would you draw the line?

    Point d above is very important because YOU have to make your choices and ensure that you don’t resent her for those.

    I wouldn’t expect counseling to help much because no marriage therapist here would understand why anyone would get into an arranged marriage in the first place. And they wouldn’t know what to tell you so that you get to the same place as a choice marriage that’s on the rocks, which is what they know how to deal with. And not all of THOSE can be saved, either. Ask your Indian friends if they know of any desi/ABCD counselor.

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  12. My heart goes out to the writer. As someone who suffered a similar fate, I completely understand him. I too got married to a man 13 years ago with whom I had nothing in common. To make the situation worse, he emotionally abused me by completely neglecting me (wouldn’t talk to me at all or be affectionate!) because of emotional, INTELLECTUAL, physical, and social incompatibility (he comes from a traditional background and I am an Army brat). We had zero intimacy and since I was barely 23 when I got married, I didn’t even know how to react. When I tried to take the family’s help they would say: “But he doesn’t hit you, is not alcoholic, doesn’t have affairs. What is your problem???”
    I NEVER have felt married despite the years put into it.
    I suffered panic attacks and depression. I was also diagnosed with a brain tumor (thankfully benign!) due to overworked adrenals because of the constant stress.
    I am finally breaking free… I am moving on.

    For those who are suggesting counseling, perhaps it’s worth a try… but I highly doubt it. Sometimes two people are so different that all they can achieve after counseling is polite co-existence. If that is OK for you then best of luck! However, if you crave a true partnership, try to move on early in the marriage unlike me who stayed back “because of my son”.

    I have another friend who suffered a similar fate and he in fact went for counseling and is “working on his marriage”; I seriously doubt if he is happy though. Any time he speaks of his wife, I sense bitterness.

    If you see a glimmer of hope, stay. But if you feel you people are as different as chalk and cheese, move on.

    As far as parents are concerned, they will try to stop you. My father still blames me for initiating the talk of separation… but I see no other choice since the doc told me about the tumor. The way I look at it, I have just one life and I have NEVER been happy in this marriage. I deserve better.

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    • @Leela,
      //”Sometimes two people are so different that all they can achieve after counseling is polite co-existence. If that is OK for you then best of luck!”//

      So very very true!

      Like

  13. Dear son of our great Hindu family culture,

    1. Stop being manipulated
    2. Send your wife out to college or for a job – if she refuses, dammit ORDER her
    3. Stop spending spare time with her and push her into making friends
    4. Encourage her to travel

    In short, push her into having a life outside this marriage, so that she can stop being so dependent on you and gain some exposure.

    Like

    • Excellent advice ! Could not agree with this more, I don’t think the problem is as big as the writer is making it seem, in his mind he seems to have resigned himself to the fate of having a divorce as the only way out, but I think in reality just a little more open communication, some more space to both partners, and a little life outside of the marriage can be immensely helpful .
      USA can be tough to adjust to for some, mainly due to the lonely nature of life here, having a life outside the home is very essential for the woman, in order to have some sanity of mind.

      Like

    • I did not read all the comments, but Ritu’s comment I agree with.
      I was not exactly like your wife, but did hate teh US of A from the day I landed here after marriage and my husband being the software engineer loved it. Although initially it felt that he was being extremely mean to me, but in the first year of marriage he pushed me to find something to do for myself. He pushed me hard, he pushed me hard to figure out what I want to do with my life, whatever career I wanted to choose, asked me to give gmat. He used to push me to go to colleges in the train, basically not spoon feed me but looking back he did support me when required and made sure I was safe.
      Another thing, he stayed away and kept me away from any of kind of malodrama wives of his friends. So basically not giving into my complaints of not having friends and getting bored, he encouraged me to make my own friends. I got into college and sponsored my program which was kind of him and with good luck mid way I was able to find a good internship and pay the remaining myself. I cant begin to tell you how much studying and working in this country helped me. I made my own friends, friends of all colors and how much I love it.
      So long story short as ritu said, dont give into her emotional blackmailing (we all do it when we feel pushed from our boundries) and focus on the long run. I wont say that this takes away all the problems from the marriage, but it does help make it better. And another advice, till you guys are really comfortable please dont give in to have kids
      unless you are sure about the marriage, because that is the most likely thing to happen looking at the tren of events and emotional blackmailing.

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  14. I don’t think divorce is a solution to your case.. Things can be better if both of you really want it to be. Talk to your wife that you want a good life for both of you and tell her what pleases/displeases you.
    I think since she likes the pati parmeshwar worship kind of thing, she would be more than willing to listen to you. Convince her that you are doing what is good for both of you.Also put efforts to make her feel comfortable to the place you are so in tune with..
    Believe me US is a very boring and bland kind of place for young Indian girls who so love to shop in busy streets and love chatting and what not.

    Though in the current situation it may seem like the end of the world for you, i think your situation is not so worse.. And as someone else has mentioned you both are so lucky that there is no parental interference.. Please let it be that way till you sort out things between both of you.. And same with a baby.. Many people may advice you that bringing in a baby will make things right.. But trust me.. A seven pound baby can only make things worse..
    Please don’t lose faith and believe in yourself.. Be optimistic and from your words i think you genuinely care and love your wife..
    It’s just that things are not falling in place.. But keep up the fight and I am sure things will be better soon. Good luck to you and your pretty wife!

    Cheers,
    Divya

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  15. This arranged marriage was an unpardonable sin on the part of the man. Now to redeem the sin he can try to be an inspirational leader in guiding his spouse from the darkness of feudalism to the light of Capitalism if he really wants to continue be her husband. From what we heard this immature man has just put his spouse in deep water imagining she will swim without teaching her how to.
    I also feel that behind this veil of ‘cultural differences’ this guy now knows he can never love her. I think he has never really shown any real love for her because he does not have any. Love can transcend cultural barriers.

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    • Could you throw a few pointers my way as to how someone is supposed to start loving a complete stranger that they happened to get married to. You know, just a step by step guide.

      In this particular case, I think the guy DOES care a lot for his wife, if not love her. He actually wants her to be her own person, instead of mooching off and reaping the benefits like a parasite (like I’ve seen LOTS of Indian men do).

      Are you sure his wife loves him, for that matter? Are you sure she’s not just playing the part of the dutiful wife like she’s conditioned to believe she should?

      Like

      • @ Wild Child,

        You dont start loving a complete stranger. You get to know the stranger and hope if nothing, you can have a friend for life. There are those that discover love through their walks in the friendship garden…and from love stems a passion. This is my observation of arranged marriages that have worked.

        There is the other side too, where a lifetime is spent living like strangers in the same room. Duty binds them and they go through all the “prescribed to do list” of marriage and then they die, none wiser about the other option.

        Like

    • I find Charakan’s view very negative. IHM, I respect your policy of letting all opinions be known but feel someone as caring and genuine in his desire to do the right thing as Indian Husband should not have to deal with such pointlessly negative views.

      Like

      • Jeanne,

        The “right thing” here will not make him happy. Like the various wives who stay in abusive marriages to do the “right thing”. I think IH should have the benefit of all kind of opinions, as he is suffering right now. Partiarchy is at fault, not IH or his wife, but remember, he is also being manipulated by his wife.

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      • This is not an issue of cultural difference but an issue of love-less marriage.
        The guy realises after 2 years that there cannot be any love between them and he himself is very negative about the future of his relationship with her.With such an attitude nothing can save the marriage.
        If the guy has a positive attitude he can try to have more empathy with this poor woman and guide her out of her conservatism. That may help in maintaining the marriage. Knowing each other better can result in budding of affection for each other.
        Only Love can help Nothing else

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      • Fem, by doing the right thing I was referring only to the fact that Indian Husband is thinking as much about his wife as himself, not just looking for a way out for himself. And frankly all this talk about love begs the question that we can’t love someone on demand. What we can do is respect their feelings and fulfill our responsibility to them, which IH seems to be doing.

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  16. @ IH,

    I can feel the hurt you both are going through. All because of giving into to pressure.

    I am no counsellor but the way I see it, there are two ways you could deal with this. 1. Get a divorce. Whatever happens after that, happens…thats the easy way. If nothing, at least one of you will be happy even in guilt. 2. Try the Multi-pronged, hard way to make the relationship work. This will involve a lot of patience and compromise on your part ’cause from what I read, your wife has a long way to go before she can see the relationship without being defensive or emotional.

    For #2 to happen, You both need to Communicate in a true sense, meaning it must be done in an objective, listening and voicing without interruption or judgement kind of environment…Couselling could help if the mediator/cousellor is someone both are comfortable with, someone who is conversant with Indian culture, someone your wife will be willing to listen to.

    You need to explain to her what you expect from this marriage. When she cries, try and be her friend.. Do what you do, if it was your friend crying, you will feel less horrible that way. Let her know that while you dont have objections to her following the rituals, you would like it if she didnt force it on you. Let her know that you dont want a Mother in the Marriage, but someone who is your equal. Talk to her and come up with a sum of money that she will need for her expenses every month(apart from the money for household expenses), and tell her that money is hers, she doesnt need to tell you how she spent that money and that she could always take more if she wants to without needing to ask you. Dont bring up the D word everytime you hit the wall with your wife, cause that will feel like an axe hanging overhead, building resentement and ruining any chance of the relationship working. Find ways to get her engaged in the culture she is now living in – get her to go to a community college/volunteer at either schools or in community activity, get her to drive, get a library membership, hobby classes. She doesnt need to assimilate but it will help her to perceive the new, shocking other in open-ness and confidence.

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  17. I think IH should take heart and nurture this relationship. If you both come from similar traditional backgrounds, you KNOW how things are back home. You know how big a culture change it is, and you must have faced that yourself. You said it was easier for you to adapt to it. But still that does not completely undo 20-22 years of growing up. So if you have a wife who grew up in the same culture as yours, you should UNDERSTAND where she is coming from, and guide her into the change.

    For a new bride from an arranged marriage (I was one myself) there are many things she needs to figure out. One big thing is what is it that the partner likes and prefers, what are his ideologies etc, then running a house on your own, taking care of yourself and another person (who she doesnt know that well – but probably mothers and aunts back home have warned her that she better do that properly). She probably needed… orientation! Just the way a new empoyee needs when she joins a new organization!

    From her perspective, she may be mothering you to try and please you, it is her effort to build a relationship with you. Mostly people like to be cared for. What other way would she know? Also, did you ever think if your actions and reactions to her behavior have sent out a message that you think she is “uncool, old fashoned, or like a village girl (ganwar in Hindi)?” Maybe that made her clutch on to her old ways either in defiance or out of desperation. Change is hard to cope with.

    I, myself personally know girls who were exactly like your wife. And now, 10 years later – you will find them donning the trendiest outfits, being part of soccer moms club, managing a day job, nannies and kids carpool turns very easily in the US today.

    I would suggest thinking about the following ways:

    1. Communication – talk to her. appreciate her efforts and things that she is good at. If she is homely, and keeping a good home is her interest, appreaciate that. Trust me, it is not easy and takes effort, taste and a creative mind to do that. Also communicate your likes and dislikes openly and gently. Dont expect her to guess your expectations. Take her shopping and buy her clothes that you would like her to wear and compliment her on that. It is a good icebreaker.

    2. If she was not used to being financially independant, start with a pocket money. Open her a bank account and deposit some money in it which she can use AS SHE PLEASES. But that means you dont get a say on how she is spending it. She can buy stuff for herself, for the house, for you, for the family or plain give it away to charity. But not your regular household expenses.

    3. Education – there are courses in community colleges that may help her to be gainfully employed eventually. This will cause a HUGE difference to her self esteem. If not, ask her to volunteer for some local organization – without pay (if visa is a problem).

    4. Friend circle – she should have her own friend circle. Invite your close friend couples or plan programs with them on weekends so she gets to interact with them and their spouses. You learn the most from such interactions.

    Patience, Time and Will my friend – works wonders. If you believe she is a good person at heart, and you found her attractive enough initially to marry her (there are few things you can base your decision on in an arranged marriage), no reason why you cannot make it work.

