Friday, February 5, 2016

Ask Firangi Bahu: "I hate feeling so ashamed of my skin color and my past..."

(Img via Jose Murillo)

Sharing a letter from a reader....

"I could really use some help here. Please feel free to post so I can get some advice and not feel so sad, confused or crazy...

A little background, I was raped (never pressed charges out of embarrassment) at nineteen and had a child. I have been working very hard to raise my daughter on my own work and go to school. The government started garnishing wages from my daughter's father and now he is getting some visitation with my daughter 5 years later. In the middle of all of this, I met my now-husband and fell madly in love with him. His father is dead and he has one sister. He also had an ex-girlfriend that he dated for five years and broke up with her before marrying me.

I have been married for one year to my husband who is from Hyderabad, India. My husband mentioned me while we were dating to his family and they went crazy because I am a white woman. His ex-girlfriend (from India, living here in the USA) also "attempted" to commit suicide after finding out. He then decided he wanted to elope with me so that they could leave him alone. 

In May, my husband went to India to try and tell his family of our marriage but they found out I have a child and freaked out (so he never told them we were married.) They will not accept the fact that he was dating me or even talking to me. My husband said that because I have dated in the past that there is no way his family could understand that I was raped and kept the child.

He said his family just keeps insisting that he needs to get married in August to his ex-girlfriend. I guess to not hurt my feelings my husband lied to me and told me that his family knew of our marriage in May, but just will never accept it and that they hate me (and a lot of other words). 

With his family so freaked out and pressure mounting to marry this other woman, today he finally told his family we are married. Immediately, his brother-in-law called his work and told him his sister is dying because she is so heartbroken from the news of our marriage. My husband left work and flew out to go see her because of this. My husband mentioned that he is worried his brother-in-law will divorce his sister because our marriage brought shame to his whole family. 

My daughter calls my husband "dad" (nothing I've ever pushed her to do) and my husband is great with her. We have bought a house and a dog this past year. My husband has met my whole family and has bonded with everyone. My husband insisted I quit my job to finish my degree which I am about a year away from doing. 

I'm worried that even with all of this, my husband will not return home. I'm afraid that his family ties and pressures could be so great that he will divorce me. 

Is it true that my marriage could be so shameful to his sisters husband they would divorce over that? 

Is there any hope that his family could ever accept me or my child? 

What are the odds he is just secretly planning a wedding with his ex-girlfriend or someone else? 

Does traditional Indian culture recognize rape or children of rape? 

It's so hard to sort out what exactly is cultural differences, lies or just my husband's emotional immaturity. I really don't want a divorce, but I do hate feeling so ashamed of my skin color and my past. Also and most importantly I am not sure I will have a choice in divorce if my husband never returns home. 

Any advice could really help. Thanks for your time and I love your blog."


Dear readers, what advice do you have for this bahu?



  1. Oh no. That sounds like a right mess. Unfortunately there is no way I can promise that her husband will come back. It completely depends on him as am individual. There are many instances even within traditional Indian families of this working out. Though the fact that he has followed his own wishes and married the letter writer is very promising. I hope things work out for her and her little family.

  2. I felt sorry for the author of this post when I read she was raped. I understand why she wrote this email - in hopes that we would empathize with her and respect the love she has for her husband. It is also unfair that her Indian husband's family are prejudiced against her.

    But when I saw the double quotes used here - "attempted", almost mocking the love of another woman just like her, also disrespecting the love she must have had for her boyfriend, and not empathizing with the pain of that woman, I no longer feel sorry for the author. If the author had been the reason for the girlfriend being dumped, then I feel even less sorry for the author. I do feel sorry for her child who might be losing a father figure.

    I am a little disappointed that people expect others to be kind and compassionate and understanding to them, but fail to do so to another human being.

    1. Part of the reason over the "" could be because first response to bad news and a lot of Indians immediately say they are going to commit suicide. It's a common guilt tactic, they won't do it but especially if the person on the receiving end of the guilt trip is not nearby they'll say "I almost killed myself when I heard this".

