We are all creatures of our environment. Our model of marriage, as with family life, is largely based on our own experiences living, fighting, learning and laughing with our parents and our siblings. Your frame of reference for a marriage is most influenced by your parents with some occasional inputs from Cliff and Clair Huxtable from the Cosby Show. The frame of reference that you do not have walking into a marriage is the context within which your spouse grew up. While you may have spent time with your mummy and papa in law before marriage, the curtains only come up AFTER you are married (more on the inlaws in a future posts – and yes there will be more than one on that all important topic so stay tuned!!)
Everyone puts their best foot forward before marriage, as they should. But the full picture of the environment, the interaction and the belief system of your spouse’s family will likely not be revealed to you completely until after marriage.
That’s when you may have a realization, like I did, that other families do things differently than we did. Now conceptually, I understood this before marriage as well. I knew my gora friends did not eat aloo paranthas on Sunday. I knew that they didn’t drink masala chai in the morning and adrik wali chai in the evening. I knew that they wore baseball caps and not turbans. Even within Indian families, I understood that some families liked extra thardka in their daal and some kept the plastic on the furniture while others did not.
But that didn’t stop me from believing that my way of thinking was the right way of thinking. Not just because I thought that way but because my family also tended to think the same way so that meant it was clearly the right way.
I quickly learned that My Leading Man had a different approach to spending, family relations, decorating, dinner parties, vacations and just about everything else than I did. His approaches were largely based on his experiences living with his family, watching his parent’s marriage and watching the marriages of his sisters. This did not mean his way was wrong (which I would have preferred his ways to be) but just that they were different from mine.
Over time, I came to understand that just because I grew up doing something one way did not mean everyone did it the same way. I had to learn to understand My Leading Man’s varying view points from the context of his life experiences. And I had to learn to truly discuss and understand his perspectives before coming to a decision together as a couple about the best path forward.
So next time you push your belief system on your spouse, try to understand how they feel about the topic at hand and the frame of reference from which they are saying it. You never know what you might learn from the other person (or preferably, what you may be able to teach them).