Should I Have an Intercaste Marriage?

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Reader’s Question

I am doing my internship in medical sciences. About two years ago, I suffered from a spine problem and I became depressed. Even though my family supported me, I had a lot of fears that I could not share with my parents; I developed an inferiority complex because of my back pain. I even thought that I was unfit for marriage and sex, but my doctors told me that I can marry and even have sex.

During those dark days, I felt that I really needed someone special to share my feelings. I was attracted to a guy who was my classmate. Six months later I realized that he was interested in me too, and we quickly became good friends. Later, we thought about getting married. I told him about my fear of sex. He said that relationships lie in love, not sex. I was really touched.

I am good at my studies. He is not that good at his studies and I’m worried that he may not secure a good rank, without which he can’t settle in his life. If he doesn’t, my parents won’t agree to our marriage. Because of all these things, I am not able to concentrate on my work. I even started realizing that my parents are against intercaste marriage.

I believe that it is not correct to hide our relationship from my parents so I told my mother everything. My mother is not at all convinced. She said that in a society like ours intercaste marriages don’t really work out. She even concluded that I fell for him because of my inferiority complex. He said that he will convince my parents after he gets settled. I conveyed his thoughts to my mom.

My mom keeps telling me that it’s not good for me to marry him. I really don’t know what to do. I can neither go against my parents nor convince them. They have been with me in tough times, but he is always behind me. What should I do? Shall I go for a break up? I need to face him daily for at least one year because he is my classmate. Can I be happy after a break up? I’m also worried about him.

Psychologist’s Reply

I will admit that this is a difficult question for me to answer because I am pretty unfamiliar with the caste system and what it entails. My understanding is that the caste system is a complex social structure in which the classes (groups determining occupation, social class, identity, hierarchy, exclusion and power) are determined by heredity. You are born into a certain caste, and tradition dictates that you marry a partner in the same caste as well, so there is no movement in the structure at all.

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Although governments of the countries in which caste systems still exist (like India) have taken steps to change this, changing the minds and traditions of people is a slower process. Consequently, although intercaste marriage is now legal, couples of differing castes have many obstacles to overcome. Problems include (as you mentioned) the inability to convince families of the desire to marry; problems in adapting to new environments, culture and rituals; the perception of a religious offense in which death threats can be made; and ongoing conflict between family and friends.

As there is such an uphill battle with intercaste marriages, it seems like you really need to be certain that this is the man you want to marry. It would be a struggle; but if you both love each other and believe in the correctness of your decision, then it can be done. However, although you mentioned that you were attracted to him and touched by his words, you didn’t really talk about having strong feelings towards him. This could be because of your distress about the situation, or it could be that you don’t have them. If your feelings for this man are not strong, then it seems best to break up and give both of you the opportunity to find new loves. You can be happy after a break up. Many people have endured heartbreak and gone on to have happy relationships with other partners.

However, if you do feel strongly enough towards this man to really want to marry him even with all the challenges, then you have your work cut out for you. Perhaps your parents do not realize your determination and feelings for this man. Maybe they would feel differently if they saw your passion. From your description, it sounds like your mother thinks it’s because of your inferiority complex, versus what truly drew you to him. If that is the case, then it could be helpful for her to hear your thoughts and feelings stated unequivocally. It might even help for you to do some research on intercaste marriages to see if there is community support for them, and what you would need to do to make the relationship work. Your parents also might feel better about this man were they to be introduced to him, or if they heard more about his good qualities. In other words, they need to know that you’re serious about this man.

The question comes down to whether or not you’re willing to face some hard times in order to be with this man, or if perhaps he is not the right one for you. There is no easy answer but I think whatever decision you make has to come from you.

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