My Indian Boyfriend May Break Up with Me Because of His Family

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Hi Evan,

I’ve searched your blog for the answer to my question but couldn’t find it. I started reading your blog in 2013 and it helped me get rid of an alpha male in my life and encouraged me to try online dating. I met a wonderful man online who is successful in his career, affectionate, generous with his time, etc. He treats me so well and our compatibility is incredible. I have never had a relationship go as smoothly as this. I lost my job last year and with his encouragement and support, I got through a difficult time. A few months after meeting we became exclusive, online profiles deleted, and we’ve met the majority of important people in each other’s lives. I told him I was in love a few months ago, but he admitted he doesn’t feel that yet.

My boyfriend and I are both from the same ethnic background, practice the same religion, but our families come from different regions of the same country. He never mentioned (even though I asked on our 3rd date) that his parents are completely against him marrying an “outsider.”

In the last month his parents have been pressuring him to get an arranged marriage. We got into an argument about this a week ago. He told me he wasn’t 100% sure that he wanted a future with me and needed time to think because he’s been the happiest with me. He knows his parents won’t approve (I sent him your blog answer on that too!) and isn’t sure if he wants to make them unhappy.

This has been the longest week of my life. I have not been contacting him, even though he’s sent a few texts. How long do I give him the space needed? Should I even wait? I was single for years before I met him. I really have been the type of girlfriend I always wanted to be with him. Calm, understanding, and busy with my own life! I work full time (again), have an art career on the side, and constantly going out with my friends. I have been so happy with him and believe he’s worth the wait. But I wonder if he hasn’t made a decision after a week, is silence an answer?

Varsha

Dear Varsha,

I’ve written about this subject many times.

But I guess I’ll take another crack at it, in hopes that newer readers who are too lazy to click on the above links will challenge their beliefs and make healthier relationship choices.

No matter how much your boyfriend loves his family and no matter how much their hearts are in the “right place,” it’s not their life to live.

First: I’m glad you enjoy the blog. I’m glad you got over a jerk. I’m glad you tried online dating. I’m glad you found a wonderful man who has stuck with you through thick and thin. That level of aptitude is something you deserve credit for — and something that will come into play if your current relationship doesn’t work out.

And make no mistake, there is a distinct chance that this one might not work out.

Let me share with you my line of thinking:

1. I am not minimizing or judging the outsized role that family plays when it comes to various ethnic weddings — in this case, an Indian wedding. I have multiple white friends who married into Indian families, and, almost universally, these families made it hell on both the bride and groom — all in the name of cultural purity, tribalism and tradition.

I will say, however, that no matter how much your boyfriend loves his family and no matter how much their hearts are in the “right place,” it’s not their life to live. If he chooses to sacrifice true love — which, as we know, is hard enough to find — just because your families come from separate regions of India, I have no sympathy for him — and nor should you.

2. That may sound like I don’t understand the enormous pressure you feel to please your respective parents. I do. I just don’t care. As I wrote just recently, if my Mom told me that she “forbid” me to marry my Catholic wife or would disown me if I made that choice, SHE would be the one making the choice to ruin our family, NOT me. Thus, there is nothing for you to do here, Varsha. No reason to blame yourself. No reason to figure out how to strategize. This is your boyfriend’s battle — to figure out if he wants to be an independent man capable of making his own decisions or whether he’s going to be a puppet of his extended family and deny himself the joy of marrying someone of his own choosing.

3. I’m not against arranged marriage, per se. Reva Seth wrote an amazing book called “First Comes Marriage” about what Westerners can learn from arranged marriage. I’m only against arranged marriage for people who DON’T WANT ARRANGED MARRIAGE.

As to what you do — silence vs. no silence? — these are all games and you are above playing games.

I’m not against arranged marriage, per se. I’m only against arranged marriage for people who DON’T WANT ARRANGED MARRIAGE.

Be an adult. Pick up the phone. If you agree with me, tell him your spin on what I outlined above. You love him. You want to be with him. And while you’d love to make both of your families happy, this is a defining moment for him as a person. Will he capitulate, and break up with a devoted girlfriend, just to make mommy happy? Or will he stand up and tell his family that he made a decision and he really hopes they can get on board.

If he chooses the latter, I am confident that his family will eventually come around to support him.

If he chooses the former, you have not lost the man you thought you lost, and you should not waste another second of time pining for this guy.

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Comments:

  1. 21
    nordic girl

    I was in a long-distance relationship with an Indian man. He’s a Kasmiri pandit. We fell in love quick while he was on a business trip to my country (Finland). I travelled to India often and stayed about 1-2 months at a time (I was able to work remotely so this was not an issue). He wanted to live abroad and marry me etc. He was actually the one who brought up all of these such as marriage, kids, future plans. Mostly I could clearly see he was happy with me. I was incredibly happy with him despite being in a long-distance relationship.

    A few months back his parents found out about me. His mum (while she was visiting him for a few weeks) had found my love letters to him and read all of them! I guess this already gave her a feeling I’m some lunatic as in their culture even hugging your partner is quite a lot to handle (at least for the older generation). These letters were extremely private and intimate!

    My ex tried to speak with her and tell her he wanted to marry me but all she would do was cry, yell and threaten him with suicide. She said anything would have been OK except for a non-Indian woman. He’s very attached (in a weird way) with his mother and he took all of this very hard. When it comes to his mother he’s not able to stand up for himself. I noticed this quite early and ever since his parents found out about us I was mentally preparing for our breakup.

    A week ago he Facetimed me and after a long conversation he said he’s not strong enough to stand up for himself and that he has too many responsibilities. Basically “he’s going to be a puppet of his extended family and deny himself the joy of marrying someone of his own choosing.”.  

    I have had lots of bad moments in my life but our breakup feels unbelievably hard for me to accept. Especially when we were both so happy together.

    I am mad at him, his mother, and mostly at his cowardliness. I try to understand the cultural aspect in this, but I feel like I will never be able to understand it. Worst is that I kept asking him a million times if his family would ever accept me. Since day 1 I was afraid of this happening. He assured me that everything will be fine and it may takes some time for his parents to come around.

    He was not just my partner. He was my best friend, and now he just tells me to “move on” and that 2,5yrs relationship is not really anything.

  2. 22
    Lizz

    This is interesting. I was in a relationship with an Indian guy for about 7 months. He was Punjabi. I am not. I’m Indian but from the islands. We were both U.S citizens. We r both Hindu. Everything was going fine, then all of a sudden his parents stopped liking me. Told him to break it off with me. We were already engaged. He then had to break up with me and said the pressure is too much. You see the real strength of a man during these times. I saw my fiancé as a weak wimp who allowed his parents to abuse me. I walked away….

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