Tri completely changed the direction of my life. If I hadn’t had met him, I would likely never come to Nepal and never have learned to speak Nepali. I would never have realized my interested in Linguistics, probably would not have majored in that subject, and would never have thought about getting a masters in what I’m hoping to go to grad school for. My own habits and manerisms have been deeply affected by my husband and the time I’ve spent abroad. Without having met him I think I would be a very different person with a very different life. And this same goes for him. I know that I’ve changed the way he thinks and experiences things, his view and opinions, and goals. I don’t credit or blame him for every success and failure I’ve had, and I certainly am my own person, but he was one of the major catalysts that set my life going in the direction it has.
I met Tri when I was 18, pretty young to meet your future spouse (although not out of the question), and we got married when I was 21, soon after college graduation last spring. The last year of our lives has been a whirlwind of activity and emotion, filled with a lot of sadness but excitement too. What happened during this time that led us to marry at a young age was a set of events that we could never have predicted.
Everything started in the early spring of 2011. Tri and I had been dating for about 3 years at that point. Right from the beginning of our relationship, we knew that we were in it for the long haul. Everything just felt right with him and always has. I know that sounds horribly cliche, but it’s true. We had always talked about getting hitched sometime after my college graduation (he graduated two years before me), so last spring, we started talking to both of our parents about the possibility of getting engaged over the summer. We didn’t want to get married yet…we didn’t feel like there was any reason to, but we thought it would be nice to take the next step in our relationship.
Both of our parents were very happy with this idea and supported our plan to have an engagement ceremony in Nepal. We all thought that an engagement in Nepal and then a wedding in the US a few years later sounded good. But then Nepali culture and the rules that go along with it kicked into high gear. In the process of planning for our wedding, Tri’s mom consulted an astrologer. He felt like it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to just have an engagement ceremony, that we needed to get married as well. In Nepal, people don’t often have long engagements. Usually they have a khura chine ceremony and then a wedding a few weeks (or sometimes days) later, so the astrologer felt it would be culturally inapropriate for us to have just an engagement ceremony.
Tri’s mom started talking to us about the possibility of upgrading our engagement to a wedding. I think we were both a little bit in shock at this idea. Of course we had thought about marriage and wanted to be married someday, but it was strange to think it would be happening so soon. But after talking about it, the idea started warming up to us, and we agreed.
That set the wedding planning in motion. Tri’s parents were choosing a location, compiling a guest list with hundreds of people, and doing lots of shopping. I was excited to be getting married but a little bit freaked out too. I was trying to finish up my last semester of college and frantically look for some kind of employment. Doing that on top of preparing to be married in a foreign country was a bit overwhelming.
And then everything came to a horrible halt. Tri’s mom died suddenly in April, 2011. I don’t feel like going into the details of what happened because it’s still very painful to dwell on, but maybe later, when we’ve come to terms with her death a little better, I can write more about going through those initial days and weeks of grief.
Everything was put on hold, the wedding, Tri’s job, our lives. Tri left for Nepal within 12 hours of getting the horrible phone call, and I felt stranded and alone. Getting through those last few weeks of my last semester of college was hell. But I do have to say, my friends and family were incredibly supportive and helpful. You know who you are! And I love you guys.
About a month later, after the funeral and initial grieving period in Nepal were over, Tri came back to the US with a plan for us to return to Nepal to live with his brother and dad. I was incredibly supportive of his decision.
But in order for me to stay in Nepal for an extended period of time, I had to be married to Tri. As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, Nepali Hindus believe that having any kind of celebration, doing puja, or going to weddings, etc. is not allowed the year after a family member dies, so us getting married was a bit of a problem. That’s why we decided to have the simplest wedding we could manage, nothing religious and without any bells and whistles. We had the mayor of our small town marry us at my folks’ house. Because it was such a small ceremony, we didn’t get an opportunity to celebrate with most of our family and friends, but we’re not going to leave them out. Tri and I are planning a wedding ceremony that will hopefully happen in about a year and a half…a topic for future posts.
Anyway, some Nepali people were very against our marriage at the time because of breaking the one year rule, but we had no choice. We both felt that Tri needed to go back to Nepal, and there was no way that Tri and I were going to be separated.
In the craziness of those few months and the aftermath of that period that included moving to a new country, lots of culture shock, and language learning, I haven’t really had the time and energy to process and understand the fact that I’m married and what that means for my life and relationship.
It’s only now that I’m really starting to think about how my life has changed after marriage. Being in Nepal has definitely had a huge affect on those changes.
In Tri’s parents’ generation, marrying young, even for educated women living in urban areas, was normal. Tri’s mom was 19 when she married his dad. Even now, women in rural areas marry young, sometimes as teenagers. But it is a bit unusual these days for a woman who comes from an urban, middle class family to be married at age 21. Because I’m mostly around people from urban, middle class families, I sometimes get surprised looks when I tell them I’m married.
I think part of it is that some Nepalis have certain stereotypes about Western women, about them having many different partners and marrying very late, so I don’t fit into their stereotype. But it’s also that there has been a push in Nepal from NGO’s, social service organizations, and other influences for women to marry later.
When I was in Dhampush, I made friends with another one of the girls on the trip who is about 27 and was married last year. We stayed in a lodge, and one day we started talking to the owner about her daughters. Like me, they married in their very early 20’s. My friend started scolding the lodge owner (in a friendly way), telling her that she should have made them wait, finish school, and then marry. But then my friend looked at me and remembered that I was 21 when I married too! We both laughed.
Besides getting some funny looks and reactions from Nepalis about being married young, I’ve also received greater acceptance.
Before getting married, I had some people tell me that life after marriage didn’t change their relationship with their signficant other one bit, and I’ve had others say it changed everything. I’ve found that the way that Tri and I treat each other hasn’t changed, but the way that others treat us has. This is particularly true in Nepal. Our relationship wasn’t really valid in the eyes of many Nepalis before we were married, and although Tri’s parents accepted our relationship, they were hesitant to tell others that Tri had a girlfriend. When I was in Nepal for study abroad, I stayed with Tri’s parents and brother for a week here and there, and they only revealed to their closest family and friends that I was Tri’s girlfriend. Being married has made our relationship in Nepal valid in the eyes of others, which is honestly a relief. Some say that that validation from others shouldn’t matter, and our love for eachother is definitely more important than what others think, but having that societal acceptance does make things easier.
I’ve also found that women treat me differently. For some reason, I think being married has made other people, especially women, see me as more of an adult. They talk to me about more adults things and divulge secrets with me that I probably wouldn’t have been privy to before. Part of this may be the fact that I’m older. But I think it’s got something to do with being married.
Since we were only in the US for about a month after being married, I don’t know if others there will treat us differently as married people. I think that they probably will but maybe not to the same extent that people do in Nepal. I guess I’ll find out in a year or so 🙂