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Not your usual tips for newly married Indian women – nope! Instead, you’ll find here my views on not becoming a doormat after your wedding.
Observations made after watching newly married Indian women fall into the trap of considering marriage a life event that requires an entire overhaul of life. Yes, marriage is one of the more important things that most of us will get into during our lives, and yes, love and companionship are important, but not at the cost of losing one’s self. Yes, when two people live together, workarounds are needed on many things, but adjustment need not be a woman’s mantra alone.
Why are the days immediately post your marriage important? Because they set expectations. Of what you will do, and will not do. Of how you expect to be treated, and how you will treat others. Newly married young Indian women are often told that if they bend in the beginning, others will come around as time goes on. In my experience, this doesn’t happen – or – it takes too much time to happen. So, for young women who believe they are adults who’re owed the respect owed to all adults, here is my list of 10 things all newly married Indian women should do:
1. Call your husband by his name. Startling as this may sound to some of you, I’m routinely coming across young Indian women who will not call the husband by his name, especially in the case of arranged marriages, but I’ve also seen this in love marriages where the spouses were classmates or colleagues pre-marriage. Shyness, tradition, deference to custom, call it what you will – I believe this is one unhealthy habit we have to drop.
Think about it, the people we don’t call by name are our elders – amma, appa, baba, dada, dadi, mama, mami….does your husband fall in this category? If not, why can’t you use his name? Not calling the husband by name (but of course, the husband feels no such hesitation) says something about who in a relationship is worthy of deference.
2. Keep your job: Young Indian women, even those already earning, are often encouraged to leave their jobs, if only for a short while, because they are resettling in a new place, or just to ‘adjust with the in-laws’. Big mistake. Given the economy, its always easier to find a job when you have one in hand. Plus, when you are staying at home post marriage, people start looking at you as a homemaker and before you know it, you’ll be signed up for religious trips, having visitors at odd hours ‘to see the new bride’ and roped in for multiple other ‘family obligations’. Not that there is anything wrong with being a homemaker, but if you want to go out to work, don’t get into that trap. Unless you are moving to a new place where you can’t find a job until you are physically there, don’t quit your job. Somehow, you feel stronger in a new relationship if you have your own money.
3. Stay in touch with your friends: Yes, the newness of marriage can be exciting, but don’t drop your friends. The things you had in common with them before marriage still exist, don’t they? Plus, every woman needs a sounding board other than her husband.
4. Make new friends: This is especially for women who move cities/countries post marriage. Take the effort to make some new friends – even if they are not your soulmates (yet), it helps to have someone to talk to, at work, in your neighbourhood – or if these don’t work for you, join an activity that interests you. You think you’ll never be that woman, but horror stories abound of women caught in new countries, abused and isolated. Even if your marriage is hunky-dory, depression is a real thing for a woman grappling with a number of unknowns.
5. Stay in touch with your parents: This should not even need saying, but in a country where many families have the paraya dhan concept internalised, newly married women are often discouraged from calling/visiting their parents post marriage. Sometimes this is done obviously, sometimes subtly, in a kind of insinuation that your ‘new family’ ought to be more important.
6. Put your feet up: A friend of mine was once chastised for putting her feet up at her in-laws’ place – literally. I don’t necessarily mean it literarily, but remember to put your feet up – sometimes we internalize the fiction that respect comes from running around like a chicken with no head. It doesn’t. You’re as entitled to rest as any other member of the family, which brings me to:
7. Don’t own the housework: Even in nuclear households, we see women hastening to take up all the chores at home. Right in the early days, don’t. If your husband doesn’t know to do anything (which is entirely possible, considering the way most Indian boys are brought up), talk to him about why this is important to you, and why he needs to learn. If the house is messy, let it be, and its quite possible the other person will start picking up. Don’t make the housework ‘your thing’ (unless you are the sort of person who enjoys doing housework for its own sake!)
