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Marriage & What Men Want

Posted: October 30, 2013

“The struggle exists, at every level”, said a friend to me.

And there began my quest to get into his shoes and understand what is going on in the man’s mind. Now, let’s be honest. Everyone thinks it’s hard to decipher a woman’s mind but I must tell you it’s no joke for a woman to understand what goes in a man’s head too. A lot of books have been written to understand the opposite gender (not sex) but to me this particular instance with a friend threw a lot of light on this aspect being never discussed.

Confused? Well. Lets reverse the story a little. I have a lot of friends who are getting into the ‘married’ tag and during a discussion with one of my friends who is planning to get married too, I realized that need for a daughter-in-law is often being challenged by the need for a wife.

Indian men and marriageWith the changing times (haha! Women stepping out for work), a man finds himself being questioned at every level just like a woman does. A lot of articles have talked about how the dual burden on women is taking a toll on them, on how women are out there taking the lead while handling homes too, on how women often are mistaken and how men need to be more supportive and help empower the gender and participate in creating a gender balanced society but I have nowhere read what issues a man faces at this point where on one hand he is trying to do what he has been told he was born for (support his parents) and on the same level have a wife who has an opinion., for whom her choices and points of view matter.

My recent stints with a lot of friends (males) who are planning to get married made me realize that they want a wife who has limited exposure. And while I question this very point of view, I recently realized that the problem is very much in upbringing. I mean, imagine this: a son is born in a family after two daughters and he has been pampered like he is some God. Since childhood he has been taught that he has to take care of the family and he is also given the best of education at the best of B-schools in India/abroad.

While he gets a job, he meets this amazing colleague who is gorgeous, has strong opinions and knows how to take the lead. He likes her, but what are the chances that he will marry her? The debate is not whether the girl will do household chores or not. The debate is that for him, getting a wife who knows her rights well, into a house where girls are not even considered as humans brings him to a point where at every level he reconsiders his choices, his likes and his future.

And believe me, there are many men out there who question this every time they think about the future. It’s not that women who are homemakers aren’t being questioned, but those who are aware definitely need more energy to be moulded. The debate is, does he want a girl who will be the ideal bahu or does he want an amazing wife? And while chances are that many women will end up being both, there is a strong chance that he fails in what he decides, leading to an unhappy married life, a daily drama.

I write this article as a woman who is a strong supporter of gender balance. I have grown up from being a daughter to a rebel to feminist to a human rights activist. And, trust me, I know there is a thin line between adjustment and sacrifice in marriage, I very well know that the lines are often crossed by both the partners in order to make it work.

So, as a man, if I find myself at a point where I need to balance the beta and pati angles in my life, I know I will be as confused as any woman will be struggling to find her stand in the debate. And this, today has reached a point where the very sanctity of marriage is being questioned because nobody of the two partners seem to find their stand to it.

I give it to the Indian society again which has raised sons and daughters in a way where they have to obey their elders rather for standing up for what they feel is right, logically. I mean, I know truth is very situational and right is very personal but I don’t think that our culture or society has anyway succeeded in raising their children to be logical.  We do what our parents will like, our in-laws will appreciate and society won’t consider as alien. And while we have our exceptions, a majority of us still dwindle with this ‘what to do’ w.r.t marriage.

Currently, a lot of my male friends are also married. And I know how they dwindle with the saas-bahu drama. I know that they married these enterprising young women because they wanted to and now the only debate is the imbalance in personal life, the son-husband sides are creating havoc in their lives. I also know a lot of men who are planning to get married and when they look at this situation, they are scared rather than prepared for the future they will have as choices vs. duties situations pop up.

Do I have advice? No. Do I have an ending to this thought of mine? No. Do I see a root problem? Yes. But can we solve it? Maybe. Stepping in a man’s shoes, I realized that there are a lot of struggles that even a man goes through that make him question his choices vs. his duties. But at the end, what is important? Happiness? Peace? Make your choice, take a decision, you might fail but then at least you will be satisfied that it was your decision. Finding happiness after all, which is a state of mind, isn’t that easy.

May God Bless all the men around!

