1 + _ = ?

I recently had a conversation with a friend whose relationship with his fiance is in a bit of turmoil

Lets call him Jasdeep and his fiance- Palwinder. Theyve been dating for a few years, told both parents who gave their consent/supported the relationship and a formal engagement date was set.

Theyve already been through some minor trials and tribulations thus far (long-distance + demanding jobs) but made it through ok. The formal engagement was set to take place late next year but recently I started hearing that the engagement would be delayed, not because of any familial or community pressures, but by a decision made by the couple themselves From what Ive seen in the past, a delay means an inevitable cancellation at some point in the future.

From what I know, they both felt that something was amiss in their relationship, a disconnect, though I dont know what the source of it was. But their reactions to this disconnect are what have left me searching for an answer.

Palwinder is willing to do whatever is necessary to save the relationship. Shes willing to change, to continue long-distance if circumstances demand. Jasdeep, on the other hand, is willing to try only if circumstances make it easy, and hasnt mentioned any need to change himself in any way.

Now, Jasdeep is normally not an alpha male, demanding his way in every small matter, he is willing to compromise in most circumstances… which is why this catches me off guard.

It could be the case that Palwinder is going through something (whether short term or long term) thats harmful to her and the relationship, and it would in fact be healthy for both her and the relationship if she worked through it. Maybe she recognizes that and thats why shes willing to do so much.

But this reminds me of a pattern Ive seen often, even if it turns out that this case isnt an instance of it

Amongst various sets of parents, cousins, uncles & aunts, friends- when something is amiss and in need of change, in overwhelming instances, its the woman who is more than willing to do whatevers necessary to compromise to try to save the relationship. Maybe this partly stems from the traditional assumption that weve grown up with, where the failure of the relationship is considered to be a failure of the woman (I recognize that such an assumption would be false in many ways, but its still out there)

My question is: Why do women work so hard to compromise when the other half of the equation doesnt want to budge?

And how, if at all, is this subtle imbalance in relationships linked to the harsher violence against women in Punjabi (maybe all South Asian) communities?


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15 Responses to “1 + _ = ?”

  1. Kaur says:

    Although I don’t think we can make a blanket generalization saying that all women try so hard to compromise (there are plenty of stubborn women out there who don’t), I think those women who do tend to compromise (so that their partner doesn’t have to) are struggling to find out who they are themselves. I mean, if you don’t know who you are and what you believe in and stand for, then you’ll be more likely to budge on issues to accomodate for your partner’s inability to compromise.

    I think girls are taught from an early age that they should be accomodating and compromising, so I think a lot of that follows us into relationships. They yearn to be accepted and it’s very true that women are held accountable for their marriages succeeding (which is bogus!)

    What’s more troubling for me though, is how this is potentially leading to women compromising on issues that deal with their bodies. Many women are forced by their husbands to abort their baby when they find out it’s a girl. In our community and even with the 2nd and 3rd generation having lived in the West, women still don’t feel confident enough not to compromise on these issues, even when they impact their own bodies.

  2. Kaur says:

    Although I don't think we can make a blanket generalization saying that all women try so hard to compromise (there are plenty of stubborn women out there who don't), I think those women who do tend to compromise (so that their partner doesn't have to) are struggling to find out who they are themselves. I mean, if you don't know who you are and what you believe in and stand for, then you'll be more likely to budge on issues to accomodate for your partner's inability to compromise.

    I think girls are taught from an early age that they should be accomodating and compromising, so I think a lot of that follows us into relationships. They yearn to be accepted and it's very true that women are held accountable for their marriages succeeding (which is bogus!)

    What's more troubling for me though, is how this is potentially leading to women compromising on issues that deal with their bodies. Many women are forced by their husbands to abort their baby when they find out it's a girl. In our community and even with the 2nd and 3rd generation having lived in the West, women still don't feel confident enough not to compromise on these issues, even when they impact their own bodies.

  3. ItsMe says:

    It's not about budging at times the Jasdeep's of the relationship compromise in otherways, which in actually are not significant changes. They'll give up time watching TV or something useless like that. :) But I think the Palwinders in such situations (maybe not this one)pertaining to traditionculture realize a failed relationship also one thats progressed as far as the one mentioned above does not bode well for their social reputation and standing. As well may hurt their future marriage prospects. Even thought we live or are born outside of Punjab (or other respective states) we still are subjected to to these stigma's (DOnt' have a better word). "Hawww her engagement broke off whose gonna marry her" the Guys may not care but parents sure do. The guy doesn't really realize at time that a failed relationship can harm the other party, and at times the guys need a swift kick in the pants to say hey if you knew it wasn't working don't screw up her life. But guess that takes a lot for someone to realize that yet that shouldn't be an excuse.