    2. Wow that's not how I read this at all. If you are familiar with Indian family dynamics you know that emotional blackmail is a norm in many families. Threatening suicide, divorce and "taking to bed" with sudden mysterious illness is a tactic to get what you want from someone. It's incredibly unhealthy and a complete waste of energy that should be directed at open and healthy communication between family members. The husband in this case is being threatened with these things in order to instill such guilt that his actions caused these terrible things, that he will finally agree to their wishes. I don't know what happened with his family and ex, and if she did attempt then I hope she receives the mental health resources she needs. But the quotations lead me to believe this is not the case, and it was a ploy (perhaps even suggested by the husband's family) to win him back. None of this is ok and obviously all parties involved deserve compassion. I really hope the husband finds the truth and does what is best for him and his wife.

  3. Dear LW,
    Unfortunately your Indian husband's family is forcing him to choose between you and your child and them. This is not unusual in Indian families. Emotional blackmailing, threatening suicide, illness, & ostracism is horrid, it is unfair, it is childish, it is ridiculous, but it is NOT about you - so do NOT take it personally.
    Do not be ashamed of your past or your skin color. You did the best you could with the hand you were dealt so be PROUD of that & your healthy child.

    In Indian culture if you get raped, it was YOUR fault- you obviously did something lewd or enticing so you were "asking for it" & deserve to be raped as your punishment. The wearing of jeans, dating, being out after dark, or even being alone in the company of a human male are all considered "asking to be raped" in Indian culture. Keeping a child resulting of a rape is considered proof that you wanted to be raped.

    The choice is your Indian husband's - will he choose you over his family? I don't know.
    Will his family ever accept you and his child? Maybe, or maybe not. I can't say as I do not know your husband or his family.

    Sometimes these Desi family tantrums drag on for years. So be prepared for a long haul. My Indian husband's parents adore me. My Indian husband's sister & her family hate me with a passion, they have spread lies & malicious gossip about me for 7 years. Why do they hate me? Because my Indian husband's sister thinks she should have been the one to choose his wife. Why should she choose his wife? I have no idea. So we've just had to cut his sister & her family out of our lives.

    The Indian girlfriend & her "attempted" suicide only proves she's mentally ill & in need of psychiatric help - don't take that personally either.

    I hope your husband chooses what is best for his wife and as a father to his newly adopted child. I hope he realizes the importance he has in the lives of both you and your child.

  4. I wrote this letter.
    Well I never knew of his ex until after we were seriously dating for 2 months. I am not looking for pity just answers. I know my life choices put me in dangerous situations which lead to my rape. I also understand I hastily married my husband which is how I am here so confused.

    How can his ex, who he was dating, which is completely against their customs, be so much better than me? I understand her pain and have been very quite when it has come to my husbands conversations with her. It's just so funny how I am the labeled the 'home wrecker' now when this woman has been blackmailing my husband for over a year. I am the one married to him!

    I feel angry that his family and him treat me like I can't understand her pain. Trust me being dumped hurts. Even though we date in the US any woman who spent 5 years with one man (especially in your 20s) would be devisted if he broke up with her. That is why I have been very patient with my husband with his contact with her. I even helped her file her taxes! I sent her support links and tried to contact friends for her. I wanted her to move on so my husband could be happy.

    As far as "suicide" goes, she took 8 NyQuil and called 911 right after. She told them she did it for attention and since she really didn't poison herself they let her out early despite the mandatory 3 day hold on suicide patients. I would call that blackmail. That's all. Sorry if that seems harsh but I know people who have taken that much just to get high.

    It just sucks that even though they had a relationship which is totally taboo he is still obligated to her even though he married me! It's like this whole past year has been a lie. I just don't know what to think anymore.

    Do you think even if he comes back he could still be planning this wedding?

    1. Dear LW,
      Why is he still talking to his ex?
      Why are you helping her file her taxes?
      You wrote this:
      "It just sucks that even though they had a relationship which is totally taboo he is still obligated to her even though he married me! "
      Why is he still obligated to his ex?
      Is there something else you aren't telling us?
      Why are the both of you so involved with this ex girlfriend?
      This is too weird.

