You can’t stop thinking about him.
You can’t sleep at night.
You can’t eat more than a single roti for dinner.
You’re love struck. The only problem is that you’re Indian.
You’re Gujurati. Punjabi. Parsi. Bengali. Rajasthani. Tamil. Telugu. Kanarese. Maratha. Malayalam.
Your parents have repeatedly evangelized since your birth: “Don’t embarrass us and shame us by becoming an author or an artist.”
“Don’t fall in love with someone you meet in your honors classes or at those Godless Ivy League colleges!?! unless maybe he’s a doctor…”
And most important: “Please, dear Bhagavan, don’t marry outside our caste and ruin our family name for generations.”
As many of you know, the caste system (which divides people into different social classes) is alive and well, in India and around the world.
You’ve got the age-old Bollywood-movie question on your hands – what do you do when you’re madly in love with someone outside your caste?
When your heart screams, “Yes, by the grace of Krishna!” to your lover, but your parents scream, “Over my dead body!” and threaten to burn you alive.
Do you follow your heart and marry the man of your dreams (bringing tears, shame and disappointment to your family)?
Or do you squash your feelings and marry the person your Mummy and Daddy set you up with?
Your soul mate or your parents’ pride?
I myself fell in love with the person I wanted to marry, and stood resolute in my decision. But I had the benefit of marrying someone from my community which made the parental approval process much easier.
My parents still relented but ultimately, gave in.
In your case, the person you’ve fallen in love with might be from a different caste, culture or race. If you have a close-minded and intrusive family, you’ve got a problem on your hands.
Should you marry the love of your life or the man your parents love?
Why marry the love of your life?
You know yourself best. You base your decisions on your heart and your intuition. You know what’s right for you, and every fiber of your being is saying that this is the guy you want.
You want to choose your own Subway toppings man. The power of freedom and choice. Your parents have never let you buy your own clothes or pick your own toppings at Subway. They’ve controlled your life. They love you and they know what’s best for you. That’s why they’ve “helped” you make every decision in your life. But enough is enough. You want to make at least one major, life-altering decision. You want the option of living with the person you’ll spend every day of your life with.
He’s your soul mate. He shows up in the middle of the night with boba tea. He zooms across town at any hour to mend your heart. He stays up late to video chat with you. He’d throw himself in front of a bullet train to declare his love for you (so long as the train’s stopped, of course).
You know yourself enough to realize that he’s the one for you. He’s your Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Hrithik Roshan all rolled up into one.
Why marry the man of your dreams parents’ dreams?
I’ve written an extensive post about the benefits of arranged marriages here, but let me now get right to the point about how marrying within your caste might be a good life decision.
Love is fleeting. Research says that the release of dopamine leads to feelings of infatuation with your lover. This chemical infatuation doesn’t last long: from a few months to three years.
Chemical-induced love will not save the day. Shared values, compatibility and similar relationship goals ensure wedded bliss. These are the things your family knows about.
Love can blind you to the things that make for long-term relationships, including your partner’s kindness and generosity (traits that research has proven make marriages last).
You stay alive and so do your parents. They won’t kill you, which is a major plus. They also won’t take their own lives by overdosing on medication, suffering heart attacks or falling down a flight of stairs in pure horror. They won’t sue you.
You’ll save them from becoming social outcasts and recluses who lock themselves in their homes so that they don’t have to talk about a child who went rogue and committed the crime of inter-caste marriage.
They know the things that truly matter in life. While you focus on his eyes and his height, your parents will conduct a top-to-bottom, your-life-depends-on-it background check. They’ll find your beau’s DNA information, bank records and property holdings, and also search for mental illness in his family.
They’ll inquire about your future spouse’s family: their emotional states, psychological states, financial states and spiritual affairs. Through an elaborate system of snooping, gossiping and legal investigation, they’ll determine how compatible you and he will be. They’ll ensure your values match and your tastes align, and that he can afford the type of lifestyle they want for you.
The wedding’s on the house. (The gifts and the whiskey flow freely.) Marry the person you love, who is outside your caste, and you’ll be lucky if anyone in your family attends your wedding.
Marry the person your parents love and you can bet that every relative and quasi- relative will be there. Won’t such an affair cost tens of thousands of dollars?
No worries. When you take the plunge on your family’s terms, they bear the costs and the bling. They pick up the tab. It’s a small price to pay for a priceless gift: a golden family name.