8. Be yourself: Be the best version of yourself that you can be, but be yourself. My husband is non-vegetarian and I am born vegetarian. After our marriage, I am surprised at the number of people who tell my husband in different ways that he should “make” me a non-vegetarian, or failing that, I should at least cook non-veg for him. Thankfully, the idea is bizarre to both of us. If you are an atheist, don’t suddenly become the puja-paath doing good girl. The fiction becomes harder to break as time goes on, and other people only feel cheated. You can be respectful of differences without being different.
p.s. All this is assuming that you are married to a man interested in having a dialogue with you about what works best for both of you. If you’re facing a control freak who thinks adjustment is a woman’s job, run – it’s better earlier than later!
Pic credit: Pixabay
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Founder, Editor of Women's Web, Aparna believes in the power of ideas and conversations
Really good points Aparna!
i think the heading should be for married women and not just newly married women! Also the picture could have been less demure!
Super!! Must read article for all women. One more point I would add :-
“p.s. All this is assuming that you are married to a man interested in having a dialogue with you about what works best for both of you. If you’re facing a control freak who thinks adjustment is a woman’s job, run – it’s better earlier than later!” — Make sure you marry a man who will do the former 😛 We are as much responsible if our lives are screwed up because we let other people entirely decide who we would spend our entire rest of the life with 🙂
Very relevant points Aparna!!
A lot of points are common to my life too including the non-veg point!
As i was going through your post, i realised that i followed each and every point you have highlighted!!
I was criticised a lot by parents and inlaws but i never compromised!;)
I always called my hubby by his name despite the 7 year age gap which annoyed my MIL a lot!
Now, after almost 5 years of marriage, i am happy with what i did!
good one !
been 6 months now ..and glad i stuck to all the points mentioned !
I am guilty of having compromised on a number of points mentioned by you but that was forty years ago. However, had I been financially independent a lot of these could have been confidently addressed. So the first advice to all women who plan to marry should be to have an income of her own. She could have a career or work from home but should agree to marry only if this was possible.
i agree with everything you just said. very well written 🙂
I think it’s better you talk out these points with your would-be husband before marriage itself. Expectations ought to be communicated well beforehand to avoid any nasty surprises later.
Thanks all for your comments.
@Rajni – I mentioned newly married women specifically because I believe that patterns which a marriage gets into in the early days can be difficult to break, hence the importance of the first few months post marriage. Agree the pic is demure 🙂 Chose it because those bangles are so visibly ‘married’ symbols!
@Aarthi J – agree, but honestly, even today, the kind of arranged marriages that happen don’t leave much time for bride and groom to get to know each other. But yes, if we don’t fight for our lives, who will?
@HG – not my intention at all to lay down a list to judge other people by, just my thoughts. I’m sure you did your best given the times you got married in. All of us have to choose which battles we fight and its certainly not easy. I’m not sure financial independence itself helps though, if the fundamental mindset doesn’t change.
@Mohan – yes, honest discussion pre-marriage is very important, I agree, else both get a rude shock.
@mohan:how honest can a per marriage discussion be? Fear of rejection plays a part in arranged marriages and a desire to impress overrules an honest depiction of one’s preference and priorities in both arranged and love marriage.
@HIPGRANDMA I agree that this is not very convenient in arranged marriage scenarios. In love marriages however couples could be honest rather than create false impressions
@Hip Grandma – Rejection will be better than a divorce or unhappiness wouldn’t it ? Its fair to both the girl and the guy to discuss expectations clearly as each of them will have their own expectation.
@Aparna – You have painted in laws as ‘out to get you ‘ types. So much negativity will not be good for any relationship especially for an arranged marriage
if any women follow all these definitely they will get divorced. ..dont follow these love your spouse.respect your spouse feelings, Adjust, understand …life long you will be happy
“how honest can a per marriage discussion be?”
please read per marriage as pre marriage in my previous comment
Excellent article! All the points are very relevant. Must read for every woman!
