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South Asian Weddings

Indian Parents...

Not sure if this is the right spot or not, but I posted on the just engaged board & while they were comforting, many of them didnt really know how to respond..
My fiance & I are newly engaged, & his parents are having a fit. I'm white, and he's Indian. They say were too young, were rushing (we've dated for 6 years, so were NOT rushing by any means) and they keep saying "is she ready for the Indian way?" they wont elaborate any further on what that means though & what they expect.
I understand there are cultural differences, but I am more than willing to accept them. We told them we'd like to do two ceremonies to honor both our families, but nothing seems to appease them.
Should I just adjust myself to the fact that since I'm not Indian, I'll never really make them happy? Or is it possible for them to eventually accept me? do any of you have advice for dealing with old-fashioned parents?
Any advice is appreciated...thanks in advance!

Re: Indian Parents...

  • edited December 2011
    Welcome to the boards and congratulations!

    I read through the thread you started on the Just Engaged boards to get some background and I am sorry that you've had a rough start to what should  be a happy time in your life.

    It does seem reassuring though that while your FI's parents are giving him the cold shoulder, some of his extended family seems supportive. Sometimes peer pressure from family can be a great help and support in situations like yours.

    I think your FI's parents are just being bratty, but that's not really surprising of Indian parents. Are they very traditional? Perhaps they had a certain future and path in mind for their son to take and it's hard for them to imagine that he will break from tradition.

    Is your FI an only child or the eldest? Being the eldest son in an Indian family comes along with certain familial obligations and responsibilities and so that might play into what they are saying when they ask if you are ready for the Indian way.

    I think the best thing for you and your FI to do is to show them that you both are willing to work and do what it takes to ensure that you will continue to honor the Indian traditions that his family follows. I think many times, parents are afraid that their children will lose the values, tradition and culture that they have been raised with when they marry outside of their own culture.

    You've said that you've been warm and nice to his parents, and even send mothers and fathers day gifts, but maybe it will help if you were also to show them that you are open to Indian traditions since Mothers and Fathers day are more typical "American"  notions.

    I think in time, with patience and perserverance, they will come around. I honestly never thought that my parents would be so willing and open to me marrying an "American" even though I was born and raised here, but they welcomed my husband with open arms and more surprisingly, so did my family in India.  I come from a very traditional Hindu Brahmin family (my father was raised in a temple, and his family still is the caretaker to the mandir) and they were all happy to see our family grow to include my American husband.

    Long story short, it will take time and you'll have to show that you're willing to honor both cultures, as you said you would, but they will come around.  There are other ladies on the board who are also in cross-cultural relationships that will be able to offer more insight, too!
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  • edited December 2011
    What raangoli said.

    I'm in the same boat you are. R and I have been together 2 1/2 years. He's the eldest of two American born-and-raised boys born to transplanted parents (moved from India just after their wedding) who had been thrown together in an arranged marriage - met and married within a week. His parents had apparently planned to arrange his marriage when he turned 26. You can imagine their consternation when he brought me home - older than him, white, with a disabled child from a previous relationship. They spent the first year and a half of our relationship, even after our engagement, trying to break us up. The rest of the elders in his family - aunts, uncles, grandparents - were just as bad, but they live out of state so we didn't have to deal with them regularly. The folks in his generation - little brother, most of the cousins - didn't seem to care one way or the other. The elders FREAKED OUT when we got engaged in Nov 2009 (a year after starting our relationship); the cousins congratulated us.

    I betcha the family will come around when the first grandchild is born. R and I were engaged for over a year when I got pregnant (Aug 2010) with our daughter. It wasn't until after Kidlette was born that his family - particularly the women - finally started to accept me as a permanent fixture in his life. Of course, now that they've accepted me, they've done so with a vengeance. We aren't yet married and his mom asks about that every time she sees us, refusing to accept our standard answer of, "We don't want a courthouse wedding and can't afford the wedding we planned yet."
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  • temurlangtemurlang member
    1000 Comments Third Anniversary Combo Breaker
    edited December 2011
    Hi Merie, and congratulations on your engagement.

    I am also white and DH is from India.  My ILs like me, but they are still a pain in the you-know-what.  The extended family is not as much okay with the idea DH married a foreigner, especially his cousins.  For some reason the aunts, uncles, and kids seem to be fine and even happy about it.  The extended family does matter, because often that's who the parents mean when they say "what will people think."

