As a continuation of my series on “My 10 Hats”, I am addressing the impact of living in India as a wife. This is the second in (hopefully) a series of ten blogs. The process of writing these blogs has been very cathartic for me and quite informational for many readers (or so they tell me).
[Disclaimer: Being a wife is one of the hats I wear and I am writing this through the lens of our heterosexual and interracial marriage between my husband and me. Your narrative might not be the same, but as I make cultural connections, it is important for me to clarify that as well. I hope that you can still relate to some of my process.]
Never in a million years did I imagine that I would even get married, let alone relocate to my birth country in my early fifties. Our marriage of almost thirty years and parenting our four children into adulthood has brought me to a place of deep evaluation and appreciation for my husband and our marriage.
In this new transitional season into a new (yet familiar) culture, I am realizing the many layers of my role as a wife is being challenged. From expectations to desires to responsibilities, I am needing to constantly adjust my approach in a variety of situations. Over the years, I have addressed and processed the negative messages that I received in my childhood that impacted my role as a wife. And now, even though my husband and I agree about our roles and responsibilities, this relocation to India, is challenging us to work harder to maintain them.
On numerous occasions, I have been told directly or indirectly one or more of the following phrases. Many of them I have heard throughout our marriage, but being immersed in this old yet familiar culture is somehow bringing them back into the limelight.
“A good wife should….”
“A loving wife would…”
“A proper wife should…”
“Wives are expected to…”
“Married women are expected to…”
…and the list goes on.
Don’t get me wrong, I am committed to my husband and want to be the best wife for him, but I cannot have someone or something outside of our marriage decide or direct what that will look like. That includes my birth culture and the ones I grew up in. this is just one of the many challenges I face as a third-culture-kid! (Aka: TCK)
Together, my husband and I believe it is important to allow our faith to inform how we should build our marriage and always allow each other the freedom to live into our unique personalities, being mindful to embrace healthy attitudes and life choices. Our faith is not outside our marriage; it is the foundation for our relationship and is the glue that keeps us together.
Over the years, we have mentored and counseled many couples preparing for marriage or couples that were further along in their marriage. Our goal was to help them to stay true to who they are individually and collectively as a couple. We were intentional (and continue to be) in passing on to them what worked and what didn’t work in our marriage in hopes that they would find strength and restoration in theirs. We continue to discover some behaviours that don’t work in our marriage but we remain intentional in learning new ways to navigate them in the different seasons.
Queue cultural collision here now that we have relocated to India.
When I address the “foundation” of a marriage in a conversation, I am told that generally here in India, marriages are rooted and based on cultural norms. Whether an individual likes them or not, they tend to default to the expectations of the culture, rather than discovering their own uniqueness. This, then, has the potential for an individual to lose sight of who they are. If that describes you, I would like to encourage you to consider a different perspective, since you both enter the relationship with a different family culture and overall different background.
I would like to suggest that you have a conversation with your spouse (where appropriate) on how you might like to live out your marriage. This allows both of you to live into your authentic selves, based on what the “foundation” looks like in your story – assuming you have one.
I had a conversation about this topic of “adjusting to family cultures” with a friend and she was concerned that she might be disrespecting his and her parents somehow. I completely understand why she felt that way. Respect and honour for parents” is highly regarded and lived out in many unique ways in the Indian culture. I assured her that she could continue to live out these strong values to her parents by showing them she was following in their footsteps of building a healthy home environment for her, her husband, and her children.
Sometimes people think that respect and honour can only be delivered in certain ways, but that is not the case at all. If we carry those values in our hearts, it is from that place that our actions will be impacted. Since we are all unique, we will display those values uniquely. Question is, will others receive our efforts?
Understanding and building a healthy foundation in your marriage gives homage to your parents that they have raised their children well. When you simply copy the culture, you have the potential to repeat mistakes and bad choices as well. No culture is perfect with its nuances. (See chapter titled “The Impact of Culture on Trauma” in my book “I Am Third: Redeeming the Pain). When you build a clear foundation for your marriage or long-term relationship you can flex with the expectations and responsibilities that come from generations past.
Earlier this month, I was given the opportunity to have a book interview with Times of India – Nagpur about my new book “I Am Third: Redeeming the Pain” (A journey of Parenting and Adoption). During the interview, the reporter asked me how my book would be beneficial in this Indian context for marriages and those living with multigenerational relationships in the home? Since my response for this did not get written into the article, I thought I would share it in this blog. In the chapter titled “Marriage Matters”, I empower the readers to build the connection between themselves and their spouse…no matter the environment.
Building healthy boundaries while being a cheerleader and supporter of your spouse, especially in Indian multigenerational families where expectations run high, is a great place to start. At the end of that chapter I wrote out forty-five questions that will help you and your spouse or partner grow closer together. Perhaps even after stirring up “some heated discussions”, as one reader shared with me, it will still benefit your relationship. She also added that the questions “revealed some deeper truths about their relationship”, ones they are using to continue to grow forward in a healthy way.
Relocating is challenging in many ways. However, in my role as a wife, it has enhanced my confidence to live into my authentic self while also empowering other women to help them find their value as wives. But in the end, I am glad to have entered this new season with my husband by my side, cheering for US along the way!!
NOTE: To my readers who are single, married or in long term relationships and could use a little direction in your story, my book will equip you with questions you can use to better yourself and even use in your relationships, whether they are friendships or of a romantic nature.
Please contact me through the website for more information on how Transformational Coaching can help or if you are interested in scheduling me as a speaker.
Here’s to Growing Forward Together as we live authentically in our marriages and long-term relationships!