    Just my opnion.

    Bhul Chuk Maf Karni (especially my spelling and grammer)

  4. ItsMe says:

    It’s not about budging at times the Jasdeep’s of the relationship compromise in otherways, which in actually are not significant changes. They’ll give up time watching TV or something useless like that. :) But I think the Palwinders in such situations (maybe not this one)pertaining to tradition\culture realize a failed relationship also one thats progressed as far as the one mentioned above does not bode well for their social reputation and standing. As well may hurt their future marriage prospects. Even thought we live or are born outside of Punjab (or other respective states) we still are subjected to to these stigma’s (DOnt’ have a better word). “Hawww her engagement broke off whose gonna marry her” the Guys may not care but parents sure do. The guy doesn’t really realize at time that a failed relationship can harm the other party, and at times the guys need a swift kick in the pants to say hey if you knew it wasn’t working don’t screw up her life. But guess that takes a lot for someone to realize that yet that shouldn’t be an excuse.

    Just my opnion.

    Bhul Chuk Maf Karni (especially my spelling and grammer)

  5. Cali-boy says:

    A guy's response …

    I don't know anything about the other people who have responded to the question such as their gender or how many generations they are removed from Punjab, however this issue does not just impact Sikhs or Punjabis, but impacts the human race.

    Growing up in the states, there's been a shift in american society regarding marriage. Guys and girls still continue dating to get to first know the other person, but the next stage is where the shift begins. People are dating for longer periods of time and move in together for period of time before formally tying the knot. Whereas growing up in a traditional Sikh household, we're taught go to college, start your career, and then get married. The problem with the second scenario in the western world is that there is not enough time to understand oneself much less a potential mate (g/f, b/f, husband, wife). So, what you see is people end up doing the questioning after the fact, which has the negative effects. The benefit of questioning is that individuals and couples get to know themselves and each other better, the downside to this learning process is that the individuals may not be right for each other.

    As far as girls being more accommodating than guys, I don't necessarily agree with that. In general, one person will be more dominant than the other person (the dominance factor can be on an issue by issue basis). Yes, the belief exists out there that guys are lazy, stubborn, and don't listen, but similar stereotypes exist for women, too. Guys listen and try to change or try to make up our deficiencies in other ways, such as learning at an early age how to say "I'm sorry" to our significant other. 😉

    I don't know how long this couple has been together or how old they are, but if it's not meant to be and they are drifting apart, it's better that it occurs now than later when they might potentially have kids.

    Like it'sme said, this is just my opinion and I apologize for meandering in getting to my point, but to my defense I'm a guy and I might just need a swift kick in my pants. 😉

  6. Cali-boy says:

    A guy’s response …

    I don’t know anything about the other people who have responded to the question such as their gender or how many generations they are removed from Punjab, however this issue does not just impact Sikhs or Punjabis, but impacts the human race.

    Growing up in the states, there’s been a shift in american society regarding marriage. Guys and girls still continue dating to get to first know the other person, but the next stage is where the shift begins. People are dating for longer periods of time and move in together for period of time before formally tying the knot. Whereas growing up in a traditional Sikh household, we’re taught go to college, start your career, and then get married. The problem with the second scenario in the western world is that there is not enough time to understand oneself much less a potential mate (g/f, b/f, husband, wife). So, what you see is people end up doing the questioning after the fact, which has the negative effects. The benefit of questioning is that individuals and couples get to know themselves and each other better, the downside to this learning process is that the individuals may not be right for each other.

    As far as girls being more accommodating than guys, I don’t necessarily agree with that. In general, one person will be more dominant than the other person (the dominance factor can be on an issue by issue basis). Yes, the belief exists out there that guys are lazy, stubborn, and don’t listen, but similar stereotypes exist for women, too. Guys listen and try to change or try to make up our deficiencies in other ways, such as learning at an early age how to say “I’m sorry” to our significant other. 😉

    I don’t know how long this couple has been together or how old they are, but if it’s not meant to be and they are drifting apart, it’s better that it occurs now than later when they might potentially have kids.

