Q I am going to visit my parents and two sisters for Thanksgiving. They are all married, and I am still a single man at the age of 40. We have lived in the United States since I was in my teens. While I was in my 20s, my parents wanted me to marry an Indian woman. Now they will accept any woman, if only I will just get married! I have had several girlfriends; however, I still haven’t met someone I really want to marry. I am beginning to feel ashamed about going to visit my family alone, not only because of their inevitable comments, but also because I am starting to wonder what is wrong with me. How do I deal with these feelings?

A I hear your discomfort in being asked about marriage and understand why you may be feeling shameful and defective. When you haven’t fulfilled your parents’ and culture’s expectations to be married, it is natural that you’re going to feel that you have failed them. If you do want to be married, then you are understandably wondering what is wrong and might even be feeling rejected by women you may have been interested in.

This is not an easy situation, as marriage used to be a natural progression into adulthood, essentially taken care of by parents and the extended family. It was automatic. In our modern era, with many choices, challenges in finding mates, and having become more individualized in our personalities and preferences, finding a potential spouse becomes a longer, more tedious, and often frustrating endeavor. Many South Asian parents, particularly if they are now in their 60s or older, do not realize the nuances and difficulties of western cultures and modern times. Unfortunately, they may think you’re being stubborn, flaky, or have become too “Americanized.”

At this stage in your life, it’s up to you whether you want to be married and to whom. If you can define this for yourself more clearly, it will help you with your family and in accepting your lifestyle. In this culture, people marry and remarry at almost any age. However, as we get older, we become more set in our patterns and are less able to join flexibly with others. Partnerships later in life must allow for more space and independence.

Q I have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, but I want to avoid taking medication. Are there natural ways to deal with this?

A Yes, there are. For some people, insomnia is a medical condition for which they need medical help. For others, natural remedies are effective. Many people can’t sleep due to stress, over-stimulation, various sensitivities, nightmares due to trauma, or physical pain. What is going on in your life or in your mind?

Relaxation exercises such as deep breathing and soft music can help induce sleep. Some people find meditation, chanting, or prayer very restful. Some people fall asleep by reading in bed or watching television. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and even sugar. Instead, increase your intake of tryptophan, by drinking warm milk or eating turkey. Putting chamomile tea in a hot bath can help soothe the nerves; herbs such as valerian root may be helpful. Rid yourself of any anxiety or worry by soothing self-talk. Some encouraging words from another can also help you let go of worries. Lastly, indulge in a foot massage.

Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. www.wholenesstherapy.com

 

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