What happens when your sister starts dating your close friend?
By: Niko Haloulos, Contributor
When my sister started dating one of my closest friends, I felt like I was looking into a kaleidoscope. I was distracted by the twisting shapes of my emotions, thoughts and feelings, but as time went on, I decided to look at their relationship as a full, unified pattern and it changed everything.
When we were allowed to see a few friends outdoors, I hosted a 19th birthday party. As smoke and laughter filled the air, I peeked over to see that my friend had snuck into the chair beside my sister. I guess they had been talking the entire night, even though they had never met before.
I woke up the next day and realized that my sister was acting giddier than normal. When I asked her about it, she simply said, “You know, if your friend there ever asks for my number, you can give it to him.”
Suddenly I realized that my friend and my sister had begun to develop something that they both thought was special. I couldn’t hinder that so when I met up with my friend a few days later, I offered to give him my sister’s phone number. He accepted.
I did not think much about the consequences of setting them up. It seemed like pretty standard procedure, just passing along a phone number and encouraging my friend to ask her out on a date.
At the time of the party, my sister was only a few months removed from a gruelling breakup so this felt like a good way for her to meet someone for whom I had the utmost respect, trust and love. For my friend, it was a chance for him to meet someone who would help him become a better man. So why did I have such a problem with it?
I began to close myself off from the two of them and I felt myself disliking my friend for a few weeks. I constantly reminded myself that I had offered to share my sister’s phone number and that I had known that he would be a really, really good match for her. Even though I knew this deep down, on the surface I could not help but feel like they were pulling themselves away from me.
I knew I could trust my friend but suddenly, like the flip of a switch, I went into protective brother mode. I couldn’t look at my friend without wondering how he was going to treat my sister poorly and though I know she can stand up for herself, it felt necessary.
Whenever my friend would come to the house, it felt like my sister and I were fighting over him. I would only be allowed in the basement for a certain amount of time because eventually she would ask to be alone with him.
I would throw the “Well, he was my friend first. Why can’t I talk to him?” and my sister would become frustrated. I said passive-aggressive things about their relationship and got angry whenever she said he was coming over.
Soon enough, my sister became worried that I had a problem with their relationship and the anxiety in her expression when she asked me was devastating.
I didn’t own anybody. My sister is strong and knows her own worth, but for her to suddenly think that she would be offending me was a wake-up call.
My friend, too, became worried that he had crossed some kind of line. He asked my sister if I was truly unhappy about them being together and said he wished I would talk to him personally. When my sister told me what he had said, I was saddened.
I had been blinded so much by my pride that I forgot to consider one thing: happiness. Being with my friend had brought a sparkle to my sister’s eyes that had been absent for a long time. My friend, too, slowly began to change, becoming more mature.
After long talks with my sister and my friend, we reached a better place. We still had some small riffs, but the instances of disagreement became more lighthearted, rather than rooted in jealousy and regret.
When he came over to see my sister, I knew my only role was as the brother. When my friend and I planned to hang out, I didn’t discourage him from saying hi to my sister.
I’ve realized that all three of us have become stronger emotionally by sharing this love that propels itself in different directions. My trust in my friend has grown exponentially because of how he has treated my sister.
While we’ve always been close, I have been able to communicate more openly with my sister since her relationship with my friend started.
The awkwardness took time to clear and I had to communicate very openly about how I felt. Now I’m still standing in the middle ground, figuring out how to equally distribute my time between my friend and my sister and not get in the way of something truly special.
Their relationship is not a violation, but more of an invitation for me to explore just how appreciative I can be about something that is so genuine, pure and beautiful.
Sometimes the most important relationships in your life aren’t your own
One of our favourite family movies is White Christmas. Every year since we were little, my sister and I would attempt to emulate the singing sister duo from the film (sadly without their spectacular outfits) by belting out their song, “Sisters”: “[L]ord help the Mister who comes between me and my sister and Lord help the sister who comes between me and my man!”.
With me being three and her five at the time, the notion of a “man” coming between us seemed completely absurd; our sisterhood was ironclad and eternal.