On top of all this, don’t forget about the opulent gifts and bundles of pounds/dollars you’ll rake in.
Here are 6 questions to help you decide between “love” marriage and marriage to someone from the same caste:
1) How important is family to you?
How close are you to your parents and your extended family? Do you value your relationship with them and need their constant presence in your life? Have you always had a close and loving relationship with them, or has your relationship been rocky and strained?
Can you make it without your family’s financial and emotional support? Is it okay if your family doesn’t support your marital decision? Are you willing to sacrifice your relationship with your parents for the person you love?
2) How experienced are you in relationships?
Is this the first relationship you’ve had? How confident are you that this man is the one? Have you had previous relationships that you can compare your current relationship to, determining what works and what doesn’t?
How well do you know yourself?
Are you trying to get out of a bad situation in terms of your parents’ constant presence in your life? Are you really in love and committed to the person you’re dating, or are you simply trying to escape your parents?
3) Can you wait it out?
What’s the rush? Can you give yourself a little more time?
If your parents are insisting that you get married, can you find excuses to stall your nuptials?
Time will give you more perspective about the relationship you’re in. Is this the person you want to be with, the right person for you?
Time will also help your parents take deep breaths and calm down. It will give them the ability to determine whether they actually hate your non-caste suitor or whether they can hold their noses and accept the relationship.
Will they be able to let go of their judgments and hostile behavior toward your man? Probably not, but anything is possible over time.
4) What does your gut feeling say?
Your intuition is important, but so many contradictory thoughts flood it that you don’t know what it’s saying anymore.
Is your ego trying to make a point? Do your thoughts revolve around standing up to your parents and showing them that you can make decisions on your own?
Does this relationship feel right or do you just want to be right?
If your gut feeling is telling you that the relationship you’re in is not the right one, will you be willing to listen to that voice?
Listen to your intuition, but more importantly, make sure what you’re listening to is actually your intuition. If it’s saying the opposite of what your mind or your boyfriend says, be willing to trust and respect your intuition.
Imagine your older and wiser self. Visualize yourself and this relationship 20 years down the road. What do you see? What does this relationship look like when you visualize it?
5) How compatible are you with the person you love?
Is your current relationship filled with compassion, kindness and generosity? Or are you constantly feeling as though your partner doesn’t hear you and that you’re continually pushing and pulling?
Are you fighting and bickering all the time?
Are you with your partner because of your heart, or because you’re looking for an escape?
Does this relationship work?
Do you have shared values? Mutual interests? The same long-term goals?
Do you see happiness, or red flags and signs of danger?
6) Are you choosing this person out of spite or out of love?
Are you certain you’re with this person because you have strong feelings for him?
Or, once again, are you trying to prove a point to your parents? Are you choosing your suitor simply out of spite?
Is this an act of love for your sweetheart or an act of revenge against your parents?
It’s something to think about.
Your intuition knows what’s right for you.
And sometimes it may tell you that the person you think is the love of your life isn’t the person for you. Listen to this strong voice within, even if it doesn’t give you the answer you want.
Remember that, in life, nothing is permanent. As much as your parents insist that marriage is a life-long decision and as much as you believe that this decision is for eternity, know that nothing is permanent. People make mistakes. And things fall apart.
I’m not saying that the decision you make will be a disaster and that you’ll be miserable the rest of your life.
I’m saying that this is a big decision, but not a life-or-death one. If you choose your lover and the relationship fails, you’ll find a way to get through the breakup and move past it.
If you choose the partner your parents pick and the relationship doesn’t work, you’ll go through some pain, but you’ll get through it and move on.
You don’t know if the person you’re marrying today will be the same person in ten years. Change happens. Couples divorce. Couples break up.
You can’t see your future, but you can maintain a healthy perspective toward love and relationships.
Forget passion-filled Hollywood romances and sentimental, slightly neurotic ‘til-death-do-us-part Bollywood marriages.
Make the best decision you can under the circumstances you’re facing.
Check with your intuition and make a decision you feel good about.
If you enjoyed this post, check out 2 books I wrote on this topic. If you’re not sure about arranged marriage, pick up Arranged Marriage: Run to the Altar Or Run For Your Life (affiliate link). And if you’re in love with someone who is not Indian, read How To Get Indian Parents to Accept Your Marriage Proposal.