Four topics that must be discussed before getting engaged – Priyanka Jainnotyourwife1214
There are lots of topics women don’t discuss or are hesitant to discuss because of the pressure society has put on us and being South Asian adds an extra layer. A combination of cultural expectations, and the taboo of going against the grain can make it hard for us to do what feels right, or at the very least, explore outside of what is expected of us.
Despite coming from a loving family and being surrounded by good people, I’ve had my fair share of difficult conversations. When it comes to relationships, it’s sometimes taboo to be with someone who isn’t Indian, but people don’t realise that being with someone who is Indian also brings its own set of challenges. If you’ve had certain cultural expectations embedded in your own upbringing, chances are those same expectations will be waiting for you from your partner’s family. You just have to hope it’s not more intense.
I’ve learnt a lot over the years in my relationship with a fellow Indian, and about carving our own path and doing what’s right for us. If you were to ask me five years ago how I saw my life unfolding, I’d probably have said date someone for two years, buy a home, get engaged and move into our home after marriage. Well, almost five years of dating later, and that is not the plan – not even close. We actually moved into our rented flat a year ago.
With the support of a wise loved one or two, we’re both continuing to learn what’s best for us and how to navigate difficult conversations. There are four topics I believe are important when discussing your future together and what that might look like.
These conversations are by no means easy, but they’re crucial. It will literally be the key to knowing how your life and future will be. If you don’t talk about it, there will be constant surprises along the way and constant disappointment.
These questions might sound simple, but assumption will be your biggest mistake and regret. You can’t assume anything today. Just because women have their own voice and earn their own money, doesn’t mean the cultural expectations are progressing alongside us. Take note and talk about it.
Is getting married in your life plan? Is having children in your life plan?
Some men and women just don’t want to get married. They want the relationship, they want the commitment, but maybe they just don’t care for the label. This is an underrated topic that needs to be spoken about, because even if someone does marry you, if their heart doesn’t care for it, the idea of marriage and your experience of it will never be as great as you imagined.
And when it comes to children, we can no longer assume that everyone wants them. It’s not a ‘rite of passage’ once you get married. If you both want children that’s great, but if you don’t, raising a human is a big ask.
Do I want to live with my in-laws once I get married?
This is applicable if you’re dating a fellow South Asian as it’s culturally accepted for you to move in with your partner’s parents after marriage. We may hear constant horror stories of this experience, but are we hearing as many stories of couples having this conversation in the first place? You need to understand what the living experience will be like; can you accept their living habits? Do you have a different lifestyle? Will you feel comfortable living in their home? Can you bring fresh perspective to the home? You both have to think about this and your partner has to answer these questions honestly to help form both of your opinions of how the experience will really be.
Do I want to change my last name after I’m married?
There are options now for how women choose to be addressed after marriage. Some women believe the notion of taking another last name is not necessary anymore, some like the idea of having both and double-barrelling, and some women are happy to continue tradition and take on a new last name. Either way, be happy with your decision as this is your identity.
I will say though, that the common excuse of ‘continuing a legacy’ is completely invalid to me, because we both have last name legacies. Women are qualifying to be doctors for example – why should they be pressured to take on their partner’s last name when all their hard work, effort and achievement has been done under their own?
Whether you choose to change your last name, double-barrel or keep your name as is, this decision should be entirely yours and you should be happy with it.
How do we plan to manage our finances?
Money can be an uncomfortable topic to talk about, but the reality is it can make or break a relationship. You both need to know if you’re entering a marriage with either of you in debt and by how much, and you also need to talk about how you plan to manage your expenses and finances. Does the other person have financial obligations outside of your relationship that you should be aware of? Are your lifestyles similar or different? Make sure you’re both on the same page, at least in the first instance. Managing your finances will be a case of trial and error but talk about the unknown and hear each other’s views.
When discussing these topics and others, there will be some non-negotiables for you. These are areas you absolutely will not compromise on because it’s really and truly what you want and expect of yourself. Know exactly what your non-negotiables are and if you find yourself in a dilemma, this is where you draw the line. Think very seriously about what it is you value and have the strength and courage to do what’s best for you, no matter how heart-breaking it may be.
Early on in my relationship I only asked one of these questions and thought I had it all figured out. How naive I was – and I’m certain there will be lots more discussions to be had as our lives evolve and time goes on.
I wish I had this insight a few years ago so I hope a few of these points stick with you. Just remember, it’s not about what your specific arrangements are (to each their own), it’s about having the conversation in the first place.
By Priyanka Jain