Fast forward 14 years and the “mister” had arrived in the ominous shape of my sister’s first boyfriend. I met him for the first time when he and my sister came to pick me up — a power imbalance I found deeply frustrating (after all, how could I put him in his place when he was my ride home?).
Completely unprepared for what felt like the most important interview of my life, I interrogated him for a full half-hour. Needless to say, when the car ride was over, I didn’t know what to think of him.
But I knew one thing for sure: this boy had come to take my sister away from me. She could only love one of us best and he was vying for the top spot. This was a state-of-emergency, DEFCON-1 level crisis. I began wartime preparations.
People who say big brothers are protective have clearly never met a little sister. Over the following months, I turned into an amateur private investigator (more Clouseau than Sherlock, I must admit).
Every time we met, I would theatrically narrow my eyes and badger him with questions, certain that I would finally uncover a fact to prove his complete and irrefutable unsuitability for my sister. I was deeply unsuccessful, to put it mildly.
To my horror, I found out that he was actually kind of funny. Well, that wasn’t going to work for me — I was the funny one in our sisterhood. If she was busy laughing at his jokes, she wouldn’t have any time for mine.
He also turned out to be rather hard working and was really nice to her. But aside from stealing her clothes and periodically destroying all her makeup (trivial concerns, really), so was I!
However, the more I talked to him, the more I realized that I just couldn’t reconcile the picture I had of him in my head as a rude, good-for-nothing interloper who would do nothing but cause my sister pain with the reality that he was actually a nice, upstanding guy. In matters of the heart, though, reason counts for very little.
Failing to discover incriminating information, I turned to less sophisticated methods to scare him off: I became really, really mean.
I would call him nicknames to our family friends, I made rude faces whenever he was brought up in conversation and I even made a (losing) bet with my parents about how long he was going to last (the shameful reminder of which lives on in my Google Calendar forever).
I snidely informed my sister one day, “I can’t understand what you see in him”.
“That’s because you’re immature,” she replied.
I had become so cruel, angry and resentful that I barely recognized myself. Understandably, my sister became upset over why I was treating her boyfriend so badly; what had he ever done to me? My mom told her I was just jealous.
The truth is that she was right. But I wasn’t jealous of her, I was jealous of him.
Growing up, my sister was my idol. She was the prettiest, smartest and most confident person I knew and in my mind, I held her atop a pedestal.
Her attention and affection were necessary for my personal validation and I worried that he would take that from me. Was I really so replaceable to her?
One day I walked into my sister’s room and I saw dozens of pictures of her and her boyfriend on the wall. She was beaming in every one of them. In that moment I realized my incredible selfishness.
I thought he was the one damaging our sisterhood, but in reality, I was the one who had inflicted the harm by denying her the right to affection beyond my own. It was a tight fit, but there could be room for three peas in this pod after all.
In case you thought this was a Hallmark movie ending, I’ll tell you that I haven’t fully gotten over my sisterly identity crisis quite yet. Just the other day I had a rather traumatizing “dream” (it was definitely a nightmare) that they got married — clearly, I still need some time before I can consider taking our relationship to the next level.
My sister and her boyfriend are still going strong and seeing them now makes me thankful that my meanspirited meddling didn’t ruin a good thing.
Even more importantly, I learned that sometimes the most difficult, life-changing relationships you will experience aren’t even your own. The “mister” wasn’t the villain in our sister-saga. I was — and we all know the bad guy never wins.
By: Alannah DeAngelis, Contributor
Dates can be a fun way to get to know your partner better and try new things together. Between school, catching up on all your Netflix shows and hanging out with your friends, it can be tough to make time for date nights. Try out these five date ideas where you can stay on campus and avoid breaking the bank!
The W. J. McCallion Planetarium, in the basement of BSB, is an out-of-this world date idea! Shows run Wednesday nights and there is a new theme each week. Learn about outer space, stars, planets, comets and more. For more information, check out the McMaster Planetarium website.
Cost: $7 per person.
Video Game Room in Lyons New Media Centre
Get your game on in the Video Games room on the 4th floor of Mills to find out which of you is the “Mario Kart” champion! There are five game consoles that you can choose from: Wii, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3 and PS4. They offer many games to play, all of which are available to rent for free. Bookings for this space can be made for up to 2 hours per day for all McMaster students.