    My grandmother would say – Even a chappal when new will bite your feet and cause you discomfort. You dont throw it away – you oil it, wear it and break it in. 🙂 Any new relationship is a big change for both parties. It needs efforts and nurturing before you can write it off as not workable.

    No two people are the same. Be it a marriage, a working group, a sports team. You have to understand your team member(s) and give some take some.

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    • Poet Mamma,
      While most of your suggestions are practical and sensible, I think it would be more helpful if Indian Husband gave room for his wife’s personality to flourish by itself.
      Your suggestion that he should take her shopping so she can dress in a way he finds appealing is really old wine in a new bottle.
      That’s really what a traditional Indian marriage is all about isn’t it? That the husband and wife, eventually, by using force or manipulation, change essential elements of the other’s personality.
      Why not allow the wife to dress as she pleases? Why must she change her wardrobe to meet her husband’s expectations?

      People should only change if they feel an authentic, inner desire to change. Changing yourself to please somebody else is never a good thing.
      Such a change is likely to be superficial and counter-productive.
      It would be better if both people first worked at accepting each other as they are.
      Only then will they establish a relationship based on mutual respect, accommadation and trust. That’s just my two cents though.

      Like

      • Dear Bad Indian Girl,

        I completely agree with you that the change should not be forced, or thrusted upon someone when it is UNWANTED. I would NEVER EVER and NEVER recommend that.

        But we dont know that right? Its for IH to make sure that whatever changes he is suggesting, she is not showing signs of distress when adopting them. And vice-versa too. He can make small changes that are really not a big deal to make.

        What if she would infact enjoy a change in wardrobe? When you are in a new country, most people will be anxious to assimilate in surrounding environment and may welcome some help and suggestions to do so. Shopping can be a good fun activity for young couples. A lot of people enjoy shopping for a wardrobe with close friends who can give them an opinion on their choices. It was just a practical suggestion for an activity together that can be an ice-breaker.

        If you are in a new country – you do not know many things, like where to shop, what is considered a good deal, how much should you pay for so and so thing, where to buy what etc… plus the dollar/Rupee conversion can throw you off initially. I remember asking my husband and local cousins for opinions all the time initially, until I learnt the ways to shop that suited me.

        What we need to understand is marriages are made of small day to day things. You will find happiness in the small mundane things you do in your everyday life together. You have to let loose a bit. One does not (and shouldnt)have heavy discussions on principles every day and every conversation and one shouldnt judge every act on whether there is an alterior motive of the other person to transform you into something you do not want to become.

        So there are little things that you can easily change about yourself and may even feel happy that you made your loved one happy. Not a big deal. And there are BIG ones that you cannot, and the other should understand that and make his/her peace with it.

        Read the hypothetical conversation below:

        Husband: Hey this dress looks really nice on you – lets buy that.
        Wife: Oh thanks, but I dont like that color – lets find something similar but in another color.
        Husband: Okay. Here is a different color. Do you like this?

        Do you think there is an alterior motive of the husband to change his wife and make her dress in a way HE wants? Is he suppressing her identity? Is he “Forcing her or Manipulating her into changing her personality”?

        Another example – usually religious beliefs are very strong and personal for an indivdual. I would never suggest IH to try and change that. He should in fact respect her beliefs and let her do what gives her joy and peace. He should make her understand that he may not agree or comply by following days or fasts etc, but that shouldnt stop her from following her heart. On the other hand – if she want him to wear an ethnic kurta on a festival day, or plan an outing to the temple for a weekend… why not? Whats wrong with that?

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      • I completely agree with you…forcing someone directly or subtly to change the way they dress is a form of abuse…how i dress is perhaps as important to me as how i think.

        I too suggested to IH that he takes her out shopping but my idea was to show her the options US has to offer. The wife should shop, buy new things of her liking for herself…TO FEEL PLEASED and good about herself…NOT to dressup for pleasing and gaining approval from her husband. If I find myself in a new place, I would benefit a lot from going around that place…enjoying the various shopping and eating options.

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      • Reminds me of movie Shriman Shrimati 1982.
        Disaster of arranged marriages parents try to sell marriage to their sons and then they try to sell the opposite personalities as opposite attracts and will work. A plain Jane is marketed as mix of homely and modern and a woman with mind is suggested as modern yet homely.

        Peace,
        Desi Girl

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  18. I see where IH is coming from. My advice would be, don’t mention divorce.

    Also there is a (although probably small) possibility something can be worked out here. This marriage (to me) at least doesn’t have to be a mistake. I think it would help as The Bride suggested to get to know each other as friends first.

    Do you take her out, like out on a date? Don’t think just because you’re married you don’t have to do this. Many couples I know (here in America) go on “date nights.” It’s a way to re-kindle romance. I suggest this because it seems that as pointed out earlier, judging from your email it seems you don’t know her very well.

    Another thing would probably help is if you show her as your equal. I’m only suggesting this because you seem uncomfortable with the “head of the family” role.

    3. Stop spending spare time with her and push her into making friends
    4. Encourage her to travel
    In short, push her into having a life outside this marriage, so that she can stop being so dependent on you and gain some exposure.

    +1

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  19. from the way you have written about your situation, it seem to have figured your problem and also you care enough about the lady as you say divorce will cause her more harm than good.. plus acknowledging your mistakes is a good way to start working on them.

    As some of the above comments mentioned, you both need to gradually reach a middle ground. you got a chance to break free from the conservative set up when you were younger and the exposure happened over time.. for her I am assuming it was sudden and perhaps the mental conditioning isn’t letting her accept things the way you did. Think of and focus on things both of you enjoy together. yes, be friends first.. . Its much easier when you have a compatible partner but then this is one thing that will yield no solution discussing now.. introduce her to the kind of life you like there step by step and help her see the positives/comforts in that if not for her to change, at least for letting you be yourself.

    I am wondering what this post(of yours) would sound like had it been written by your wife. I wish both of you find happiness soon..

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  20. It’s like the American financial system, they know printing money is bad but they keep on the quantitative easing, keep pumping the system with more money in the hopes it would get better. This is how this marriage is, the OP knows its never going to work out, keeps giving it more time in the hopes somehow this will work. But guess what, giving it more time will simply make things worse.

    My honest advice, get over her medieval thinking that the husband is king and all that nonsense. Get a divorce, do it gracefully (I mean you do it gracefully, I know she wont, she would create a huge drama, be prepared for that). Get in touch with her parents, sit them all together and finalize this. Try to keep your parents out of this until the divorce is complete, if they threaten to disown you let them. If your parents do end up disowning you cut them off completely.

    Move on with your life the moment the divorce is complete. Learn the lesson please : living for others is futile, its like a long road with everyone around you but you still end up alone, high and dry.

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    • I have a strong feeling too that this marriage is destined for the rocks. It is simply chalk and cheese and who is to say whether they even have a common meeting ground. The problem is that the more time they give and things do not start working out, the more frustrated and angry and detached the husband will get and the more manipulative and drama-queen the wife will get. And then we would have a classic Indian arranged marriage in all its glory. Then, of course the kids will come. Because chacha ki beti ko to 2 ladke hain na!

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      • How do you think is the wife manipulating him? By forcing her religious views on him? I agree he should not allow that. But most other things seem to be annoying perhaps, but manipulations? I wonder… Her actions seem more like attempts to get him involved, or her belief that she needs his consultation (if not permission) and that could also be caused by having no one else to interact with…
        Desperation to be liked by him could also make her seek his opinion on everything.
        I feel lack of affection is not caused as much by religious views/traditional views etc but by some basic incompatibility. And there is every chance that the wife feels no love for him either.

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      • IHM, I know it because he said so and that is what he feels so. All manipulations are due to some kind of insecurity. It does not mean the woman is a bad person. This is what she has been taught from childhood on how to get people to agree with her. But it is still abuse. Forcing a man who does not want to fast on religious days is something I see as an abuse. I view it the same way as a husband who does not want to take sides in his family keeping quiet and manipulating his wife to wear saris to work, or cover her head in front of elders.

        I view forcing your religious views on someone else as unpardonable. In this country, we have this viewpoint that no matter what god you follow, you can be a nice person, but if you are a nastik, then o_O. I have suffered due to this and I know how deeply pervasive such things can be on everyday life. It is not “kabhi kabhi” things. It is every moment of every day.

        I am neither unsympathetic nor blind to the woman’s state at this time. But not many people seem concerned about the man’s state. The fact is they will never be suited and if the marriage has to work it has to be because they manage to find some common ground instead of log kya kahenge. The adjustment has to be from both sides, and she seems to be utterly disregarding his ideas on marriage.

        And yes, I do agree that that there is no love on either side. Which is why I have said that there does not seem to be much chance either way.

        Me – I agree with you. I too sympathise with the man but I also feel his wife might a pay a much bigger price for something he had more power to control than she did, and that is what is making her so insecure.

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  21. You should probably consider moving back to India. Don’t underestimate the pain of living in a place you dont like, so far away from your loved ones. It WOULD seem like a huge price to pay for the mistake you made in agreeing to marry, but that was no small mistake – another person’s life was at stake. Once back in India, try and live in a city where neither of your parents live. That way both of you will be in a relatively more comfortable zone than you are in now.

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    • The mistake is from both sides, though only one side is acknowledging it. I think the wife knew that this man’s life is in USA and she willingly went with the idea of moving there after marriage. Also, if they come back, then there is absolutely no hope of any change in their relationship. Mamis and chachis will ensure that.

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  22. Dear Dear

    What a mess! I just hope things get better!

    But one straight suggestion…if its not working out..walk out.

    Dont waste time and energy and life in making it work. Even if it starts to work…you will topple in a while…it will be temporary…believe me. I m talking from experience. Get rid of it. Howvever painful it may be now..its not worth it.

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  23. From what I read, IH has made up his mind about two things:
    1. There is nothing that can save this relationship (considering there is no attachment, emotional involvement, etc)
    2. Divorce is not possible. (would be hard on her and the family)

    As suggested by a number of comments above, it makes sense to give this relationship atleast one more sicere try before calling it off. A loveless marriage would do no good to everyone involved. You cannot be ruining your (as well as your partner’s ) life by using society as the excuse. It’s no one else but you and your spouse who can decide whether to take a loveless marriage forward. That said, the other points you mentioned are not impossible to resolve and you can consider adopting approaches as mentioned by Poet Mamma. I find them very practical and worth taking a chance on.

    Before taking any decision, please analyze whether it is because of lack of love that you are finding it difficult to live with her and her traits or is it that since you are so affected by all other issues that you are not able to allow yourself to fall in love with her.

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  24. The religion issue is tricky one, because if one is a devout hindu or any religion, than they have a way of thinking that this is my home and such and such will not be allowed under my roof, because it clashes with my religious beliefs. This issue can be difficult to tackle, because, just explaining that he is an atheist and doesn’t follow those rituals, will not send the message. Unless, one of the parties comes to an understanding of what the ground rules regarding religious beliefs will be in the home, this will remain an issue.
    I have known couples with different religious beliefs making it work, so it is doable, but both parties must be willing to accomodate each other, else it can be tricky.

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  25. You have two choices
    1. Try for a better understanding and hope that one day you both are in love
    2. Divorce

    If you are going for option 1, then don’t ever mention the word “divorce”. It can only serve as a sort of emotional blackmail where your wife will think she needs to change herself to please you, much against her wishes. That would be cruel, no matter even if it is for her “betterment”. Change can come from within. If your wife is quite young, then you must let time and age to play a role. After all, you have had a good number of years in America to adjust your sensibilities. Give your wife that opportunity too. She is probably at home all day long – never really had the chance to explore the freedom and the lifestyle that America has to offer. Is there some kind of activity you both could do that would help her understand her new home better and at the same time be enjoyable and relaxing to her? Also, what is that both of you can do, that would allow you to understand her world better and at the same time doesn’t offend your beliefs and make you uncomfortable?

    Meanwhile, don’t give in to the second emotional blackmail that will come your way soon – having kids. Give it some time and also have your wife on board that kids can come a little later.

