Friday, October 23, 2015

Ask Firangi Bahu: "I feel like I'm in a one person marriage"

(Img via Tiago Aguiar)

Sharing a letter from a reader...

"Hi Alexandra,

I have read your blog for years and I thank you for sharing your journey with us. I have never commented but I want to write to you in hope of some help with my marriage.

Maybe why I feel we are so similar is because my husband and I have been together for 14 years, as of this Summer. I really do not know so many Indian-white couples who are together for so long - nowadays there are a lot of newlyweds but there are few of us who have been together for the long haul. I'm not exactly sure if my problem is cultural or not.

For the past several years, I have been having a problem connecting with my husband. Or rather, I think he has had a problem connecting with me. He has no affection towards me any more. Having been together for 14 years, we have had a lot of ups and downs like any couple. But lately, it just feels like he couldn't care less about me. He ignores me to death. I cry my eyes out about it at night.

Our relationship has been filled with so much love that I am at a loss of words at where it went wrong. He constantly criticizes me. He never even touches me. At night, he watches movies and then rolls over and goes to bed, without even asking how my day was. Sometimes he storms off and sleeps on the couch. He says he is tired all the time only when I want to spend quality time with him. I plan out quality time and take extra consideration to him - making his favorite meals, planning outings he would like, and I still attempt to be affectionate with him even though he rejects me a lot. I feel like my life revolves around him, with no consideration for me or my life.

He doesn't even look at me when I talk to him. When I try to speak to him, he then starts judging me and telling me that my feelings pertaining to a certain situation are wrong. If I want to talk to him about something important, he says that I am either overreacting and dramatic, and that it is my fault I take things the wrong way. I feel like if I want to speak about something important, it can't be to my husband, and that's where I feel disconnected to him.

The other night, we got into an awful argument. I told my husband that I feel ignored and unwanted by him. I told him that it hurts me. Besides telling me that I was overreacting and telling me that I'm crazy, he also told me that he shouldn't have to prove his love to me all the time. That I should just understand. That he shouldn't have to SHOW his love to me. I was brought up believing that you have to continually make an effort for your spouse. He was brought up in an environment where the men seem to do nothing after marriage. They know the wives won't leave them, but they don't put any effort into the marriage. They just expect women's lives to revolve around them. Needless to say, the romance is dead.

I am not going to divorce, but I would like to know what to do with myself since my husband is not allowing me to connect with him in our marriage. I have tried everything under the sun and I feel like giving up. I feel so alone in my marriage. I am truly in a one person marriage. I feel like we are not married any more with his selfish mindset, meanwhile I still act like I'm married and consider him in everything. All he cares about is work and not much else. He pays attention to our children, but not me. This hurts a lot. How I wish he could spare a little love for me too. After I became a mother, that is my only role to him. He thinks I should be grateful with scraps of love here and there, when only HE feels like giving it (which is never). I spend the majority of my days feeling numb.

Any advice from you or your readers would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance for letting me vent..."

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Dear readers, what can this reader do?
Have you experienced similar ebbs and flows in a long-term partnership?
How do you re-connect with each other when only ONE person is making the effort?
Do you think women get trapped in this "mother" role, rather than a wife?

SHARE:

27 comments

  1. The tricky part of a relationship like this is that it is just stagnant; you feel hopeless because you want to change, but you don't know if the change warrants such dramatic behavior or effort that would topple the 'status quo.' But in fact, such a dramatic thing is just the thing that may shake you out of a rut. Reading your letter, it seems you've tried pretty much everything you could think of- trying outings, things that interest your husband, etc - and nothing's worked. To be frank, your husband may come from a background where the man 'knows' his wife will 'never' leave her (which was for a long time true for our countries), but he had better wake up and realize that now is not the past. You being a foreigner with self-respect have every right to leave him if he becomes too unpalatable, and perhaps at some point you should let him know it. There is no point in remaining in a marriage if it depletes and depresses you. Note that this is not a shallow excuse to leave a marriage (that I see a lot of immature westerners use, ala 'we just fell out of love'), but is a legitimate concern for your own long-term mental health. Though there are a lot of women who, in my opinion, make excessive demands on the husband and nag him or expect him to listen all the time, you don't seem to be that way.