Cost: Free! Just bring your student card to rent the controllers and games.
McMaster Museum of Art
Check out some cool art with your partner at the McMaster Museum of Art right on campus. The museum is recognized internationally for its European paintings, drawings and prints. It is also known for its specialist collection of early 20th century German prints. This highly notable museum is just steps away from the Student Centre.
Cost: Pay what you can (suggested donation is $2).
Trivia Night at the Phoenix
Test your knowledge at the Phoenix Bar and Grill’s Trivia Night, which happens every Tuesday at 7 p.m.. The theme changes each week, so you are sure to never be bored. Top teams will win gift cards to the Phoenix; perfect to use for another date night!
Cost: Free when you purchase food or drinks.
Hike at Cootes
McMaster is surrounded by beautiful hiking trails with breathtaking views. Go for a hike at Cootes (start at the trail behind the Alpine tower) and explore what nature has to offer in McMaster’s backyard. Notably, the Sassafrass trail includes a lookout platform onto Lake Ontario. Who knows, maybe you will even see some deer along the way!
Rachel Katz often shares her cooking and baking with other people. After a time, people began to tell her that she should start a food blog. While Katz decided a blog would be too much to handle whilst being a full-time graduate student, she figured Instagram would be a manageable platform. So last summer while she was working one job and had relatively free evenings, she started her food Instagram, Fork in Progress.
On the account, Katz shares photos of the recipes that she’s tried. Unlike many other food accounts, her unfiltered photos project accessibility and make anyone scrolling feel like they could get in their kitchen and make the same meal.
The recipes that Katz tries are not necessarily easy, but she believes basic kitchen confidence can be applied to make more complicated recipes. She looks for recipes with very specific instructions that she can follow along with. She also looks for versatile recipes that she can add her own flavours to. In her captions, she highlights her innovations and provides tips.
One benefit to Instagram for her is the interactivity. It is easy for her followers to ask her questions and provide feedback. The platform also makes it possible for her to share step-by-step videos that break down the recipes into easier steps. This is to prove to people that anyone can learn how to cook delicious dishes.
“I was frustrated with a lot of students… saying ‘oh I have no time to cook’ or ‘I don't like cooking’… [But] food is so important, food is delicious and there's a kind of pride that you get from making your own food that you don't really get from anything else,” Katz said.
Katz understands how difficult balancing food with student life can be. The McMaster grad lived in residence in her first year where the meal plan limited the choice she had over what she ate. In her second year, she shared a six-person student house with a tiny kitchen. In both years, she didn’t feel like she had a fully functional space where she can cook her own meals.
For Katz, this resulted in patterns of disordered eating. In her second year, she committed to recognize these patterns in herself so she can create healthier eating habits. Preparing her own meals has been one tool in repairing Katz’s relationship with food.
In her third year, Katz moved into a two-person apartment with a nice kitchen. In her new kitchen, Katz explored cooking more. Working at the Silhouette also encouraged her as she began to regularly bake for the office. This practice allowed her to receive feedback on her food and grow as a baker.
“I don't use words like clean… or like detox, cleanse… [T]here are all of these other food bloggers out there who use those lines and a lot of recipe bloggers who have these crazy extravagant recipes. But there wasn't really anyone to fulfill the student niche for people who wanted to cook actual meals but didn't really know where to start,” Katz explained.
While developing a healthy relationship with food is important to Katz, food is also a tool that she uses in her relationships with others. Cooking is an activity that she likes to do with family and friends. Her food-related memories stretch all the way back to her childhood.
Katz grew up eating a lot of homemade meals. She is inspired by her mother, who is an accomplished home chef and baker. Not only does she adore the chocolate chip cookies that she grew up eating, but she also admires her mother’s diligence. Her mother can spend months trying to perfect a recipe.
Now an adult, Katz is making her own food memories, many of which include food she’s made for others. For her, cooking for people is a way of shaping their experiences for the better. By making a caramel corn cake for her partner’s birthday, she was able to make the day more memorable. When she makes her mother’s birthday cake this year, she will make that day more special.