    2. More from the writer:

      His ex was all distraught and was asking my husband for help so I told her to email me the info on her taxes and helped her sort it out. Again I hated all of this contact but not knowing the culture and just trying to be a nice person to help this chick move on I helped her. Obviously I didn't want her to actually step it up a notch and actually commit suicide. So I helped out.

      By obligated I mean they dated with the intention of getting married. Just like anyone who dates outside of high school. When you date someone you talk of marriage and the future but they never had anything set up as far as wedding plans go and even if he did he broke it off with her and MARRIED me.

      His family says that because he dated her he is obligated to her. But HELLO he married me!

      Thanks for everyone's feedback! I really appreciate it!

    3. Letter Writer, you have gone ABOVE AND BEYOND for this woman. Seriously, I could not do the same if I were in your shoes. I think you need to recognize your own self-worth in this situation and take a stand in your relationship (of course, if all of the family stuff gets worked out). This woman is not benefitting from having you and your husband in her life. She needs to move on. While I can't say that she wouldn't commit suicide, this is a common response in Indian culture (my MIL threatened it multiple times when she found her son wanted to marry me).

      I really wish you luck, many aspects of your story ring true to mine. As other commenters have said, it all really comes down to your husband. Please don't try to take all of this drama to heart, it's not about you. You sound like a really amazing person and keep your head up.

  5. Emotional blackmail, threatening suicide and other dramas is the stuff of 'saas baha' TV dramas and unfortunately real life too. Some notions here seem absurd - like a judge forcing a woman to marry her rapist so the child will have a home?! Sometimes great pressure is put on men to get married even if gay, or have another family 'on the side'.

    Set aside all the dramas and instead focus on asking yourself - What is working in your marriage? What do you expect of yourself? Your husband? Remember what brought you together and think of what could keep you together.

    Cut through the emotional clutter to hopefully see through a way in which you can be empathetic, supportive yet not loose yourself either.

    Share what you are thinking and feeling with your husband. Even your fears.

    Wishing you well...

  6. Sounds like there are some trust issues, like the fact that you have doubts about him returning and even planning another wedding. After his trip back in May, and knowing how things went down with his family, HE should have made things clear to you that YOU are his #1 priority, not his family. He did a disappointing job by not standing up for you then, so honestly i don't think he should have even gone back to his family this time.

    As for his sister and brother in law, well it's a shame she has married someone so shallow that he cares about 'honor' more than his wife. The family has issues that really you should not stress about because their mindset is honestly backwards even by Indian standards. This is modern India, and though yes there are still people behaving like this, the majority of people your husband's age are open minded, forward thinking people who are disgusted by 'honor' being used as an excuse and manipulation tool like this. Accept that they are backwards and accept this point will likely never change and don't concern yourself worrying about them. Your husband should also disturbance himself from their emotional abuse and focus on YOU and your marriage... he is not responsible for the state of his sister's marriage or their happiness, only yours. If he doesn't understand that, then you have a problem.

    Your husband has started a family with you and your daughter, and he needs to stand up for the family he has made by choice. I hope that he is the kind of man who will stand up for you. If not, you do deserve to be much treated better than this. I do hope it works out and you can sort these issues out with your husband.

  7. No one can make you feel inferior without your consent - I do not see why you should be ashamed of being your skin colour or your past because of other people's judgement. It is like should I be ashamed of being Indian because people were racist to me?!

    Your husband has a typical Indian family with all the emotional blackmail and drama that comes with it. They will find fault with the bahu no matter what - be it arranged or love marriage. They will find something to nitpick on. Nothing you can do about it.

    The questions you are asking the readers - you should be asking your husband because you sound like you don't trust him to stand up to his family. Everyone has to deal with their won shit and he has to deal with his family and be strong to resist all the blackmail. It is tough but it is his cross to carry (with support from you of course). You are brushing the issues under the carpet the Asian way and he will not bring this up unless you will. What you need is an honest and open discussion about your fears and feelings and him to assure you that you matter.

