American-Indian Intercultural Marriage – Older Wife, Younger Husband, and a Love That Overcomes

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american-indian intercultural married couple

The Offbeat Couple:

I´m Jennifer and my husband is Mayank Lakhlani. I work at a hospital as an EVS Tech. I have 2 children from a previous 16 year marriage (ages 11 & 15). My husband is currently unemployed, about to arrive in the U.S. for his permanent residency.

Mayank and I do not have children yet, but plan to begin trying right away.
We have 2 cats for now.

Mayank and I married on Feb 2, 2014. We’ve recently had our second wedding anniversary (hence why he’ll be getting permanent residency when he arrives). Our first anniversary I spent in India with him, but this second anniversary we spent apart 🙁 waiting on his Visa process.

My website/family journey journal is: mybiculturalfamily.com—where I share our journey & experiences, how we met, recipes, links to language learning material, travel tips, advice on raising multicultural and multilingual children, book suggestions, etc.

2. What makes your marriage offbeat?

Mayank was raised Hindu in India, where there is still arranged marriages and a caste system, and he is 13 years younger than me. I was raised somewhat Christian, in America; though, I label myself as a spiritual person with no religious denomination. However, I’ve been drawn to Hinduism and Buddhism for years. I like their way of life, their morals, and their spiritual beliefs. Anyways, Mayank and I went against many social norms. Thankfully, he has wonderful and open-minded parents who allowed him to have a love marriage. They didn’t have a problem with the fact that he and I met through Facebook, that I was divorcing, was 13 years older than their son, and had 2 teen children.

They, actually, saw it as a good thing. They figured I had life experience and had taken care of children and a husband already; so I would be able to take care of their son easily.

3. What made you end up in an intercultural/interfaith marriage? What was your motivation in deciding to marry someone of different culture or faith?

Meeting each other on Facebook was just fate. Neither of us were expecting our friendship to turn into a relationship. We were both dealing with ended relationships, and felt in no condition to try and start a new one. We just sort of became good friends, were each other’s support systems, and accidentally fell in love. Neither of us were concerned with nationality or location of one another.

It is not something that either of us consider to be important when forming friendships or relationships. We see people’s soul, not their skin color. The soul is what matters. Bodies are just temporary vessels.

4. Tell us about the wedding. Did your different religious or cultural background affect how you planned the wedding?

Our wedding was actually categorized as being under the “Special Marriage Act,” so that it would be accepted as legal in both India and America. However, the actual ceremony was a traditional Hindu ceremony as typically practiced in his state of Gujarat. It was both of our choices to have a
traditional Hindu wedding, because I wanted to 1) respect his religion and culture 2) Make his parents happy 3) to be a part of an amazing cultural tradition by free will. I did not, in any way, feel pressured, obligated, or guilt-tripped into giving them their way. I wanted to be a part of it as much as they enjoyed me agreeing to be a part of it.

5. What are your biggest challenges (as an intercultural/interracial couple) and how do you solve them?

Our challenges haven’t been too many, actually; because we were intelligent enough to be completely honest from the beginning. We have made sure to have wide open communication within our relationship, to prevent any misery later down the line. No suppressing of feelings is allowed between us.

Prior to me even visiting Mayank and his family in India, he and I already
cleared up just about every topic a couple needs to discuss in order to have a successful marriage—especially one of mixed cultures. We discussed expectations of husband & wife, children, careers, location in which we’ll live, in-law roles, and everything else important. There were no surprises at all by the time we met.

However, we have butted head a few times over differences in living habits (I’m a little more laid back and don’t overexert myself with being a clean freak, while his family is very orderly and things are kept spotless at all times). We’ve had to kind of meet in the middle.

Also, we both sometimes get a little prideful about our countries and/or culture. For the most part we are on the same page with perceptions, but occasionally one of us will take something the wrong way. But we always, always talk things out right away. As I said. No suppressing allowed.

6. What compromises are required in order to make your marriage work?

Compromises have been pretty easy. We discussed living arrangements and child upbringing very early on, and periodically throughout the past few years. He is different than many Indian’s, because he prefers not to leave his country. He is not hypnotized by the “American Dream.” He knows the
reality of my culture but has agreed to come to live in America for me, because my children are here and my mom—who has Alzheimer’s disease.

I will be willing to uproot and go about anywhere with him, once my mom has passed on, and my kids are a little older. Both he and I don’t really care
where on the planet we live, as long as we’re together.

As for language. I was very fortunate. Mayank speaks very good English, even though no one else in his family does. He can speak 3 languages fluently: Gujarati, Hindi, and English. I only know English. But, out
of my own desire, I am learning Hindi right now, slowly. I intend to pick up Gujarati later down the line.