However, as the name of her account indicates, Katz is still growing her skills in the kitchen. She wants her followers to continue learning, experimenting and trying new things.
“[H]aving a name that has associations of things that are not quite perfect, that I'm still learning but it doesn't mean that I don't know anything, I think… that embodies the mentality that I'm hoping I can encourage people to take with food and feeding themselves,” said Katz.
For this reason, Katz is not focused on monetizing Fork in Progress, as she and her followers operate within a student budget, she does not want to promote products that are inaccessible. While she would consider a column in a publication, she believes the account can only remain authentic by staying fairly small.
As long as she’s a student, Katz wants to continue spreading positive messages about food and cooking. She wants Fork in Progress to show students that they can make their own cakes and eat them too.
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When Rachel Woock was in her first year at McMaster, she immediately fell for Matt Quiring. The tall blonde basketball player was on her mind for quite some time but like most men, Quiring was too oblivious to notice. Putting her feelings aside, the two remained friends for a while until a falling out stopped them from speaking to each other for a month. It was not until the men’s volleyball North American Challenge last year that they broke their silence and put aside their differences. A month later the two started dating and the pair has been inseparable ever since. Part of what makes them work as a couple is being student-athletes. Being able to understand where the other is coming from because they both play a sport where such a strong team component has been key in their relationship. Another thing that has kept them together is their faith. As Christians, figuring out that they were on the same level spiritually has been really encouraging for the couple. When asked what advice they would give other student-athletes in relationships, they encourage them to be vulnerable. Frustrated after a loss? Let the other know, so it does not affect your relationship. Accepting who the other is but also being willing to change as they grow, is all part of what makes this couple work.
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Starting off as friends in their first year, Steph Roberts and Anthony Bontorin would always see each other on residence, at the gym and around campus. It was during the summer of second year when the two both stayed in Hamilton that they began to hang out more seriously and eventually became official. The two bonded over their sports and being able to understand each other's schedules as student-athletes. Although Bontorin suffered from an injury that has prevented him from playing, he is still a huge part of the men’s football team and is often just as busy as Roberts. Despite their schedules, the two make time for each other and support one another. Roberts even credits Bontorin’s role in supporting her during her breakout year a big part of her success. Being with someone who knows exactly what being a student-athlete entails is something the couple cherishes. With sports being a year-long and time-consuming commitment, both Bontorin and Roberts are happy they have found each other in the process.
[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id="229" gal_title="Love in Maroon 3"]
The first time Jay Anyimadu and Krystal Henry-Mathieu met each other, they were both Marauders receiving treatment after getting injured playing their sport. They saw each other for three weeks while at treatment, but that was all. Fast-forward to last year, when Henry-Mathieu replied to Anyimadu’s Instagram story, he kept the conversation going and they soon realized how much they had in common. The two no longer played for the school, as Henry-Mathieu had a career-ending injury and Anyimadu had moved on the Junior Canadian Football League, but their student-athlete mindset remained the same. Although she is retired, Henry-Mathieu was one of the few people who he could relate to. This past fall during his first season with the Junior CFL, Anyimadu was named Defensive All-Canadian and his team, the Hamilton Hurricanes, were named the Ontario champions. Through it all, Henry-Mathieu was right by his side cheering him on, even when it was cold, because not only does she love the sport, but the things that make him happy, make her happy.
By: Rya Buckley
Mia Sandhu’s paper cut outs depict images of women partially or entirely nude, amidst backgrounds of leaves or behind curtains. She began working on these figures four years ago as a way of working through her own ideas about women’s sexuality.
Sandhu is a multidisciplinary artist currently based in Toronto. Her work has been exhibited in Toronto, Kingston, Halifax and Hamilton. She is a member of The Assembly gallery here in Hamilton, has done an artist residency at the Cotton Factory and also exhibited her work at Hamilton Artists Inc.
Last November, Sandhu exhibited her collection Soft Kaur at The Assembly, which featured playful figures who are comfortable with their sexuality. The name of the exhibition, which alludes to both to the softness and fierceness of women, incorporates the half Punjabi artist’s cultural background into her work.