    We can't predict what he is planning to do but what I see is a serious lack of trust and security in this marriage.

    If he dumps you, you have to be willing to accept and move on.

  8. those who are blaming the Indian family, we do not really know about the attitude of the American society towards rape too,if I sound too harsh. why she kept the child willingly anybody would ask this question. It is a logical question. It is best that this fact is not mentioned since there are already enough complications.

    now coming to the man and his family circumstances. The threats of suicides, divorce of his sister may happen may not happen. If not, there may be lot other problems we never know. What If something like this happens?? should we make fun of his concerns about his family?? every family dynamics is different. nobody wants problems in the family. The position of the Indian man is precarious in this situation. painting everyone the villain is very easy without understanding his problems.

    having said that it is upto the man what he wants in his life because he has made a commitment to a women. give him some time. Let him make a realistic assessment of the situation.the ball is in his court.

    1. I'm sorry but I strongly disagree. Nobody is "making fun" of him or his family. We are simply holding them accountable for behavior that is extremely unhealthy and destructive. As for keeping the child, that was HER choice. End of story, nobody has the right to question it. As for giving him time, how long does this woman have to wait for her husband to choose her? To uphold his wedding vows and take care of her in every way? Unfortunatley the family has put him in a situation in which he either can choose them or his wife. It is unfortunate that so many Indian families put their sons in this situation. Yes, the ball is in his court. But my advice to the wife is to RUN from this marriage if he takes too long deciding. The longer he is in India the more likely he will cave to their pressure. You deserve better.

    2. Message from The writer:

      How long should I wait? I just don't understand how I can be seen as so worthless right now. I may not be working but I clean and do ALL the maintenance work on our home (putting up blinds, putting in ceiling fans, painting, fixing holes in the wall, and some yard work), I cook meals every morning and evening, I spend my full day going to school, I do laundry for him and I take care of my daughter all by myself. And on top of all of this I am sticking around for this BS.

      While my husband may be back home, his family keeps calling him telling him to think about his choices and how i will never be accepted. I just think it is so crazy that his family thinks I have all of this 'baggage' yet he is the one for the past year who has an ex girlfriend threatening to kill her self over him? How is that not baggage?

      Also why is marriage only important to be upheld by an Indian woman? Why should he have no obligation to be with me!? I mean they tell him things like "she [meaning me] is too pretty to be with you so you know she is using you." Wth kind of insault is that to my husband!? And seriously if I was just using him wouldn't I have run far far away from this when I first found out!??

      Is there any chance they can open their eyes and see what they are telling their son and what they are asking of him!?

      And again HOW LONG should I wait!?
      I was thinking 3 months to get his act together and let his family cool down. Is that reasonable or am I just prolonging the fact that he is going to leave me?

    3. First of all you don't have to justify yourself to anyone. This isn't about you being good enough because you ARE. What your husband's family thinks and says about you means nothing about your value as a person. Don't try to please them because nothing you do will be good enough and you will make yourself miserable in the process.
      I'm very happy to hear that your husband is home and willing to see a marriage counselor. That is a huge first step. As for how long you should wait: that is entirely up to you. I would see how therapy goes and how willing he is to open up and communicate truthfully with you. Hopefully he can learn some techniques about dealing with toxic family members and how to love them with healthy boundaries. (Boundaries is totally foreign to most Indian families so that will be a hard one). He is going to have to make some tough decisions ahead. Be strong, love yourself and know that you deserve happiness. If he cannot provide this for you, then you must walk away. Sending my best wishes and prayers for you!