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  26. As Bhagwad says, talking will help only when BOTH have an open mind and are willing to discuss.
    Btw, this here is one story which is the main reason I wouldn’t dream of ‘arranging’ marriages for my kids. The old concept of marriage has changed since long. Compatibility is the key and that can never be in an arranged marriage. If you find it at all, it is like a lucky shot in the dark.. I cannot imagine arranging a marriage and foisting someone with totally traditional outlook on my children. More than that as a mom-in-law I myself will smother and die! When I told my children this, they found it true and funny (that I’d smother along with them. Imagine what she’d say about a mom in law who does not conform to the rules in the book. Jokes apart, it is a reality that I am not prepared to face.
    Maybe things can be worked out for the IH through counselling. But I certainly am not betting on it. And like @Leela says, it might end up in a peaceful co-existence. If IH wants a life of his choice, he has to stop feeling guilty about his mistake of bowing to his parents wishes and take life into his own hands however much it may hurt others in the process. .

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    • If he does consider divorce then it would be fair and responsible to first ensure that the wife is able to support herself in USA, and is settled and adjusted to the life there. And instead of first talking of divorce, maybe letting her see what life could be if she wasn’t seeing marriage as her only goal in life, once she tastes living and freedom, maybe she would be more willing to accept that there can be life after an unhappy marriage … I do feel he owes her this much.

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  27. First and foremost, she should have some good friends in USA. Get her out of the house. Get her a job or enroll her in some Univ. Once she experiences the freedom, I think she’ll also open up and start shedding “indian values”. After all, who cannot love liberty. And oh, don’t make the mistake of having a kid before you sort this out! That will make her feel more trapped (and you too)

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  28. This is a hard situation to be in, and while I sympathize, it is limited cos you did get into this yourself.
    You let yourself be blackmailed into marrying someone you didn’t want to.Did you think that the emotional bs will stop once you get married? Don’t you think that now your parents will start blackmailing you to start a family? Don’t you think that the girl you married will also expect the same and cry till she’s dry cos she’s a failure in her own (and typical indian society) eyes?
    Your parents brought forth a girl perfect for *them* without caring about what you want.

    Anyway… what’s done is done, I hope you’ve learned from it and in the future, you will follow your heart alone in such matters.

    Right now the most important thing is for her to find herself, be her own person, learn to be more independent. Encourage that. Become her friend. Slowly make her see that your way of life is not so bad and see if you can begin to genuinely like each other.

    This may take years. My suggestion would be to work it out before you put kids into the equation and mess things up more.

    If it doesn’t work and you know in your heart that you’ve given it your all, then I guess divorce is the only option.
    But you MUST give it your best shot to make it work.
    Take responsibility for your actions. That’s what being an adult is really about anyway.

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    • Yes I agree that he should take responsibility. However people must see that their are seveal actors involved here, his parents, her parents, his family, her family, him and her. Therefore telling him to take responisibility for something he probably had no say over does not make it his responsibility – well not entirely anyway. It must be noted what led him to accept the marriage and it for those same reasons he is staying in it – parental pressure and emotional blackmail.

      It is best for both of them to end this, it would be easier now since there are no kids involved. Since the OP is not short of money a financial recompesation can be chalked out so she is not left with absolutely nothing. What she does with that money is upto her even if she does not know what to do with it.

      It is always difficult to do the right thing, the truth is almost always bitter. Sometimes you have to a wrong thing to do something right, think long term, swallow the bitter pill now so you don’t die a slow death all your life. This goes for the wife as well.

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      • “for something he probably had no say over” – come on! I sympathise with the guy because he made the wrong choice under pressure and its not an easy choice to be stuck with. But let’s not overstate the amount of pressure. If being highly educated as he seems to be, financially independent and doing well, in a different country from one’s parents doesn’t give you the tools to stand up to pressure, then what will? People have stood up to their parents with way less resources and so much to lose. At the end of the day he did have a choice and he made it.

        If he walks out of his marriage now, there will be drama but he will likely come out of it less scathed than his wife because he is financially independent (while she is not), on a work visa in the US (while she is not, meaning she would have to go back to India and all it’s glorious prejudice as a divorced woman), and a man (somehow men get less flak for being divorced and it’s less of a taboo when finding a partner later).

        When he married her, he took another person’s life on board. This is not as simple as saying ‘oops I made a mistake but mummy made me do it’.

        That said, I am not against divorce. But given the circumstances, I think he owes it to his wife who has so much more lose from a collapsed marriage to give it his best shot and try everything before giving up. And it seems to some of us that there are still things he can do.

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  29. IHM – this is an extremely interesting letter. Well – I do think couples therapy is the answer here. Since he knows that divorcing her will ruin her life, considering the conservative background she has.
    If they’re unable to see eye to eye despite counseling and good will he can encourage her to be independent and to live her own life and then divorce her so that she can continue to live in the US and make something of her own life.
    This sounds like an awesome letter to show someone who is contemplating an arranged marriage. ‘Think things through’ – don’t presume that arranged marriages are a bed of roses as opposed to one:s where the partners choose each other.

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  30. I think everyone here is trying to help the woman. What about the man who has written the letter? He is being manipulated into doing things he does not want to do. Emotional manipulation is a serious issue. HE has to put his foot down and start eating things he is forbidden to eat during “those” days. And do what he pleases on whichever day he likes. As an atheist myself, I know how these things work and the man has my complete sympathy. The woman seems to have made it her duty to save the man from himself and his bad, unreligious ways. It may be the result of social conditioning for her, but I find that it is the writer who is in a fix here. While some suggestions above are excellent for making his wife feel more at ease, and get a life of her own, I would suggest to the letter – writer that he tell his wife that he will do as he pleases as far as religious matters are concerned and she should do as she pleases.

    As for the pati-parmeshwar behaviour, that will decline with time anyway. Take her around the country and let her take classes and make her own friends. Also, perhaps direct her to this blog and that of Desi Girl. There are many women-centric blogs and websites out there where she can slowly imbibe the fact that women need not be inferior to have a happy marriage. And that divorce is not a stigma.

    Also, when all said and done, and she has developed some confidence, look back and try to see whether or not you can ever find happiness together. If not, be prepared to part ways.

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    • I agree about the religious beliefs part. It is almost always expected that the non-religious people should play along and take part in “rituals” even if they dont believe in them. As if it is very normal for someone to do something they dont believe.
      Try forcing a religious person to give up something that he/she believes in or to take part in a ritual that contradicts their religious belief – that would sure raise a hue and cry!

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    • Hello Fem,
      Do not wish to go off-topic but wanted to quickly reply to your comment.
      I am an agnostic (not an atheist) and am therefore deserving of all of Richard Dawkins’ scorn. He has eloquently and sometimes convincingly, pilloried all agnostics in “The God Delusion” but I stubbornly remain one 🙂
      To come to the point, my experience has made me realise that in India, it makes little sense to publicly proclaim one’s lack of religious conviction. Earlier, I would resist doing anything remotely religious but realised that it simply causes a lot of unnecessary strife and ruffles a lot of feathers needlessly.
      These days, I simply take the path of least resistance. I will participate in a puja or a ritual if I am not strongly against it. I only dig my heels in when asked to perform rituals that I am stridently opposed to. When I was married, I refuse to follow the menstruation
      taboo for instance, or to fast for my husband’s well-being or long life.

      I do not know what your experience has been, but I found it exhausting to have to constantly explain my lack of conviction to the orthodox crowd. Religion is such an integral part of daily life in India that it is hard to keep away from it entirely.
      Close friends and family are aware of my position and respect it, however, if a neighbor offers prasadam or invites me for a puja, I play along.
      I believe that most times, discretion is the better part of valour. Mad props to you for your forthright and insightful comments. 
      Just wanted to share my experiences in case there are other atheists/agnostics lurking here.

      Like

      • Hey BID,

        I don’t think agnostics are worthy of Dawkin’s scorn. 😉 Only those who follow rituals that are demeaning to them are. If the rituals make you happy, I am okay with it. But I simply refuse to do anything remotely religious. I do take prasadam cos I love what people offer in it. But it is a no-no for me to go sit through some omam with the suffocating fire and then people asking me to wipe the floor where people have eaten because it is a “punya”. I simply state a firm “no” and do not bother to explain. I don’t have to.

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    • I agree with you on the religious part. I am not an atheist yet I find it distasteful when someone else tells me how much of a Hindu or not Hindu I am. I find it very annoying when IL’s want me to observe Ekadashi and Navrathri a particular way. Of course I put my foot down and said “God doesnt mind what I do on these particular days, why do you?”

      LOL @ “Try forcing a religious person to give up something that he/she believes in or to take part in a ritual that contradicts their religious belief – that would sure raise a hue and cry!”
      Of coures the premise is that ONLY a Religious person can be PERSECUTED.. not the atheist or any other with a belief that isnt mainstream.

      Like

      • Fem, the whole point of arranged marriages, apart from securing an alliance of business interests in some cases, is that one can assume that while personalities may be different, community backgrounds and beliefs match. Therefore, it would have been assumed that as a Hindu (I’m assuming) boy from so-and-so caste and community, he would subscribe to those traditions. If he knew he deviated from those norms, and that this was a big deal to him, I think he should have made it clear he was an atheist.

        For example, my husband and me both being Christian was the one common ground we had going for us. Everything else – language, community, even interests – were different. I made it a point to tell my husband, though, that although I am officially a Christian, I am not a go-to-church-every-Sunday Christian. Turned out he is the same and so we were fine. But had he been religious, he probably would have called it off. Which would have been fair.

        I don’t think that IH has to conform to his wife’s religious beliefs. He after all holds all the cards – financial independence, being in a country he is comfortable in with friends, wearing the pants (which in traditional marriages makes him the final authority). He can very well say no.

        The wife seems to be bending over backwards to please him, and religion is the only thing she is holding her guns on. This could be because she is genuinely religious and shocked that she is married to someone who isn’t or because she believes that this is supposed to be the wife’s role – to settle the husband down or to convert him to goodness. If she cries, it may not be that she is manipulative. It may be that she is genuinely desperate and frustrated. Getting emotional might be the only recourse she has.

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  31. Try getting your wife into confidence that the situation isn’t right and both must make adjustments in getting life back on track.

    Divorce is really a tall order in India from a unwilling wife and her conservative family. Try it and m sure u will burn your fingers. Wait sometime for the right moment

    Remember – Not taking any decision is also a decision

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  32. IH, Get her out of the house – let her get into some hobby classes if not meet other people and make friends. Friends who have been there and will tell her that ‘pati is NOT parameshwar’!

    If having conversations does not help change the way she thinks ( Years of conditioning might not wear-off overnight!) councelling seems to be a really good idea.

    All the best! Im sure the girl will come out of her cocoon sooner than later with your best efforts. But *YOUR* efforts are definitely necessary – you cant give up on improving things between the 2 of you!

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  33. I would most definitely try the counseling. If she’s thinking this is her fault then she may be willing to compromise some things that are bothering him. Marriage is all about compromise and it sounds as if she doesn’t realize that. It sounds like she has a view of only one way for things to work. She needs it, even if he doesn’t. It’s good he’s willing to try as divorce shouldn’t be the first thing any of us think of. He agreed to the marriage and it is good he’s trying to do his best. You can’t both just keep giving up things that mean something to you without some kind of mutual consent and it sounds like communication is not good enough to talk about these deep issues and reach that mutual consent yet. A marriage counselor can help with that.

    When you look for a marriage counselor make sure you get one that understands India, Indian relationships and NRI’s otherwise you won’t get the help you need. Find an Indian woman counselor so your wife can be open with her as well as yourself. It will likely be much easier for the wife to talk to a woman given the conservative views that he has mentioned she has. Good luck!

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  34. Dear Indian Husband,

    If it any consolation, please know that incompatibility plagues eight out of ten arranged marriages. Only a few very fortunate couples hit it off from the start. Sometimes it might take more than five years for any real affection to develop between the partners. It is just that your problem is compounded by the fact that apart from trying to make the usual adjustments, which is what most ‘arranged ‘ wives in India do, your wife also has to deal with the culture shock (formidable in her case) and the sense of being uprooted.

