"Just those small moments means we have a healthy balance"
Marriage is a large aspect of South Asian culture and having a successful Desi marriage takes a lot of work from both parties.
Whilst we know the fundamental aspect of a stable relationship is love, there are other elements when it comes to marriage.
But, this is all dependable on location as well. Marriages within the UK are much more modern and deviate away from past traditions.
Not to mention, more Desi people are getting married later. This is because they are focused on their careers, independence and life choices.
They would much rather have a stable life before entering marriage and for the actual partner and relationship to complement that instead of hindering it.
So, in order to get a better idea of the key characteristics of a successful Desi marriage, DESIblitz spoke to some couples to get their opinion. These were the five main keys that were raised.
Respect & Understanding
One component that some couples had raised was the importance of respect and understanding.
This obviously spreads into other things such as trust and sacrifice but respecting one another and understanding certain choices are vital.
Paramjeet Kaur, who’s been married for three years explained:
“Coming into marriage, I wanted my husband to respect my boundaries and also understand my career.
“It’s important that my man’s ego isn’t hurt by me working or coming home late.
“He also needs to understand that I’m my own woman so sharing certain responsibilities was vital for the marriage to work. But, he feels the same which made me very happy.”
Kian Mahmood, a husband and father of two, added his opinion on this:
“Understanding my needs is a big must. But also respect is a big part of my marriage. When I first got married, I expected my wife to stay at home.
“Not as a sexist thing, but more from a protective point of view. But, when we spoke, she told me what her needs were and I told her what my expectations were.
“But, we both took it on ourselves to respect each other’s views and compromise. That’s where the understanding comes in.
“Too many people, especially in England, take marriage for granted and don’t want to work towards it.”
Kian raises a good point. Acknowledging your potential partner’s views is vital for marriage.
Whilst it’s an individual’s choice as to whether they accept or reject this, are more British Asians not trying enough to compromise?
Additionally, Poonam Joshi, a nurse whose been married for six years provided her comments:
“When I first met my husband, I told him that I work long hours and I also like to go out and have fun.
“I’m not a typical Asian girl who just works, comes home and cooks, cleans, sleeps and repeat. I want to live my life.
“He understood this and didn’t kick up a fuss and I’m so glad he was like that. Whereas he’s the opposite and prefers to stay at home and do his own thing.
“He may go to the pub and chill with his cousins, but I respected that.
“I do ask him to come out with me sometimes, which he does but I understand it’s not really his thing.
“But I’m glad we both respect each other’s lifestyle and that didn’t change after marriage.”
The most important thing gathered here is that each person is going to enter marriage having lived their own life.
Whilst some aspects of that life will need to adapt to the relationship, other areas can remain the same and should for the marriage to work.
Whilst most marriages take a hit on the social aspect, especially after having children, the consistency of some excitement adds to a marriage’s success.
Most couples get lost within their own careers, home life, chores and errands and unintentionally forget about their relationship.
But, the people we spoke to emphasised the importance of taking time out for each other.
Kishan Patel, a mechanic who’s been married for five years says:
“When me and my wife had our first kid, we lost a chunk of our social life and focused on him and working.
“We’d do the normal baby stuff, then go work, come back, sleep (or at least try to), and barely speak to one another.
“But after a few months, we realised how boring things had gotten. We used to go out all the time, at least once a week which would be our date night.
“Our marriage had lost that spark and excitement because we forgot to take a minute out for us. And that’s not a bad thing to feel.
“Our son is so precious to us but so is one another.
“So after a few months, we decided to go out at least once every 2 weeks and get my mother-in-law to look after the baby.
“It added that thrill back and we had something to look forward to. So, now he’s a bit more grown up, we find ourselves doing it once a week now.
“Even every so often, I’ll buy my wife flowers just to see her smile and keep her excited for what’s to come.”
Preeti Beghal told us of her experience with this topic:
“Having that excitement is such a key thing! After a year of being married, I felt things were going stale so I told my husband about it and he agreed.
“So we told each other we would try and be more exciting or spontaneous. A week or so later, he surprises me with a weekend away and I was so happy.