Refreshing read and loved the discussion on it. Followed most of the suggested points after my marriage and since I was at peace with myself for not maintaining a fake personality I kept working on having good relations with my in-laws. Sure i was considered a snob and commented on my lack of expertise on some issues but i am sure that slow and steady i will definitely win the race one day. You can make others happy only when you yourself are happy.
Loved the points and agree with all of them. And yes, did/do all of them, though fortunately for me, none of them were causes of contention in either family.
and yet again another source of corruption for a womans mind and thought.. the author may be feminist but i think you have forgotten the cultural aspects of a womans role in the family. please be specific for nuclear, joint, extended families because things are quite different in each of these type of families. i would want you to know that this is not applicable to high headed women, you have just reinforced and motivated their behaviour.
Love this list! And saddened too.. to think that we need a list like this and worse, there are some who would think the list would lead to break up of Indian family values!
Nice article..I wish i have read it 1.5 years back, when i got married..cos everything written in this article is true..I am a Post Graduate in Fashion Management and decided to take a break after my marriage…And the results were..i became an unpaid domestic servant for my in-laws..when i decided to study further (Phd) my MIL told me that I have to first give priority to housework and that include cooking, cleaning house and washing clothes and I am not allowed to use washing machine (my Mom had always given preference to my education..they made sure that they have a maid..the only housework I knew was to cook food and m very good at it)…They expect me to be like the DIL of their relatives who has not even been to school and most of them are not even graduates…And now when I have again got a Position of Lecturer in a leading Fashion Institute of India..My in-laws keep telling me that when my husband (a banker by profession) get transfer then leave the job and go with him…at the same time they always make me realise that if m working now it is a favour granted by them…Our was a love marriage and I got married to him because of his liberal thinking that a women should have her own life as well..All that has lost now…when I speak to him he only says that things are changing now and things will be better…he is always nice to me and but never takes a stand for me..That also I understand obviously he cant make his mother feel that she is wrong or is at fault..I don’t even want to have kids..cos i know it will again give everyone one more reason to discourage me to pursue my career….Thanks once againg for the wonderful artcle..
Great. Better why should we marry ? (about Indian marriage). Marriage is just a way to loose our personal freedom. It is hell with our parents who say marry now or you will never get hub later. I strongly tell my sisters to use Domestic Violence Act if your husband doesn’t agree with any points mentioned in this article. Let them suffer and learn the power of we women. Do not give him any chance to take control of our life.
Hi! Only just discovered your e-magazine and read two articles. It felt like I am speaking to a friend – a wise and caring one, I must add. Please keep up the good work. I am so sure you are comforting many women.
Baishali, can I tell you that you just made my day? 🙂
so aparna it seems you are not open to criticism at all..
It depends. When the criticism gives me something new to think about, certainly. When it is the same old, “these are new thoughts and don’t apply to our families” argument used to suppress women – no, I don’t listen to it seriously.
so you believe that conservatively orthodox feministic thoughts good or new will bring change.. yes there is an argument that i have brought up but not with an intention to suppress women.. but to stop them from getting misguided by these ” new thoughts”.. what you have mentioned in your article is great and definately overwhelming for women.. but women are a part of this society.. one should consider all the parameters and aspects of their cultural ecology before giving such commandments!!.. no hard feelings aparna.. wish you luck in your work.. suggestion: add a tinge of flexibility to your thought..
So true – I got married recently and though I am following most of the tips shared in your article, I will start following the ones I don’t yet! Nicely written:)
We are brought up in a good way and we are living in a good society (at least 80 % of people are harmless) just because our mothers made compromises and sacrifices in their life.. A women’s ultimate aim is giving a great human being to this society..
How I wish I knew this before when I got married? Thanks for this honest list this is true 100%
You are welcome, Bhawana! I’m sure its not too late 🙂
Congrats for such a thoughtful article which is so close to practical life events. But doesn’t agree with point 7. Its reflecting more of a negative approach(not trying to be judgemental but just felt like sharing). I don’t think the approach “If the house is messy, let it be, ” is going to help neither is ‘not taking the ownership’ a very good idea be it anyone husband or wife. Its better to say things straight rather then to give indirect indications (since we are assuming the one’s partner is ready for a dialogue)
Really appreciate bringing out Point 2 and 3 and putting them such high on the list.