    I’d say give her time. All that heavy-duty socio-cultural conditioning takes more than two years for some people to shake off. Don’t hold it against her that she asked before buying a deodorant. Maybe she comes from a family where women spending on personal items without ‘permission’ is frowned upon. She probably tried to err on the side of caution.

    Like other commentors before me, I would strongly advocate encouraging her to take up a job. If she is not employable, enroll her into some suitable vocational training course and help her finish it. Exposure to a competitive workplace environment does wonders for one’s sense of self. She will make new friends and will learn to appreciate views other than her own.

    Don’t know much about marriage counseling but sounds like a good idea.

    Basically I would ask you to stick it out for two more years before you start thinking of divorce . Just make sure not to have children before everything is sorted out, not even to please your parents. Don’t complicate things further by bringing children into the picture.You went for this marriage fully aware of the pitfalls, so you must try your best to make it work. As you yourself acknowledge, it would be unfair to simply leave her in a lurch.

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  35. A married female friend definitely shall be of help…Couple friends might be of help too…

    Lots of my friends have been victims of mis-matched arranged marriages , few of them took it as a challenge and worked really hard towards it and are leading a successful and happy life now. Communication and spending quality time with each other and doing each other’s interests helped a lot.
    Men have a tendency to see marriage (especially when forced upon) as an end to their previous free-birdie life style and they generally take more time than a female to learn to live with the fact that marriage is indispensable.

    Making compromises and adjustments for friends is always easier than for an enforced spouse, So try to be friends first.
    Every relation be it personal or professional , requires some kind of compromise. I have accompanied few of my buddies to the places I never wanted to be, have made presentations for which I wasn’t cent percent convinced because my boss wanted me to and have attended few religious ceremonies just to make my parents and in-laws happy.
    Similarly, when you could make it for your parents sake, why don’t you try to make it work for your own sake. And what made you believe that love marriages where both the people have same interests don’t fail. I have seen such marriages falling flat in less than a year also, yours has already survived for two without it 

    Honestly speaking I don’t see any big issue in your life, just a lot more understanding and some small compromises on both of your part and it can be a wonderful one.

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    • “I have seen such marriages falling flat in less than a year also, yours has already survived for two without it ”

      Did you miss the part where he said they were both unhappy? Or is an everlasting marriage, however miserable, the goal here?

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    • What makes you assume that the yardstick for measuring the success of a marriage is in terms of the number of years it survived? What makes you think that marriage is a ‘Timed task’?
      You are making this sound like those games little kids play under water. ‘Let’s see who can hold their breath for long?’. The interesting thing is, even while playing that game, the kids know that the winner of that breath-holding game needn’t necessarily make the best swimmer.
      For some reason, adults find it difficult to understand the difference.

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  36. Dude, use the pati parmeshwar card. If you have been dealt it, might as well use it to get her out of her mindset, if she wants to see another world? Talking to her to tell her what you have mentioned here can be a start, unless you have already done it and it hasn’t worked. So how about telling her that you are tired of stepping into line? And that you have no problems with her not eating certain things at certain times, but to not impose that on you?

    Counseling will help. And I disagree that one needs an Indian counselor. If she needs to step over to the non-Indian side to make her own life in another country, then better start without any more hand holding and comfort zones. A good counselor transcends citizenship.

    Whatever you do, do not start a family until this is resolved. Kids do not solve problems. And good luck. Many good vibes from out here.

    Like

    • Being religious or pati parmeshawar-believer does not necessarily mean obedient. It’s possible that she feels she can make a decent man out of him – self righteousness can make people difficult to deal with. Women are raised to believe that is one power they have, one hears of parents hoping the wife would bring the son to the right path.

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      • Agree that she may not be obedient – if anything that is what one hopes for in this case. But if she’s come out of home but not the mindset, there’s got to be some obedience to others also there, no? It could just be a sense of having been limited for years – blinders so that the girl wouldn’t ‘stray’ off beaten goody-goody paths. And years of conditioning can’t be broken that quickly, even when people are actively trying to break out.

        Without knowing another side, it is very tough to tell, even assuming it is my job to tell anyone such stuff. It’s either get ‘corrupted’ together (a great thing, in my own happily corrupted opinion) or break it off if such goody goody stuff is what she holds as a core value.

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  37. I know my views are a little radical and a little too “Westernised”. But having been in this person’s shoes, i.e, having consented to be guilted into an arranged marriage with somebody who was diametrically opposite in temperament and world-view, I can understand just how frustrating this marriage must be for this poor guy.
    Earlier on, The Bride expressed her astonishment at how educated and seemingly self-aware Indians allow themselves to be emotionally manipulated into arranged marriages.
    It’s not difficult, it usually happens after one has lived with the guilt of having disappointed one’s parents for a few years. Gradually, the guilt wears your resistance down. Also, in the case of women at least, a few reminders issued at regular intervals, of how your refusal to get married will condemn you to a lonely, scary future will usually do the trick.
    You bite the bullet, fall in line, and step into a world of misery and unfulfilled desires.
    Sometimes I think that the institution of arranged marriage is not meant for sensitive souls like this writer (and me). It’s not meant for people who believe in the soul-mate aspect of marriage. It works best for people who are practical, hard-nosed and not very emotionally sensitive.
    If emotional and romantic fulfillment is important to somebody, then I think it’s best that they try to find their own mate, even though doing so is fraught with difficulties in our conservative society.
    As regards this writer, I think there is hope yet that this marriage will survive. He is inherently a caring and emotionally balanced individual. I daresay a good marriage therapist will be able to cement the few chinks that their marriage has developed.
    The fact that they live away from both families will give them the space and environment to build a marriage tailored to their own needs and desires, rather than having to follow a pre-decided script as most are required to in India.
    It’s ironic, because most marriages develop problems because the wife is not submissive enough or traditional enough or religious enough. Here is this writer complaining that his wife is all these things and he doesn’t like it! 
    I don’t think I’ll ever come across a man like this in real life! He’s a godsend for us beleaguered, independent-minded, “Westernised” women! 

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    • //” Sometimes I think that the institution of arranged marriage is not meant for sensitive souls like this writer (and me). It’s not meant for people who believe in the soul-mate aspect of marriage. It works best for people who are practical, hard-nosed and not very emotionally sensitive..”//

      Bingo!

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      • “Sometimes I think that the institution of arranged marriage is not meant for sensitive souls like this writer (and me). It’s not meant for people who believe in the soul-mate aspect of marriage. It works best for people who are practical, hard-nosed and not very emotionally sensitive..”

        I strongly disagree with that statement. Sorry, but it’s an extreme generalization that seems to imply many things about people who had arranged marriages (things which the author may or may not have intended).

        I know a lot of couples who had arranged marriages who are in as loving a relationship as those who married partners of their choice or maybe even more and I’m sure many others here do as well. I myself had an arranged marriage and am no worse off than friends who chose their own partners.

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    • “If emotional and romantic fulfillment is important to somebody, then I think it’s best that they try to find their own mate, even though doing so is fraught with difficulties in our conservative society.” I agree.

      After a ‘failed’ marriage (only I know how successful i feel after putting an end to it :)), an arranged one at that…I truly feel an arranged marriage is not meant for sensitive, emotional, opiniated and rational beings…looking for soulmates/ companionship, deep understanding and acceptence, emotional connect etc. Its meant for people who go around their life as if its one big business- weighing the profits and losses, calculating how much to give, retain and expect..calculating and manipulating their way through life with a partner they feel is in their control…and making sure they do a good shoshebazi of it all in the society.

      Call me cynical, but this is how I think..though i do have seen a couple of arranged marriages that clicked (out of hundreds that are just peaceful co-existance at best).

      @IHM- where were you and your blog when I opted for arranged marriage 10 years back???? Going though your blog would have given me a good idea about what i was gettting into- aur to koi ye sab batata nahi hai…least of all our parents! I could have still opted for it but that would have been an informed decision. What I mean is that you are doing a great job of spreading awareness (the bitterness seaps in…)

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    • “I don’t think I’ll ever come across a man like this in real life! He’s a godsend for us beleaguered, independent-minded, “Westernised” women.” I agree completely and that’s why I feel marriage counselling has a very good chance of success. It’s only a question of his wife realising that she has a husband with the right outlook for a happily married life.

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  38. My mother talks sometimes of the first year of her marriage – her shock when dad insisted that she call him “tum” instead of “aap”, her feeling of inadequacy when she read disappointment in my dad’s eyes as he looked at her stack of not-too-scholarly books she had brought from her maika, her lack of comfort in talking to him. My mom and dad had had an arranged marriage, and they had got partners very different from what they had wished for. My dad doesn’t talk so much about these things so I don’t know his story – I expect it would be similar to IH’s.

    It was a gradual process of appreciating each other’s good qualities that brought them closer. My parents have been married 36 years today, and are one of the happiest, most content couples I know of. My mom has changed a lot since her newlywed days, my dad she says has changed plenty too. They have learnt from each other and grown together towards each other.

    Every marriage is unique. I cannot say what worked for my parents will work for IH. All I can say is, it is not an impossible situation. You seem like a very nice guy and so does your wife. With some effort and understanding, there is a good chance of making your marriage a success.

    All the best.

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  39. Sigh!
    Most of what I wanted to say has already been said, albeit in different words.
    In just a couple of hours, the comment tally has gone up to 53 already.

    Here are some stray thoughts for whatever they are worth.

    If this marriage was a mistake, then it was you who made that mistake by agreeing to get married.
    So you cannot make another suffer for it.
    So if your wife does not want a divorce, and only you want it, it will be a messy affair.
    You will burn your fingers.
    I don’t think you have a legally tight case for a divorce.
    The only way to get a divorce is by mutual consent and it appears she and her family will not agree. She will be devastated and her family will fight the case in court.
    You must therefore try to make this marriage work and stop thinking of divorce for a few years at least till matters go downhill to such an extent that divorce is the only option.

    She being a Pati Parameshwar type and leaning on you for even minor decisions is not much of a problem. Gradually, she will change after you repeatedly assure her that she can take her own decisions. Some men will actually envy you! So many husbands complain that their wives spend even without asking. Here is a case where you so rightly say that all your money is her money.
    A major issue in some marriages is financial control and you have simply eliminated your problem with this correct attitude. The true test of a man giving his wife equal control over finances is having a joint account. I hope you have one. I do and have had it all throuh the 36 years of marriage.

    Many wives in India do not eat before their husbands have eaten.
    My wife used to be like that in the early years of marriage and it took some time to make her give up this practice.

    Even today, she normally likes to wait for me so that we can eat together and she eats alone before me only when I tell her I will be late or if she is really hungry. Gradually counsel your wife that she need not follow this custom. Tell her that if she respects and loves you, then she must give up this practice.

    Wives mothering their husbands and being protective is so common in India and this is deeply ingrained into the traditional Indian woman. As the years progress this tendency actually increases. I am experiencing it myself.At times she talks to me in a tone no different from the tone she uses when cajoling or reasoning with my son.

    I have solved this problem by not feeling “smothered” but simply getting used to it and sometimes actually looking forward to it. I would rather have a wife who smothers me with care and affection than an indifferent wife.

    In this regard, you seem to be unhappy about something, for which elders in India will give your wife full marks ! Your parents, would probably be delighted at this trait in your wife.

    You being an atheist is not a serious issue.
    I believe atheism is in many cases a temporary thing.
    I know many atheists who, later in life became, either agnostics or turned deeply religious. The real experiences in life will come only now. Life gives hard knocks to everyone at some stage. I am not sure you will continue to be an atheist all your life. Time will tell.

    (I know, some of our readers will counter this with examples of devout persons becoming atheists later in life. I don’t dispute that fact)

    You have a right to be an atheist but you must concede your wife’s right to be a devout believer. Of course, if she imposes her customs on you, you have a right to protest. I know couples where the husband merely chauffeurs his wife to the temple and then waits outside till his wife is done. By all means resist any religious practice of hers that causes you serious inconvenience or harms your career. I know cases when men had to choose between going to the office on an very important day, when absence would have affected their career or the company’s finances, and choosing to stay at home for religious ceremonies. Here you can stick to your guns and leave the religious duties to her and insist on what you want to do.