    Like it’sme said, this is just my opinion and I apologize for meandering in getting to my point, but to my defense I’m a guy and I might just need a swift kick in my pants. 😉

  7. P.Singh says:

    Hmm…I have not closely observed very many relationships, but have seen a few where it is the guy who is putting in the lion's share of the effort. These observations make me question the premise that women compromise more often than men, especially for men and women brought up in the West.

    That said, I have also observed amongst family and friends, when there is something amiss in the family, large or minor, the woman involved does tend to bear the brunt of the blame….and it is other women doing the blaming! Guys tend to be unaware or uninterested in such talk, until/unless the shit hits the fan and they have to talk about it.

    I think the connection between the above phenomenon (bearing the brunt of blame over mishaps) and domestic violence, falls squarely on existing traditional gender roles.

    In families where these traditional gender roles are espoused to some small degree, the woman is held responsible for keeping/maintaining family relationships.

    In families where traditional gender roles are espoused more extremely, the woman is treated as chattel, becomes the property of the husband's family, is subject to the family's whims, and is treated with little more respect than a child… and is punished like a child.

    I am assuming, in families that do not put great weight in traditional gender roles, there is probably less incidence of domestic violence.

  8. P.Singh says:

    Hmm…I have not closely observed very many relationships, but have seen a few where it is the guy who is putting in the lion’s share of the effort. These observations make me question the premise that women compromise more often than men, especially for men and women brought up in the West.

    That said, I have also observed amongst family and friends, when there is something amiss in the family, large or minor, the woman involved does tend to bear the brunt of the blame….and it is other women doing the blaming! Guys tend to be unaware or uninterested in such talk, until/unless the shit hits the fan and they have to talk about it.

    I think the connection between the above phenomenon (bearing the brunt of blame over mishaps) and domestic violence, falls squarely on existing traditional gender roles.

    In families where these traditional gender roles are espoused to some small degree, the woman is held responsible for keeping/maintaining family relationships.

    In families where traditional gender roles are espoused more extremely, the woman is treated as chattel, becomes the property of the husband’s family, is subject to the family’s whims, and is treated with little more respect than a child… and is punished like a child.

    I am assuming, in families that do not put great weight in traditional gender roles, there is probably less incidence of domestic violence.

  9. Camille says:

    Ok, this is wildly speculative, but I think the issue is more challenging for Punjabi ABD women than others. How often have you seen a vocal, independent, or otherwise intelligent/inspiring American-born Punjabi girl shot down by aunties/uncles for being "too outspoken" or "too intelligent" or not [fill in quality] enough? A great part of this is driven by the idea that Punjabi khudiaa, especially Sikh ones, are required to "marry-in" the community and carry the race forward.

    The "new threat" I hear folks hang over girls' heads is that guys have the choice to go to India and marry the supermodel, domestically-oriented woman of their dreams for the promise of a green card. I've certainly met terrific, feminist, Punjabi and Sikh guys, but they are unfortunately the overwhelming minority. How much do we (women) compromise because our population of eligible significant others is inherently limited by our (relatively) small population size? I can only imagine how much more difficult it is for LGBT folks.

  10. Camille says:

    Ok, this is wildly speculative, but I think the issue is more challenging for Punjabi ABD women than others. How often have you seen a vocal, independent, or otherwise intelligent/inspiring American-born Punjabi girl shot down by aunties/uncles for being “too outspoken” or “too intelligent” or not [fill in quality] enough? A great part of this is driven by the idea that Punjabi khudiaa, especially Sikh ones, are required to “marry-in” the community and carry the race forward.

    The “new threat” I hear folks hang over girls’ heads is that guys have the choice to go to India and marry the supermodel, domestically-oriented woman of their dreams for the promise of a green card. I’ve certainly met terrific, feminist, Punjabi and Sikh guys, but they are unfortunately the overwhelming minority. How much do we (women) compromise because our population of eligible significant others is inherently limited by our (relatively) small population size? I can only imagine how much more difficult it is for LGBT folks.

  11. Reema says:

    Camille, I think the challenges that face ABD women are different from those that face the immigrant generation – but for wild speculation, I actually would’ve guessed the other way :) – since immigrants would likely have language barriers, adjustment issues, trouble navigating through the American system, and maybe be more isolated… but it would be interesting to explore what’s more challenging for ABD women vs. what’s more challenging for the immigrant generation and why.

    I totally agree with you and all the other comments above that there are women who have a strong sense of identity and know their limits beyond which they won't compromise, and of course there are incredibly sensitive men who are willing to meet their partners halfway on issues that matter, as P. Singh and Cali-boy pointed out. And maybe men in our generation are willing to compromise more than our parents’ generation.