Sorry girls am confused here, is this article about marriage or about how to become a politician!
Please don’t get married if you are not ready for marriage. Or please marry a non-indian guy because, as the article reads, indian guys are dumb and they are good not nothing, and after marriage enjoy watching bollywood movies or listening to hindi music on your own for your entire life.
In general, when a guy commits to a relationship he is willing to give everything that belonged to him to his girl, don’t make him regret his decision because one day he will come to know if you are fooling around with him.
I find it very enlightening that most of the negative comments for this article are coming from men.
Aparna, the fact that these chauvinistic men are angry that you are advising women to seek a balance, says a lot about the men of India.
How different is your thinking from the thinking of Nirbhaya’s rapists? Not much.
It’s the men who are not ready for marriage. Marriage is a union of equal partners. That means calling each other by name and not treating the other person like a slave.
By all means women should follow this excellent piece of advice from Hitesh. If you’re not ready to renounce your identity, job and self in pursuit of becoming unpaid domestic help, don’t get married. The men will be happy that they don’t have to ‘adjust’ and you will be happy pursuing your career. And who knows, you may meet a ‘non Indian’ who can accept you as an adult on equal footing. It will at the very least help to stabilize our population!
FYI Hitesh, I’m an Indian woman who calls her husband by name (my in-laws never objected, rather they’d have been shocked if I didn’t!). My husband is also a ‘non Indian’ (according to your definition at least) who happily shares the housework, cooks dinner with me every night (you may be shocked at this but it’s been 3 years and we still cook dinner together every night) and has neither pushed me to quit my job or find a new one (I’m now studying for my second masters – my third degree, even though it means I would be more educated than he is). But if I had followed my family’s advice and married the first eligible ‘rishta’ they’d found, my life would have been completely different and certainly not for the better!
From my personal and completely anecdotal experience, I will only say to women not to compromise when looking for a life partner. No matter the pressure everyone else will put on you to get married quickly, ultimately you will have to live with that man not them. There are balanced, forward thinking and rational Indian men out there and it’s better to wait for them than ‘settle’ for anything less!
I I agree with you Hitesh
1. In Indian culture we don’t call elders by name usually husband will be elder to wife I don’t mind name calling if they are at same age
2. Surely keep the job until you wanted to have children, women are best parent compared to men
3. Don’t have to say that unnecessary point
4. Don’t have to say that unnecessary point
5. Don’t have to say that unnecessary point
6. i am a man and I don’t sit in front of elders nor my sister it is manner taught by our parents… are you trying to teach women how to ruin their manners by asking them to keep their feet up??
7. If housework is distributed equally then any heavy lifting or build work everything else must be equally shared…
8. If you just be yourself whether you are man or women pls don’t get married there are certain things to changed
Overall this article very judgemental and misguiding women
Author is not from India I think. Know what is women. And how a women should be. No men is telling do all the work. Only respect your parents… First read about about our Indian culture and women used to be. There should me mutual respect and understanding. If newly married girl sees ur article definitely they will get divorced. Tell women. How she has to be with her mother in law and father in law….
Honestly, “Indian culture” needs to die. I say this as a man…from India.
To all men who commented here….
Seriously….u r talking about culture n indian values….
With all due respect it’s not just women duty to compromise n adjust
N yes gals should never lose their identity…
If u get divorce be it be…..that person was not right in anyway …
N what’s wrong in getting divorce if two people don’t compliment each other…
I am struggling married women who wants to retain her identity, individuality….
My partner is good that’s why we have not divorced yet but still he is learning and I am learning at same time….and hopefully we will survive…all positive….
Very nice article.. I wish I knew this few years before .. I made lot of compramises ..ofcource small things .. but now that became habit ..sometimes I feel bad about leaving my job .. otherwise it’s ok to compramise for your family .
