At the Crossroads of Marriage: Experiences of Young Urban Middle-Class Women Negotiating Family and Sexuality Within Heterosexual Intimate Relationships in North India
This paper critically examines the experiences of women in heterosexual intimate relationships. It aims to understand how women negotiate social structures of family, marriage choice, and community through intimate relationships. Young women are challenging gendered power relations, traditional family structures, and marriage norms in their everyday lives. By this, women challenge the old structures of patriarchy, caste system, and control of their sexuality. A qualitative research design using in-depth interviews with 12 working women in the age group of 25–30 years who were in intimate relationships was conducted. The study was based in Delhi and done over two months in 2019. Women were selected through snowball sampling. Narrative analysis has been used to evaluate women’s experiences in intimate relationships. The narratives show the struggles and negotiations that women do for love and how these struggles are becoming a way of challenging various structures like patriarchy, caste, class, and religion. Women choose their life partners or arrange for their love marriage. Still, the choice of the partner and the idea of marriage are influenced by the broader patriarchal, caste, and class structures. The women in this study have been able to move beyond the traditional norm of arranged marriage but have still not taken the leap of choice free of the broader institutions of caste, class, and family. The paper concludes by emphasising that although women choose their heterosexual partners for marriage, their choices are still influenced by their caste, class, and patriarchal structures.