I follow your blog and have tried to understand how patriarchy is entrenched in Indian culture. I am writing you my issue and would like to get a feedback from your readers who I respect immensely.
I have been married for over 12 years. I had a typical arranged marriage. I was very clear about how I wanted my married life to be…my partner to be a friend, someone I can have fun with, and someone with whom I can be myself. When I met my now-husband, the first impression I had after talking to him was that he was a male-chauvinist. I wanted to meet him again for second round talks and said ok. We got engaged, went out for a month or so before he left to US on work. We married a year later but during our engagement period we had quite a lot of arguments. He was not happy that I was not in IT field, often questioned why my dad did not make me an engineer like my brothers. Couple of times during my engagement period I told my dad to call off the marriage which he never did. Well, eventually we married. On the day of marriage I did not have any love for him all I had was fear. I also had the hope that things will be better after marriage and I can make him happy.
Came to US on H4 visa. I did not know a lot about cooking. So had quite a few disasters in the kitchen. There was constant taunting how my parents got me married off without training me. I could not prepare the dishes that his mom cooked and he was very upset with that. I was quite shy talking to strangers and he used to make fun of me for that. I was not comfortable wearing western outfits at that time and he used to taunt me for that too how I had not dressing sense. In a nutshell, I was constantly put down for everything I did, my parents made fun of that my self-esteem diminished with passing time.
He was a consultant and travelled Monday thru Thursday. He wanted me to study instead of wasting my time. I agreed and prepared myself to do Masters which I completed successfully. Got a job which did not pay much because I was a fresher. Had two children in two years and life was going on a break neck speed with kids, work, social commitments etc. His travelling continued and I was running everything myself. Weekends he would want to catch up on sleep. Any request for help around chores always resulted in arguments.
He never liked doing anything with me from the beginning. I was an athlete and played quite a few games. He never like coming for a run or swim or walk with me. My requests were always turned down. We bought a table tennis table and I was very excited because I play TT quite well. But he never played with me. When we have friends over, he would play with them and if they are playing doubles and wanted a fourth person then I was called to fill in. The friends used to comment on my playing skills which he always made fun of in front of them.
He likes friends coming over but would never pitch in with cooking or post clean up. He would also become a guest and after they left will comment on what a poor host I was, how the dishes were only ok and always comment on my conversations with them. In fact I am quite versatile in conversing on any topic. I never have conversations with my husband because he always will try to say something negative and that shuts me down. I was constantly put down in front of friends too and was never appreciated even when asked for. His sense of humor is to make fun of people, on their short comings and would expect me to laugh at his jokes. I am quite sensitive and I do not see any humor in making fun of people. He never talks about his personal feeling to anyone even to me and would reprimand me for talking personal things to friends or family. All we talked about was mundane stuff like kids schedule, groceries, paying bills etc. I yearned for meaningful conversations and sharing personal feelings.
My children grew up and were missing having dad around during weekdays and even I was getting tired running the whole house myself and demanded that he stop travelling as much and take a local project. After quite a struggle he stopped travelling. But that did not make him take part in household chores or pitch in raising the children. It was always his needs that came first.
He always made my job seem worthless when compared to his. I did not work on climbing the career ladder because of kids and his travelling job. I was the anchor to hold things in place and did not want to take more responsibility at work that will take more time from my kids. Three years ago I landed in another job that put me in a position where I should be for the years I have been in the industry. The pay hike surprised him. The first bonus I got was close to what he made and he was so insecure because of that. In my new work place people appreciated my communication skills, my way of working and I got more accolades for my dressing sense.
All these years I never argued much with him because I looked up to him and thought that he was saying all these negative things because I was not good enough. I kept on striving to make him happy. Became a good cook, dressed better, and started paying attention to all those things he complained about. But the complaints never stopped, he always had something or the other to complain about. I looked after all his needs and I think at some point morphed into being his mother. I was just taken for granted and expected to run like a well-oiled machine. When I fell sick he would get irritated.
After I landed this new job my perspective about myself changed. I realized that I am not the problem he is the one who is unable to see anything positive in me. I started demanding more respect. That bothered him and any argument ended with him having more complaints about me how I was the wrong one.
This is not the kind of life I wanted my kids to see. He never acknowledges our anniversary nor remembers my birthday. I started telling him what I wanted from this marriage and this is not want signed up for. He always goes behind the culture curtain and says that this is how it is in Indian culture and I am getting too westernized. I wanted a trial separation a year back for him to realize how much I am holding his life together and wanted him to give me some credit. He said he will try to pitch in but was never consistent.
He always used to question me going and staying at my parents place saying I have my brothers taking care of them so why should I go spend time with them. His mom is very nice to me and I have a good relationship with her. But she also becomes a typical MIL when it comes to me going to my parents’ house. He would do anything to keep his mom happy even if that means crushing my happiness. I have argued with him multiple times on this but he always turns the table on me.
The last one year had been quite strained with me asking him to pitch in with the chores and focusing on building our relationship and he not being consistent with his trying. The last straw came when I caught him having an affair with an acquaintance. He has never been this emotional kind and I pulled along all these years with the hope that one day he will get me/understand me. But the affair broke it. It was a short lived affair of 3 weeks, no sex involved but there was hugging, kissing and long hours of phone conversations, texting and meeting for lunch and dinner. All that I wanted him to do with me he was doing with her.
He was more shocked that how did he let this happen to him rather than realize what impact this has on me. I have never cried in these 12 years of marriage. But the affair broke my heart. I cried so much. He says he never realized I loved him so much. He always used to say that romance, passion existed only in movies and not in real life and I was a strong believer of love. But this affair proved wrong when he was caught in all those emotions he always said never existed in real life. So he has it in him but just does not have it for me. He started the affair and that makes it even worse for me.
The affair is over now and the girl is out of our lives. I am unable to forgive him. I am waiting for the school year to be over before moving out. He wants me to stay and does not believe when I say I am moving out. He thinks everything will be normal if I become normal. He says I am being hard on him that I am not giving him a chance. He is so much into how the society thinks of him/perceives him and a divorce will kill that image that he has built around him.
He is willing to do all the things I have always wanted him to do. But my heart is not in it anymore. I keep thinking he is doing this so I won’t leave him but not when I wanted him to do. I keep asking him what was missing between us that made him go to her and he says there is no connection between our problem and that affair.
I know I will be ok and will be happy. I have my job and I know I can take care of myself. At least start living for myself instead of all the years I spent trying to make others happy. When I think of the kids I worry sometimes. Somedays I am clear this is over and other days I am doubting my decision. I read somewhere in your blog comments: the fear of the unknown makes people go along with known suffering…something like that.