Do New Indian Brides Need A Crash Course In Assertiveness?

Posted: September 15, 2019

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How to be an assertive new bride in a culture that teaches them to give in and do what others want them to? Because the early days of marriage decide how your future will be.

Vijeta was a new bride. All she knew was that she had been a dutiful student growing up. Her parents considered her responsible and capable. She had completed her masters and had a great job.

So when she had an arranged marriage, she wanted to be liked by her husband’s family as much as she was liked by all the other people in her life thus far.

Compromising too much?

Little did Vijeta realize, that this need to be accepted and included in a new household would at times clash with her own belief systems, her needs and desires, or her ways of life before marriage.

And all the advice she had got on handling such dilemmas was to ensure peace in the house, always respect elders, and make small compromises by keeping the big picture in mind.

We’re raised to maintain peace at home

There may be a Vijeta in each of us. Particularly if we have been raised in a middle class household with strong ties in the family, you can relate to her nervousness and her need to impress her new in-laws.

But she might have to contend with work clashing with rituals at home, even if she doesn’t believe in the rituals herself.

She may be required to change her attire to suit the tastes of older generations or behave attached to her extended family even if she doesn’t feel so as yet.

Her husband may also be completely ignorant that she needs time and space to adjust to a new life, especially when they continue to live with, or in the same city as his family.

Early days of marriage decide the future

What should she do? Comply with new norms of her husband’s family and earn the name of a good ‘bahu’? Or stand her ground, speak her mind and be branded a rebel?

Little does she know that the choices she makes in the first few days, weeks and months of her marriage will set the tone for her happiness and that of everyone else around her. This is her time to set boundaries on what works and doesn’t work with her, so that she is accepted the way she is. Her opportunity to assert her opinions, without being offensive or aggressive.

So assertiveness is key

Most young brides struggle in asserting themselves early, either because they don’t know how to or because they have no way to resolve the inner conflicts they go through in such a period.

Assertiveness is not about offending anyone, nor is it about being passive and compliant. It is a critical communication skill that can help us stand up for ourselves, through emotional calm and the use of positive language.

Given with where our Indian society is today and how financially empowered our young brides are, isn’t it prudent for us to also emotionally empower them?

Can we learn assertiveness as an adult?

Surprisingly, trainers and psychologists believe that assertiveness can be taught even to adults.

During pre-wedding preparations, we see brides getting appointments to prepare for their hair and make-up. Wouldn’t they do well to also meet a counselor/trainer to help prepare for the new adjustments in the days ahead?

Image source: a still from the movie Manmarziyaan

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  1. Being assertive as a young woman in a new household, or staying single, is as much important as being financially independent.

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