    But if she offers some Prasaad, do not hurt her by refusing to accept it.
    A small amount of accommodation will not do you any harm. Likewise if she applies some tika on your forehead on some religious days, do not hurt her by refusing to allow her. Quietly acquisce and later wipe it off if it embarrasses you. Lot’s of men buy peace this way and are no worse for it.

    Like some readers mentioned, do not have children for some more time.
    The arrival of children will complicate the issue. Their welfare will also have to be factored in.

    I agree with those who recommended getting her out of the house, and involved in some kind of activity, either learning, or social work, or developing a hobby and meeting people. This will expose her to American society and environment and hasten the process of assimilation and get her out of her cocoon.

    If you seek counseling, I join the chorus in advising only an Indian counselor. May be you can seek that counselor in India rather than in USA.

    You say living in America was a transformative experience.
    Yes, that is common.
    What is also common is that after several years of stay in America, after your material needs are satisfied, some Indians do an about turn and think of home, Indian culture, religion, family, and friends back home and some even take the drastic step of chucking it all up and actually coming back home.

    Conversely, there are cases of people who were initially like your wife, viz, traditional, orthodox, religious, and after slow and long exposure, gradually changed colour and finally became completely westernised in their thinking and behaviour.

    It is possible that some thing like this will happen to both of you and you will be able to meet each other half way in future.

    Seek a counselor’s advice on how you can make this compromise happen.

    God willing, everything will be okay.
    Hang on there and keep hoping and trying.

    Don’t give up as yet.
    From what you mentioned, your wife is a good woman.
    She does not deserve to be divorced.
    Remember, your marriage vows.

    All the best
    Regards
    GV

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      • Hello Wildchild,

        Sorry for being late.
        I just noticed your remark this Friday forenoon.

        May be you misunderstood me.
        Let me clarify.

        Yes, I feel she does not deserve to be divorced.
        In answer to your question, some evil women (and also men) deserve to be divorced.
        A man who ill treats his wife, beats her up, drinks to excess, indulges in extra marital relations and does not provide for the family deserves to be divorced by his wife.
        Similarly, a woman who is clearly evil, deserves to be divorced by her husband.
        I don’t want to list the evils that a woman can be guilty of.

        In my comment I wanted to say that IH’s wife does not qualify to be divorced by her husband.

        In answer to your second question, divorce is not such a bad thing when the circumstances are right.
        Are the circumstances right in this case?
        I don’t believe so.

        Thanks for responding.
        Regards
        GV

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      • I guess GV only meant that divorce is a huge deal for this particular woman in question and that it will make her miserable for life. So, she does not deserve it. In fact for some women who are in bad marriages, I would say they do deserve a divorce ( in a positive way)

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      • Agree with you.

        I think it’s an extension of the term “divorce her”. We hear no objection to that! I think it’s time we used the phrase “they got a divorce” rather than “he divorced her”. At that point, we’ll stop wondering if she “deserved to be divorced by him”.

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  40. First of all, kudos to the gentleman for having the courage to write about this, and also the wisdom to analyse the situation.

    In response to ‘I made a mistake and have been paying hugely for it.’:-

    I get the feeling (purely subjective opinion, and probably biased too), that he – from day 1 – has resented his wife because he was coerced into the marriage by his parents. So what if there are differences? And huge differences in that? That is perfectly fine, in any marriage. Me and my better half have absolutely no interests in common. We think radically differently on EVERY single topic because of our very different upbringing.

    However, I think if you WANT the marriage to work, you will put in efforts to reach a middle-line. A point where you both compromise and understand each other. On the other hand, if you resent the past and carry the baggage to the present, you do end up in a very unhappy situation.

    Marriage (as is every other relationship) is about understanding and adjusting. Very few people find the ‘IDEAL’ match or Mr or Ms Perfect. I am YET to find a couple that is so perfectly paired! So why not work harder at making this work?

    Also, he says there is no romance in the 2-yr old marriage. I think romance is not about candle-light dinners or long-walks on the beach, but in little things like curling up to watch a movie (or even the news), or in sharing a cup of dessert… you know, little insignificant things.

    Considering that he says his wife is loving and caring, my opinion is that he should give her a chance rather than slam her for her orthodox upbringing in which she had no say.

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  41. IH,

    Dude, not all women take America v well. Esp., Indian women who’ve got lots and lots of people around with v little personal space feel pathetic with the American lifestyle.

    My foremost questions to you:

    1. Does she have a job?
    2. Do you love her?
    3. Do you spend enough time with her?
    4. Have you tried talking to her before you guys were married? How long was the period of courtship. ( All the others, arranged marriages do work wonders in many cases. Let’s for God’s sake not jump in to conclusions that all arranged marriages are meant to be disaster)
    5. In the last two years, has there been a real communication happening atleast once a week?
    6. Do you really know what her likes and dislikes are?
    7. Have you ever tried to say things sweetly and speak nice things about her? ( she might be oldfashioned our parents in many cases are v old fashioned. Do you hate your parents because they’re old fashioned?)
    8. Get the thought that you should divorce her coz, you guys are chalk and cheese. Unlike many who advice you to get divorced walk away. It’s easy but things remain as stigma even in the West. American suburbs are as good as India.
    9. Have you tried to really question her and get her out of her cocoon?
    10. Little things like America is nothing infront of a couple and relationship( My husband and I are a lot happier getting bk home than staying somewhere in a godforsaken country)

    I really like what phoenix Ritu said. Play your Pati Parameshwar wala cards well. She is lost. You’re clear. Get her to the clarity. See if you guys love each other beyond the world. See if you need her around and see if she needs you around. Try falling in love and if all the above fails then consider divorce.

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  42. About money and spending… from my own experience, even having a joint account may not work. I was working in India and then moved abroad with husband expecting to find a job myself soon (and was jobless for over 6 months). In spite of having enough money and knowing his is mine, I felt incredibly guilty making international calls and buying “luxury” stuff like deo. It took us both sitting together and drawing up a budget plan with how much we will- spend for home necessities, save, spend on our selves and then having a separate bank account with “my money” coming in monthly to make me feel comfortable. This allowed me to spend guilt free, get out of the house and meet others and save some for future (imagine asking the husband, “I need xx amount to buy you a birthday present!”). I needed this to feel in control of my own life.

    IH had an independent life before marriage. I hope he now consults his wife while taking major decisions. Much as he wants her to be independent, she might want him to be a team player. She needs to be involved and needs to know her views are valued. If you want to try and get this marriage to work, communicate with her and don’t hang divorce over her head. We don’t need another Sweety.

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  43. My Friend,

    I understand from where you are coming. I feel the issues listed here can definitely be worked on. It might not be easy but then so is your and your wife’s current life (from your description).

    The guilt that you are having or she is having is not good for relationship.
    Go for marriage counseling. I am sure that would help or at least that’ll open up the bridge called communication. From what you have provided, I think it might be hard for you to convince your wife for counseling, she might think that’s horrible and one step before divorce (given her beliefs). So you must be very sincere and gentle in your approach (I take it you want your marriage to work).

    Also, may I suggest to instill a sense of freedom in your wife. I don’t know if she has any friends but if not try socializing with other couples. I truly believe friends can make difference. When she would see how new-age marriages are and how both partners are equal, that would definitely give her something to think about.

    Currently she talks with her mother and may be like minded friends, I think they advise her to be more pati-parmeshwar kinds… So if she makes new friends, that might help up to some extent.

    One more suggestion, may be you both can have monthly allowance from your income. A fixed amount for her and you (to show her you both are equal in every aspect) and tell her that whatever she does with that money, it’s her decision. She can save or spend. It is hers and no questions need to be asked before spending that amount. I had read about this in a financial adviser’s column.

    This arrangement can be temporary and when she becomes confidant that your money is her money, she wouldn’t ask permissions (but of course major financial decisions by both are to be taken after discussion).

    I take it she is not working. So if your wife is interested she can either take up some job or may be do volunteering at the local library. Actually it is important here to meet others and open up mind and views.

    I wish you both happiness..

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  44. hello,

    I know exactly what your wife is going thru ( sorry not you but your wife:-) ) since i was one such 20 yrs ago. married and brought to analien land away from my upbringing,culture and religion by a strange man who thought it better to adapt to a foreign culture !!!

    I lived with the himthe only way i know – copied my parents and grandparents, however my husband was wiser than me , he taught me the freedom of choice and independant thinking nad more important he taught me no human being exist to serve anyone else.

    I’d suggest
    1. First give your wife some pocket money every week – say 100$ to spend on whatver she wishes ( not groceries)
    2, get her a licence and driving ability and let her loose.
    3. take her places.. exposure does a world of good. my husband decades ago took me to smokey mountains i was the only idiot dressed in sari in mid-dec freezing my ass off . he warned me before but i refused to wear pants. i looked like a fool, nothing like int hose old movies … everyone stared at me an dmy husband stared right back 🙂 he then produced tights that i could wear under my sari to feel more comfortable.
    4. it takes time to give up all you thought was right. for years i would wash my hair onfriday, wear a sari and do puja worried that if i skipped it lakshmi would skip my house. till one day i was dressed in my fri finery after puja and gratification and my hubby came home having lost his job, that day reality dawned, i looked at his face andrealized the hurt i caused this man by insisting he does things a certain way.

    he did get a job on a sat 🙂 much to our joy and i dragged himt o pittsburg , he came and dutifully worshipped and gave thanks while i was in my salwar.

    5. my hubby encouraged me to walk, make friends, work, once in the working system and taking classes i looked at other INDIAN women, empowered and still religious without the outward show who dared to buy stuff in rahukalam and lo behold nothng happened.

    6. It’s a slow process and i was so lucky my hubby never mentioned the divorce word. drove me around dutifully and accepted my attemps at relicating GOLU int he US even going toget dolls with me. now we are a modern couple. i’m still religious he’s still agnostic. we believe in the power of god and our good fortune. i drive,work,teach and can exist by myslef, he still loves that i hold dinner for him, and wears the poonal to please me ( even though i don’t care but i don’t have the heart to tell him i don’t believ in it anymore) …

    Life is like that, everyone changes. your wife is shocked and isolated, how do you think moving alone to africa in a strange culture with a stanger will make you feel. that too a stranger whom you believed shared your upbringing who \has changed drastically..
    don’t worry she will change or maybe you will… explain adntalk.. talk.. talk.. that’s the only solution
    apologize for the long comment. this looks like my scenario 24yrs ago..

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    • “everyone stared at me and my husband stared right back he then produced tights that i could wear under my sari to feel more comfortable.” That made me go awwww!

      It’s not possible for everyone to be the person your husband was/is but I like that your story provides an example of how common ground can be found and it doesn’t have to be incompatible at first, incompatible to the end.

      Like

    • That really brought tears to my eyes… what a wonderful husband… this is exactly how a spouse should be… supportive, understanding and respectful for each other’s sentiments. God bless both of you 🙂

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  45. From your email i am getting that you both are too good as two separate individuals,its just that you are not getting along together…
    Please ask and take a hard look at yourself “am i willing to WORK on this marriage”…work here i mean not for days or months, maybe years.My friend , fear not …every relationship is hard work as long as the two individuals involved are with decent kindness , it should get better…

    About the counseling, one thing the counselor’s don’t get is the concept of “arranged marriage” and all the complications that comes along..
    Not sure which part of US you are in, look for Indian counselors, or ask for recommendations among your friends.

    Does you wife drive.If not, please make all the steps to get her on that driver’s seat ,that is the first taste of freedom you can give her.You can look for courses in community colleges,any kind of volunteering would help too.Show her all the avenues that will help her to make friends and meet people…

    Yes, we can blame the system, our culture , our parents and everything else for the situation we are in , it goes on and on in a loop and yes for all reasons we do become victims.But, finally, it’s about you and you both.I am not trying to convince you or over simplify your problem in any way and I know how the suffocation feels,believe me it should get better.

    After all she is not bad , she is just not exposed to a different culture and so tuned up to the orthodox ideas of a wife, all she needs is some confidence boost and exposure.You are a very nice man too, you are ready to make her independent and be her companion by all means.To me it is matter of time.Are you willing to give your marriage the time it requires is the question.

