Op-ed: The Perils of Compromise Culture
Updated: Oct 21, 2020
South Asian society focuses on compromise as the one golden key to successful marriages. Sometimes we pretend it applies to both genders. But in reality, it’s desi women who do most of the compromising, whether that’s living with controlling in-laws or handling household duties by themselves, even if they have a busy career.
Instead of teaching our daughters to expect less and sacrifice more, I wish we would also teach our sons to be more considerate, caring, and supportive. Such virtues are far more important for the success of a relationship than forcefully making compromises, which will happen automatically if both men and woman imbibe these qualities. Sadly, desi wives are often told to adjust to uncaring behaviour, arrogance, and even abuse. The women are expected to be considerate, caring, humble and supportive at all times!
Desi culture claims that this leads to us having the most successful relationships in the world. But a relationship is not successful if the woman has to sacrifice her self respect, safety or ambitions! Unfortunately, our metric of success is that it’s better to compromise and be in a miserable relationship. This means we raise our daughters with this scarcity mindset instead of the abundance mindset.
The scarcity mindset is rooted in fear and inadequacy. It depends on external validation rather than internal fulfilment. We raise our daughters to live by the motto “What will people say?” We condition young girls to restrict their personality and behaviour according to shallow, spiteful societal gossip. We teach girls that sacrificing their goals and putting themselves last is noble. We make girls strive for unattainable perfection in their personal and professional lives so that every woman feels unworthy of love because of some minor ‘flaw’. We tell girls their ambitions are confined by a ticking clock; that their value as a desirable woman decreases as their independence, wisdom and achievements grow. We advise them that South Asian women can not survive alone and a bad partner is better than no partner.
Now, the abundance mindset does the complete opposite. It helps girls grow into confident, strong women who are internally fulfilled by the authentic lives they lead. These women do not need to depend on patriarchal society for approval and validation. They don’t worry if their hopes and desires are deemed audacious or unconventional; they work towards them without being too deterred by sexist stereotypes. Such women have a good sense of self worth so they don’t live in constant fear of being judged by society. They only wish to marry if they find a man who enriches their life. And they believe that men can be highly caring, loving, humble and supportive too.
The thought process below shows how the scarcity mindset enables the patriarchy and makes South Asian women accept unfair relationships while the abundance mindset challenges this idea:
Scarcity: My ambition, opinionatedness, skin colour or previous dating history are flaws and I should settle for whoever is willing to accept them
Abundance: I’m an intelligent, accomplished, loving, considerate woman and I look forward to meeting a good man with similar qualities!
Scarcity: No relationship is rosy; I’ll adjust if my man is uncaring or doesn’t help in the house or my in-laws are controlling
Abundance: No relationship is worth my precious self respect, peace of mind, identity and ambitions. This is not what a healthy relationship looks like and healthy relationships do exist!
Scarcity: I’m lucky if my husband ‘allows’ me to travel on a work trip or helps me cook or ‘babysits’ the kids
Abundance: I want an equal partnership. That’s not a privilege I need to beg for; it should be the norm!
Scarcity: Even if I have to give up on my goals, it is better to settle for a less ideal man now than be sad and lonely later
Abundance: I would love companionship but I can create a rich and fulfilling life for myself without a man!
To sum it all up, making compromises is not seen as a negative trait but our patriarchal culture that idealises female compromise above all else is toxic. The problem is that we raise young girls to build their lives around social approval and marriageability. Then, we teach them that a good relationship is all about sacrifice. While we should be telling them it is about feeling loved, supported, understood, and happy!