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August 20, 2012

Coupling

There is a schoolmate of mine, settled in US, who once told me ,"Choice is the root of all evil". It was kinda an odd-ball discussion to be having on a FB chat, but then again weirder stuff has happened with me on social forums. (Don't ask!!) He was actually trying to impress on me the viability of an arranged marriage over a romantic one. Apparently, his mom had got hold of a foreigner (who according to my friend was pretty hot) for him to tie the knot with. The point he was trying to sell me was- the girl really did not have much choice in the marriage. She couldn't really say NO (yup, don't ask M.E. where she hails from!! If the initials make some sense, you are clever). And mind you, this is not even taking place in India, but on foreign shores. Since she had been bred not to assert her independent choices, my friend opined that it would lead to a complication-free marriage life. He was confident of his innate goodness (bless his soul!) and his capability to treat her well. Since, in his own words, he was "a good guy"!

It's an interesting concept. Earlier marriages (those of our folks and grand-folks) seemed to work because people really did not have the choice to opt out. Women were not self-dependent, divorce was a taboo, a woman staying away from her in-laws' home for long periods was frowned upon, men did not have women working in their offices, so extra-marital affairs had a relatively low incidence, husbands and wives have pre-defined roles handed down to them, and there was not much they could do to change it. Society was a lot more stereotypical those days. People had a pre-specified template to fit into. Individuality really didn't count much back in that era. I know, I kinda make 'that era' sound like something out of our history books, but seriously...Comparing ol' times with ours is like placing your old time local grocery store by the side of a modern supermarket. The friendly neighbourhood grocery-man offers less choices, hence less confusion. The Dr Octopus of the super-markets grapples you with its tentacles of options and causes your head to spin. And in the matrimony supermarket, choices of husbands, choices of wives, choices of lovers- things don't really stay that simple.

Since the last few weeks, I have read up a lot on what people have to say about arranged or love marriages. Mostly the same stuff, written in various flavors. Don't get me wrong, folks! This topic hits a dead-end at one point. We all know the foregone conclusion- marriage is about the willingness to adjust and compromise. Love or arranged- it basically counts for nothing. There is a risk involved in everything.

The sad truth about today’s marriages is that many of them fail. I don't mean, just ending up in divorce. But failing to provide meaning and fulfillment in the lives of the couple. Most marriages start out great but the stress and difficulties of everyday life often take their toll. Love and adjustment really have their hands full. They have to contend with money, careers, family demands, a lack of communication, jealousy, family interference, parenting and (Oh boy!) boredom. Marriage is not easy, folks. Far from it. #true story#

I guess, after a point of time, a couple eventually runs out of stimulating topics to talk about. Yeah, arguing over who is going to the sabzi market to haggle for the best prices isn't exactly romantic. Once wed, between fatigue, stress and the constant demands of everyday living, communication begins to break down. Then, one day they find they don’t talk as much as they used to or the conversations they are having lack substance and meaning. And then add to it, the resentment and grudge building up, all the blame over unmet expectations, a lack of honesty , the peeling away of mutual respect, and the next thing you know, you are looking around for a good divorce lawyer. The solution to all this? Open and honest communication to be made a constant priority in marriage. Sounds easy? I'm sure it is not. You've to slog all day in office and you can't be yourself at home. No rest. No respite.

I've always found male-female friendships a confusing area. I mean just how much of intimacy between people of opposite genders can be tolerated before a husband or a wife earns the right to start smelling something fishy? Jealousy is another common reason that many marriages break up. Once married, many people expect their spouse to give up friendships with members of the opposite sex. Innocent interactions among friends are sometimes misconstrued and, if not handled properly with honesty and openness, jealousy and mistrust grow. Lots of gray areas in this one. When you love someone deeply, insecurity is bound to creep in. You start caring about that person and just can't remain aloof anymore.

I remember a line from the movie "Ghosts of Girlfriends' Past" which went like this- "Someone once told me that the power in all relationships lies with whoever cares less, and he was right. But power isn't happiness, and I think that maybe happiness comes from caring more about people rather than less... "

Problem is- jealousy inevitably rears its ugly green-eyes head when you start genuinely caring for somebody. If a couple lets things go out of hand, a lack of trust and openness mixed with bitterness will break down the marriage. Let's face the truth-marriage will inevitably change previously established friendships, especially with members of the opposite sex. Ideally, neither spouse should have to give up those well-established friendships to suit a mate. In an ideal world, one has to include one's spouse in one's friendships and work to foster trust among one's friends and the spouse, but that's too much of work, right? I mean, what are the odds your spouse will actually like the people you do? Or your friends will like your spouse for that matter?

Seen "Meet the Parents" ? Robert Di Niro gives Ben Stiller, his prospective son-in-law, a hell of a time when he visits them over the weekend. While the movie provided great laughs and a hilarious take on the subject of in-laws' disapproval, truth is- if you don’t like yours, that dislike often causes trouble for years. Family often causes a great deal of stress in a marriage (do I have someone nodding his head sadly among the readers there?); familial conflicts also frequently lead to the demise of the marriage.  Interfering in-laws often put stress on marriages by trying to force a spouse to choose between their marriage and their family. The recently married girl in my project team has to flee the office before 6 pm everyday because of her hubby dearest's insistence. And did I mention, her family had to cough up 9 lacs in dowry too? Ok, maybe I am diverting from the topic here. Bottom-line is, the scene looks bleak. Parents aren't always the heaven's gift to children which we imagine them to be.

With divorces on the rise, so are re-marriages. So what does a bloke or a gal do with the step-children and ex-spouses that come with second marriages add stress to the new family dynamic?  Everyone has to be added carefully into the blended family mix. And everyone seems to have an idea about how to raise children, leading to more friction, often resulting in the inability of the new family to mesh correctly. So when you marry, you think you are bringing in bliss to your home? I guess we need to think again.

