Jasbina Ahluwalia interviews K. Bhuvaneshwari Bhagat
A few topics Bhuvaneshwari Bhagat addresses in this interview are:
Ms. K. Bhuvaneshwari Bhagat is a professional Marriage & Family Counselor with a practice based in Manhattan. In order to serve the Indian community, she offers counseling to individuals, couples and families.
She offers traditional methods of counseling as well as other creative counseling techniques for those who are not located nearby (i.e. telephone, email and instant messaging). Ms. Bhagat also speaks Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi, Malayalam and English.
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(0:51): Hello everyone and welcome to Intersections Match’s Talk Radio, a monthly holistic lifestyle show focused on the continual evolution into the best versions of our authentic selves. We and our guests discuss relationships and health and wellness, each of which contributes to meaningful and fulfilling lives.
This is Jasbina, your host. I’m a former practicing lawyer and the Founder of Intersections Match, the only elite national personalized matchmaking company focused on singles of South Asian descent nationwide in the US.
I’m very excited to Bhuvaneshwari Bhagat to our show tonight. Bhuvaneshwari is an Indian marriage counselor, holding a master’s degree in medical psychiatric social work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. I met Bhuvaneshwari in 2008 when we both sat on a panel at the annual NetIP Conference where we fielded questions from the audience regarding relationships. I’m very excited to continue the dialogue with Bhuvaneshwari here tonight. Welcome, Bhuvaneshwari.
(1:57): Thank you, Jasbina.
(2:01): As a professional dating coach and matchmaker focused on singles of South Asian descent, I’m fascinated by insights and perspectives regarding relationships looked at from a cultural lens.
Since your counseling practice likewise focuses on South Asians, I’d love to explore some of the insights you’ve encountered to both increase awareness among singles who are interested in meeting prospective life partners as well as people in relationships who would love to further improve the connection they share with their partners.
Bhuvaneshwari Bhagat, what are the demographics of the people who typically seek your services?
(2:37): The demography of the people who call me are typically in one of two sections.
- One is the married group.
- Then there are people who are not yet married but are almost in the pipeline. They are engaged and/or looking to be married very soon. They have a partner in mind and have already had situations where they don’t think it’s going the right way. Perhaps they need to talk to someone.
These are the two broad categories. Even though I provide marriage counseling, there are people for relationship counseling who will call me prior to being married.
(3:24): What are the most common issues that you encounter?
(4:50): The most common issues are related to family issues, given that when we marry, we marry into each other’s families. It’s not just the two individuals coming together.
The second issue is communication. Sometimes there is over-communication or there is a complete lack of communication.
Then there are issues of sex and money. I think these are the top four issues that people have.
(5:20): You mentioned the first one as family issues.
What are some of the issues that you see in terms of family issues? What are some of the best ways to address those issues?
(5:37): I think the best way to address it is to remember that marriage means you have to be a team.
Elaborating on Marriage Requires Teamwork.
Family Approval of Partner: Introductions
(8:47): You are saying to believe in the team and work to establish and sustain that team. How would you recommend to people who are having difficulties with their families accepting that team?
Perhaps the two individuals want to establish that team but they face some resistance or difficulty from family members in doing that.
What recommendations might you make for that? It’s a difficult one, I know.
(9:22): Are you talking about people who are already married or people who are looking for consent in families prior to marriage?
(9:29): That’s a great question. Let’s start with the first stage, which is looking for consent and acceptance prior to the marriage.
(9:38): That’s a classic example. Often, in multicultural relationships, the parents always wish for the best for their children.
They say, “We are open to you marrying anybody A, B, C, D, E or F.” They go on with the categories of the people they could pick.
If you don’t have an approval and you feel that your parents are not going to approve and you wish to get married to the person you picked, Take steps not to shock them.
Elaborating on Family Approval of Partner: Introductions.
Managing Communication in Marriage
(13:55): You want to have that end goal in mind.