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  46. Every marriage is unique and what each one of us expects from that marriage is different. Working toward fixing a marriage is great but how much does one compromise?
    Notice how discerning we are even when it comes to making friends… can we get along with anyone and everyone? Then how can we be so fatalistic with the most important relationship of our lives? What I am saying is just because two people are nice, doesn’t mean they make a good partnership.
    And when you are unhappy, you either start taking emotional abuse or dishing it out.
    (Believe me, this happens a LOT… even between two “NICE PEOPLE”.)

    Sometimes compromise works wonders. Sometimes it involves constantly suppressing your emotions (and trust me, one day you’ll burst like a pressure-cooker if you do this).

    The way I explain this to people is by saying: It’s like asking an IITian to do a clerk’s job; you may pretend you like it, but after some time the lack of challenge and boredom will eat into your insides OR it’s like asking a C-grade student to work as a NASA scientist, it gets overwhelming and you start feeling like a loser!

    Sometimes two people, however nice they are, are INCAPABLE of making each other happy because the expectations from the marriage are totally different and because their PERSONALITIES are so different.

    One more thing: Do NOT stay in a marriage just because of GUILT. The bitterness will only increase; one day you’ll find yourself screaming at your parents (and people who arranged your marriage) and blaming them for your fate.

    Best of Luck!

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  47. GV and everybody else. A quick factual clarification and this is not to say that the writer should necessarily file for divorce. I just wanted to point out that many states (in fact the majority) in the US have no-fault divorce laws which do not require the divorcing couple to prove “fault” or have “grounds” for divorce. The consent of both parties is therefor not required (lawyers, please correct me if I am wrong). It is possible for the writer to divorce his wife in the US, provided they agree upon a settlement with the help of trained mediators or lawyers. Not sure which state he resides in, but divorce is legally doable. That it will cost him several thousand dollars is another matter.

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    • That is correct. You don’t need grounds for a no-fault divorce. In fact it doesn’t even have to be mutual (that’s not part of my advice to the Indian Husband, just sayin’)! The catch is that it does have to be mutual to be valid in India.

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    • I not a lawyer so please forgive me if I am wrong.
      I presume IH and his wife are not US citizens.
      They were married in India presumably.
      So, can US laws on no-fault divorce govern?
      Just wondering.
      Regards
      GV

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  48. I’ve always had people (even the desi friends I have in the US!) tell me how me calling my husband the “tum” equivalent in Kannada/Konkani are actually shocking to them! What to do? I knew him for several years as a friend before we thought of marrying each other. Things dont suddenly change just because we got married. But not many people understand that.
    I was also told by one of my friends how his wife refers to him as “aap” and that I should learn from her ! Because I cannot stand such people, they get it back from me and I’m branded all over again for being haughty and non-adhering to our culture!

    Damned if you do, damned if you dont!

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  49. I might be repeating what others have already said, but I really don’t have time today to browse all the others’ advice before commenting…and this email has hit a nerve with me that I feel compelled to mention a few things.
    Dear Good Indian son,
    I so feel for you. But know that you are not in a unique situation here. I am unsure whether you will find other Indian men to talk to about these problems, but know they are out there. Having said that this is my understanding of the issues:

    — your wife, being from a very traditional Indian value system, has no identity without her husband. She followed the rules, she is following the rules, a divorce might break her heart and spirit and destroy her entire social capital, yet that might be the only way she will ever gain full control of her own identity. I am unsure she will ever want to do that though, because it is terribly hard, more so in India.

    — You and your wife may have to work tremendously hard if you want to create a life that works for both of you. It will require her to change her definition of herself. If you want her to have her own identity, you have to forcibly create circumstances that can make her start thinking about it. Considering she isn’t 5 or 15, such changes don’t happen unless the motivation is really strong. I imagine if you had to travel quite a bit and she had to take care of affairs at home more often, she might start feeling the need to be in charge more often. It’s a tiny start, but I have seen just that much independence make a huge difference. It’s not about whether you think you are the lord and master, it’s about whether she is able to see it too. For that I really think she needs to see a therapist. An Indian or Asian therapist is a must. My husband and I saw quite a few therapists in the early days of our relationship, and eventually only a therapist with Indian background could help my husband navigate his very messed up Indian parents. I don’t believe just knowledge of psychology is enough to help most people. Cultural information are key to how we frame our lives and thoughts. So I cannot stress enough that when and if you seek therapy please find someone of Indian or Asian descent. Interview the therapist first about what her/his experiences are with such cases. Someone aware of Jewish traditions might also be able to help…their traditional families are similar to Indian traditional systems. And before you simple tell your wife to go talk to a stranger about her whole life, I suggest, you go in together and just start by learning how to communicate. Don’t go to first therapist and expect miracles. It might take you two seeing multiple therapists before you find one that can really help.

    — Just communicating how you two feel even at home is a great start. Don’t talk about blame, responsibility, meaning of marriage or divorce. Approach it with sensitivity and expect to be hurt. Gentle words for a long time might help get her to the point where she will feel more comfortable talking to professional about herself. A common female friend might help, only if she understands the problems. Many Indian women here in US don’t. If they have a decent marriage they believe all marital problems are meant to be simply ignored. So ask friends who are somewhat wise, know you well, know her somewhat, and remind them to be very gentle. Trying to be friends, in concept, seems great, but would she participate in that? I doubt it. She seems very set in her ways for now.

    — I understand how you feel about her religious habits. I am there every time I visit any Indian. Consider this a minor annoyance and ignore it. Her lack of identity is a much bigger issue for your relationship. At some point in your future conversations, you might have to teach her about tolerance of all belief systems. That she can pray for your health without you participating in it. It can be done, especially if she is here in US and not under huge influence of NRI religious community. Really though, consider this a back burner issue for now.

    I know it is easy to blame culture, parents and so much more for how your wife is, but it is also a choice at a certain level to encounter the opportunity to not be tied to you and not take it. Mostly it is fear of the unknown, or fear of failure that is holding her back from adapting more. You can be her guide and show her US is more than tank-top clad girls and couples kissing on the subway and rampant commercialism. Most of US is way more conservative than the Hollywood shows them to be. You can show her that by meeting Americans more often perhaps. Introduce her to friends on weekends who can drink beer but not be drunk and wild. Show her how beer in US is really like Chai in India. Understanding that bit of cultural difference can help your argument here. Every time she is critical of some thing American, counter that by showing her something that is great in America. Like they have horrible food can be countered by they allow access to so many different countries’ cuisine without having to pay premium cost. Perhaps a lame example there, but you get the idea. Oh one way to remove that fear of failure is to get her a job and do everything possible to make her great at it. Pride in one’s work is a sure way to not need the hubby all the time. If getting a job isn’t possible right now, get her enrolled in some classes, based on her interests and take it from there.

    As horrible as it seems right now, it can improve if you two are willing to work. If she outright refuses to participate in any remedial actions, you have to consider divorce. Don’t let either set of parents bully you. She feels responsible, because she partly is responsible for her marriage, right? So take that thread and show her how she can fulfill her responsibility by participating in the actions to build a life where she is both married and has her own identity apart from being married. Make that the center of how you two define your responsibilities. She might have gotten married to you because her parents told her, but it is her responsibility to deal with life wherever she ends up living. And she is here in US, with someone who desperately wants an independent wife. Let her rise to the challenge. You won’t change her life view completely. You might remain pati parmeswar to her. But she can change her behavior and her expectations.
    It seems harsh to say she is responsible for what she makes of the situation, but she really is. We can live under the harshest conditions in the world, and yet when faced with opportunities its our own job to see it and use it. So let her, by encouraging like a friend instead of like a husband.

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  50. Get her on talk table… not by force… its an art to make someone talk.

    and if you don’t know it…learn it for your marriage sake.

    You can save two ( or may be more people’s) greater part of life.

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  51. Trying to make a loveless marriage work is like pushing a vehicle without fuel..you could go only so long, only so far!!

    When you ultimately run out of ‘your’ energies, enthusiasm, spirit, generosity….last of all ‘purpose’, you might stop ‘feeling’ anything…and that will be worse than how it is now.

    Please let’s not assume the strength, ability, capability of a woman or any person…whom we don’t know. Divorce, separation is hard on everyone, anyone. How we take it should be left on each individual..why let your decision be influenced by anything but how ‘you’ feel?
    Why fear our own pre-conceived ideas/apprehension about how the other person will react?

    Moreover, how fair is it to sympathize with your spouse, and continue to live with him/her because,
    1. ‘you feel sorry’ for him/her
    2. ‘you fear’ your decision to leave will ruin her life in which case it seems like you are trying to play the messiah!! Its a kind, generous thought/gesture to care about someone, but its not really helping her in anyway if you start pitying.
    3. ‘you feel guilty’ about going back on your promise to protect her or breaking your vows.

    Does any of the above reasons sound like why one should be in a marriage?

    “I wish you had said, divorce is not an option because,
    1. you love your wife more than you know or show.
    2. you ‘want’ to stay and would do anything to make this marriage work.
    3. you think besides a few differences between you and wife, you guys have a great rapport, you understand, love and care for each other.
    4. ‘YOU’ will be devastated without her.”

    Sorry, but I don’t support marriages based on anything but love. There are NO excuses.
    How else do you nourish yourselves, grow together, feel one?
    If you don’t feel nourished, grow together or feel one….what really is the purpose of marriage?

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  52. Hi IHM,
    I read this post yesterday night, and have been thinking of this situation since then…trying to figure out possible solutions. The best one I can think of is forwarding the wife IHM’s bloglink. And perhaps Desi girl’s too. They have the best cases and points of view for un-learning the “traditional indian values” :).

    I do think that in cases like this, where one person is aware of the situation and trying to remedy it, the first step in remedy-ing it must be taken by that person. However, please also take care that you dont lose your peace of mind over trying to remedy it. (i know, easier said than done situation ) . Any sort of “direct-ness” in talk and behaviour will have greater chance of failure in case of his wife.. from what I interpreted from the mail. You might want to start slow, be subtle in your behaviour towards trying to make her see sense. Making her independent and distracting her from her center of the universe which is this marriage (and you) will help get you some space for yourself. Many people gave very good comments above regarding enrolling her in classes, universities, hobbies etc. If she likes cooking, encourage her to take different cooking classes which teach different cuisines. They are really a lot of fun and a place to meet new people. Take extra efforts to appreciate her way of “showing her love towards you”. Even if that is mothering and pampering you… Even though you dont like the actions, the intentions are that she cares for you. Do you have any (howmuchever small they might be) common interests? Try finding a common ground, topics you both enjoy, activities you both can do together.

    As far as the religious differences go, it is best to have a direct conversation in this case because the pressure to follow religious practices can be intense and frustrating. Do tell her that you respect her religious beliefs and she should do the same. This is where such blogs which talk about being your own person and respecting each other for our own choices will help. Please do understand, un-learning and changing of beliefs is a slow process. Especially for someone who is not open to change (of any sort).
    With this, I will stop my preaching and wish you and your wife happiness and peace in whatever way you chose. 🙂

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  53. Hi IH
    My views on your problem : I feel sorry for you and your wife for undergoing this for no fault of yours….I wish your families gave you some time to understand and appreciate each other before getting married.
    Having said that, you need to understand that now you are looking for a friend in your wife whereas she is looking for a protector in you. You must also realize that the roles of a “friend” and “protector” are both beautiful in their own way. Why don’t you try to give her what she wants and express to her what you want from her openly? Say that “you are always there for her when she needs you” to reassure her and ask her to open up a little bit…Life in the US is not easy for a girl who’s used to being surrounded by a lot of people, lot of homely chatter…so yes, she has to also adjust. But you being the more experienced or let’s say seen-more-of-the-wold kinda guy, you have to teach her how to give you space…and teach it with love and care. She, from what I think, must be living in constant fear of rejection from you…and her insecurity makes her want to be the best wife she can -only she does it the way she knows- smothers you with care and concern. Give her the security of being in a marriage where she is loved and has the rights. I’m sure with time, her thoughts will change. She has probably never handled money by herself, and she feels obligated to ask you before she spends “your” money. Reassure her that your money is hers through your actions.
    As a small example : Next time you take her grocery shopping, before you pick up anything ask her what to buy, what does the house need and how much to buy. If she asks you to decide, wait patiently and let her decide and tell you…
    Spend some time with her while she is cooking…offer to help in doing the dishes. It would seem scandalous to her, but tell her that that’s how you and several other Indians coming abroad learn to live, away from the care of their mothers.