Pic credit: Zion View (Used under a Creative Commons license)

A Development Communication & Social Work professional working in the field of gender, health and

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  1. It all depends on the way one brings up children and parents’ expectations from them. There are families where the children, especially the sons are brought up with “you have to take care of us when we grow old” philosophy drilled into their minds. Then there are families where parents never impart this philosophy, and do not set any expectations from their kids. Coming from a family of the latter kind, and married into a family of the former kind, I feel that this son-husband mental tussle is a lot less in the latter families. With the right kind of upbringing, a sense of protectiveness and care for one’s parents comes naturally, so there is no need to explicitly teach this philosophy from childhood.

  2. Very interesting post through a man’s perspective!

    After 5 years of marriage, i now understand what my husband goes through..trying to balance between my MIL and me!

    Despite him being brainwashed by his Mom and sister that since i am a working mom, i don’t care enough for my daughter, he is doing his best to support me before his family and i wholeheartedly appreciate him for that!

    Regarding the tussle between wife and bahu, i remember a friend of mine marrying a girl his parents chose..when i teased him about his girlfriends, he said his elder brother married his colleague of a different religion and after witnessing the drama that ensued with threats of suicide from both ends, he decided to marry according to his parents’ wish!

  3. Well thought out piece – thanks – no answers are possible. As a feminist, I suggest that we have gender sensitisation repeated through class 9 to 12 at least once a year. Both women and men need to think this through.

  4. Every time i used to read something about how womens lives are so troubled in india and anywhere else in the world…i always used to wonder why people do not see mens problems. Not only the saas bahu saga…men have to adjust in every way. A girl leaves her house, yes, but a man has to accept her in his house, room, washroom and also has to empty his almirah for her. She is his responsibility. Its easier said than done bacause men are not at all vocal about their problems. Being a woman, i too realised this after a few years of my marriage!

  5. Fantastic article. Open my eyes to struggles a man might be facing. Being a strong feminist myself, I refuse to give any benefit of doubt to a man (which in my case is, unfortunately, my husband). This article enlightens me..

  6. Lovely piece. Made me think. I gave up working so that one of us could be there for the kids. No regrets and thankfully MIL ‘s annual visits are enjoyed because I know that she would leave in 2/3 months time.Still there’s always that little friction ! I personally think that there are no answers and we have to go with the flow.There are no hard and fast rules. My hubby decides what he wants to do and so we have little choice in his decision making. Good for me mostly. Luckily the daughter was treated equally because she came after 2 boys but daughters in law are a different story altogether!

    • Your attitude towards your MIL is a problem of the other kind which is not talked about in this article. Why should old parents not stay with their children?

    • If you’re not keen on old people staying with their children, how come so few women’s parents stay with them? why is children by default male?

    • Sorry, I meant *so* keen

    • That’s not an answer to the question I posed. An abnomaly cannot be removed by committing injustices of the other kind which is exactly where society seems headed now. For ages women were crushed by their in-laws and husbands. In the quest to solve the problem some females expect their husbands to treat their parents and siblings as guests, that not unwanted ones.

    • Actually that *is* an answer. Start treating our parents as people entitled to stay with us, and then we can also treat your parents similarly. Why are your parents entitled to stay while hers are not? Deal with this inequality. Demonstrate equal caring for women’s parents and then you can see the difference. Asking for rights only for your parents doesn’t get you anywhere, the world is changing and just because you complain about it, wives are not going to shut up.

  7. Awesome article. Though it was no news to me that men struggle with husband-son choices too (have a lot of male friends who have confided about it) but the point I like most in this article is that because of these difficult choices that both genders eventually have to face, many of today’s ‘eligible’ men and women are choosing not to get married!

  8. I understand your sentiments, Suchi, and I don’t mean to be harsh on men – but – why is it that women don’t feel this dilemma? Why is it you don’t hear women saying, that my duties as a daughter and a wife are pulling me in different directions?

    The root of the problem, IMO, is unrealistic expectations we have of male children – that they will be the ultimate ‘budhape ka sahara’, and that they ALONE can do this. Nothing wrong with children supporting elderly parents, but the disproportionate expectations from male children puts them in a bind, and makes everyone unhappy.