What are some of the communication issues that you see in people who are married and are coming to you for marital counseling and are already committed to each other?
What are some of the most typical communication issues that you see?
It’s not that you’re on cloud nine and you don’t pay attention, but I think people don’t generally think beyond the time that they are in. Fair enough.
You don’t want to be so calculated and think, “How is it going to be when we actually live together? Are we going to have the same account? Can I still send money to my folks? Are we saving up for his sister’s wedding?”
Money is one aspect of it.
There are food habits and how close your parents or sisters live.
There is only so much you’re going to sit and discuss prior to your wedding.
When you start living after marriage a life of togetherness, the first time you have a disagreement or conflict in everyday life, when you start talking to each other you realize that, “He doesn’t get me. That’s not my point. My point is not to say that your mom can’t come stay with us. My point is that I don’t want her to come into the kitchen and rearrange everything.”
Communicating in Arranged Marriages
Have you seen patterns or differences with your clients who have gone one way or the other?
(18:18): What’s sad is they’re not very different. The one thing that is distinctly different is the amount of baggage someone has about family issues.
I think with arranged marriage, it is sometimes far greater. You really have no choice or control.
Elaborating on Communicating in Arranged Marriages.
(24:03): Do you tend to see different issues in couples where one person was born and raised in the US or in the West and the other in India versus both people being from the same country, whether it be India or the US?
(24:20): There are definitely different issues with that.
I always tell people being an immigrant brings in a whole lot of issues in everyone’s life.
I think being an immigrant is not easy. Not to romanticize that it’s all struggle and very hard, but it’s hard as an immigrant.
There is also the fact that you have a certain set of family, especially for someone who was born and raised in India or any other South Asian countries.
They come here and meet their partners who were born and raised in America. I think there is definitely a difference in how their lifestyles are and the way they think, more importantly.
When they start living their life, there is a huge disconnect that grows. Typically, I have clients 5, 10, or 18 years into marriage who call me.
One partner is from the US and the other is from a South continent.
Providing for Parents Effects Marriage
(25:46): That’s interesting. In those couples that call you 5 to 15 years into their marriage, what are their issues?
(25:56): The biggest issue is that they all have parents living in India or in a South continent.
The fact that there is a level of giving back causes a huge issue in the relationship for people who live here.
Elaborating on Providing for Parents Effects Marriage.
Are You Ready for Marriage?
(28:02): That’s interesting. Based on your experience as a marriage counselor, with respect to how to assess compatibility before making the decision to enter into marriage, do you have any insights into that?
(28:23): I tell people, when you think of getting married, answer certain questions.
Why do you want to get married?
Elaborating on Are You Ready for Marriage?
Marriage Does Not Change Behavior
(30:38): It’s about who you are and what you’re looking for in a marriage.
Based on your clinical experience, what recommendation would you make to single Indian women in choosing their life partners?
Are there any particular suggestions you might make to women?
(31:06): You are asking about suggestions for single South Asian women?
(31:11): Yes, women seeking their life partners based on your perspective as someone who has seen issues later after commitments have been made.
Are there any suggestions, insights or things to keep in mind?
(31:30): I would say that I agree to a lot of the superficial needs someone would have.
I think it’s important. You need to have someone with a full head of hair who is tall. That’s fine.
At the end, you have to go to the next step.
You have to figure out, “Am I going to be happy with this person?”
Elaborting on Marriage Does Not Change Behavior.
(39:14): What are some of the things that come up? Men said, “I didn’t know that this is what I wouldn’t want.” What are some of the things that come up?
I’m sure there is quite a variety. Have you seen any patterns?
(39:31): I think the typical ones are when a Type A girl or guy like someone who is not Type A.
You could have gone to a top five school but you’ve chosen to do things that are very different.
You lived in Africa for a year, for example. Now, post two years of marriage, she tells you, “Both of us shouldn’t be slaving like this. We should go and live somewhere else for six months.”