    P. Singh, I think the women you mentioned (that blame other women) probably aren’t aware in that moment of the influences that lead them to blame, and the consequences of their actions… it’s important for us to be aware of how and why we choose what we do and what influences us to do so, so that when we make our choices, we’re more aware and better informed. I think that many women, even when we’re fully aware and informed, will continue to choose to compromise because sometimes relationships are more important than individual, independent needs. But awareness of how and why we do so is important because without it, there's a sense of (or real) powerlessness.

    Some of these issues are faced by women of many communities, but I still think Punjabi-Sikh women benefit from an awareness of how the Punjabi-Sikh context influences us.

  12. Reema says:

    Camille, I think the challenges that face ABD women are different from those that face the immigrant generation but for wild speculation, I actually wouldve guessed the other way :) – since immigrants would likely have language barriers, adjustment issues, trouble navigating through the American system, and maybe be more isolated… but it would be interesting to explore whats more challenging for ABD women vs. whats more challenging for the immigrant generation and why.

    I totally agree with you and all the other comments above that there are women who have a strong sense of identity and know their limits beyond which they won’t compromise, and of course there are incredibly sensitive men who are willing to meet their partners halfway on issues that matter, as P. Singh and Cali-boy pointed out. And maybe men in our generation are willing to compromise more than our parents generation.

    P. Singh, I think the women you mentioned (that blame other women) probably arent aware in that moment of the influences that lead them to blame, and the consequences of their actions… its important for us to be aware of how and why we choose what we do and what influences us to do so, so that when we make our choices, were more aware and better informed. I think that many women, even when were fully aware and informed, will continue to choose to compromise because sometimes relationships are more important than individual, independent needs. But awareness of how and why we do so is important because without it, there’s a sense of (or real) powerlessness.

    Some of these issues are faced by women of many communities, but I still think Punjabi-Sikh women benefit from an awareness of how the Punjabi-Sikh context influences us.

  13. Cali-boy says:

    I have not done a formal study, but have had the conversation with several friends (male) at various times regarding where we would prefer our spouse to be from and the type of personality. The consensus for the most part is that we would prefer our wife to be from here (Canada or the US). The primary reason stated by the friends (including myself) is that women understand the western culture and are able to speak their mind. Like I said, I realize that I have not undertaken a formal study, so the sample size may not be large enough nor are other factors known.

    One sardar that I work with married a girl from India, however that marriage didn't work out because of fact that Camille pointed out – green card. Turns out that she had a boyfriend back home and only married this guy to get a green card. Point I'm getting at is that, the problem of ulterior motives is not something that just affects "brides", but affects future "grooms" too.

    There are two factors affecting our community: 1) Incorporating aspects of the western culture we are brought up in, such as questioning the status quo regarding relationships and the role of a men/women; and 2) embracing the eastern culture (actually practiced by a lot of societies outisde of Canada and the US) that of the extended family has greater input in the lives of individuals. Part of our job is to understand what that line of balance is between the two different cultures – that line varies by individual.

    I don't think it's right for someone to give up their ideals/beliefs, but I do think that a healthy conversation may present another point of view to help further a discussion in order to reach a compromise.

  14. Cali-boy says:

    I have not done a formal study, but have had the conversation with several friends (male) at various times regarding where we would prefer our spouse to be from and the type of personality. The consensus for the most part is that we would prefer our wife to be from here (Canada or the US). The primary reason stated by the friends (including myself) is that women understand the western culture and are able to speak their mind. Like I said, I realize that I have not undertaken a formal study, so the sample size may not be large enough nor are other factors known.

    One sardar that I work with married a girl from India, however that marriage didn’t work out because of fact that Camille pointed out – green card. Turns out that she had a boyfriend back home and only married this guy to get a green card. Point I’m getting at is that, the problem of ulterior motives is not something that just affects “brides”, but affects future “grooms” too.

    There are two factors affecting our community: 1) Incorporating aspects of the western culture we are brought up in, such as questioning the status quo regarding relationships and the role of a men/women; and 2) embracing the eastern culture (actually practiced by a lot of societies outisde of Canada and the US) that of the extended family has greater input in the lives of individuals. Part of our job is to understand what that line of balance is between the two different cultures – that line varies by individual.

    I don’t think it’s right for someone to give up their ideals/beliefs, but I do think that a healthy conversation may present another point of view to help further a discussion in order to reach a compromise.

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