    But, should men wait for their parents to change? (who may never change!) Or, take their own decisions?

  9. Thank u all for the amazing set of responses. I agree that it is very situational and is highly prevalent in houses where the SON angle is considered very important (budhape ka sahara-like Ritika said). I think its not just men who feel the dilemma but even women crib about their duties as daughter and wife pulling them in different directions. Lets accept it, we handle the dilemmas daily, but then that does not mean they dont have any.
    I agree with Shireen that as a result of this many are preferring to stay single. and what i really like is that everyone agrees upbringing and socialization from the start is very important in framing this mindset in a man. While we have parents who think of sons are the only solace to their old age (even present), we also have a different kind of generation of parents who appreciate if their son is happy, whichever way that is. In my experiences with people, education has not made people become aware and make right choices everytime. I see good and bad examples at both rural and urban setups and so family upbringing therefore becomes most important to deal with such situations.
    Thank u all for the responses! really appreciate it!

    • I think there is another angle to be explored – How wives can help men in managing their roles of being a husband and a son more efficiently? You have only talked about upbringing of male children but not said anything about many women hating to see their husband’s parents stay with him. Does a man become his wife’s private property after marriage?

    • This was just an attempt to bring out the dilemmas that a man goes through. The issues of upbringing are very important and I understand that women upbringing also needs balance. Nobody should be considered a personal property. There is no doubt in that. There’s more to be written and said but it’s imp to make a start. This was an attempt to make that start.

    • At least a man is both the son and husband, but a woman is just expected to be a wife.

    • but a woman is considered a man’s property after marriage- hence the dowry, the kanyaddan, paraaya dhan etc and the “hamari beti ab aapiki hai- please take care of her attitude. And that once a woman is married her parents should not even have water from her house.. what sort of weird customs are these?
      So even if you don’t accept it- there is this inequality in India and it has been there for ages.

    • No, husbands do not become their wives’ property. However, marriage is an extremely important and fragile relationship. It takes a lot of effort and investment to build a healthy marriage.

      If adequate care is not taken to forge a strong bond between husband and wife, a lifetime of unhappiness and loneliness can be the result. Many parents are oblivious to the social changes that have taken place in the last 30 years.

      Marriage has become less of an acquisition of the woman by the husband’s family, and more of a union of two people. Thirty years ago, a married woman accepted that she was less important than the man’s parents and had no choice but to endure injustice and disrespect.

      Many educated women today do not want to live such claustrophobic lives. In India, women make marriage the most important relationship of their lives, but men continue to regard the parental relationship as the most important relationship.

      Hence the imbalance. It’s not a contest between husbands and wives, is it? Can a man be happy if his wife is unhappy? Can a woman be happy if his husband is not happy?

  10. Hi Suchi, it is a great article and I want to thank you for showing me the other side of this entire issue. I have personally went through this dilemma, where my boyfriend had to make this very choice and we had to end our relationship, but with the help of your article I can now see this through a very different light. I just hope that other couples don’t have to go through this pain as we had to.

  11. Great article Suchi!

    I however feel that men in India still lack the courage and conviction to create a gender balanced society. they will react radically different when their own daughter goes through gender related discrimination (at work or at her in-laws home) but they themselves will not be forthcoming and supportive enough for women around them (wife, sister etc). I also agree with you about up-bringing. It is all conditioned into their heads, thanks to their stay-home moms who think all women belong in kitchens! No wonder Indian women have a tough time balancing things out.

    Thanks for the article! Great read.

  12. Wonderful article Suchi… and a nice way to bring an important issue.

    A couple of thoughts from me…

    1. The nature of “saas-bahu” relation by definition is a unhappy relation. So why the hell choose someone whom you do not love and your mom would eventually not like, it is better to find someone whom you can love and live with all your life because MIL-DIL fights would always be there.