  9. In Indian society, it is mandatory for the bride to be a virgin - since you already have a child, you cant hide - Even if his family were accepting, they will face social boycott - including cancelling of weddings etc

    I have only seen 2 cases where a man married a woman with kids from previous marriage

    Case-1 = rich 60 year old man, married 30 year old woman with kids

    Case-2 = 30 year old man, married young woman with kids- but she was ultra-beautiful, like a bollywood star

    Just being a white person, many families will accept you - but with kids, ( even if Indian from same caste ) very likely extreme family pressure

    1. You have said how things are in India. But what about how things SHOULD be? Too many times I've heard "it is how things are" as an excuse to just go with the flow and not question hurtful, destructive and misogynistic behavior. How about "this is how things are in India, and this is what is wrong with it, and here's how we should fix it"? What you have described is a situation in which women are second class citizens. Their sexual history is everyone's business, but the man is free to do as he pleases. That she many be "forgiven" for the sin of having previous children if an older rich man wants a young bride or is she is stunningly beautiful. That basically she is "leftovers". Is the man treated the same way if he has a previous marriage with children? I don't accept the "this is how it's always been" in Indian culture or any other culture. Stand up for what is right. It is possible to respect and honor culture without making women live under its fist.

    2. The question, is who wants to be the next Rosa Parks and risk their child to emotional stress - This situation will be stressful for the next several years, due to family pressures

      Men with previous kids also face problems, but not so much, usually they can only get a much poorer , less educated woman, or woman with previous kids

    3. Which emotional stress is worse though? The one in which the son chooses to stay with the woman he loves and displeases his family? Or the one in which he breaks his wife's heart and leaves her to marry a woman he doesn't love? Either situation will cause unhappiness. My heart truly goes out to those involved.

  10. Hi LW- I thought long and hard about replying to this post.

    You wrote "I hate feeling so ashamed of my skin color and my past..."

    I honestly think that first and foremost you need to work on your self esteem and self worth . Did you have these feelings before you got together with your Indian husband and his family drama? Possibly not so think carefully about what it is that you are getting or hope to get from this marriage. Love is great and all but is not everything or the conqueror of all.

    I see this type of dilemma very often and it is shocking that in this day and age so many western women loose themselves and give so much of their identity and culture in order to be accepted and fit in with the Indian husband and his family. Too many western women so willingly and blindly drinking the Indian Kool Aid is really quite sad.

    We really need to stop using the excuse of "these is the way things are done in the Indian culture, give him time, have patience, they will never accept a non Indian bahu and so on... How many more decades are we going to use Indian culture to justify bad and disgusting behavior.

    Also, they don't need to know all the details about your life or what ever happened in your past. Certainly your husband did not care about your past or that you have a child that is not his so no ones else's opinion should matter and quite frankly is not their business. If your husband is not willing to grow some balls and be firm with his family NOW then I don't know if all this heartache and aggravation on your part is worth it.

    I honestly see too many red flags on your part and his part. If he doesn't stand up for you now and, you learn how to love yourself regardless of him been in your life and what his family may think of you then there doesn't seem to be a long future ahead for you guys.

    Good Luck,

    Millie B

  11. From writer:
    Thanks so much Millie B especially like your advice.

    My husband returned home. He said he told my failing about us but when he left he gave them the impression he was "thinking about what they have to say about divorcing me."

    He said he just said that so they can get over the shock of everything. Deep down I want to believe he is true but it still feels like he is not owning up to marrying me.

    He also has agreed that we go to couples therapy for at least the next three months. So again all I can do is wait and see if he commits to that, finally full out tells his family he is married to me and not changing his mind and trust that he is no longer speaking with his ex.

    Everyone's responses have really helped. Again thanks so much!

  12. Dear Writer, the only thing I can say is that I am sorry that you are going through this.
    I wonder (however), what is the point of putting it all out there instead of trying to work it out with your husband. Yes, there might be someone else in a similar situation, but as one commenter said, there are many red flags.
    From what you have said in post and replies, there isn't anything that anyone could advise you at this point, as it's all up in the air. This is a time for reflection.
    IMO, keep the focus inward, on you, hubby and your child.
    I have with some family drama (I also have intercultural marriage) and I had great friends to confide in, but eventually, only I could do the work (with my husband).

    Good luck!