“It's the idea [of] a female warrior spirit and the idea of equality that exists… Singh and Kaur are these given names and it was designed to eliminate status and… [create] men and women as equal. And I liked the play on this idea of soft female spirit slash warrior spirit [and] also the sexual undertone,” Sandhu explained.
There are other motifs in Sandhu’s work that suggest a dialogue between Sandhu’s culture and her evolving ideas on sexuality. A lover of Indian fabrics, silks and tapestries, Sandhu includes these aesthetic features in her work through the exotic plants in the environment her figures reside in. With the evolution of her work, she now references more domesticated plants that humans have formed a relationship with.
The silhouettes that are seen in Soft Kaur are also the result of Sandhu’s art’s progression. Her earlier work featured brown-bodied figures because Sandhu felt it more appropriate to use brown bodies in a work related to her upbringing and culture. Over time Sandhu employed more silhouettes in order to represent any woman, regardless of race.
The silhouettes do not broadcast as a uniform but as a canvas onto which women can project their own sexuality and ideas about sexuality. Sandhu is a believer in the fact that no one should decide for a woman how she should be represented sexually in society.
“I want women to be safe and I want them to feel safe and feel free and strong and empowered… [W]e're autonomous [and] each of us should choose for ourselves how we want to be represented sexually or in any other way because we're individuals. Hopefully we're not represented with any sort of attachment to shame. We should just be proud of who we are,” Sandhu said.
Facilitating space for women to speak about their ideas on sexuality was one of Sandhu’s aims behind this body of work. She finds it interesting to observe how her audiences connect with and interpret her art. By enabling dialogue, she finds that women can begin to realize the experiences that they share.
Exhibiting at The Assembly also gave Sandhu a location to speak with others about her work and to receive feedback. One thing that she appreciates about the Hamilton art scene is the sincerity of the participants who she feels are open to talking about important issues and are creating art that is driven by content.
While there is no linear narrative to Sandhu’s work, the content is obviously evolving as Sandhu’s own views develop. One of the motifs whose symbolism has changed over the years is the cloak that Sandhu’s figures have covering and revealing their bodies.
“[The cloak] represents shame, it represents personal space and it represents a number of other things as well… But it's like they're choosing how much of themselves that they're revealing and then as the work evolves, it's like the… cloak… stops being on them directly and starts being like in their space around them and they're allowing you in, or not letting you in,” explained Sandhu.
Through her work, Sandhu is also choosing to what extent she decides to let her audiences in. She is working on a new set of drawings and will continue to explore women’s sexuality and empowerment in the future. Her artwork is her diary, the paper cut outs and pencils replacing the thousands of elusive words that would be required to speak on the complicated ideas that she depicts.
By: Anonymous contributor
I never imagined that I would date my teaching assistant. I also never imagined that I would have a “W” on my transcript from dropping their class. Dating my TA was probably one of the worst decisions of my undergraduate degree.
When I got into a relationship with my TA last semester, I didn’t think it was too big of a deal. Dating your TA is much more socially-accepted than dating your professor or course instructor.
For one, the age differences between you and your TA aren’t always that big. My TA was two years older than me, but I’ve had TAs who were my age or younger. In that case, it’s hard to impose a ban against two consenting 20-somethings dating.
But what a lot of people don’t recognize is that there’s a power imbalance when dating your TA. Even when they’re the same age, or a bit older, there’s the fact that the TA is in a position that can strongly influence your academics and career.
When I had talked with my TA about our relationship, he told me that the department frowned upon student-TA relationships but there was no strict rule against them. While he was “required” to fill out a conflict-of-interest form, nobody forced him too. As long as he gave my assignments to another TA to grade, nobody batted an eye at our relationship.
I don’t think that’s enough. Especially in classes where TAs are asked to deliver lectures or hold review sessions, it’s not enough to require TAs in relationships with their students to not directly grade their work. Their presence alone influences their students’ marks.
Even when I got out of the relationship, I still felt ashamed and embarrassed every time I had to see him in tutorial or lecture. When I found out that he had marked my midterm, I was angry but didn’t know what to do. It’s difficult to tell your professor the reason you want to switch tutorials or have your test remarked is because you slept with your TA.
