Marriage is no honeymoon

REALITY CHECK

Marriage is no honeymoon

FORMULA FOR  SUCCESS: Making a friend of your  partner is a sure way of  guaranteeing a happy marriage.

There are many myths about marriage that we live with. The reality of marriage is nowhere close to the biggest myth that goes by the cuddly phrase — ‘and they lived happily ever after.’  If that be the reality of marriage, how come the rate of divorce across the globe is galloping?

Let me begin at the beginning. What we perceive to be love during the courtship phase is often infatuation, a very natural but misleading feeling. It is hormonal trickery that is often expressed as, ‘I am so much in love with you that I can’t seem to do without you.’ ‘I don’t know where I would be without you, darling.’  You accept anything that the other proposes.  You are one by two coffee. Hindi film songs like, “I will break the glass in which I don’t see you” or “I won’t let any boy walk in the street where you live,” perpetuate that feeling and you begin to believe that reel life is real life.

Fast forward to marriage, the honeymoon and the lovey dovey period that follows, the process of settling down and of shared dreams that bring happiness. Life seems incomplete without the other and a state of co-dependency consolidates.  

Then reality parachutes silently into the compound of marriage and the marriage becomes a fertile ground for stress, tension and unhappiness.  Why? Somewhere along the line, a sense of ownership develops followed by expectations and more expectations. ‘How dare my wife do this to me?’ ‘My hubby should have been more sensitive when my friends dropped in.’ ‘That is no way for her to behave.’ ‘This is the least she could have done for me.’ Suddenly there is crowding of space between the two. And the sad part is that the expectations of one from the other are not even exchanged.

This may be the time to provide a personal example. Rewind to my childhood days in Multan (now in Pakistan). My mother would never ever taste a seasonal fruit before my father had tasted it first. She would wait for my father to arrive and start his lunch before starting hers and also keep an eye on what else he wanted. That was then. Now to my marriage. I would enter our home and hear my convent-educated wife declare. “Oh, the mangoes this season are so delicious.” “Which mangoes are you talking about,” I’d ask and get this response: “The trouble with you is that you have two beautiful eyes that can only see beer cans and not mangoes.” She’d then proceed to open the fridge and point the mangoes out to me. My response: Sulk and some more heavy duty sulk. “I was so ravishingly hungry that I am done with my lunch,” she’d often declare.  It took me some years to realise that she was a western classical and I was an Urdu shairi type and it was best for us to run on our parallel tracks.  Expectations are the biggest killers of happy marriages.

The other big time marriage spoiler is control. Let us accept that we have lived with and inherited what is called an external control psychology from our society, our parents, our teachers, our bosses, religious teachers and those who are hierarchally placed higher than us. ‘I am older and therefore I know better.’ ‘I am the teacher of this class and you had better obey me.’ External control psychology has become a part of our genes.
Look at any miserable relationship and you will find one of three common factors.
Someone is trying to dominate you and you don’t like being dominated. You are trying to dominate someone and it is not working out for you, and the third is that both parties are simultaneously trying to dominate each other. Both partners suffer and the chances of happiness recede. The hope is that with the passage of time, things will improve.

Often they don’t as it happened in this case. Here is a husband, who in his growing up years, had to seek his father’s permission for anything he wanted to do. For his monetary needs, he had to argue his case, before his father reluctantly granted him the stipend. Control was the way for a husband, became his principle. He gets married to a girl who has grown up with parents who trusted her enough to give her the keys of the cupboard if she needed cash. She was labelled a spendthrift and the husband would control the purse strings. He wanted to control his wife while she wanted to avoid domination. Result: misery. Look around and you’ll find many such cases.

Before I go to the happy news, let me share another myth and that is the belief that as we grow older and become more mature, things improve. The fact of married life is exactly the opposite because both partners progress at different paces — one may seek a spiritual path and the other may want to hit the club with his old buddies, after retirement. Divorces amongst oldies are also on the rise.

Now the good news. We rarely use control psychology on our friends and acquaintances. We give them much more leeway for their eccentricities and even enjoy them. Making a friend out of your partner is a sure way of guaranteeing a happy marriage, and letting the other grow in the space that he or she wishes to grow is the way out. If you like Hindi films and your spouse is fond of western music, so be it. Let each choose what is good for him or her.  You play duets and solos depending on the need of the moment.
Are you wondering why, in all this time, I’ve not mentioned ‘love’ being the essential ingredient of marriage? Love is, indeed, the foundation of marriage but love is about separateness and takes hard work. It is not a fleeting emotion. Love is always a work in progress. And love in marriage is not about civility as is often misunderstood. You can argue your case passionately and demolish the other’s but still be in love.

Since I started with myths, let me explode another one. That love marriages are happier than arranged marriages but more on that after a break.

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