  13. As an Indian woman, I want to make it clear that way too much nonsense is passed off for "Indian culture" by insecure families of men. I spent a few precious years in my twenties being depressed and belittled owing to a constant barrage of verbal abuse from my husband's family. I was Indian, young, shy, introverted and this was my first romantic relationship(I checked all boxes for a good bahu) and by that logic, "Indian culture" should have dictated that I be accepted and respected in the family. To the contrary, I was constantly threatened with divorce from his family and had to listen to them spew venom about my family. All I want to say is that some families use "culture" and even "religion" as an excuse to justify their pettiness,insecurity and lack of decency. "Indian culture" is not about overriding basic human values that are universal. His family is blatantly in the wrong and he needs to see it for what it is. While you are taking steps to sort this out, I would only like to leave you with a few tips that helped me immensely when I was dealing with a very dark period. Seek out other strong women who are your friends, a fresh perspective during this process and awareness that you are not alone goes a long way in giving you clarity. Just as a few others have said before me, do not allow this circumstance to undermine your self-worth in any way. You do not have to be apologetic for who you are. From what I can gauge, you are smart, beautiful and care deeply for this relationship. You should be proud of yourself every second of every day. Take time out to do what you love, dress up, go out, play with your daughter, excel at your studies. This may come across as irrelevant and unrelated to the question you asked, but as someone who is committed about preventing as many women as possible from experiencing the sadness that I felt, I find it important to say these things. And in case you are curious, I'm happy now, the abuse has stopped, I'm doing what I love, my husband sees me for who I really am and realizes the bullshit that I was put through. You are going to be ok too.

    1. Wow thanks so much for sharing, and what a ray of hope you bring to this discussion!

  14. Dear LW, a few things I have learnt about Indian culture.

    Indeed it is not really socially acceptable to have kids from a previous relationship, although if you read matrimonial ads you will see plenty of divorced people with children looking for marriage in India. I have kids from a previous relationship, it doesn't bother my Indian MIL so long as her enemies don't know about this.

    Indeed the actions of one member of family affects the honour of the whole family, and this is especially true for women. Women are expected to be perfect, they are responsible for maintaining order, harmony, auspiciousness for husband and family. However this is theory, nobody's perfect.

    Indeed Hindus don't think saying the truth is necessarily a virtue ; they think it's better to lie if lying makes people feel happier an if it keeps them out of trouble.

    I'm really glad your husband came back. I met my husband's family 4 years after our wedding (although I kew his mum from the beginning), after our baby was born, and I decided from the start to let him take care of his family issues, it's a way of respecting him and giving him space. We live in my country, and when we go to India, he shields me from any negativity there may be. Just like I shield him from any negativity coming from my family. I feel maybe your husband is doing the same for you.

    Take care and be happy, honey. - Padparadscha

  15. I am an Indian and understand how society and family try to impose their choices on individuals . Still my personal opinion is that if he can't stand up for you and his marriage with you it's better to let go of him anyways .... No man is worth making you feel ashamed of yourself ...... Let's hope that he has the courage to stand by his decisions and come back to you irrespective of his family's views about it . If not , then it's better to not have him in your life and move on . You get only one life and it is too short to waste worrying about other peoples prejudices and manipulations. Good luck and be happy always !

  16. another very important factor that is not being discussed is the point of view of the Indian family. they are being verified. In their eyes the writer has a child which means she was married. although nobody has the right to ask her why the first marriage did not work our but if their son is involved they have every right to be apprehensive about it. would the second marriage to their son work out?

    I as a parent would have been apprehensive about it. This is a very legitimate worry. often these things are not articulated but understood thus leaving space for speculation and misunderstandinga. I wish the Indian families in these situations are more forthright in their view points so that their point of views are understood. now don't tell me that they are not entitled to have a point of view about their son's marriage.

    Most importantly what impact it has on a Indian family depends upon a lot of factors. nothing may happen or there would be continuous trouble for different members of the family because the act of one has an effect on the family. We cannot wish these things away even if we want to. in such a situation what should the family do leave India and settle abroad.


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