In the end, I ended up dropping the class and dodging questions from people asking me why. I still see my TA around campus, however, and I’m scared that I’ll be assigned to his class again. I’ve been so anxious that I’m even considering switching programs to avoid him.
A conflict of interest policy is not sufficient. I reviewed Mac’s conflict of interest policy for employees and there is a section that states that a conflict of interest is present when an employee of the university engages in an “intimate relationship with a person who relies upon them for opportunities to further their academic or employment career”.
However, the only actions an individual must take when this conflict arises is to report to their direct supervisor, who can then decide if the “conflict is confirmed”. If it is, then the case is moved to higher-ups who decide what sort of actions need to be taken to remove the conflict.
But by the time that decision is made, it’s probably too far into the semester to make any changes. In my case, my TA didn’t bother disclosing our relationship since he knew the only action that was required was that he didn’t grade my work.
Even though it states in the policy that failure to report will result in “appropriate disciplinary procedures”, I’m not confident that the university enforces this.
McMaster University should protect their students by banning student-TA, or any student-faculty, relationships altogether. These relationships have harmful power dynamics that blur the lines of consent, and can sometimes be considered sexual harassment or assault.
I’m not saying that all student-TA relationships end poorly. Sometimes it really is just bad timing when two people happen to meet. But if a relationship is meant to be, it can wait till the end of the semester to begin.
Dating your TA seems like a fun and sexy experience. In reality, this kind of relationship can be complicated, embarrassing and act as a huge stress on your academics and your mental health. Honestly, that cute TA isn’t worth it.
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After weeks of ogling from afar, everything seemed like it went well when you finally met in person. You dressed to the nines. You felt like you made a connection. You radiated confidence, proved you were educated on all the relevant topics and you laughed at all the right moments. But they still haven’t called you back. You wait a day, then two, then a week. Still nothing. You start to wonder if maybe you didn’t come off as great as you thought you did.
Even worse, maybe they’ve found someone else. You think about nudging them with something along the lines of “I was wondering if you thought any more about last Saturday,” but eventually decide against it. You don’t want to look too desperate. And when they finally do reply, it’s with the words you’ve always been dreading. So you pull out that pint of ice cream and bawl in front of last week’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy, trying hard not to question your self-worth. You just weren’t good enough for them. You didn’t get the job.
I’ve played out this scene so many times that, if I lived in the Harry Potter universe, it would be probably be my Boggart. In fact, I used to be so terrified of rejection that for the majority of my first year at McMaster, I kept my head low, and I refused to apply for anything and everything. Consequently, while my friends volunteered in Peru or earned money from either part-time jobs or their co-op term, I spent much of my summer in a slump. Only one good thing came out of it, and it wasn’t the abysmal grade I received from sacrificing my June and July to the godless art of physics: it was my determination to make the following summer fruitful.
Somewhere along the way, I realized that you simply cannot escape some kind of application for most of the things you encounter over the span of your university career. If you need a summer job, you have to apply. If you want to become a Welcome Week rep or a CA in residence, you have to apply. If you’re looking for a research position in a professor’s lab, you have to apply. Whether it’s a co-op job, an internship or even a higher-level entry program, your fate is inevitable. One way or another, you’ll have to apply.
Taking the initiative to apply for new opportunities can be daunting. For someone who lacks confidence or struggles with social anxiety, the mere thought can be incredibly off-putting, if not insurmountable. After all, what’s the point of going to the trouble of applying for something, if you aren’t likely to get the position anyway? Why waste your efforts, when they can probably be better spent elsewhere? Why set yourself up for what can only be imminent disappointment?
I’ve been ignored a handful of times, and I’ve been rejected far more than I care to admit. I’ve had interviews where I tripped on my words, only for them to untangle once I left the room with my reputation unsalvageable. I once had an interviewer laugh at me because I was so unprepared, and there have been times where I didn’t end up with the position even when I felt that my interview had gone better than I could have ever hoped for.