“Ever since then, we’ve gone back and forth. Even small things like dressing up in some sexy lingerie have worked wonders!”
It seems excitement within the marriage can come from different things.
Whether it’s spending time together or being a bit saucier, it seems Desi marriages thrive off this spontaneity.
Not just within a Desi marriage, but all relationships require a good amount and sense of communication.
A lack of this can lead to issues such as constant arguments, misunderstandings and distance.
Mahmood Jefi, a 29-year-old from Bradford, highlighted why a lack of communication was the downfall of his marriage:
“Me and my wife were arranged, so when we first spoke, it was actually a couple of weeks before we got married.
“But, I thought things would fall into place after the wedding.
“But, she was very silent and barely spoke, I tried different things and she wouldn’t respond as a wife should. Then, this led me to not try with her anymore.
“But, I didn’t actually ask her what was wrong or make more of an effort to see how she felt.
“I mean, neither did she, but by us not talking, we could barely be in the same room as one another. It was like living with a complete stranger.
“So, in the end, we had to separate.”
Divorce is still a taboo within South Asian communities, so good communication skills are key to making marriages work.
Simran Dhani agrees with this statement as it was a better conversation and sharing that made her marriage stronger:
“I’ve been married for over nine years and in large parts, it’s been smooth sailing. But for a year or so, we weren’t really talking to one another.
“I mean we were, but not properly about our lives, work, the house, the kids etc. It was kind of just passing conversations.
“So, if I’d try to open up to him, he’d shut it down or not know how to react.
“Even if he would tell me he was going out, we’d argue because it was out of the blue and like we were leading separate lives.
“I’m not sure how, but one day we started talking in bed and everything kind of came out.
“I told him that we need to start talking again and telling each other how we feel about things and each other.
“It was a silver lining for us because we got a better understanding of each other and could move forward freely.
“We no longer felt like we had to hide our feelings. That’s what a marriage is.”
Zaheema Liffer, who’s been married for 10 years, agrees with Simran’s statements:
“I told my husband before we got married that we need to be open. You know how Asian men are, they don’t talk about how they feel.
“I wanted the marriage to be transparent and it’s been great for us. My husband doesn’t feel shy to say if he’s upset or even if I’ve done something wrong.
“I’ll also tell him if he’s annoyed me or if there is something we need to work on together. A marriage needs to be open and honest.”
Truthful and open communication allows for each person in the marriage to feel like they can be themselves.
If partners are quiet or don’t speak to one another then it could lead to arguments or even divorce.
But, in a Desi marriage, communication is key to having a stable relationship where each person can rely on their partner and talk to them for support and advice.
One of the key aspects of a marriage/relationship that Desi people came forward with, particularly younger couples, was personal space.
Whilst marriages are very intimate, people still expressed their appreciation for having time to themselves and time away from one another.
This doesn’t mean complete detachment, but just a period where a person can have some alone time from the stresses of life.
Bhupinder Gill, a 27-year-old banker from Birmingham, told us why personal space is important:
“I’ve been married for over a year now and me and my wife both love time by ourselves.
“Time away from each other is healthy because we appreciate our time together more.
“Also, we’re both the type of people that when doing too much of the same thing, it makes us feel suffocated.
“Like doing everything together and going everywhere with each other wouldn’t be good for us.
“We have our own lives and then we have our life together, they can both exist simultaneously.
“Also, our alone time is something simple like I’ll spend a few hours playing on the PS5 on the weekend, or she’ll go out for coffee with friends.
“Just those small moments means we have a healthy balance.”
Salma Hidet, a newly married sales advisor from London, adds to this:
“I’ve been married for under a year and although me and my husband are still in that honeymoon phase, we love doing our own thing.
“It’s how we were when we first got together and I think we didn’t want to lose that in the marriage.
“He’ll go to football matches, I’ll go out shopping, he’ll go to his parents, I’ll go for a drink with my sister – it’s what works.
“I think if we were surrounded by each other every minute of the day, it would be annoying. We have our whole lives together.”
Sarmin Akter, a nurse married for 30 years, tells us how she actually introduced personal space into her marriage:
“Me and Amar did everything together. We were each other’s best friends and whatever thing we wanted to experience or do, we did it together.