I recently watched "American Reunion", the latest installment in the American Pie series. (Yeah, those are the kind of movies I watch. Sorry, guilty as charged!) In that movie, there is a moment when the character Jim confesses sadly to his dad that his marital life hasn't been as much fun since he and his wife had a kid. And it is here that Jim's dad drops in a pearl of profound wisdom. You cannot let parenthood make you forget that you are also husband and wife.While a child comes as a blessing, parenting can also be overwhelming for any couple.  The introduction of a child into the marriage shakes up things, dramatically in some cases, as each spouse must now also take on the role of parent. Couples often become so caught up caring for their new baby that they forget to make time to focus on each other. In addition, spouses might feel left out of the new relationship. If you take my two cents worth of advice, I guess couples should enlist the help of babysitters and grandparents so that they might make time to focus their energy and time on their relationship.

Marital boredom!!! You know the way things are going, I won't be surprised if one day boredom becomes a factor in the dissolution of many marriages. It isn't really difficult for couples to simply grow bored and grow apart from one another over time. They see the marriage become stagnant and, rather than working to resolve the problems in the marriage or add new life to the relationship, desire to move on. Of course, truth be told, when they find someone else to settle with, they discover they have just traded one set of problems for another. But I guess, boredom is perhaps the easiest fight to avoid. Make a commitment, as a couple, to spend time doing things together, travel or surprise each other. Focus on adding new energy to your relationship to keep it fresh and strong.

All the merry scenarios I described above are equally applicable to love as well as arranged marriages. Maybe, just maybe, arranged marriages are a little bit more secure in some ways. Less expectations, less disappointments. You know, there is an escapism involved in opting for arranged weddings. People don't want to take charge of their own lives. They want to thrust the responsibility of choosing a suitable life-partner on someone else's shoulders. I guess when people do that, they automatically turn down the regulator dial of their hopes as well. Maybe that's one way of saving a marriage. Temper your anticipations. But then again, settling down with a complete stranger is a much worse proposition than buying a pair of jeans you have never put on in a trial room. At least, the so called love marriages can mentally prepare you somewhat for what's headed your way.

Which brings me to an interesting thing. Neuroscientists claim love isn’t an emotion; it is activation of the reward center in our fore-brains (I know I sound geeky with all that fat glasses look and all). And new love (the first 7 months to be precise) produces a chemical response similar to narcotics. I guess it isn't so hard to make relationship mistakes when you know you are on drugs. Red roses bloom in your heart, your reddened derriere throbs from the puncture Cupid's arrows made in it.It’s easy to do something that seems like a good idea, say move in or start to make long term plans, when life seems so grand. Shit, everything seems so great, you think you can spend the rest of your natural or supernatural existence with that person.The point is, if the bloom comes off the rose and you've made commitments, you could easily end up waking up next to someone after 5 years and wonder, ‘What the fuck have I done?”

Unfortunately, once you settle the interior decor of your new house and your dopamine runs out (i.e. roses ain't so rosy anymore), you generally assume the relationship can be fixed because it had been “so good". But then again, life can be quite a prick sometimes and you start pricking your fingers on the now glaringly apparent thorns.

So,all in all, if you are already married, best of luck. If you are planning to get married, best of luck then too. If you are not planning to get married, God bless you, for sure as hell, your parents and married friends will force you to. Just keep your expectations in check, will you? Hope for the best and expect the worst, as they always say. So that when life usually hands you something mid-way, you don't get showered in the piss from the busted balloon of deluded dreams and fantasies you built up.

P.S. I wrote this Piece of Shit (P.S.) for a contest.Do have a look here-www.facebook.com/LoveYaArrange
If you want, you can vote for me here.

Reactions:

12 comments:

  1. Kudos for the lengthy post. Wow. I personally think marriages are overrated (but to each their own). I would like someone to point out the pros of dating versus a series of inconsequential flings. But yes, marriages are failing more so- they've lost all the hoohah. The whole 'arranged' side of things makes me laugh, and probably because I've never really had that where I'm from.

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  2. Marriage is indeed a very tricky thing. To you, I can just say, "All the best"! For the contest as well as the future :)

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  3. @Zeebs Yeah...arranged marriages....a ludicrous concept, right?? :-D But many of us Indians vouch for its merits even today...So temme Zeebs..you ain't planning to marry or settle down?? You know, have kids...have a hubby to share the rest of your life with..stuff like that?? Doesn't appeal to you much, is it?? :-)

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  4. @Ghata Tricky maybe...but you got it to work...so congrats...:-)

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  5. A well constructed post.. liked the way you mentioned the different aspects of marriage..
    I agree, marriage is always a tough thing to decide, to carry out and to maintain for rest of the life..
    All the best.. :-)

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  6. @Sayoni Thanks.. :-) Btw..I did see you seem to be rooting for love marriage in your post...So you found somebody to tie the knot with yet?? :-)

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  7. I like your point about "power" - that is what comes in the way of any relationship. I don't know about love - there are parent arranged marriages and self arranged marriages- each person's definition of the word "love" is different. But like anything else in life we need to work at a marriage. Good luck for the contest!

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  8. One of your best yet, boy (no kidding, this was written beautifully). Go for it! I don't care if you win the contest - you sure did drive home the point. :)

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  9. Very mature writing, Rahul. Proud. :)

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  10. Very Analytical ;-)
    I must say after your post my mental state regarding marriages have shifted from 'randomly confused' to ' specifically confused' :D

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  11. @Phatichar Thanks so much..
    @Meera Thanks..
    @Komal :-) Chuck the confusion..I'm sure your marriage is still some way off...

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