I can say with the utmost certainty that I detest applications with the passion of a thousand fiery suns, and yet I still continue to put myself through it at the expense of my own comfort. While that might just mean I have masochistic tendencies, the more I face my old fear of rejection, the more it becomes clear to me that getting rejected isn’t my Boggart at all: my Boggart is never knowing whether I would or wouldn’t be rejected because I couldn’t find it in myself to try.
The worst thing we can do to ourselves is to let our own self-doubts dictate what we believe we’re capable of. Just because you might not get a job doesn’t mean you won’t ever get a job, and just because you weren’t considered good enough for one position doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough, period. You are. If there’s something you’re interested in, you have to try. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself, and if you don’t, something else will come along. Whether it’s in the context of other people or your career, while rejection is an inevitable part of life that everyone has to deal with at one point or another, it’s not the end of the world. Armageddon is. And when it arrives, I know I’d like to have something to show for it.
Photo Credit: Flazingo
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By: Sasha Dhesi
“Arranged marriage.” The phrase probably causes a shudder down the spine of anyone from a culture who practices it but grew up in the West. I’ve seen countless Indian-American comedians joke that they wouldn’t even let their mothers pick their clothes, let alone their spouse, and it’s a sentiment I share. The cultural difference between my mother and I means we’re always at odds about things as trivial as how I should do my eyebrows to the more serious career decisions. But you’re speaking to a girl who has seen a dozen romantic comedies a year and can’t bring herself to make a Tinder account because it just feels too much like I’m giving up on romance. An arranged marriage just doesn’t make sense for me, but after watching my parents grow and change through their relationship, I’ve learned that an arranged marriage may have an undeserved reputation.
My parents don’t have a romantic story. There was no meet-cute, no elaborate story to satisfy my inquisitive ears growing up. No, my parents had a boring arranged marriage. My parents met a few weeks’ prior to their wedding and have been married now for about 22 years. With all that said and done, I couldn’t tell the difference between my parents’ marriage and those of my friends whose parents had “love marriages.” It became increasingly clear that what made their marriage work wasn’t some grand romantic love that carried them through every fight but rather a willingness to adapt.
Now it should be noted that many people stay in arranged marriages for the wrong reasons. In most South Asian cultures divorce is heavily stigmatized, so people often stay in unhealthy or abusive relationships out of cultural pressure. I personally know of many toxic couples that are only together to avoid the community backlash. These issues aren’t due to the arranged marriage though. I doubt anyone decides to abuse someone because they didn’t specifically choose their spouse. Arranged marriages don’t magically solve the issues that may arise, but it’s not necessarily the part of the equation that’s causing issues.
The main reason why my parents seem to do so well together isn’t because they’re made for each other or that they’re soulmates. Rather, they’re happy because they’re willing to listen to each other and adapt to each other. Because they had an arranged marriage, they had very little expectations about what the other would be like, and didn’t have these idealized images in their heads of what the other should be like. Instead, they went into their marriage willing to compromise.
We often go into relationships with this concept of the ‘perfect’ person, who accepts you for everything you are. But you’re never going to find that because you yourself are not perfect. It’s ultimately unfair to assume that someone should bear the weight of your flaws. This also ignores that you’re never going to find a person who doesn’t have some sort of tick that bothers you. Any sort of long-term relationship is a commitment to that person, warts and all, but we get so wrapped up in this ideal “the One” who’s going to take care of all of your faults without having any of their own. What you want isn’t a lifelong partner, rather someone who’ll let you stagnate completely. But those in arranged marriages usually don’t have this mindset. Dating usually requires a level of idealization to work, but an arranged marriage takes it out of the equation completely. Instead, you’re left with a person who you have to listen to in order to learn how to be with them.
While I don’t have some wonderful story to share about how my parents met, I do get to come home to them sharing a loveseat together while they watch the news, and listen to one lament about how they miss the other when traveling. While I am not going to have an arranged marriage, I don’t think we should bash them altogether. Whether it’s arranged or not, the only way to sustain a relationship is to willingly adapt to your partner and grow with them. For those who are comfortable with it, arranged marriages are definitely an option that can lead to an incredibly fulfilling life.