10 Feb A Happy Sikh Catholic Marriage – Karan’s Story
Reading time: 4 mins
We had a chat with Karan, a friend of ours who is Sikh, and happily married to her English husband and has 2 children! Here’s her story.
Q: Was religion or culture ever an issue for you or people you had dated previously?
A: I dated someone who was of another race once before. I wouldn’t say difference in our religious beliefs caused any difficulty for us. But dating and marriage are two very different things.
Q: How did you and your husband meet?
A: I used to work in a bank and he would come in. We got talking one day and the next thing I knew we were a couple! At the time I had no plans to marry him or date as long as we did. One day he said to me “I’m going to marry you” and I was like “Good luck with that! My dad won’t allow it!”. We have now been together for 10 years, and happily married for 7!
Q: Did your cultural differences have any affect on your relationship before you got married? Did they affect your decision to get married – was there any hesitation from either of you?
A: I had to hide my relationship for a long time as I didn’t think anyone in my family would have been happy about me dating anyone. My husband is Catholic and I’m Sikh so we couldn’t have a church wedding, as I would have had to agree to bring our children up Catholic. But there was no pressure from my husband or his family to have a Catholic ceremony. I had relatives who married someone out of the religion and been to their weddings so a Punjabi wedding was on the table as well as a civil ceremony.
Q: Was or is religion ever any kind of issue for you and your husband? What was the bigger issue, religion or culture?
A: I was quite lucky that my husband is very open-minded and was open to dressing as a traditional Sikh for our wedding. This included growing a beard and wearing a turban, which can’t have been easy for him! I think culture is a factor, and I am only speaking for my own situation here. There were and are still times I need to educate my husband on our culture. For example, explaining that you could offer a male relative an alcoholic drink, but not an older female relative. Or you wouldn’t kiss and hug another female relative when greeting them.
Religion is of course a factor too and it’s about how you practice. We do take the kids to the Gurdwara because I like to go. When my in-laws were with us, we would to go to the Church service with them on a Sunday, and then we’d go to the Gurdwara. We enjoyed both experiences as a couple.
When the kids came along we said we would bring them up as individual thinkers and not impose one religion over the other. We believe there is one God for all, and it doesn’t matter where you worship him, he is everywhere. Someone once said to me, “What will your kids identity be in society if you are Sikh and your husband is Catholic?”. I said, “They will be identified as good people.” My kids don’t have to be religiously defined, but that is our opinion as parents. Once they grow up they can decide for themselves. We are only their guides.
Q: Were there initial struggles in your relationship because of your different cultural backgrounds?
A: Hiding my relationship for the first 3 years wasn’t easy. I had to just say I’m out with my ‘friends’ a lot. But I think that is quite common in the British Asian culture. You just know you are going to be in trouble as arranged marriage is the only way you think you’re allowed to meet your life partner. However, things are changing slowly.
It really depends on how you were brought up. I’m the youngest of four, and there are 10 years between my sister and me. If she had ever brought home an English man… well let’s just say she didn’t have the freedom to go out, let alone meet someone!
Although some parents might not agree with their child’s choice for a spouse, they will agree to them getting married as their child’s happiness comes first. I think no matter what race you are, once you’re in a mixed race relationship some people aren’t going to like it and some will be happy for you. In the end it doesn’t really matter. As long as you and your partner understand each other, you deal with the religious and cultural issues together as that’s what having a life partner is all about.
Q: How did you overcome the struggle?
A: My mum wasn’t keen on the notion of me getting married to an English man. She knew before my dad did, and she thought it would “end him”. She told me this one day in a flood of tears. She didn’t care what anyone thought, just about the effect it would have on my dad.
I was lucky to have supportive siblings. The day I mustered up the courage to tell my family I wanted to get married, I told myself I would go ahead as long as they were happy, and my brother’s response was, “We don’t have to like it but we will do the wedding if you are 100% sure. Are you sure?”. I wasn’t sure. But I knew I was happy, and that was it. So I said, “Yes”.
My dad’s response was, “You are 26 years old and you must know what you want for your life, it’s OK”. You can imagine the relief on my mums face. She was not expecting that reaction from my dad at all!
Q: Do your children question your cultural differences? Do you do anything to help give them a sense of belonging in both cultures they share?
A: My children are aged 3 and 4 so they don’t say too much at the moment, they know what a Gurdwara is and they know they need to cover their heads when they go in. They know what a Church is and what it looks like inside. We have pictures in our house of the Sikh Gurus and Jesus. I light incense on all of them, and the kids do it with me.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is open to dating outside of their culture, but might be too scared to take the leap and actually marry someone from a different culture?
A: I say to go for it! As long as you are both happy and want to spend your life together, you will be able to work through any cultural or religious issues that arise, as a team. Stay open minded and welcome the other person’s beliefs. You don’t have to agree with them, but a mutual respect for one another as individuals is so important.
My mum once said to me, “Marriage is like a lottery and you are lucky if you find a good husband, it doesn’t matter where he is from or what religion he is”.
Wow, amazing story Karan. Thanks so much for sharing with us, SO inspirational! What do you guys think, how does this make you feel about your potential relationships? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
p.s. You can read Karan’s husband James’s story here!