    Raangoli has several very good points regarded the reasons his parents might have, such as the eldest son's responsibility, and carrying on their culture to your children.  DH is an only son/eldest child, and my ILs expect him to pretty much support them and SIL.  Not only does this mean we send them a lot of money, but when something goes wrong, they want us to both fly to India so DH can solve it.  Because they live in India, they haven't really addressed traditions in our lifestyle, but I expect if and when we have a kid that will come up more.

    I had trouble with the part about "following our rules."  It's difficult to even figure out what "the rules" are, and your FI probably doesn't know, and your ILs won't tell you.  Once I figured out part of the expectations it was easier.  Pay attention to what they might be looking for (i.e., my ILs are anti-drinking, and believe white people drink, thus there is no alcohol in our house when they visit).

    If you haven't already learned about your FI's culture, now's the time.  This should help you find out what the rules are and maybe even win your FILs over.  Some things I can think of are:

    1.  Is his family vegetarian?  I can see that one being a big deal.  Either way, learning a little Indian cooking is a good idea.  I suggest Madhur Jaffrey.

    2.  Are they religious?  Are they concerned their son will give up his religion or their grandchildren will follow a different one?  Make it clear that's not the case, and show you respect their religion.  Ask them questions like, "what does this part of the pooja represent?" and ask to participate in ladies' pooja gatherings.

    3.  The rules for daughters and DILs are completely different.  Don't copy your SIL.

    4.  Try to learn a few words in the language they speak at home (food words are a good one).  ILs like this.

    5.  If they have a social circle of their own community, study it.  You'll get a good idea of what they want.  Not that you should just do whatever they want, but by choosing certain key things you may win them over.

    6.  My ILs want me to stay at home, wear Indian clothes, not talk on the phone, not drink alcohol, have some babies, impress outsiders by being dressed up and speaking well, do all the work at home, cook at least 3 courses every day, arrange my SIL's marriage, and call them Ma and Baba.  Not that your ILs want that, exactly, but it was a lot easier once I knew.

    Another thing you mentioned on the just engaged board was that they wanted two wedding and for you to pay for both?  We had that problem too, kind of.  We spent more money than I would have liked, but everyone was happy.
  • edited December 2011
    Hi Merie,

    Hang in there!  They will come around!  You have some great advice above that covers soooo much of it.  But maybe try getting your fiance to find out from them what they mean by taking on "the Indian way".  It might be easier for them to tell him than it is to tell you.

    At the end of the day, they want to make sure that their son is happy.  Since you know you have that covered, it will go a long way in the long run!  Another thing that is universal in winning people over is to go out of your way to be great to them.  It is hard to disapprove of someone who is always helpful, cheerful, and making them happy.  It is one of those things they have shown in studies.  Humans like to imitate the people they interact with.  People mirror tone of voice, gestures, the way they sit/stand, etc.  If you keep acting the way you want them to act to you, eventually they will cave.

    Of course your fiance is going to have to keep helping you figure out what part of "being Indian" they are looking for to make sure you're the full deal they want, but sounds like after 6 years, you'll figure it out.  But don't lose yourself in all of that.  My fiance told me that I put his mom's mind at ease as she saw that I was kind and could laugh.  I know they expect him to take care of him the way he always has, so she might have been worried I wouldn't understand it.  But to me, it is part of what makes him so amazing and I'm happy to continue on the way he has.  There might be more universal things she is looking for, but seem "Indian" to her because they are so personal.

    You said they think you are rushing after 6 years.  Have they known you that whole time?  If they've known about you and the relationship, that sounds like they are grasping at straws to bolster their opinion.  Planning 2 weddings seems like that should show them (in the long run) that you are being very adult and thoughtful.  They can't complain to other family that you aren't trying!!