    As long as you are wililng to respect his occasional self-containment, he should also respect your occasional need for affection. Maybe you should tell him that unless he at least TRIES to change his selfish ways and meet you halfway, you may opt for a separation. Do this if the lack of love and disrespect is really becoming unbearable to you - you have to make sure that it is worth doing and worth all the necessary changes it entails (including moving away with children, finding new schools, etc). If it is, there may be a good chance your husband can snap out of it. There is nothing that scares a security-loving Indian man than divorce, especially if there are children involved. In my experience, Indians care too much about 'what society thinks' to let a relationship deterioate that much. If he still doesn't budge, make the move to separate and be brave, not looking back. I personally think that a marriage should be based on mutual self-respect, if that is lacking and there is no willingness to change, then there is no marriage and no point in suffering needlessly. There are many old Indian couples who proudly state they have been married for many years and berate couples who divorce, and yet inwardly they are stagnant and only remain together to keep up social appearances/duties. You don't have to be like that!

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  2. What your are feeling, observing is absolutely true.

    So the only thing left to do is solve it my creating a brand new relationship. So create a brand new You. the one you like. Connect with your girlfriends, your hobbies, your outdoorsy self, your education qualifications, your skills. This new you should hopefully be able to the connect to the new Him. And create a whole new romance among yourself. Ofcourse this is going to take months. But it should be smooth, cause the only person you are working with her is you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will do that. I am thinking of signing up for some courses and spend more time with friends. That was at least I can keep myself busy and not feel so ignored by him. Thanks
      -LW

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  3. I feel so badly for the letter writer...I really don't have advice. That is a terrible situation. I would like to know if the letter-writer's in-laws had an arranged marriage or a troubled marriage? Did the husband grow up NOT seeing a healthy, in-love couple as his example? Although it's nowhere near this extent, I struggle with my husband for this exact reason from time time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My husband's parents had and still have a difficult marriage. Actually my mother in law confided in me that she wanted to divorce my father in law many times, kinda for the same reason regarding lack of affection, and expecting the marriage to grow itself without putting any work in to it. It was not a loving marriage. My father in law made money but did not do much else. No emotional support to his wife. It seems very similar to my husband's actions. But the question is, what do I do....????????????????/ I don't want to re-live someone else's marriage.......

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  4. I think many (if not all) western women married to Indian guys stumble on this problem of differences in the way to express affection. At the same time if you believe in the book "Men comes from Mars, Women from Venus", you may think this is a universal problem...

    Two thoughts : after a few years marriage, it is important to realize your partner is never going to be the solution to all your soul's yearnings, and to start taking care seriously of your soul. You may want to join clubs, travel, learn something new, create stuff etc... Second thought : is your partner experiencing some problems right now (at work for instance) and using the strategy of "hiding in his cave" until he is ready to share ?

    In any case, I would like to assure you that I also face many problems (been married 5 years, previous relationship lasted 15 years) and it's true sometimes the windian blogosphere is a little bit depressing, since people like to talk only about positive aspects of windian relationships - which is fair enough.

    Take care and believe in yourself ! (Pad)

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    Replies
    1. I also feel that there are no resources for those of us who are in long term mixed marriages.
      -LW

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  5. Dear Reader,

    I am an Indian woman living abroad. Growing up my father was never into PDA or openly affectionate towards my mother. They never gave each other presents or took each other out . Maybe it was the lack of expectation they had from each other or some super deep understanding .. I dont know but somehow the managed to stay married for 35 years. I am like you. I need to be told and showed that I am loved. I cannot assume that deep down inside there is some unshakeable love.

    My advice for you is - Don't let yourself be taken for granted. There was a time in my relationship when I felt the same and I realized that I was crying a lot and unhappy but somehow that didn't seem to change anything. It was only when I put my foot down and said either we fix this or I walk out that things began to change. I understand this maybe a very difficult task, but sometime u need to jolt someone and let them know that you are not going to be around forever despite how someone treats you. He needs to understand that his actions can have serious consequences. I am not saying blackmail - but he needs to know that you have the courage to walk out of an unhappy marriage.
    Hope this helps.