    I know that it’s not easy…but you need to have a lot of patience if you want to be happy long term. A broken marriage may seem like a good solution now, but it will still leave you with some bitterness and possibly a little regret that you should have worked on it more.
    As for marriage counselling, do you feel that American marriage counselors would be able to handle the sensitivities of a traditional Indian girl well? You are perhaps the ONLY person at this point of time who understands where she comes from and what she needs.

    I really wish everything works out for you both.
    Regards,
    Mansi

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  54. Response from Indian Husband.
    Dear IHM,

    I have read the post (as well as the 61 comments following it!) and would once again like to express my heartfelt gratitude to you for providing such an awesome platform. Many thanks to the commentators as well.

    It would be hard for me to respond to each comment individually, so I will use this method to respond collectively.

    First, let me say here that I do not propose to obtain a divorce in the immediate future. Glacier, and others, have strongly advocated that option (with good reasons too), but I do not think I can go ahead with it. My reasons are the same as before; I know that she would have it far, far worse than me even if we did manage to get a divorce based on mutual consent. That is something I simply cannot, as a human, live with. If she becomes financially independent, and more importantly, ‘mentally’ independent, then I will consider it. But not now.

    Many people have suggested that greater communication is very important. I think that is good advice and will definitely make further efforts in that regard. I have already been trying to get her to open up to me, although with indifferent success. Maybe she needs more time. Maybe she never will open up. In any case, I see no harm in trying.

    As far as counseling goes, I am willing to go to interior Papua New Guinea or even the North Pole if that would help. Getting an Indian counselor is not a problem at all. My work allows me to visit the country for long-ish periods quite frequently and we could easily get counseling here. Last year, I thought that going to India for a while might help our relationship. We stayed in India for almost a month, and I think it did help a bit. She seemed more confident as a person. But once we got back to the US, she reverted to the same old her. I am currently in India again and am definitely going to give the marriage counselor a shot. It is probably going to be a bit tough to convince her to go through the process, but with some luck, she will come round. Like I said, she does realize that we have a problem, even if she cannot seem to actually address it.

    There have been some questions about the amount of love we have for each other. It is not that I don’t love her. We do not click that well as a couple, but as a person, she is still very endearing. I care about her. I cannot speak for her of course, but I do believe that I, at least, have some not-so-insignificant amount of affection for her. She is a beautiful person in more ways than one.

    I have been trying to motivate her to work. She is currently pursuing a degree in line with that aim, and her English is now good enough to gain employment in the US. She still has a lot of trouble socializing, which is because of the cultural differences, I guess. I am hopeful that the job might help her gain both self-confidence and insight (into the culture). If everything fails, I am prepared to move back to India, permanently. I might lose some money in that process, but if it saves the marriage, I think it’s more than worth it.

    I am definitely going to try and take her out more frequently, anytime that I am not particularly busy. That might help too.

    Must mention that Gounder Brownie gave me some excellent things to think about. I never actually thought that the mothering might be an expression of love. If so, I guess I’ve been quite an a**hole. There are really so many things I do not know about this woman, it’s depressing. Something as basic as an expression of love. It doesn’t do much for my self-esteem, really.

    I am not prepared for divorce yet, but right now, I AM prepared for the long, painful process of finding common ground. I am going to go on that road, even though I understand that it may be my biggest mistake yet and that I might curse myself for it later. I don’t see any other REAL option, though. I think I had already made up my mind on that but what everyone said has cemented that idea.

    Thanks again!

    Ever grateful.

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    • Hi IHM,

      I have been following your blog regularly and this is the first time I initiate to comment.

      —————-
      Hi Indian Husband.

      I am so glad that you took such a decision. I am not sure if a 23 yr old unmarried girl can even comment on this. But I understand everything written here because I have seen many people going through such problems.

      Don’t give up soon. Relationship becomes stronger as we communicate. Indifferences can never be wiped off, but certainly we can adjust and make each other know the limits.

      As you said, take a chance .Try patiently. Its better to try for a longer time and then quit. At-least at the end you will be happy that you tried your best. So there won’t be any regrets later.

      I’m so glad that you didn’t jump into Divorce thing. Some people need re-assurance for everything they do. So make her feel that you are her best friend and you will be there for her. Try to wipe off the insecure feelings if she has any. (I kw this is real pain..but go through this)

      Your attempt will not go in vain.

      All the best!

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    • Hurray!
      Sometimes venting and confiding helps.
      Glad you found this interaction with all of us helpful.
      Also glad to note that you are not considering a divorce now.
      Hope you (and also she) never ever consider it in future.
      With warm regards and prayers for a good stable, happy and long lasting marriage.
      GV

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    • Hi We both are actually in the same boat. I am also going through the same phase except the fact I am in your wife’s shoes (that is actually good for you and me too to understand our partners). However, I can’t disclose my stuff to my partner and the same is true for your wife. But yea, I can better understand what she is going through and what exactly she wants from you. I might be wrong, as I dont know your wife personally, but If i consider my situation, its not about conservativeness. Its about diff nature of two people with diff expectations. Could you please share your personal emailid so that we can really help each other.

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  55. You know, you could quietly encourage her to grow more liberal. Don’t be too irritated by her dependence, but start encouraging decision-making. Help her grow into becoming open and liberal. It will take time- but will be well worth it- remember it is easier for people to discover becoming liberal than the other way around. Also care and concern solve a lot of problems.

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  56. I can understand why she is not comfortable socializing in a new society. US culture is very different from India. I would suggest that she should get involved with a temple (if there is one close by). There she will meet people with the same language and beliefs. There are lots of other organizations that she might find interesting. Both temples and organizations have lots of volunteer activities, which will give her exposure to the society. She has to taste the freedom in order to enjoy it.

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  57. Absolutely loved IH’s comment/reply to all…he seems to be so very balanced, matured, someone eager to learn, adapt and make a positive change. Mera dil bhar aaya after reading his comment.

    A very strong instinct says…there is more love in this relationship than either party is aware of and/or is ready to admit. With such good, honest, genuine, loving intentions there is no doubt that no matter what happens, he will feel good about having given it his best…!!

    Bless you IHM and all readers/commentators for this experience. I am just as thankful to you as everyone else sharing their woes…and receiving advice.

    Like

  58. Looks like you are looking for a roommate in your wife. You want her to resolve her own problems while you are left alone. I really feel sorry for your wife. Sure, I can understand how someone’s nurturing attitude or constant care can get suffocating, but you fail to see where she is coming from. You somehow seem to have convinced yourself that you have made a big mistake by marrying this woman. May be you too had some preconceived idea about marriage, just like your wife. You too had loads of expectations from her but you are just not admitting it, perhaps. She doesn’t meet your condition a, b and c and you think that this marriage is a mismatch! Sadly you cannot get to know a person before marriage in an arranged marriage. And the set up where elders get you both to speak for 10 min to like a person or not is a joke in many ways. Perhaps you thought she too would be fascinated and appreciative of the life and freedom one gets in US just like you did. You are missing one important point here, you are experiencing the freedom, SHE IS NOT! For her its still a confinement. She doesn’t have anybody but you. She is adapting to your lifestyle. Sure you would feel suffocating, but what about her? Right now you are all she has! You might think that why can’t she just go out and make friends or do something? but trust me its not that easy. May be she doesn’t know how, may be she has some language problems, may be she hates mingling with people because she finds it difficult. I found the wives of my husband’s Indian friends very pretentious and superficial and gossipy. I felt very out of place in their company. They were also very condescending towards me.

    She is just looking for companionship from you
    , nothing else. You also mentioned that she calls when you are in the middle of a conference to ask some trivial question about the choice of her deodorant. I can see you stressing on the “conference” part. May be she cannot understand how a person who was so willing to talk to her before marriage finds so little time to spend with her after marriage. One other thing is, she doesn’t know how to live by herself. May be her parents, instead of teaching her how to live independently, got her married and made you her care taker. I agree with Gounder Brownie on all her points, please don’t look down upon her for trying so hard to please you. Be patient and sympathetic. Its all very difficult for her to adjust and you distancing yourself will not help in any way. She seems tremendously unhappy and nobody to share her plight with. Her parents will never understand what she is going through, because they don’t know how lonely life can get in US. Don’t feel that she should make friends and confide with them when she has YOU. Listen to her! If you think she is wrong, argue, fight, reason it out, but don’t leave her alone to cry by herself. She only wants you to reciprocate. Keeping all the resentment to yourself will only widen the distance between you. Please talk to her!!!

    Involving her in budgeting and maintaining a separate bank account for her expenditures will definitely help.

    Like

    • When I first read IH’s email I could not have guessed the wife plight the way you have described…despite being a divorcee and an abused wife myself! I can well imagine that IH doesnt understand her perspective either.

      Like

    • @Sushma

      Maybe IH has expectations about his marriage. Who does not? Tell me, if you get into an abusive marriage and people tell you that you had preconceived expectations – would that bode right?

      That said, you know the girl was not forced to marry the guy. She chose it too. She chose to move with him to a foreign country where she would not know people or the culture of the place. I am sure she also knew that she was not comfortable with the English language and that communication problems might arise. Yet she agreed to marry him, probably not truly giving all these issues a thought. Because she expected something different from her marriage – having a more traditional role as a wife.

      Ofcourse it is an excellent idea to suggest that the IH listen and interact with her, but honestly, is she also not partly to blame for not trying to initiate a dialogue when she clearly is unhappy?

      Atleast the IH is ready to take control of his life and do something about it. I only wish everyone was proactive about their own happiness.

      Like

      • ‘She chose to move with him to a foreign country where she would not know people or the culture of the place. ‘

        When a person moves to another country, no matter how prepared he/she is, the whole experience could sometimes be truly over-whelming and intimidating.

        Like

      • Dear Clueless,

        I completely agree with you that one has to be proactive about their own happiness. And even though I sounded subjective in my previous comment I can totally understand what IH is trying to say. I am only concerned that he is failing to see her side of the story. He seems to be extremely bothered by her clinginess, but has he given any thought why she wants her world to revolve around him so much? He is himself admitting that she is behaving differently/confidently in India. In India probably she has many other things and activities to fall back on, but sadly in US she doesn’t. Initial years are all always difficult to adjust in US. Even more so when you have nobody to talk to. Eventually she will figure out that she needs to develop a hobby or find a way to keep herself busy once she is able to get past this adjusting phase. But that needs time. And from my experience I can say that IH supporting(or just being there for) his wife unconditionally helps. I also see that he mentions that she has trouble socializing. I’ve been down that road. Sadly once you come to US you are stuck with your husband’s friends for a long time, whether you like them or not. Its not like in India, where if you have problem with one set of people you move on to the next. S/He sincerely has to make an effort to find new friends. Right now, she will not even have developed a support system to fall back on. Under these circumstances she will definitely look for support from her husband. Agree! even she can initiate a dialogue with her husband, one of them should – it doesn’t matter which one, but right now IH seems to be in more control of the situation than she is.

        I totally agree and strongly believe that all of them, including parents, bride, bridegroom, should have an orientation(as one of the commenter suggested) on what to expect in US once you are married.

        Like

  59. hey …

    My heart bleeds for you.

    I know no marriage counseling is going to help ‘coz I know the poor lady is not going to be able to talk openly.

    Why don’t you try something ? Since she is a devout Hindu, get her to join a music class. I know there are quite a number of them in US. Get her involved in activities so that she gets to meet people ,especially women from her community.

    Keep your ideas of marriage aside right now. Get her involved in things outside of your home.

    Do not go for a divorce. She’ll be hurt for life. Maybe, once she starts seeing the world around her, she’ll herself suggest it.