    2. World is changing and we should not blame our parents or anyone from their generation. We did not live in their generation, we have not experienced what they have and we don’t know their upbringing, so judging on their generation is not the right thing for us to do. They are what they are and think of the world as they have experienced it. For example, we are not happy that today out parents and in laws do not approve of our wearing jeans, short cloths, partying all nights, But would any of us,approve our sons, daughters, SIL and DIL to have rave parties all night, smoking weeds, trying different partners (this might soon be new fashion and norm of life). I do not know about “poverty” but “fashion” is certainly state-of-mind.

    3. A man’s responsibilities (for that matter even for woman) towards his parents in his/her own. We can request our partners to help us in that but can never demand it. However, many of us even think that showing respect and talking politely to “in-laws” is also considered as our duties and responsibilities. I don’t know where the general courtesy and politeness ends and duties and responsibilities begins.

    Finally, everyone reading this and posting here should understand that, soon their kids would be in the same cross roads of choosing a good wife or bahu / husband or damad. That is the time we can change this problem by giving our kids the freedom and support that we feel we didn’t have.

    Writing that was easy but can I do that if my daughter brings home a guy whom she things as a genius, creative, awesome rock-star with bodily art all over and always high. I can only think of him as hmmmmmm… I don’t know

    • Good write up Suchi and thanks Rakesh for some nice explanations. It is true that change is the only factor which is unchangeable. We may see the next generation in flamboyant spirit which may not go well with our quite humble upbringing. But, still we need to accept it. Only problem is that when change is spoken, the ground rules seem to be different for men and women. When we may not be able to find a groom (for our girls), who does not smoke or drink, there are at least a couple of girls who are way behind in catching up in this with the boys..thus still they fall into the eligibility criteria for a ‘suitable bride’. How many current generation men themselves can accept their spouse smoking, drinking and having tattoos….if the so-called fashionable youth do not think it as ‘cool’ that their wife might be doing all these, then how can the parents take it. According to me, both the parents and the current generation women need to catch up with the current young men for them to be at par…(with what? Please do not ask me?!)

  13. Thank u Japleen, Niharika and Rakesh for the thoughts! I m glad for being a change point in thinking. Rakesh, those are some valid points. But, surely there is no valid recipe for success here. It’s easier said than done.

  14. Suchi , you have wonderfully enlighten our thought-process related to husband dilemma…i have personally gone through this where my husband trapped in saas- bahu dramas…

    There is so much emotional blackmailing from parents side to follow their instruction and finally they decided to chose as an son’s responsibility over husband and sometimes force his partner to do the same. If she agree then ok if not (in case of a women who knows her rights, and have opinion ) then clashes starts bw the couple…seen my friends who refuse to get along with their partner just because she does’nt agree on his parents illogical instructions ( agar meri mummy papa ka khna nahi manoge to humare relation ache nahi honge- what a sick mentallity .and to see this parents seems happy because by doing this son proved himself as an good son)

    Imo parents should not impose their thoughts to their kid as well men should have courage to take a stand based on logic. By this he can able to manage his relationship as son/ Husband.

    Thanks Rakesh for mentioning good points…

  15. True! Agree with the point that kids are taught to obey their elders rather for standing up for what’s right. Men are ready to follow traditions because of convenience, any change would require a tussle between the thinking wife and notions passed on from generations. What we can do is teach lessons on gender equality to our (future) sons right from an early age.

  16. Hi. Nice to read the above opinions. It is definitely very convenient for men not to change any equation at home and make the spouse accept the same as that would mean least botherance for them and their family. But the entire upheaval then shifts onto the women who as a daughter is nowadays taught to be independently thinking and then suddenly her views are totally unimportant….. To preserve the peace at home she would ty to tolerate and live up in the said environment .It is this woman who is taking the emotional brunt. It starts bearing down on the kids and all at home. It is only the man who is in a strong position to take fair decisions from day 1so that all can feel and remain equal and that will be in the family’s best interest and take the relations forward rather than on a rough path.

  17. Thank You Suchi for writing such an insightful article! Just one and half year in my marriage and I related to each and everything you have written. Though I am struggling to deal with the current situation, reading your article gave me some solace. At-least I am not the only one facing this problem. Looking forward to more of your articles.

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