But I figured Hindi is a nice option, because him and his family all speak it, and there’s more learning material available in Hindi than Gujarati. As for our children, we want to raise them multilingual—which is another reason I’m learning Hindi.

7. Are there any marital issues that come up due to different religious background? How do you address them?

Interfaith issues aren’t really a problem for us. We both pretty much have the same spiritual beliefs, and if there’s any differences, we try not to mock each other’s beliefs. I know I made it very clear to him to not change any spiritual habits for me…not to feel embarrassed or ashamed. I don’t want him to change anything in himself. I fell in love with him just as he is, because of how he is. Why would I want to corrupt him? He’s a beautiful, amazing soul.

8. Did you ever encounter people who frown upon interracial marriage? How did you deal with them?

We haven’t encountered any true hatred for our interracial marriage thus far. However, prior to meeting, we heard many snide remarks by people like “He’s just after a green card,” “she’s not going to be able to handle the Indian way of life,” “Why do you want this older woman with kids when you can have a young virgin girl.” Things like that. That last one I actually talked with him about several times. I feared him having regrets later down the line, but he scolded me that I’m everything he ever dreamed of in a woman, and no one can be a better wife to him than me.”

9. How did your in-laws and extended families from each side react to your interracial marriage?

Very surprisingly, both sides of our family have been very supportive. I knew early on his family was supportive, but I had doubts about my own family. But they’ve proved me wrong. I am glad. I know that they don’t always agree with my decisions but, thankfully, they try to be supportive. My mom was Mayank’s sponsor! I was very surprised and truly, truly grateful!

As for my in-laws and the typical cultural norm … I was very fortunate. I didn’t get slaved out in the kitchen or have any other horrible experiences like the horror stories I have read online. They are really the sweetest and best in-laws a girl could ask for. They try to respect my culture and give me space, just as I equally respect theirs. Of course, they are ecstatic when I show interest or passion in Indian cooking, clothing, and other things.

10. What are the benefits of an intercultural/interracial marriage?

The benefits of having an intercultural marriage are that if you have an open mind and respect you can have such a rich, enjoyable life. It’s like living in the best of two worlds. Then, together you create a 3 rd culture which is a combination of the favorite customs and things from each of your
cultures. And your children grow up with so much knowledge and get to have experiences unlike many children get to have. Perhaps, multiracial children turn out smarter, I’m no expert, but they at least turn out with more life wisdom. I am so proud and happy to be a part of the interracial world.

I’ve met so many wonderful interracial couples and have become inspired to start my blog “My Bicultural Family,” and I’ve began making YouTube videos of the Indian recipes I perfect. I am happier now than I’ve ever been in my life. That is no joke.

11. What are the things that you learned about each other’s culture? How does learning about each other culture benefit your relationship?

The main thing we’ve learned about each other’s culture is don’t believe everything you see in the media or hear from gossip. Until you step foot into another country, and actually live in it for a decent period of time (not a week in a fancy resort), intermingling with real citizens, you will never truly understand or appreciate that country/culture. Seeing in person vs on a tv/computer screen is so much better.

Also, people’s personal opinions will vary depending on the personal experiences they’ve had. (For example, some people have wonderful interracial relationship experiences and their marriages are very successful and last forever. Others don’t go so well, because they don’t discuss very important factors, and the family interfers, and there’s too much selfishness and arrogance vs understanding and compromising. Depending on who you talk to when asking advice, you can imagine the type of advice you’ll receive.)

12. If children come, of which culture (and religion) do you plan to raise them?

We don’t have children together yet, but have discussed and come to agreement on the important issues at hand such as discipline, language, schools, etc.

13. What’s your favorite way of spending time together?

Our favorite way of spending time together is any time together. Doesn’t matter if we take walks, visit places, cuddle and watch a movie, or just lay next to each other and mess with our phones. We just value together time.

14. What are your secrets in keeping the romance alive?

To keep romance alive, never forget why you fell in love to begin with. Don’t dwell on negative things or grudges. Cherish every good quality and moment and never forget to always make each other feel as loved and appreciated as the day you met them.

15. What advice would you give to those who are planning for or are new to an interracial/interfaith marriage? Would you recommend interfaith marriage?

Yes, I’d recommend an interfaith/intercultural marriage. My advice would be to get everything out into the open from the very beginning. NO hotoshopped pictures, No fake names, No lies, No secrets. Reveal anything and verything that could pop up later down the line and scare your love away.

Be honest. Communicate! Don’t suppress your feelings—they matter. Be open-minded, non-arrogant. Have respect for love’s culture. It is what shaped them into who they are—who you fell in love with.

Discuss everything you could ever need to face: kids, jobs, living situation, everything! Never forget love and appreciation. It’s really simple if you are a truly authentic person who isn’t trying to be someone you’re not.

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