Communication is the Key


CoupleSo you’re in an Intercultural Relationship and it’s reached a serious stage.  Now you want to tell his/her parents.  What to do?

You go online and research and research and then research some more to find that one answer.  The one magical answer that will get the resounding yes from his/her family.  It’s got to be out there right?  Wrong.  There is no magical one liner that you can use to convince anyone of anything.

What there IS though, are some steps that you can take and some perceptions that you need to get rid of as well as some preparations that you can make.

The very first rule…communication.  Just because your love is from another country doesn’t mean that they are from another world.  We all want the same thing and really, we all share commonality no matter where we were born.  If you were dating someone from the US, you wouldn’t just take a back seat to your relationship and wait for them to tell you what’s going on would you?  I know I wouldn’t (and didn’t).  I asked questions, I let my fiancé know what my thoughts were, my opinions and ultimately what I was looking for out of our relationship.  If you’re in a secure and mature relationship, you should both feel comfortable enough to talk to each other about potentially uncomfortable topics.  At least you should if you’re considering marriage.

Please remember, this is my advice and it’s only based on what I’ve experienced and my own thoughts.  It’s not a sure fire way to get you to your end result (marriage) but it may help.

  1. Understand not only your perspective other’s culture, but their religion, where they grew up, their extended family, their education and family structure.  This may sound like a lot but I’m not asking you to write a 1000 word thesis on this.  All I’m saying is to get as much information about it as you can.  Sure, online information is good, but the best thing you can do is talk to your boyfriend/girlfriend (fiancé?) and find out their take on it.
  2. Discus the problems you may face in your relationship.  This may be the hardest conversation you’ve ever had, but if you are both prepared to talk about it, you’ll both be better prepared to deal with it when the time comes to talk to the parents.  Some questions I asked were the following:

a)Where will we live?

b)If we live in India, will it be co-joined family?

c)If in the US, are aware of the issues with getting a Visa?

d)Are we prepared to move ahead without consent of family?

1.Can you (your intended) or I deal with the fact that the family might never accept this union?

e)What are our combined expectations for the future of our relationship?

1.Do you want a stay at home wife?

2.Do you want children?

1.How will they be raised?

3.Religion practices

  1. Discuss what some of his/her parents issues with your relationship might be.Knowing this ahead of time will help you to know what kinds of questions you will need to address and also give you a better idea of how to approach telling them.Is it going to be strictly that you’re from the US?Here are some of the issues I’ve seen in my research and the main questions that the families involved raised.

a)Age of the couple

b)Fears of US perceptions of marriage and divorce (they do not like the idea of divorce in India.

c)Religion

1.Will their child keep practicing his/her religion?Will you practice it?

d)Culture

1.They will be afraid that their child will lose his/her roots by marrying outside of his/her culture.Are you willing to learn it and incorporate it into your future life together?

e)Society

1.They might fear losing their standing in society.How can you help them deal with this?Anyone else in the family or their social sphere had a similar relationship?

2.If you’re moving to India, they may also raise questions about your ability to live there.Remember, life there is much different and in comparison to living in the US, it can be hard until you have experienced it.You’ll need their help and support.

