South Asian men: romantically challenged?

As February rolls in, most men find a strange tightness in their bellies. This ‘love month’ arrives in full force as shops get coated pink and heart shaped chocolates are everywhere. Radios blare love songs; romantic movies are on TV. Love is truly in the air waves! The difference between men and women comes into stark contrast in February.

South Asian men in particular have a hard time. The lovey-dovey stuff doesn’t come to us naturally. We have never seen our fathers hold our mothers’ hands or bring flowers or go out for candle-light dinners. They believe flowers are better left on plants and vehemently oppose the commercialisation of the floral industry. “See how pricey a rose stem becomes in February!” my Indian friend argued recently, “If I were to buy one, I would buy it the day after Valentine’s Day. It will be so much less!” This money-saving ethos doesn’t impress our wives!

South Asian men lack emotional vocabulary, and romance is rare in desi homes. They seldom show heartfelt emotion and are uncomfortable with public displays of affection. However, our movies are rife with the sentimental mushy stuff.  A Caucasian friend thinks every desi couple runs around trees singing and dancing! Whenever South Asian households are low on romance, we simply watch the latest Bollywood movie together.

When asked why desi men don’t say “I love you” to their wives, a friend said, “I told her when I married her. And I haven’t changed my mind!” As he had an arranged marriage, I probed, “Did you really say ‘I love you’ at your wedding?” He confided, “Not with words, but with my action. I married her and that means I love her…If I change my mind, I’ll let her know! Why should I say it repeatedly?” I responded, “In the West, men say ‘I love you’ to their wives, and ours have come to expect the same from us. Why is it hard for us?” He replied, “They are quick to say I love you one day and quicker to end their marriages another day. We stick to our spouses no matter how we feel. That is true love!”

It’s not what you say or give to your wife that really matters. But that you make her feel special, care for her, cherish her dearly, and always be there for her.  This should not be confined to a day. Marriages flourish when cared for and attention is paid to each other’s needs.

My romantically challenged friends, let’s not waste another February. Let’s make the special woman in our lives feel really valued. Be creative and express your love to her in a way she appreciates. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Sam George is doing a PhD on Families in the Indian Diaspora at Liverpool Hope University. He is the Executive Director of Parivar International, a family organisation serving the South Asian community worldwide. He lives with his wife and two sons in the northern suburbs of Chicago, USA. He is the author of Understanding the Coconut Generation, Before the Wedding Bells and co-editor of Malayali Diaspora.