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Ask Ellie: Spouse is steeped in indecision and fear after father's ultimatum

Dear Ellie: In 2013, my girlfriend and I met as international students from the same country. We fell for each other and started living together in 2014.
Advice columnist Ellie

Advice columnist EllieDear Ellie: In 2013, my girlfriend and I met as international students from the same country. We fell for each other and started living together in 2014.

Three years later, she introduced me to her father who enquired about where I come from, which caste, etc. It didn’t go well as I wasn’t aware of any such beliefs from my family.

Several years later, her mom died after her health deteriorated due to genetic heart issue. My girlfriend’s father and brother blamed her for her mom’s demise due to her relationship with me (apparently as a low-caste human), which impacted her severely.

Previously, she’d been firm about our relationship since I first met her father.

We’ve since been living together peacefully and have a beautiful home, supporting each other through all phases of career, immigration and life.

But her father’s started trying to force her to marry someone of his choice or else cut all ties with him.

There’s so much pressure from him that she’s unable to decide what she can do. She doesn’t want to cut ties with her only parent.

I want my family to reach out to him but she’s worried that he might be rude to them. She can’t discuss our relationship with her father anymore because she’s afraid he and her brother will resume blaming her regarding her mother.

She started stonewalling me. I feel like we’re hardly a couple, we even sleep separately. When asked about it, she says it’s all happening naturally.

After living together through so much for eight years, it’s very painful to me the ways things are going.

I still love her just as I did when I met her for the first time while expecting nothing.

Separated by Caste

By happenstance, I’m currently reading the book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson, the first woman of African-American heritage to win the Pulitzer Prize in journalism in 1994.

With reference to your personal dilemma, I’ve learned that issues of caste in India, which the author compares closely to anti-black racism in America (and elsewhere), exists so deeply in the minds of those considered by themselves and others to be higher caste, that not even advanced education and successful careers can diminish their prejudices and discrimination.

This situation exerts terrible pressure on both of you. Your partner has already succumbed to indecision and fear, which explains her distancing. She’s lost her confidence. She may be more afraid of her father’s reaction than she’s willing to say or admit.

Be understanding, try to talk out all possibilities.

Her father’s threat isn’t unique. Other parents over generations have given entirely different reasons, such as the “wrong” religion, political affiliation or financial status. Many adult children defied those threats, believing it meant parental control over all future decisions.

I invite readers who have experienced a similar dilemma, to write of their situations. Perhaps your partner will find some other direction and/or comfort from their stories.

Feedback regarding the spouse concerned about her husband having an extensive texting relationship with a female work colleague (April 21, March 30):

Reader: Should she be worried? Perhaps yes, but she has to look too at the status of her marriage and ask herself why her husband might be having this external “relationship.

As you advise frequently, Ellie, better communication in this situation might result in better understanding between the couple and resolution of any problem.

Readers’ commentary regarding whether to share financially in a girlfriend’s pre-construction condo (May 7):

You need an equally written exit strategy.

The couple should both be able to answer how they’d split the assets, who’d leave in a breakup, and how that person would be paid back their share of the net worth,

There are separate costs to buying/selling a property and to breaking a mortgage. The original purchaser should have short mortgages, and a flexible line of credit so that the partner leaving can get paid out what they put in, plus what increase, MINUS the selling cost.

I bought a condo with an ex-girlfriend pre-construction, and had to buy her out because we split before taking ownership.

Because we broke up amicably and I could show her the real cost of purchasing the condo, she easily agreed to greatly lower the price we agreed on. We’re still friends.

Ellie’s tip of the day

Family pressure against your choice of partner calls for an attempt at healthy discussion, and conviction on your decision vs. fear and accepting control.

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