The male perspective on LIFE, LOVE AND RELATIONSHIPS
Name: Sanjay Misra, M.D. Age: 49 Hometown: Bareilly, India Relationship: Married to Kami for 15 years Children: Three Job: Consultant and Professor of Radiology
PAM: When women say that they don’t understand men, what should they keep in mind?
SANJAY: I think the question is, “What level is your attraction? Is it a physical attraction, an intellectual attraction, a complete attraction?” The other thing to really think about is, “What is the purpose or goal of the relationship? Is this something that is temporary or permanent?” Women can ask themselves why they are drawn to a certain man and what you need to understand about him. For instance, if you’re drawn to successful men, and that’s what you want, remember that successful men come with workaholic attitudes. PAM: And if they are dating outside of their culture?
SANJAY: The man’s perception of women may be different than the American perception of women. [The relationship] comes with its own set of cultural biases. If you’re really going to get serious, you need to understand the core values that he was brought up with and how he sees his personal life, professional life, relationship to his parents. When you start peeling away all these layers, you realize that it takes a-while to sort through the layers too. I have good friends who are still single. One asked me how I knew that I was in a good relationship. I said, “You won’t know until five years, when you’ve had time to reflect on it.” Now I’ve been married 15 years, and I think our marriage has gotten better over the years because of the complexities of the relationship, which go beyond mere chemistry. [Our marriage] goes five or six layers deep, and it will change over the next 20 years too.
PAM: What about the seven-year itch? When people get “itchy,” what should they do?
SANJAY: When my wife and I got married, I asked Kami how long she planned to stay married to me, and she said 80 years. Now I remind her of that. You have to keep your eye on the long-term relationship and the institution of marriage. Unfortunately, that’s been eroded, and it’s very easy to get a divorce. But you can ask yourself, “What was I drawn to initially? What attracted me to this person?” Of course you can think about how you can be a better spouse, what you might get better at and where are the opportunities for improvement. Some people go to counseling, and some go to a quiet place or seek outside advice. Either way, you have to keep working at it. When you stop working at it, that’s a bad sign because you’ve emotionally given up. There are two ways to look at it: You’re fighting, and it’s bad; or you’re fighting because you love each other. [If it’s love,] then you’re fighting to save your marriage. Couples can do things together, travel together, take time out—without the kids, even if it’s just one or two days together. These are important ways of bonding and getting back in touch with your spouse or partner. It’s easy to lose sight of that, if you’re a busy person. It’s easy to take your eye off the ball.
PAM: You are in a most unusual type of cross-cultural marriage.
SANJAY: Kami and I are both of East Indian descent, but she grew up in British Guiana, an English colony. Her people left India four generations ago. My challenge was understanding how the culture in Guiana had diverged from British culture and stayed consistent with that of India in the 1800s. It was almost like they were stuck in time, in a very beautiful way. Our marriage is cross-cultural in the sense that we were raised on two different continents, in two different time periods. It would be like you marrying someone from 1870s America. Kami assimilated on the exterior and took on British manners and dress, but she kept the traditional Indian core values. I had to understand her expectations of a marriage, which are different than what you might think for an Indian—I mean a firstgeneration person from India, like myself. I married a very traditional woman, but if you met her, you might not appreciate that because she doesn’t come across that way.
PAM: Do you have advice for people who date outside their culture?
SANJAY: I think it’s going to be more common than we appreciate. The world has gotten flat. Five dates is one thing. Understanding differences in culture may not be that crucial. But if you’re going to have 55 dates, you need to consider it more. For example, how are parents valued in the culture? Eventually, you might need to discuss how to raise kids in a multicultural environment, especially when they start asking questions about who they are, their identity.
PAM: What’s your secret weapon in a marriage?
SANJAY: I have a lot of secret weapons that don’t work! I think the most important thing are honesty, respect and understanding the importance of your marriage. You need to value it. I try to reaffirm to my wife the sacrifices she’s making. If you start to take your partner for granted, you can always do a “flip the jobs.” You get the kids for five days, and she gets to do whatever she wants. On day two, you’ll appreciate what she does.