Marriage and Expectations

Marriage and Expectations
In May 2023, Taraki’s Women’s Forum came together for a discussion on navigating marriage and expectations.

The session brought together Punjabi women from their mid 20s to their late 70s, all at different points of their respective relationships. The three following areas were explored:

  • Expectations of a daughter-in-law in the Panjabi community
  • The impact of expectations on well-being
  • How we can manage expectations

External Expectations
There are many expectations surrounding marriage and relationships in the Panjabi community, prior and post- marriage. If you’re not married, you should be by a certain age. If you’re getting married, this is how you ought to do it. If you are married, you should be this type of daughter-in-law.

There was a general feeling among attendees that marriage meant making significant changes in their lives, from location to day-to-day routines, resulting in the shaping their lives around their in-laws or partners. One attendee shared that her partner, prior to their wedding day, admitted that things weren’t going to really change for him in the way they would for her. There’s a clear, yet unspoken, assumption that as Panjabi woman, you will be shaping yourself to fit your marital partner and his world - in fact, the idea of being ‘reborn’ post marriage was mentioned. As one attendee put it, women not only have to be a good ‘wife’, but also a good mother, a good daughter-in-law and would be held accountable for anything that goes wrong.

Impact of external expectations on your wellbeing

The impact on wellbeing that results from external expectations is vast. They can make you fear relationships, can make you resentful of the one you’re in, and can even make you doubt yourself. One member of the forum, now a widow with grown children, shared that she used experiences of marriage and the expectations she had to meet, (from her partner and in-laws) to ensure that her daughters did not have to go through this. From this, it was clear to the forum that learning the importance of and setting boundaries is key to protecting yourself and your relationship. In turn, this ensures that expectations are managed (and removed when they are excessive), in turn building a strong and safe relationship. To achieve this, open and clear communication was something that the forum felt was necessary

Managing expectations
An interesting anecdote was shared by an attendee. She shared that, sometimes, going into relationship, you expect your partner to be with you all of the time, to only spend time with you. Then, you need a break from them, but find you don’t know how to be away from them. A Catch-22? Indeed! This attendee was brave enough to share that this was her current situation (thank you, for your vulnerability and authenticity!). Her point was that she realised how important it is to get to know yourself and be comfortable in your being prior to being in a relationship. Learning to be alone is an important part of being a relationship. This attendee is now exploring her self in new ways, and learning to be still in her own company. Many of the attendees that identified as ‘single’ shared that they were using this time to get to know themselves better and grow into their authentic selves.

The key takeaways from the session were:

  • Expectations can be damaging to both parties in the relationship
  • Open and honest communication is key to the success of any relationship
  • Being able to love yourself and protect your identity is crucial not just to relationships but to your life

The Women’s Forum want to say thank you again to all those that attended the session and share their experiences.

Please see below some of the resources mentioned during the session:

You can find out more about the Punjabi Women’s Forum by visiting our Events page here.

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