    My prayers …
    ( I know what that situation is .. and hence am telling you what helped !)

    TC …

    Like

  60. @ the Indian Husband

    I thought about your predicament for some time and I felt like I agreed with people saying that you should take responsibility and try and make your marriage work. But after reversing the scenario to a woman’s perspective in this kind of situation, I think I’d change my original outlook. Supposing a woman was married to a man who expected her to consult him before buying deodorant, I’d recommend divorce. I’d be hypocritical if I advised anything different in your situation.
    I would definitely recommend therapy for you. We can’t really understand what you must be going through. And also that should you choose divorce, I don’t think anyone has the right to judge you.

    Like

  61. Sushma, everything you said plus 1000 times.

    What I first got from the email is that the guy considers everything traditional Indian or religion based -backward. Fits in nicely with the demographic here.

    Anyway, since I feel bad for the wife, I wil comment.

    First of all, the guy who complains about his wife’s old fashioned beliefs himself started it all by caving in to his parents demands. If he had balls enough, he would have spared his wife from marrying him! What a tragedy for HER. On top of that, even if he agreed to arranged marriage,could he not have taken time to gauge compatibility? He was too Pashto take time to have some serious conversation with his future wife. Did someone try to stop him from even talking to her before marriage?

    Secondly, again I agree with everything sushma said about the situation.

    Thirdly, IH is projecting that somehow her being religious is somehow one of the reasons of his boredom with this marriage. I do not buy that argument because couples of different faith or atheist/agnostic and religious couples lead a very happy married life.

    Fourth point,you may be atheist, but you are still culturally Hindu aren’t you? The wife’s behavior of obeisance is an aspect of her cultural upbringing, not her religion. Do not conflates one with other. For a self proclaimed atheist, have to first studied your religion before disowning it? I have noticed that so called atheist have often not taken the trouble to study religion and declare the,selves atheists based on superficial knowledge/feelings. For the record, nothing against atheism, just that I find it funny that usually the concept has basis in self-loathing and considering everything their parents believed in as stupid.
    Ah well, that is another discussion.

    Have you considered the fact that she may have been brought upon a certain way? Have you had anykind of serious talks with her about how you see the husband wife relationship? -that of equals? Do you communicate with each other?

    Remember that YOU are responsible for the current situation. If your wife is as traditional was you claim she is, a divorce will devastate her. I suspect that you might have found someone else and really just trying to build a case of incompatibility to divorce your wife. I say tis because I do not see any details about your efforts to mitigate the situation. I hope I am wrong!

    Do some soul searching, see where you have failed. Think about things you can do to encourage your wife to outgrow her social conditioning. Show her your email and have a constructive discussion about what each of you can do to improve your marriage. Most importantly, do not assign any blame!

    Lu

    Like

    • //Fourth point,you may be atheist, but you are still culturally Hindu aren’t you? The wife’s behavior of obeisance is an aspect of her cultural upbringing, not her religion. Do not conflates one with other. For a self proclaimed atheist, have to first studied your religion before disowning it? I have noticed that so called atheist have often not taken the trouble to study religion and declare the,selves atheists based on superficial knowledge/feelings. For the record, nothing against atheism, just that I find it funny that usually the concept has basis in self-loathing and considering everything their parents believed in as stupid.//

      I resent that entire paragraph. It is no business of yours whether anyone chooses or not to worship or believe. It is also no business of yours whether they chose to delve into their so-called culture and read up on their religion before rejecting it. They don’t have to. It is their birth-right to believe or not to believe as per the constitution of India. And you again have no right to say atheists’ feelings are based on superficial feelings. You are coming across as an ignoramus with these words, and perhaps YOU should read more about individualism and why you are nobody to tell people what to do with regard to their beliefs or lack thereof.

      Like

      • Sorry, but you completely missed my point. I have no issue with atheism. Iwas once atheist and still question a lot of things.

        My comment was a mere observation that often in India, so called atheist often consider themselves atheist because it is either fashionable to do so or because it is fashionable in the west and they rare self loathing Indians who think that everything that arises out of west is good. Before you jump te gun again, I want to clarify that not all atheists fit this description. Many are indeed truly atheistic and hold a nuanced view about religion and god.

        Like

  62. I sense a lack of self esteem on the wife’s part. Maybe encouraging her to take a few courses (say, hobby classes) will help her get out of the house and make new friends. With that, hopefully, her horizon would widen. With self esteem and confidence, she might stop blaming herself for every little thing. This, and counseling, are two things I think would work.

    I feel for both of you. I can empathize with your wife because not too long ago, I was very low on self-esteem and behaved almost like her, even though my belief system was different. It took some good friends and going out on my own that helped me get my self-esteem back. Good luck to both of you – you sound like really nice people.

    Like

  63. Pingback: Is this blog becoming an Agony Aunt Column? « The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  64. Oh dude…I don’t mean to trivialize your problem, but it does sound like you’re being a little hard on yourself and on your wife. Any reasonably satisfying marriage (no matter which culture the couple belongs to) requires a certain degree of compromise.

    I would just like to make a few points:

    #1 It is easier to “modernize” a traditional Indian woman than to stuff a “liberated” woman into traditional straitjacket. if you allow her more freedom and trust her to do things by herself, she would start changing. A great way to start is to help her find a job (atleast a parttime job) that would let her interact with real Americans and learn about this country. My wife is also from a very traditional family. She too felt isolated when she first came here to the U.S. An year after we got married, she got a job that she loved, and she has a lot more confidence doing things by herself. At the same time, she has a wide circle of traditional indian women like herself with whom she can still do the “indian thing”. Most people would love to experience the freedom of making their own choices and deciding their own destiny, if only they are led to that freedom carefully and slowly, at a pace that is comfortable to them.

    #2 Hinduism is not an Indian version of Christianity. You should know, as you come from a traditional family. Hinduism is very ritualistic. You need not have to believe in God to perform the rituals. I am agnostic and do not believe in God in the traditional sense. I have never prayed in my adult life. But my wife is religious. She knows about my views and she has told me that she would like it if I just go through the motions at the temple even if I don’t believe in it. That is what I do, and it seems to satisfy her. It is just a small compromise that lets me keep my beliefs while satisfying her as well.

    #3 This American notion of “finding the right person” and “soulmate” is a myth and a fallacy. It is what has led to the high divorce rate in this country. There are all kinds of people in this world. You could end up with someone who has no love or kindness, no morals or character, untreatable diseases, a closet lesbian , a man-hating feminist or a psychopath/sociopath. Please be thankful that you did not end up with anyone with a huge flaw like that. The only reasonable thing to expect in marrying someone is whether they have faults that you can live with.

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  65. I don’t think any kind of counseling is going to save this situation. It will only protract what seems inevitable, and mess up the youth of two good but incompatible people. Some men want women who ask them permission for everything and treat them as god. She is better served being married to such a person.
    If you’ve grown to like and accept the culture of the US (as I know I have), I suggest you end this soon so you have time to meet a like-minded individual and the chance at happiness. Any and all feelings of martyrdom should be abandoned in favor of truth. If the truth is that you’re incompatible, separation is the best decision for both of you, and the sooner the better.
    Please take my candor as concern and not rudeness.

    Like

    • @liberalcynic Your suggestion may work for an American couple who have grown up and live in the American culture. The wife here is from a conservative, traditional Indian family. She would face stigma and ostracism if she got divorced. Her life would be ruined. Remarriage is not something that is very common in those communities in India.

      There is no abuse/infidelity/deception in their relationship. They both seem to be perfectly sane individuals who have different expectations. That should not make them incompatible.

      What they need is some good counselling with an Indian Marital therapist, or atleast with someone who understands Indian culture.

      Like

      • Abuse/Infidelity/Deception aren’t the only grounds for incompatibility. She might be stigmatized as a result of the divorce. We can’t know that for sure. All I know is that if he ignored his needs and made decisions thinking of other people, he would repeat the same earlier mistake of listening to his parents and reluctantly entering a marriage. This would lead to more trouble.
        I understand that some rational pieces of advice need to be taken with a pinch of salt in Indian cases, but the more discounts we keep giving to Indian problems on account of their being Indian, we will never progress.
        This letter is written by the guy, and I’m giving what advice I believe will suit him best.

        Like

  66. F – E – A – R

    that’s the root cause of emotional non-harmony. You were afraid of hurting your parents – so you got married. Now you are afraid of accepting your wife for who she is – so you think that it’s not going to work out.

    While I do have empathy for the situation you are in, these are just the type of circumstances that should make you sit up and admit what is really bothering you. There’s plenty of really good practical advise in the comments section but I would be careful about how I would go about selecting the best suggestions.

    Fear is a primal emotion and comes in a lot of different words – guilt, passive-aggressive behaviour etc. However, it clouds our thinking. I am certain that you have the solution to your situation and know of it. You are just probably afraid to act on it because you fear the consequences.

    Take some time out to really understand all the things you are afraid of in this situation and I think you will realise what the best way to resolve it is. If you are honest with yourself (this also means not judging the emotions that you feel; giving “right” & “wrong” tags to your emotions), then you will project that honesty and it will give you the strength to make decisions that will eventually work out.

    Good luck friend.

    Like

  67. Well i read almost all the comments and here is my opinion. I am not indian but i know about indian culture and i was to India. I think indian or not, you both took a decision for a lifetime when accepted this marriage. When you say that you did a mistake you must think that your wife did a mistake too. But if you both will continue to see this marriage like a mistake situation will not improve at all. First of all both take the responsability of your decision because you are not two kids. Then talk and try to discover each other. Let each other know what you like and dislike. You say that you spent 2 years together but what was the use if you thinked only to the mistake that you did and what will happend if you will divorce. All this situation is very easy for me. You can try to make it work but you must want with all your heart or just let it go. If you want to fall in love or you have dreams regarding what a love marriage can be let this go. You don’t do any favour to your wife if you stay with her feeling bad and making her to feel same. Returning in India to her family, to what she is knowing, can’t be more harmfull then a lifetime of sadness and dissapointment. Life is short and we must always choose what we consider is best. Good or bad after we choosed we must live with our choices and to don’t look back. If you want to be happy you will be, trust me.

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  68. Pingback: An email: My brother leaves it to my mother to decide if the families’ minds will match. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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  70. Pingback: “His parents had already found a girl from his community who they feel is ‘perfect’ for him.” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  71. Don’t give divorce. It will be a punishment to your wife. Love her more and more with more and more patience. Talk to her. Make her speak and listen to her patiently. Divorce is not always a good decision. Look at the positive side of your marriage life… You have a very loyal wife… She is like another mother to you… She may be childish…. Life has given you a good wife… Don’t miss her … Remember she is also a mother to you and your child…. Don’t hurt your mother

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  72. Arey yaar. It is common to think about things that we don’t posses. You have got a good wife and you are thinking of a divorce. She has given her life for you. How can you even think of it even to abondon her?. Understanding and adjusting with others is called as life. You try to explain her what you don’t wish to happen. Don’t blame her. She is from a different background. How would she know what you are doing in the day time outside? If you have met some american women for a livin-in relationship then you shall understand your wife’s greatness.

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  73. Pingback: An email from An Adult Male of India : “Every single family sitting or phone call will eventually lead to a holy grail – my marriage.” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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  76. Pingback: “Everyone knows, when she decides not to keep relation, she will do that. But I don’t want to go far away from my mother, I want her to be with me.” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  77. Pingback: “He wants divorce. She wants to know what wrong she did to be treated this way, why he chose her, but repents his decision immediately after marriage.” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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  81. Whatever happens in our life is the result of our attitude towards everything and choices we make carefully or carelessly. If you want to change something in your life then you have to change the value of this two major attributes of life’s logic. When you say a Good “Indian Son” that show your attitude towards your worldview. She is doing what she has to do she don’t know the other way. But for you there is different way to live your married life. I think you got married in very naive age. The more you Grow ,the more you experience ,every problem will get solved by itself. In our Indians we say time is the solution for everything.

    Godbless and Start Enjoying your life Because we don’t know what is going to happen Tomorrow.

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