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  6. An Indian mother in lawOctober 23, 2015 at 1:50 PM

    All men are like this. Welcome.
    After marriage they do nothing. No romance nothing. After child then only see you as mother and milking cow.
    This is universal truth. Take care

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Clearly you have been around crappy men.

      Delete
  7. Sorry to hear about the sad situation - it is best to talk to a licensed marriage counselor. Getting advice here may not be in your best long term interests or provide a balanced insight into how to resolve the issues.
    When children are involved, it is better to seek counseling from mental health professionals.
    Many marriages get stuck in a rut and/or husband may have some other underlying cause (workplace or health) for checking out of a loving relationship.
    If hubby is reluctant, you can go by yourself...most medical insurance plans cover mental health too. Ask your medical doctor for recommendation too.
    Give it a try, all the best.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have been to counseling but my husband will not go with me. None of the counselors understand what it is like being in a mixed marriage. I do not think it is fair for me to go to counseling by myself, it just frustrates me more because I am doing all this effort and he does nothing. He says I'm the one CHOOSING to have a problem with him so I should go to the doctor to get my head checked.

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  8. The problems, your are experiencing, happen in most marriages, typically after 7+ years of marriage and while kids are pre-teen and teenagers. This problem in marriage between Indian and White exacerbates because of the different expectations regarding the overt and direct expression of affection. The Indian and Eastern cultures, in general, don't focus on such displays. As an Indian man, taking care of family, putting food on the table, making life comfortable for the whole family supersedes being touchy-feely with wife.

    I could write a lot from the perspective of an Indian man married to a non-Indian (non-white) woman and being in 45-55 age bracket. But I will be brief. See a marriage counselor, preferably the one who understands differences in cultures and has experienced different cultures in their natural settings. I doubt your Indian husband will go to see counselor with or without you. Counselors are not in our culture and upbringing.

    In the end, if you go looking for negativity, will find it in everything. Negativity breeds negativity and leads to abyss. One thing I found helpful in changing my negative thinking is to think one positive aspect every day and be thankful for it. It turns my general outlook positive in everything else.

    Anytime, you want to talk to your husband or want to get his attention, first think of a positive aspect of your husband and/or your relationship and/or your past interactions with him. You will come across a cheerful and happy wife anyone would want to hang out and interact with. What I have learnt that Indians tend to see positive expressions with suspicion while positive feelings bring the guards down.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are right and I would like to hear more advice from you. He will not go to a counselor.
      But why do I have to act happy so that our relationship is tolerable? I really wish he would put some effort in to our marriage.

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    2. I disagree that her problems happen in "most" marriages after 7+ years. It sounds like he does not respect her at a very basic level. Somehow he's going to need to understand just how valuable she is.

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    3. It woud certainly be nice to hear more about guys' perspectives, especially Indian guys !

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    4. @LW, while I appreciate you wanting to read advice from me, based on your various responses on this post, I believe you might be better helped by a non- Indian woman married to Indian man.

      Among such women who write on Internet, I think you might want to reach out to Sheryl. I don't recall name of her blog and I haven't seen her posts in my feed recently. IIRC, she lives somewhere in GA or SE US. Based on my impression from her thoughtful writings, she seems to be level headed and have good head on her shoulder and might have better insight than a random guy like me and might connect better with you.

      Delete
    5. http://southernlifeindianwife.com/
      I think this is the Sheryl you are thinking of.
      She seems to have stepped out of the blogosphere for a while though.
      But she is someone who has been successfully married for many years, and I look up to her a lot.