I am newly married and my in-laws are having objection to call my hubby with his name whether my hubby said me to call him with his name…..i used to call him now Mr.H..does i commited a mistake?? @ Aparna…Only 6 months are passed…
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I am sure if you go with this mentality, all you have is suspicion and unrest. Feminists always tend to see only one side of coin, especially in India. First of all why are you getting married? After marriage who is likely to cause a change in your behavior? Why are you changing houses after marriage, changing your family name? Isn’t your problem most likely cauwed by MIL or SIL? Are you brave enough to point out the wrongs of your own family or confident enough that you’ll change your new family? What makes you think only you will change in marriage but not your MIL or SIL?
A lot of Indian men seem to be angry that the author is asking women not to be the typical submissive, self-sacrificing Indian wife who always puts herself last.
Traditional men have a lot of lose if the majority of Indian women suddenly began following the author’s advice.
The endless supply of obedient, subservient and undemanding wives would cease, and men would have to pull their weight.
Indian marriage fundamentally requires women to make the bulk of sacrifices, “compromises” and “adjustments”.
🙂 my point of view is so different then others. Not satisfy with article. I think it’s all about personal choice and individual nature. If we will put so many restriction and choices in these area then how we will work on most important area of eaccepting the new relationships. All these points needs to be understand and made clear among boy and girl before marriage. Not should come between the husband and wife, a most beautiful gift given by God. Same valuable gift as mother and child,parents,siblings. Did u ask so many questions with ur mom too..no..we accept them whole heartedly. Accept this new family too..clear all your doubt before marriage ..these are very negligible things that how u R calling him, for whom and when u R cooking.. If u will enter with so many negative thoughts in ur mind then how u will handle the situation …if u don’t like anything in ur family for u then just say it..that’s ur family.
Most sensible comment on this article relationship itself means adjustments + compromise + love + fights + bonding authors points are not valid in any form of relationship
Am going to get married soon….will try to follow your points. Thanks for sharing
Pls do not follow this article you won’t make your husband happy or you won’t make yourself happy either
I find this blogpost a hilarious counterpart to yours. The best part is that it has some tips for husbands too. https://mystreeblog.wordpress.com/2015/12/03/how-to-be-the-perfect-indian-urban-wife/
Hi Aparna… here i am, reading this post of yours again and regretting whatever i did 3 years back after my wedding, all the more again! I did all the opposites! People will speak against these things, especially men, because they don’t go through anything which causes pain to them in this whole process. But i know how important these things are, having suffered now.
I woupd love to gift every young girl getting married, a gift of this!
funny that first thing you mentioned is call your husband by name , which I totally agree with in fact I always took it as a given, so when I got married obviously I was calling my husband by his name and so was he , i did not ask him to call me some ” g/ woh ” and it is only fair that he never asked me that in return … to us it was soooooo damn weired even thinking that I should call my husband, his life partner with anything other than his name…
But that did not go well with his one educated friend, we were visiting them over after our marriage and after somewhile he had the temerity to ask me ” you call your husband by name ? ” I was so shocked that I had no reply for him other than ” yes , so ” and then God as if what I was doing was the most heinous thing he said ” so your mum calls your father by name ? ” damn man I am a outspoken girl , yet it took me so off by surprise that I had no intelligent retort ( I have thought this conversation so many times in my mind since then that now I do have an intelligent response ) and all I told him , was something to the effect that ” it is the duty of every generation to not to repeat the mistake of previous generations so that the life of this as well as next generation is better and it is people like me due to which practices of earlier generation such as child marriage and sati pratha are no longer heard of ”
I always wish If I could have been real mean < I would have shown him how sexist he is , there and then …
I am not very proud of my answer though because ( I cringe while saying this ) I wanted to be respectful because he was my hubby best friend and I hate myself for this ( I gave him the permission to disrespect me and all I was caring in that moment was to be respectful as tried to shut him from the shock I was in )
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