The 'happily ever after' myth

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The 'happily ever after' myth

“Our family is the centre of everything we do,” asserts Bollywood filmmaker Karan Johar who is known for his super-hit family-sagas, including the recent ‘We Are Family’. “Our emotions, responsibilities and a certain resonance of life — all come from our innate need to belong to a family which is a dominating motif of Indian life,” he adds. Women form the strongest link in a family and hold it together with their patience, love and compassion.
Recently-married celebrity musician Ayaan Ali Khan says, “I was commitment-phobic before meeting Neema. But she has proved to be a loving wife, a responsible daughter to my parents and a great sister to Amaan.”

With women’s empowerment spawning an independent spirit and a need for personal space among millions of young, educated and earning women, the pattern of family life — and marriage — has changed.

Relationships have become the biggest victim of the current age. There is such a desperate need for personal rights and space and career ambition among all young people that they are scared to put someone else above themselves even in an intimate relationship like marriage.

The slow and insidious collapse of the Indian family has now suddenly come to light and panic buttons are being pressed everywhere.

How can young women build a lasting marriage and enjoy a fulfilling family life? Here are a few pointers from the experts:

*Don’t jump into a relationship and/ or marriage without seriously checking out whether it is something you want for a lifetime. The heavy presence of the wedding industry can make marriage and all its add-ons very attractive to a young woman. Don’t be lured by the razzle-dazzle of clothes, jewellery and parties, and the importance this gives you for a while. Romance is wonderful only when it is the foundation of a strong bond with your loved one.

*A relationship based on lust has fewer chances of lasting because of the very nature of lust — when it is satiated it melts like snow in sunshine! On the other hand, commitment based on love and respect gives you a chance to steadily build a bond of trust and interdependence. As the winds of change sweep Indian society, it is easy to believe that pre-marital sex, multiple partners, and ‘open’ marriages and many other versions of the male-female relationship are not only acceptable but also attractive. Peer pressure is a strong force. But be sure that you are making the correct choices because these will affect your entire life. As is well known, strong marriages do not happen. They have to be built over years with patience and love.

*Don’t snap ties with your family. Understand clearly that unlike in the West, Indian women need the support of their families — both parental and matrimonial — to lead fulfilled lives. They don’t have social security, health care and other support systems provided by governments abroad for single mothers, divorced women or women without financial resources. In times of sickness or stress, or even to achieve success in one’s career, one needs the care and co-operation of family. “Indians will be losers if they throw away their cultural heritage of family togetherness and generosity. People today believe that relationships that enhance their business and careers are more important than family ties or friendships. This is dangerous and destructive for society. We are not yet a welfare society. Here, rich or poor, a family has to take the responsibility of looking after its members. We should do this with pride and happiness rather than with resentment,” says Anila Dhawan, a family counsellor. “Don’t become a stranger to your family,” she adds.

*Don’t make money the basis of your marriage. While money makes the world go round, it cannot be the foundation of a lasting relationship. Rather than the focal point, money and its power should be the fuel on which a relationship acquires power and sustenance. Share whatever you earn in an equitable way and create an atmosphere of opulence for the family, especially for the elders on both sides of your family.

*If your new family is a mix of religions or regional cultures, don’t make this a bone of contention. Approach the differences with an open heart. It helps to realise that basic values in Indian families remain the same. This applies to extended families where cousins, aunts and uncles may live in different cities or even countries but share a strong bond. Try not to lose touch with both families in spite of the breakneck speed of life. Family unity is a useful tool for creating a rich life.

*Don’t make an issue of social or financial status if you have chosen to marry into a higher or lower stratum. It is true that women are equals in every field. Brusque behaviour, rude language or sarcastic comparisons are hurtful and take a long time to heal. Don’t be unfair and judgmental. Understand other people’s point of view rather than insist on winning every point.

*Don’t play games with your spouse or your new family. Lies, deceit, jealousy and envy are the enemies of peace and happiness. A strong character is a priceless possession. Don’t forget that marriage was your considered choice and it is therefore your responsibility to make it a success except in insurmountable circumstances.

Easier said than done?

To achieve success and contentment in family life, experts suggest this simple five-point formula:

*‘Public relations’ within a family is a must. Don’t forget anniversaries, birthdays and important events. Celebrate them. Enjoy quality time with your husband and children as well as both your families.

*Don’t ignore new members coming into your family. Do not let jealousy, anger and suspicion control your behaviour.

*Don’t forget that team work always succeeds in personal life as it does in business. Build teams in your families to achieve unity and success. Create bonds with all members with kindness and patience.

*Don’t carry the burden of past enmities and hatred.

*Don’t divide the family. Rather, bond them with charm and sincerity for a richer life. Negotiate differences with dialogue.

Dhawan believes these rules apply to young men as well.

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