  1. Make up a strategy for how you will tell his/her parents about your decision.This one is key.The way you word your first introduction of this idea to the parents are essential to the tone of the future conversations you will have with them.Remember, while you are both ‘children’ to them and do need to show respect, it also does not mean that you have to adopt the tone of “Mother May I?”It is essential that you maintain an adult conversation with them.Explain that you know the good and the bad that can come of this and your reasons why you still want to move forward with it.Your plans for over-coming issues.The things you’ve discussed (see above).Show them that you are an adult making adult decisions and they will be less likely to heap on the “you’re a child and can’t make decisions for yourself”.I’m not saying that they won’t still say this (they may) but now you have a foundation to stand firm on.You wouldn’t build a house on quicksand, why do that to your relationship and future?
  2. Take a deep breath, and have patience.Keep talking to each other and keep the lines of communication open to them.Keep a positive attitude.Understand that this will be hard, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel…eventually.Stay committed and firm to each other.Remember why you got into this in the first place and don’t forget that during all this you also need to have some fun with your intended.Laugh.
  3. Remember, anything that his/her family might say is not personal nor is it a personal attack against you.Most likely they haven’t even met you, right?Have they travelled extensively?Visited the US often and for lengthy stays?No?Ok, ask yourself this, what do you know about Russia or North Korea or even Iraq?You know what you’ve seen on the news or read in the papers right?Maybe watched a few movies that took place there or the characters were from there?What are your perceptions of those places and people?Are they good?Positive ones?Neutral?Be honest here, it’s just you and yourself.I know I can say that I had my own assumptions about India before I visited there (“What do you mean there is no Starbucks??????”).Going there, I learned so much more then what I had seen in the movies or heard on the news.And I realized that my perceptions of India after going were much more positive than they had been before visiting.Now, why are you going to expect his/her family to be any different from you?Everyone has misconceptions about things they don’t know or understand.Everyone is afraid of things that they don’t know or understand.Nobody likes extreme change.And lastly, they are parents who love their child very much and want what’s best for them.It’s a lot to ask them accept on the first attempt, or even the second or third.You need to give them time to adjust and you need to not let things they do or say affect you personally.Keep these things in mind, keep a sense of humor to extent about the whole situation, and remain respectful to them, your intended and yourself.And remember to breathe.

Also, read Aditya’s post on Intercultural Marriages and Relationships.You need to understand, both of you need to understand, that no one can make you do anything that you don’t want to do.Anyone who tells you that they can’t do something because they owe someone else something (their life, future, etc) is coping out of their own life out of fear.

Let me give you a real life example from a friend of mine.She lived in the south east US and her fiancé was from north India.When they decided to get married, they hadn’t really taken the time to form a strategy.Nor had she met anyone in his family yet.They just kind of jumped into telling his parents and unfortunately did it at the most inopportune time.His parents, needless to say, were not only not happy, they were hysterical.The father immediately threatened disownment and the mother held a knife to her breast and threatened suicide.No joke.The whole family was up in arms, even his brother was against it.Now it wasn’t as if his family hadn’t expected him to come home and speak of having a love marriage, he had been telling them for years that was what he wanted.He had resisted an arranged marriage at every turn.They knew this was possible.It wasn’t that it was a love marriage but that it was to a girl from outside their culture, religion and caste.She couldn’t change who she was, and because of the way he handled the introduction of her as his intended (she wasn’t there at that time either), it left no room for him to tell them about her.Her character, background, personality and why they fit together so well as a couple were never even talked about with his family.And they never gave him the opportunity to tell them after that.After about a month, he finally caved in and not only broke up with my friend, but also cut off all contact with her as per his parents’ request.She was devastated and couldn’t understand why he hadn’t stuck by her side as he had promised her he would.Now she understands it was because they didn’t really have any answers to their own hard questions, let alone any the family might have had (if it had even gotten to that point).Nor did they have any kind of plan or strategy about how to talk to them to begin with.

The moral of this story is your intended alone knows how their family is most likely to react.If you are serious about this relationship, you need to talk to each other and make a plan and goal together.Having this ahead of time, when things become hard, makes it easier on you both.Instead of dealing with hard issues exactly when the situation is at its hardest, you’ve got a grasp on what the answers are already and that will give some comfort.

Another point I would like to make, is that during my research, I found a lot of people asking for advice from other people but it didn’t seem that they had taken a lot of time to talk to their intended.One question I saw went something like this:

He said he wants to marry me and for me to come live in India with him, I’m wondering how to get my visa because he’s going to talk to his parents soon.I know he’ll do a good job convincing them so I need to hurry.

