I love the matriarchs in my family, from my mom to my aunts and to my mother’s friends. A lot. They have supported me, nurtured me, loved me, and have been the “village” that raised me.
But it’s not all roses. The conversations they had with me before marriage seemed to always center around why I was not married. Now, when I am married, the conversations seem to assume that I have no other roles except for being a wife and potential mother.
Nevertheless, I try to focus on their productive pieces of advice. They may have experienced marriage in a different way, but for many of my matriarchs who are still (happily) married 15-20 years later, they did something right.
1. You do not need to talk to your husband about absolutely everything.
This one is true, and I have learned that slowly. While my husband is always there to lend an ear, that does not mean I need to fall into verbal diarrhea. Some topics are better saved for my girlfriends. Most things related to my professional life may feel more stimulating with my colleagues. It is okay to compartmentalize!
2. Start thinking about how you will balance career and a family in a way that works best for you.
I used to sometimes be defensive and consider this advice as a way for my matriarchs to tell me to put my career last (and some definitely did believe in that), but I now see their point. Eventually, if I do want children, this means constraints on my time. It means actually prioritizing my time and how I want to do things.
A good friend once said it best: “There is no such thing as work/life balance. There is only life balance because work is a part of life.”
3. At the very least, be respectful of your in-laws.
Coming from a South Asian background, you do marry a family. I realize this means different things though to different people. But unfortunately, the general trend is the expectation of a servant-like daughter-in-law who takes care of pretty much everyone all the time because self-care is selfish.
I have so far been very lucky to have in-laws who do not treat me that way (and I would do a very bad job). They do not ask me to serve them hand and foot, only for mutual respect. It is not so hard, and I personally see it as a great support system, especially if I plan to have kids.
4. Take time apart and away from each other to avoid saying anything you will regret.
Yes. And yes.
This one has been tremendous because I sometimes have that horribly nagging tendency to want to solve a problem as soon as possible. What I realized is that I have been doing this wrong along throughout my life and relationships. Sometimes, an instant solution is not what anyone needs. As humans, we need time, and when anyone is in our face trying to influence how we feel or make decisions, it only makes the problem worse.
5. Standing by your partner creates an everlasting trust in the relationship.
To be clear, this does not mean that you stand by your husband when he is being abusive or manipulative. It means that men too have moments of vulnerability.
An aunt of mine may not have used the exact explanation or words, but I understood what she meant. Men too want to feel reassurance as being a good partner, husband, and/or father. Whether this is social pressure or one that is biologically wired within men, it exists.
The next time an older woman or matriarch gives me relationship or marriage advice, I’ll take a minute to remember that completely shutting them down only shows my own privilege as a young woman in my generation. I can only imagine the types of challenges they had to face, and how quietly they had to face them.