Growing up, a common discussion point amongst my desi friends was wondering who we would someday marry. My friends found the answer to these questions fairly quickly as the majority of them were engaged by 16 and married off by 18 to men in Pakistan. Some lived there, some returned with their new family. These were not forced marriages, all parties involved wanted to get married.
Without exception all my friends were beautiful and intelligent girls. They never got less than A's most of them graduating in the top 10 of their highschool class, many participated in national math championships and wanted to be doctors, lawyers, and teachers. I still remember one of my bestfriends turning to me in class one day to tell me she she found the perfect place to open her law practice once she graduated from Yale. Her fantasies rarely consisted of boys, she wanted to be a lawyer and she read every book and watched every show that featured one. Before she could even start college though she was engaged and married and living in Pakistan. The same went for all my other friends, some were excited, some quite nervous seeing clearly the opportunities they were leaving behind. I won't lie, a freshman, I secretly envied them as I saw their beautiful engagement clothing and gold bangles, the letters they wrote to their fiancees and the gifts that arrived in the mail from eager inlaws.
With the exception of two friends out of over a dozen who went this route, all returned home to their parents four, five years later, wounded and bruised some physically some emotionally, toddlers in tow and no means of supporting themselves. In my social psychology class our professor repeated it over and over "correlation does not equal causation" So I can't say that it's because these girls married guys overseas, or that they were not educated that divorce resulted since marriages fail everday outside of this category of people... but its an odd coincidence.
What makes it more peculiar to me is that just as much as I hear about the latest ABCD girl who is divorcing her Pakistani husband, I have never heard of this situation with ABCD guys marrying Pakistani raised girls. The overseas divorce trend seems to strike mainly the women who marry there.
My theory is that the problem lies with the desi idealism of traditional gender roles. This issue isn't a problem for ABCD boys who marry girls from overseas because most girls there understand their role as a housekeeper, mother, cook, etc. And ofcourse girls are taught growing up to be docile and to listen to their husband so if he wants them to get an education and become a career minded woman, why she'll put her mind to that and do that too.
But these same gender roles dont groove quite as easily for ABCD girls marrying overseas expected to be the docile desi wife. She has her own expectations and he his own as well, often because of the difference in upbringing the expectations conflict. Compromise could happen, but who should be the one to give in a little first or take the step to meet halfway? Add to the mix inlaws who now want to move in with their son... its a difficult situation.
I assumed it was the culture clash that caused the bitter problems, a connection gap in understanding the other's perspective. But Wayfarer, Southern Masala, Sobia, Baji are examples of beautiful intelligent American women married to guys from Pakistan. They are obviously happy with their spouses so I can't help but wonder, why did all my friends have such a hard time adjusting? Was it that men who would be able to think outside the box and marry a non-desi woman are the type of men who are open minded enough to compromise and understand different gender roles? Is gender roles even the issue?
My friends are all back in the US. Some remarried, others are going back to school to become teachers assistants, paralegals and medical technicians... I find their career choices today sadly ironic as just ten years ago their dreams were very different... birds with wings clipped so long they forgot how to fly...
Are my perspectives an anomoly to what others have witnessed or experienced? I do know some who are happy including a good friend of mine... but more often than not, such marriages that I have seen are not working. Maybe I'm just witnessing a strange anomoly in the people I know... Your perspectives very welcome.
Note: Mezba is sharing some interesting well thought out perspectives on similar issues here.