Taken from MixTogether.org, this is the true story of N, a British Hindu lady, of how she met her husband, and eventually managed to introduce him- successfully- to her family.
My husband, S, and I met 12 years ago in the workplace. I am a British Asian Hindu and he an English atheist. At this time, I was meeting ‘prospectives’ and my colleagues were aware of this. S and I got along really well as colleagues and, understandably, he never really expressed his feelings for me. Also, I was beginning to care for someone who I’d been introduced to. It never worked out because I advised him to go back and have another go with a woman he had met at university. Her family weren’t keen on the fact he was from a different region and community in India (Are we surprised?).
Anyhow, some months later S and I started going out and with him in the full knowledge that I had to continue to meet ‘prospectives.’ This was quite a sacrifice on his part and going through the motions on my part. I didn’t know how else I could manage this. I always made it clear that he could back out as I wouldn’t have been able to manage this situation if I were in his shoes. We had a wonderful friendship and closeness developing. I also knew that even if I’d been straight up with my parents from the start, they would have disagreed and persisted in dissuading me. I regretted they missed out on sharing this time with me. Over time, we discussed the cultural aspects and practicalities that were important to me like ensuring parents were looked after in old age, raising children, fitting in…
After about a year into the relationship, I knew that I wanted to make a complete commitment, but it would have to be in the form of marriage as expected by my family and ‘community’. I don’t particularly like that word as it suggests homogeneity and belonging. As far as I can see, it can be pretty rife with divisions of one sort or another. I was finding it stressful living two lives, lying… and I think it’s seriously detrimental to your mental health. I made up my mind to be honest with my family and myself and I was determined to have both S and my family in my life.
We planned that he would send flowers to me on my birthday. They arrived at the door. My mouth was dry, having difficulty swallowing and feeling light headed in the lead up. The reaction was confusion, serious faces, silence, shock and anger. I’m getting flustered thinking back to it right now. My mum erupted a little while later with questions that were not unreasonable. The following months saw periods of painful silences, frank discussions, anger. For a long while I didn’t really have anyone to talk to about it and after work I’d spend evenings in my bedroom, stomach knotted and paralysed into inaction. Someone mentioned the process of loss and I really tried to tune into how they were feeling and ride the wave. It’s all a bit vague now. In the mean time, they met. The discussions were very grown up and partly shaped by my parents’ experiences in England. My Dad said he would support me. He was introduced to some family friends at an evening dinner function – very brave on my parents’ part. I don’t know how I would have negotiated the situation if he had had a faith. I kept holding onto, and selling, the fact that he was intelligent and well educated – valued by Asians and maybe these facts influenced how my parents accepted him.
Despite my mum recognising the unreasonable comments from others, she made it clear to me that she was entitled to feel hurt and to cope with the gossip in her own way and no amount of my support could speed up this process. I was amazed at how others felt it was ok to make underhand comments to my parents. It used to make me so angry. When they made comments to me, I tried to be polite and ask them why they had said that. I feel this way is too difficult and actually, actions speak louder than words. They can see our family unit is settled and that as a couple we are solid. This gives me a great deal of satisfaction!
We have a beautiful daughter whom the grandparents love. The comments regarding difference are few and far between and it’s only (!) taken 7 years to get to this stage and stop feeling guilty. I sometimes doubted my decision in the aftermath and if it had come to it, I would have given up my partner. I was anxious and my health was affected. I wouldn’t go through that again. I guess I was lucky or stubborn. I like to think that basic human values won the day (on all sides).