You are completely taken aback. You say, “I never saw this coming.”
That’s why I say that you can’t be so blown away by the trait of your opposite partner or what they do.
Both are misleading each other. You are smitten. You are in awe. You are blown away but it’s temporary.
You are blown away by the fact that she climbed Kilimanjaro but the moment you are in a confined relationship, you suddenly find that as not appealing.
(40:57): Some of the differences that were very attractive during the courting or pre-marital stage become differences that cause problems later. These insights have been very helpful.
Are there any last thoughts or a take-home message that you’d like to leave our listeners with?
(41:23): Remember that marriage is about being a team.
As much as everyone says they get married into a family, I think you can pay attention to your family.
If you are a team and you can respect each other’s sentiments and feelings, you can learn to communicate.
There is always a learning point at every step. There is never a point where you feel, “I know her,” or “I know him.”
I think there is always some room for learning. Give the benefit of the doubt. Be a good listener.
Remember to be a team. You are both the most important people in the relationship. Everyone else is peripheral, including children. I always tell this to people. That is my push to many South Asian couples.
Often, we overarchingly talk about families, children and extended families.
I agree that it’s very important but if you are not a team, everything else will fall down like a pack of cards.
If you can stay as a team, you can battle any differences, discomfort or miscommunication. It’s important to focus on, “I want to build this relationship with my husband or wife.”
(42:58): In some ways, you find that when couples are that team, they teach their families how to treat each other, them as a couple and their significant other as well.
Do you see that? Do families fall into place a bit more when there is that team?
(43:24): Yes. Also, don’t ever go by any stereotypes.
You shouldn’t be ashamed to say in public that you do what your wife or husband says. That shows how much security, respect and understanding you have in a relationship. There is nothing belittling to say certain things in front of people.
There are often a lot of South Asians who feel, “I don’t want to be that kind of guy,” or “I don’t want to be this woman who is cooking and cleaning, the a typical housewife.”
I think those are stereotypes only if you follow them. You go by your conviction and focus.
You say, “This is the woman I love. This is the person I would do anything for. If I have to load the dishwasher and clean the garbage, I would do it. I would do it in front of my parents. I would do it not in front of my parents.”
There doesn’t need to be a shift in your behaviors or actions when there is a certain set of people around.
That’s another reason why there are arguments or this disbelief that, “Oh my gosh. My husband or wife is completely different when my parents are around.” You don’t have to do those things.
If you truly love and believe in that relationship and there is a level of trust, you don’t have to think, “Let me do this and later fix my marriage with my wife.” You don’t have to do the things you think you need to in order to please your folks. Give the benefit of the doubt that your parents will be able to handle and see the change that has come in you.
You don’t have to think, “My mom has never seen me like this. They will think I’m a hen-pecked husband. My mom is going to be shocked that I’m in this position and doing housework.”
For both men and women, all of these clichés that are ways of affection, they don’t need to worry about it. I said before that these are all peripheral. I think you should do the things that you deem important in your relationship.
(46:16): I’d like to thank Bhuvaneshwari for joining us today. It’s been a pleasure.
(46:21): Thank you very much, Jasbina.
(46:26): In case you joined us late or would like to share this show with people in your life, I’d like to remind you that today’s radio show will be archived and available at a podcast on Intersections Match’s website, which is www.IntersectionsMatch.com. Bhuvaneshwari, would you like to share a website with our listeners?
(46:45): I have a website, IndianMarriageCounseling.com. You can Google my name, Bhuvaneshwari Bhagat. I live and practice in New York City. I do telephone, online and all sorts of new age methods of counseling. I do marriage, pre-marriage and family counseling. I’m just a phone call away, 646-236-4743.
(47:20): I appreciate you hanging out with us. Do email me with topics you’d like discussed in future shows. Make sure you join us again for next month’s show. Goodnight everyone.
What advice from Bhuvaneshwari Bhagat resonated most with you? Drop us a line in the comments section below.