After reading this, I had a lot of concerns for this girl and for her future relationship.First, shouldn’t she be asking him how to get a visa?Second, shouldn’t they discuss as a couple how and when his family should be told?Just having total blind faith in your loved one is very romantic and mysterious but not very wise.I love my fiancé and trust him with all my heart, but he is human and we are a couple which means we need to work together and not just blindly lead or follow.To me, it just sounded like this couple got all wrapped up in the rose glass colored world that they had created and hadn’t really discussed any hard line issues or made any plans.I mean to be honest; the visa issue is the lowest priority on my list.It’s an issue yes, but not the most important one right now.A visa will come and go, but my life is going to be for many years more and I need to know at least a basic plan of how I’m going to live it.

Needless to say, I followed up on her story and a couple months later I saw another post from her saying she needed advice on how to get her fiancé back.Apparently his family hadn’t appreciated the idea of their pending nuptials and nipped that relationship in the bud.I couldn’t help thinking, that if the girl and her guy had talked about what all the scenario’s were of telling his parents and what they would do in each situation, that things wouldn’t have gone so south for the both of them.Or, at the very least, if they had decided that they would part without his parents’ permission, she would not be so completely lost and devastated.Knee deep in tissues yes, but not utterly wrecked by the unexpected.Does this make sense?Yes, it’s hard to have these conversations, but heck, if you can’t talk to each other about these hard issues now, what are you going to do in your future relationship when a hard issue comes up?Hope it will work itself out?Assume that the other person is taking care of it?

I hope this helps you out somewhat.I do plan on writing up a quick and easy to read point by point strategy you could use or at the very least use as a starting off point for your own.

But don’t wait on me, go ahead and start talking to each other now.Be open and honest with each other and remember to stay that way no matter what happens.

I wish you all the best!

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12 thoughts on “Communication is the Key

  1. Pingback: Questions I ponder upon… | My Desi Love story

  2. I am preparing to come live in India with my husband. We were married in Bangkok, Thailand. We have gotten through family’s reactions pretty well. He has a sister who has lived outside of India and forward thinking. I am Canadian and at first we tried the spouse sponsorship. We refused to get into the battles with government. The snooping, the assumptions and pre judgements!
    Canada society is eroding with marriage not much happening, lots of divorces and illegitmate children. They are spoiled, walking around with their high end cell phones and working is not something they comprehend.
    We are an older couple. I married a very lovely man. Looking forward to India. Challenges and all!

    • Gail Rao,

      Congratulations on your marriage and smooth transition into your new family! I’m very happy to hear this!

      Sad to say, even here in India the Society has issues like the ones you mentioned. They also have their own issues which you might find very confusing or even frustrating.

      For example, you mentioned raising divorce rates and illegitimate children where you are. That’s happening here too, the difference is that in the west it’s no longer taboo to talk about and so it’s openly discussed. Due to that, people try to find reasonable solutions to the problems.

      Here it’s very much still taboo and not openly discussed, so you will see cases of women being murdered so that the family doesn’t have to suffer divorce, divorce over how well the new wife cooks/treats In-Laws/how soon pregnant/not giving a son. You’ll also see stories of babies being left in hospitals or trash heaps due to either the parents being too poor, the baby being a girl or illegitimacy. Children are frequently used for begging or even as a source of revenge against the parents. Since these topics are so taboo, it can’t really be openly and honestly discussed so fingers are either pointed elsewhere or the problems is swept up under the carpet.

      I guess the best advice I can give to you is this…the grass may look greener on the other side…but it’s really just as full of weeds and worms and other problems as where you currently are at.

      I encourage you to move and see India from the prospect of a person living here, but I also strongly recommend having a “leave contingent” where you both agree that if one or the other of you cannot make it, then a move (as a couple) to somewhere else will be allowed without any ill feelings towards oneself or the other.

      Also, be VERY CAREFUL where you live and make sure you have checked for the things I’ve mentioned before you sign a lease or purchase a flat.

      Good luck!!