“It worked for us but after a few years, it got stale. Because of how much time we spent together in the early parts of our marriage, our other friendships had kind of stopped.
“So, it became a reliance on each other to do something exciting or go out. It’s like if he’d go out to Starbucks, he’d always want me to go.
“Or if I went to get the food for the house, I’d want him to come with me.
“We couldn’t do one thing without one another, but not in a cute way, it became desperate.”
“So, one day I said to him that I’m going to go out with my brother and his wife, but just us three.
“He was kind of upset but I told him that maybe that day, he could see one of his friends. So we both went out, and the morning after we seemed so much happier.
“We finally got time away from each other and got to experience new conversations and be with people other than each other.
“We both admitted things had gotten boring so me and Amar agreed we need more personal space and time away from each other.
“It’s like our relaxation period and it’s been so much better for us ever since.
“We’ve met new people, made new friendships and actually gone to new places which we then take each other. It’s refreshed everything.”
It looks like personal space is a massive component of making a marriage work.
Whilst all the individuals spoke of how this distance is important, they also mention striking a balance between space and togetherness.
Love & Commitment
The last but certainly not the least key to a successful Desi marriage is love and commitment.
Whilst these may seem obvious characteristics, they can’t be taken at face value. Love and commitment mean so much more than just feelings.
They represent loyalty, support, intimacy, perseverance and stability.
To get a better understanding of these elements, Rejwan Langh, a solicitor married for five years, expressed:
“Getting married is actually the easiest part, it’s the love and commitment afterwards which is the most important.
“You’ve got to stay invested. In most cases, your feelings for someone aren’t going to turn off, but life will throw a lot of hurdles which you have to overcome as a couple.
“That’s where the commitment comes in. Love is just the generosity and care you put into your spouse.
“You can’t expect the marriage to last forever by doing nothing.
“Although that used to happen in Asian marriages, things have changed. People won’t take that crap anymore.”
From Rejwan’s words, it’s easy to see that some people may overlook the work it takes to make a Desi marriage work.
Asha Gopal, a midwife who’s been married for over 20 years tells us of her experiences with commitment and why this specifically is so important to her Desi marriage:
“I found out after three years that my husband had an affair. Back in those days, we couldn’t divorce and certainly not from the woman’s side.
“I had to kind of face it and think how to make things better. I could have waited and left him but I sat down with him and tried to talk things through.
“He could see I was trying to make things work but he said that I didn’t put enough time and effort into him, his career, interests etc.
“All I cared about was my own work and the house. So we compromised and understood each other’s views.
“Since then, it’s been a blessing. I made it known I was committed to him and he reciprocated that energy.”
On the other hand, Bobby Singh, who’s been married for four years, told us of the importance of love:
“Love is obvious within a marriage but you have to continue to show this. You go through the honeymoon phase and then people think that’s it.
“But a healthy loving marriage results in better everything – sex, conversation, activities etc.
“Your partner deserves that reassurance.
“Guys, or girls, should wine and dine their other half because they’ll feel good and it’ll make you feel good seeing them so happy.”
Love and commitment are about providing a good stable foundation for the Desi marriage to blossom.
As Bobby mentioned, treating your partner or reaffirming on a daily basis that you love them can work wonders for a healthy relationship.
Zahara Taal, a woman married for eight years added some final comments:
“In Asian marriages, you’ve got to stay loyal and committed to your partner.
“Don’t enter the marriage if you don’t believe in it. You’ve got to give it your all.”
“Especially with all the outside influences and temptations, having your eyes and mind on your spouse will result in the most perfect marriage.”
These five key aspects are outlined by real people in real Desi marriages and show the range of characteristics it takes to live a happy married life.
Whilst some areas come naturally and some take a bit of work, all seem vital to make the individuals of the relationship happy.
Likewise, these elements are universal to all types of marriages as well. And, it’s never too late to implement some of these areas into one’s marriage.
As mentioned by some of the people DESIblitz spoke to, realising something requires work is the first stage and then taking action is the most important step.