      Delete
  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  10. The best solution to this problem is to stand up for yourself dont try and make effort to impress your husband dont go out of your way to please him. The reason being that the more you do this the more your husband will have this mentality of: I can treat her in any way and I will always have a hold on her I.e she will always stay with me and try to impress me. Show him that you don't need his affection that you are strong and fine without it. Im sorry if my expression sounds harsh but its time to be a little bitchy by stopping all your shows of affection and acting indifferent towards him when he confronts you about it(while still telling him that he does the same to you). If he ignores you ignore him back.maybe then he will realize what he has

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  11. I agree with DewMoonDrop that working on yourself is a great idea! It sounds obvious, but also consider your appearance... make an effort with your hair and makeup - you want your husband to notice you and begin to fall in love with you again. Make an effort with your clothing, wear a dress, wear his favourite colour... you want to give off a different vibe, that subtly reminds him you are still attractive and desirable. I have been with my husband for 18 years and yes I can relate to the experience you are going through, we too have been through a protracted rut since we had kids, but in my experience I think my husband has been going through some sort of mid life crisis and taking it out on me, I have started making more effort with myself and it has definately helped. You must stand up for yourself and let him know that his criticism and lack of respect is crossing the line...it is hard to rebuild the relationship unless he realises that his negative way of speaking to you has to stop.

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  12. Dear LW - sorry to hear that you are going through this.

    If he doesn't want to go to a counselor, you go. Not for him but for yourself. It will help you to unburdened yourself to someone that will not only be an impartial outsider but someone that is qualified to guide you in finding yourself and give you advise.

    I say finding yourself because for what I read it seems that you only live to please your husband in any way you can. You said that you feel like your life revolves around him. Why? While you are a married couple, you have your own life. Hopefully your own interest, your own friends, your own hobbies and your own likes and dislikes - you had a life before him, try to find it again. Try to find the way you were when he felt in love with you.

    Stop trying to make everything to please him all the time. I think you are trying too hard and frankly, some men do not like this sense of neediness that some women have. I know, because we had some problems in our relationship. I became too dependent on him for everything. I actually got mad at myself when I realized this as I have always been fearless and independent - one of the things he adored about me. He became distant and a workaholic. The spark was starting to go out.

    We actually went to counseling and worked things out - that was over two years ago. He was feeling disconnected from me for over a year and did not know if he wanted to remain married. He also was very stressed at work which I suspected but he never talked to me about it. He never mentioned it before until I nag him to tell me what was wrong. So he sprung all this on me at once. He said he loved me but he was overwhelmed and confused. I told him that he has to talk to me and communicate better. Our communication improved a 100%. I told him that I was not going to go through that shit again of him not communicating, bottling things up and then exploding out of nowhere.

    We went back to that initial stage of courtship. I must admit it was fun times and still are. We started having dates. Meeting at a restaurant and then going to a movie. We started traveling a lot like we used to. We started to enjoy life together again. I also kept on going for myself as I needed to "re-find" myself for a lack of a better word. But this level of commitment has to come from both of you if you want your marriage to work.

    No sense in having a one sided marriage. What for? What are you getting out of it? How can you be happy when you are the only one making an effort?

    Forgive me for this but, have you considered that he might be having an affair? Not trying to burden you more but you have to think about all the possibilities for all these changes in him.

    Don't loose yourself and good luck,

    Millie B

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  13. I guess this is the story of more than 90% of Indian women
    Married but single parent!
    We feel neglected, taken for granted, not loved, not appreciated at all
    The mentality of most of Indian males is like, they are the bread earner and thats the only thing they need to do in the marriage

    It's always been like that, they are brought up like that
    they think the are the responsible one in the marriage for all the finances n things like that
    So it's the wife's duty to take care of everything else.
    And as the man is earning for the whole family it's the only way to show the their love!
    They bring money n that's what love means to them!!!

    Even if you are a working woman, your job is secondary and less important.

    You need to change this! No one else would do that for you.
    You dont need him to be happy
    Go out with your galfriends, have fun on weekends with your family (mom dad/friends/relatives)
    ask him to babysit your children
    ask him to take care of the home for the time you are away
    spend weekends the way you want
    Make him realize you can be happy without him also!!

    Trust me i did it for only 2 weekends n he came to me n told me "I am craving for your company, i dont get to see you when i am home"
    That was my victory

    Now I have lots of friends with whom I plan a lot of things and enjoy like my pre-marriage days
    He has also realized that he also needs me, it's not only me who was dying to get his attention!
    Once you stop giving importance n attention they'll come around!!!


