Modern Relationships: How One South Asian Couple Deals with Gender Norms

May 06, 2019 3 Comments

Modern Relationships: How One South Asian Couple Deals with Gender Norms

The girl

I got into an argument last month with a (male) friend who said that over time, couples fall into very set, almost pre-defined roles. I was adamant that it couldn’t possibly be true. I only sometimes do the dishes, laundry, and cook dinner. “But it’s always my choice, and I can choose differently whenever I want,” I argued vehemently.

I don’t agree that these roles have to be set in stone and unchangeably linked to those that we grew up with. But I do appreciate that there are specific things my partner and I (who are in a heterosexual relationship) prefer doing more than the other. I don’t know if that’s been ingrained in us because of how we were raised, or because they are genuine preferences.

 That might be part of the problem, but being aware of these things makes me more likely to request my partner do the laundry sometimes and he to ask me to fix the freezer myself when it’s broken. We talk about who should do the grocery shopping and how we should split the bills. It isn’t always easy though. I still have unrealistic expectations that I should be financially supported by my partner (not because he has a full time job and I’m now an entrepreneur), but just ‘because.’ But at the same time, I want us to be saving up enough so we can buy a home someday. 

Looking at the way the history of gender in the world has evolved, I think we’re the first generation to face these types of ‘issues.’ A rulebook seemingly exists, but we don’t always want to follow it, nor do we feel it accurately reflects our beliefs of parity. I think the challenge of millennial couples will be to either do away with the rulebook, or come up with a new one that takes into account different professional ambitions, care-taking, and of course, inter-cultural relationships.  

The boy

It can be difficult to not hope/expect that your female partner will do a bit more of the cooking, cleaning, and other important domestic responsibilities around the house if you’ve been raised by a mother who did most of this for you. Even if you took these responsibilities on when you were living independently in your student and young professional days, part of you may have always assumed that when you settle down with a partner, things would go back to ‘normal’. 

My perspective has evolved as I’ve been surrounded by such amazing women who take on ambitious careers and still manage to take care of their partners. I understand that managing the home and our health is a joint effort. As my job requires working long hours, the balance of domestic responsibilities has inevitably shifted towards my partner. But I strive to stay very appreciative and help out whenever I can in ways that are sometimes fun and sometimes not. I cook on my own sometimes, but am an eager sous chef whenever possible. I actually enjoy some cathartic release when I vacuum, scrub the shower, or water the plants.

I know the responsibilities will become more serious and complicated as kids, bigger financial burdens, etc. come into the picture, but having open conversations about what we think we should be responsible for and why, while always respecting each others’ ambitions and outside goals will be critical to having a healthy relationship.

*The above is true and non-fiction but identities have been anonymised at the authors' discretion. Please contact us at if you'd like to be featured.

3 Responses


May 09, 2019

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Talisman Skincare Admin
Talisman Skincare Admin

May 08, 2019

Yes, that’s a really interesting point.. and I wonder where the origins of it come from (i.e. Western vs. Asian communities).

Thanks for sharing your personal story – it’s great to hear about another couple’s experience, and perhaps we can even feature you and your husband sometime :)

Shazia Datoobhoy
Shazia Datoobhoy

May 08, 2019

Very well- written. I think the expectation that domestic duties are the “women’s domain,” is more so amongst the Asian community. I think Western families have a more balanced approach. In my home I do the cooking but my husband does the clearing up and that shocks many people… I have even had comments like “poor guy, you really have him on a tight leash.” These comments only come from other Asian women.

The truth is that my husband doesn’t mind. In fact, he finds it quite therapeutic after a long days work…

But I do agree that over time couples do fall into specific patterns/ roles, simply out of habit.

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