      • Hi Gori, I am not coming to India to “save” it. I used to be a social activist. Like George Carlin in this You Tube link. I am divorced from it now. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLEtb9N9oMA

        I am coming to India to live my married life with my husband. Canada government wants years of fighting and kissing their butt their butt for that. My hubby is a hermit and we really don’t care about being in the mainstream. I am an accountant and will be getting pensions. So we will be like George here…watching the freak show. He also has family property in Bandra East being developed and Print Shop there so this will need to be fully settled. So we are free to move. Maybe next will be Thailand, France, etc etc. Home is where the heart is and there we will be. Thanks for your response. Have a great day! Gail Rao

      • 😉 I didn’t come here to save it either! I came here to be a wife to my husband. But still these things do get to you after a while. It’s important to know that if you have a strong sense or desire to fight what is wrong, you will see these things and they will bother you…whether you do anything about them or not.

        Having as many things as possible to make you comfortable can help you in getting away from those feelings. Trust me on that one.

        Sounds like you guys have got a great plan in place and are thinking things through. I hope the property and Print Shop go through without a hitch!

  3. I don’t read blogs, at all …

    But I am going to read your blogs very RELIGIOUSLY from now!

    Just read your “ENOUGH” post.

    When I look at first generation American Indian kids (my nephews and nieces here) or even Americans themselves, I am amazed at how much they take life for granted. They worry about things like “Ooh this summer heat is killing me” or “I could kill for that Gucci bag!” … But being from a country of one billion people, I wonder if they will ever realize that these are trivial pursuits. What actually matters is your self-restraint and having a strategy of survival from one day to another.

    I am sure you stand out as a “foreigner” amongst the brown people, I am sure sometimes people ogle at you as if you are some sort of a trophy and I am sure that life in Mumbai (and India in general) must be a brutal stroke of reality for anyone born and brought up in the west.

    But all I can say is hang in there sister. You have done something that most of us would not have the guts or the maturity to pull off in our entire lifetimes!

    Once again, it’s lovely reading your posts … and I am sure your hubby is as lucky to have you by his side as much as you are to have him by yours!

    Cheers! 🙂

    • Hi and welcome! I’m so glad that out of the plethora of blogs out there, you chose mine as a constant read! Now hopefully I can keep up with that honor!! 🙂

      I agree with your statement about kids growing up in America. Each generation has it easier than the last one and each takes the experiences of the last generation for granted while they plow ahead with demanding a cell phone and designer jeans at 12 years old. Just doesn’t make sense to me. But….there were kids like that in my day too and I wasn’t the exception to the rule. I think that what made me different from some of them was my parents. They just didn’t believe in buying a brand name when a no-name could look just as good. Oh, we would get the designer jeans or jacket but as a special once a year gift. And let me tell you, it was taken care of big time! LOL

      Every day I live in India I get a whole new perspective on life here, life where I came from and I learn that there was a lot that I took for granted that I probably never should have. Living in a new place that is still experiencing it’s own growing pains teaches you a lot of where people have come from and where they are headed.

      And yes, I am a big time foreigner here. And as such must be very rich. Hence I get asked to pay rp500 for something that they ask my husband 50 for. Disgusting. LOL But as I slowly learn the language, I also get more of the 50 reply’s to my “Kitne?”. The ogling I could definitely do without!!! LOL

      Anyway, I’m so glad you enjoy the blog and really am happy you took the time to comment! I’m looking forward to hearing from you in the future!! 🙂 ~Gori

  4. Good points. We have done all of these things and things are going well: not married yet. But, I, too, have seen too many ppl who don’t talk about these things. Actually, my fiancee probably would not have done so: but I am a talker: it comes with that sociology/counseling kind of personality. He’d probably say that “we” talk too much. (smile) But, that does prepare us for the future.

    • Hi Jamily5 and welcome!!! Thanks so much for the comment and sorry it’s taken me a bit to respond! Bear and I were both down this week with a stupid cold so if I wasn’t sleeping then I was resting or something equally boring. lol

      Bear also was not a big talker to begin with, I had to draw him out more often than not. But now? Ho Ho Ho…..he’s become he talker in our relationship and seems to relish it!!!!! Either way, keeping the lines open and encouraging them is always the way to go and I’m glad to hear that you’re doing all of that! Keep me posted on your progress and keep coming back ok? I love to hear from EVERYONE! 😉

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