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  14. Disclaimer: I have not been married for 14 years but I do follow a lot of advice from bloggers and authors on this topic. Also, I think this is less of a cultural issue but more of a personal difference. However, unwilling to discuss issues and brush them away when they are brought up is definitely an Asian way of dealing with things though there may be westerners who do it as well. Also, maybe the feeling that the wife never goes away and so they no longer need to put in an effort?

    Dear readers, what can this reader do?

    > First set a time, like setting an appointment with your husband to talk about this. When he is not watching some football game. A time when he is relaxed. Without your kid around.
    - Think of what you want to say. Don't blame him but do point out how his actions make you feel and how you interpret them or how it means in your head.
    - Choose what is your priority and what would make you the most happy. There can be many things which annoy us about our spouses but what can you compromise on and what is absolutely important to you.
    - Are you and your husband speaking different love languages?
    - Clearly, your husband seems to be modeling his father/other male role as a spouse and maybe he needs to admit it and work on changing it.

    How do you re-connect with each other when only ONE person is making the effort?

    > Quite difficult. Which is why the wife needs to cut back on her efforts. Relax. Have fun on your own. Hang out with friends. Like in the movie 'Mitr - My friend'. She is trying too hard and this needy negativ eenergy leaks and pushes him further away.

    Do you think women get trapped in this "mother" role, rather than a wife?

    > Sometimes, yes. Which is why the LW needs to nurture her other roles in life - as a friend, her creativity and do stuff that she likes.


    Also, I have to say one of the main roles of a spouse is to make the other spouse happy. I do not mean that people start nagging each other for every little thing like the toilet seat and leaving food uncovered but if something is vital and makes you really happy, the other spouse would do it if they really loved them. This is irrespective of gender as long as you do not expect them to change their core personalities. Isn't a happy spouse an important part of a relationship?

    Also, if things do not improve and you do not want to leave your spouse, accept that he will not change and let it go. Don't stop having and being fun and maybe he will want to join in too.

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  15. This is abuse. Sorry to be brutally honest but thse are all signs of emotional abuse. In particular blaming you for everything, and making you think you are the one creating the problem. Not to mention the complete emotional abandonment. He is failing you as a husband and you deserve better, it's as simple as that. You have a choice to make: live as you do now and be miserable as he continues to mistreat you, or demand what he promised you on your wedding day (that he would take care of you in every way, for the rest of your life). This may mean you have to deliver an ultimatum that includes divorce if he doesn't make an effort. I would encourage you to stand up for what you deserve. You are his wife and the mother of his children. You should be the center of his world. Also I urge you to think of your children. The way your husband treats you is teaching your sons how to treat women and your daughters what their worth is.

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  16. If a man treated me the way her husband did I would NOT be going out of my way to look pretty for him and wear his favorite color! Why should she make such an effort when he has made it clear he wants nothing to do with her? Why should she cater to him when he has treated her horribly? If dressing up and make up makes you feel good then do it. But do it for you, not for your husband. Your husband should love you regardless. Think of how it would be if the roles were reversed and the woman mistreated the man. We would not be asking the man to dress better and put on cologne to appease the woman! She would be called out as a bad wife and mother. No more excuses for men. They must face their mistakes and bear the responsibility of fixing them.

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  17. This is such a hard one. I doubt you can solve it without going to some kind of counselling, at least so that he gets it through his thick head how much you are suffering! Definitely some red flags of emotional abuse. One of the first things I thought is that he sounds very preoccupied - is he having some problems at work? Is there financial difficulties? Is he depressed?

    Whatever it is, his behaviour is ruining your marriage. If you would like to stay married and hope for the best, I would encourage you to protect your heart in this kind of situation. Normally I would say to spend more time with your spouse, but that is only if both spouses are willing to work on the marriage. In this situation, I would say that you should really take care of yourself and spend less time with him if he is being hurtful. Spend time with your kids, friends and family, take a new course, do something creative, exercise, volunteer, work, etc. Sometimes distance is a good thing, and space. You're allowed to take that space to yourself and do your own thing. If he asks why you are not catering to him, say that he is not being very nice to you. He may not even realize he is doing this. It seems like he is really underestimating the hurt of his behavior. It's ok to take a step back in a marriage. Sometimes spouses hurt each other the most as they are the closest. Protect yourself. And please keep encouraging him to attend counselling.

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