I got married 8 years ago. I was one of the first from my group of friends to pass this milestone and since we were all in our earlier 20’s, I didn’t have much of a blueprint about what marriage actually was—we only ever talked about the wedding.
“Who's doing your makeup? Where are you getting your outfits? Are you having bridesmaids? What’s the venue?” Those were the vital questions I received from friends and family alike.
Looking back on this time in my life I don’t think it even crossed my mind to consider what comes after the wedding. It’s not like anyone sat down with my husband and I to say, "have you discussed finances, boundaries, expectations around your future and your shared dreams?"
Eight years ago mental health wasn’t nearly as discussed on social media as it is today, let alone the idea of pre-marital counselling.
Without knowing these options existed for us, we walked into this chapter of our lives blissfully ignorant about what it meant to be actually married.
If I’m being honest, not much has changed since then. The South Asian community approaches weddings in the same way they always have; the importance is placed on having a wedding rather than the marriage itself.
South Asian brides-to-be spend months, years even years planning their weddings.
The wedding month goes by in a flash and suddenly couples are married with no inkling of what this really means.
There are expectations on the newlywed bride: come to this event, plan that event, look pretty, be “nice”, build relations and oh—be sure to hold on to that other life you had before marriage.
In the South Asian community it’s taboo to live with your partner before you get married and so adjusting to sharing a room, a bathroom and a life with your new partner is a big change that takes place seemingly overnight.
I remember feeling so overwhelmed the first week of being married. How do I fit all of my stuff into our new room? How do I fit myself into this new life? Is it supposed to feel this hard?
Like most couples, my husband and I did not talk about who makes dinner and who cleans the bathroom. It was something we learned along the way.
I remember as a newlywed the first few weeks and months of married life went by in a blur between constant social events and getting used to living in a new house while being part of a new family.
Before marriage, it was so easy to grab dinner with a friend and catch up or to plan a last minute hang out, but suddenly I had a whole other family to put first. No one ever told me how stressful and isolating this would feel.
Even after the first year of marriage, I walked a tightrope balancing time with my new family while still trying to hold tightly to my old life.
As an introvert, it was also a challenge and a shock to learn that I was now in a phase of my life where I not only had to be social but I had to actively build new relationships.
I had to learn the dynamics between different family members, set boundaries around what I was willing to share with my new relations and somehow figure out how to fill my own cup while being stretched in so many directions.
It was an uncomfortable time in my life because I didn’t have the language or awareness on how to set boundaries. I didn’t have anyone to turn to for answers, either. All the women in my life were either unmarried and couldn’t relate to my experiences or were married and had stepped into the role of a martyr. They were conditioned to be people pleasers, the “yes” women in the family who put their needs behind everyone else’s. There were no boundaries for them so how could they explain that concept to me?
The messaging to me was what intergenerational trauma is essentially built on—”I went through this and now you will too.”
Looking back on these moments now, I feel sad for the 23-year-old newly married version of me. No one told her what to expect and she had to figure it out on her own. It was a confusing experience.
No one talks about these transitions. No one discusses how to navigate relationships with your new parents. No one discusses how hard it can be to even call someone else mom and dad.
After over 8 years of marriage, I have a deep love for my in-laws. We’ve been through a lot and grown with each other but when I first got married it was hard not to stumble on the words “mom” and “dad”.
We spend our whole lives using them in reference to the people who raised us and it sits differently on your tongue when you're newly married and using such an intimate word for someone you have yet to form a relationship with.
Did we stumble? All the time. We made mistakes, learned, and kept on going.
For those about to embark on the adventure that is marriage it’s important to remember that the mundane moments in your relationship are the most important. Why? Because that is what your life is going to be built on—not just the party, but the moments that make up everyday life.
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