    If all else fails, ask her to teach you how to make some food she thinks your fiance loves.  Can't go wrong there!  :-)
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  • merie412merie412 member
    Second Anniversary 10 Comments
    edited December 2011
    Thank you ALL SO MUCH!!!!! You have all been IMMENSELY helpful. FI isn't an only child, but he is the oldest, and he is the only boy. That's probably a great deal of the issue right there. Smile
    We spoke with his mother, and she seemed to have inched a little bit closer to being better about it. She kept reiterating that she thought we were rushing, but she said if we'd really made up our minds and this is really how it's going to happen, then she'll try to speak with FI's father and make it so that there can be a civil conversation about it with him....my fingers are crossed!!!
    I know it's not going to happen overnight, I just hope it can happen eventually!
    They have known about me the whole time, so jsleik, you're probably right about the grasping at straws part, logically speaking, this shouldn't have been THAT much of a surprise to them.
    And Temurlang, you read that correct....TWO weddings and paying for both...Smile
    FI and I have been going over costs and budgeting like crazy for the past few weeks, trying to come up with a good figure....like you said, it's going to be WAY more than we anticipated, or ever wanted to pay, but we can do it, and in the long run, I think we're both going to appreciate that we did, as are both of our families.

    Thanks again everyone for all the advice and insight. I'm confident that they're going to come around, it's just going to take some time

    In good news, his grandmother, who everyone was afraid to tell, found out..(one of his aunts can't resist some great gossip  ;) ) and she's EXCITED!! Laughing We're so happy to see her support and embrace this, and I really think that when my FFIL sees his 87 year old mother excited about this, he's going to cave a bit more about it.

    Thanks one more time!!!
  • edited December 2011
    I am glad to hear that his mom is willing to be more open to the idea and especially happy to hear about his grandmother!

    I hope you'll stick around here, we'd love to have you!
    ExerciseMilestone
  • merie412merie412 member
    Second Anniversary 10 Comments
    edited December 2011
    Thank you!
    I plan on it....I seriously have no idea where to begin with this Indian wedding, so I'm LOVING reading all of your posts on this board. Until his mom comes around, it's my only resource!
    I tend to be a lurker though, so if I'm missing for awhile, don't worry, I'm still around :)
  • edited December 2011
    Really happy to see that your FMIL has come around. We're all here to help! I'll say a prayer that she hurries up so you two can get closer.

    I'm indian and myself and my FMIL are totally different - she raised traditional girls and I'm a feminist, drinking, liberal modern woman that she didn't expect her son to fall for. I don't pray everyday, I don't do a lot of things she'd like. However, she and I are on our way to becoming good friends. She accepts me (so far) for who I am because I think she sees I am willing to give and take.

    Do one thing for yourself that will help you in the long run - turn to your fiance for help. If your in laws say something to piss you off, let your husband handle things for a while. Instead of complaining about them say how you FEEL ie:
    Not: Your Mom nag me all the time about learning about the culture
    Instead: I feel like I'm unable to please people because I'm not part of the culture and am still learning, I am frustrated and upset.

    And REMEMBER: TONE is the most important thing in Indian families. You can say anything you want - but use a tone that gets your point across but is still sweet. The bahu - daughter in law - has a different role than a sister or a cousin. Your behavior is meant to be different slightly. You may bear the burden of your FILs expectations...do so with grace. Remember, her mother in law was most likely a pain too. Find a way to befriend her as you would your own Mom as best as you can and it will go a long way. I visited my boyfriend's family for a month (they live in London, I am in the midwest) and although I was working from home, I had tea and lunch with them, I asked to see family photos, I tried to get along with everybody. It was hard, I cried a lot over some issues, but you've got to be thick skin to be a bahu!
  • temurlangtemurlang member
    1000 Comments Third Anniversary Combo Breaker
    edited December 2011
    In Response to <a href="http://forums.theknot.com/Sites/theknot/Pages/Main.aspx/cultural-wedding-boards_south-asian-weddings_unhapmmpy-parents?plckFindPostKey=Cat:Cultural%20Wedding%20BoardsForum:430Discussion:4766b13b-c0cb-44ef-885a-843cb08c07fcPost:2f5f6fe7-ebd3-4906-98ab-656ca750aa42">Re: Indian Parents...</a>:
    [QUOTE]And REMEMBER: TONE is the most important thing in Indian families. You can say anything you want - but use a tone that gets your point across but is still sweet. <span style="color:#000080;">The </span>bahu<span style="color:#000080;"> - daughter in law - has a different role than a sister or a cousin. Your behavior is meant to be different slightly.</span> You may bear the burden of your FILs expectations...do so with grace. <span style="color:#000080;">Remember, her mother in law was most likely a pain too. </span>Find a way to befriend her as you would your own Mom as best as you can and it will go a long way. I visited my boyfriend's family for a month (they live in London, I am in the midwest) and although I was working from home, I had tea and lunch with them, I asked to see family photos, I tried to get along with everybody.<span style="color:#000080;"> It was hard, I cried a lot over some issues, but you've got to be thick skin to be a </span>bahu<span style="color:#000080;">!</span>
    Posted by SonaliPop[/QUOTE]

    Sonali has some excellent points...

    The first time I met my ILs was when they came to stay in our 1 bedroom apartment for 6 of the longest weeks of my life.  MIL sabotaged my chapatis by microwaving them, broke most of our stuff, and criticized everything I did.  Again, my ILs like me, but that is just how MIL is.  I packed my bag twice.  But it has gotten better, mostly because I have learned what to expect (and to pack up stuff that she might break).

    My ILs had a love marriage and my MIL's MIL tried to force a divorce!  So MIL obviously doesn't expect the MIL-Bahu relationship to be positive.

    Also, one way to look at the bahu role is that you are MIL in training.  My ILs raised SIL to be educated and modern.  She wears jeans and her masters degree is for her career (which unfortunately she doesn't actually have!).  My masters degree is to show people their son has an educated wife.

    It sounds like things are starting to turn around for you... the grandmother's support is a big deal!  DH's grandmother has supported me from the start, which really helped everything go smoothly. 
  • merie412merie412 member
    Second Anniversary 10 Comments
    edited December 2011
    Thanks again for all the advice. FI went to Maryland for a few days this past week and got to speak with one of his uncles, who we now know is in favor of us as well. He told FI, "No matter what, don't give up." ...along with some other advice as well. It's great to hear his extended family coming out and speaking up for us, and I think with time, his parents will be supportive as well.
    Thank you all for all the great advice and insight. I really really really appreciate everything you've told me about this situation and how to handle it. I know it'll be a great help in the upcoming times with facing this opposition. :)
  • edited December 2011
    Be strong, say a prayer, have a few martinis, take the edge off. In our culture you marry not only the guy but his family too so try to embrance them. At the end of the day if you can say you did your best to befriend them and include them, it will be hard to legitimately fault you. Believe us - we all know what it's like to be a bahu or a bahu to be!
  • merie412merie412 member
    Second Anniversary 10 Comments
    edited December 2011
    Hello Ladies!!!!
    I know it's been awhile ...(2ish months...), BUT I wanted to update everyone on the AMAZING turn around that's been happening with my situation!!!!!!

    Let's start with the fact that his father actually acknowledges my existence now! That in itself, was monumental to me, and seriously means so much. He says hello to me when I come in the door, and ACTUALLY asks how I'm doing! :) I know it sounds ridiculous, but let me tell you...After 6 years of barely hearing anything from the man, it means the world.

    His parents talked to him about the wedding, and were actually interested in things. They asked where. They asked when. And they wanted to know how we're combining elements.

    AAAAAAAND they want to give us an engagement party so the whole family will be able to meet me.
    They'd like for us to postpone it, currently we're planning for Sept 2012, but said if we don't, they'll still support us.

    I'm sure we're not over all of our speedbumps, and I do still feel like I'm being "tested" or kind of on trial I guess....it's a little hard to explain I suppose, but I'm positive that they're really making an honest effort, and things are MUCH better.

    I just thought I'd let you all know this amazing news, since you were all so great, and so supportive of me in your advice and words of encouragement.


    LET THE PLANNING BEGIN!!!  Laughing
  • temurlangtemurlang member
    1000 Comments Third Anniversary Combo Breaker
    edited December 2011
    Welcome back!  It sounds like things are going really well for you, and I do think you are over the biggest hurdles.  I think that in most cases, deep down, parents don't want to alienate their son and will make an effort, in their own way.

    The "testing" doesn't really go away...probably there is a legitimate element of them not really knowing what to expect, wondering what will happen, and being unsure how to approach the situation.  There is also just some sort of need DILs feel like their being tested.

    GL with the planning!
  • merie412merie412 member
    Second Anniversary 10 Comments
    edited December 2011
    Thank you!!!
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