It was a Friday and already 7 in the evening. Rashmi, just back from the nearby Hypercity, plonked herself on the sofa facing the television mounted on the wall. Hurriedly she checked her messages – Rahul, her husband for 2 years, planned to meet her directly at her favourite drinking hole. After much dilly-dallying they finally planned this – often Rahul’s office left him exhausted and weekends were reserved for catching up breath for Monday and the rest of the week.
“Sry, vl get late.. sum other tym.. nxt wk?” – read the message. Rashmi was furious. Her marriage was nothing like what she had imagined – companionship, togetherness, love and romance. She flung open her fridge, poured herself some wine and switched on the TV – all this while thinking her marriage sucks big time! It’s one of the things we are most afraid might happen to us. We go to great lengths to avoid it. And yet we do it all the same: marry the wrong person.
Thing is – before marriage, we rarely delve into our complexities. Interestingly and at best only subliminally known to us, we have a bewildering array of problems that emerge when we try to get close to others. We are unaware of these as our friends don’t care enough to educate us on that and in casual relationships it is too easy to walk out while blaming the other person.
Our partners are no more self-aware. Naturally, we make a stab at trying to understand them. We meet their families. We meet their college friends. All this contributes to a sense that we’ve done our homework. We haven’t. Marriage ends up as a hopeful, generous, infinitely kind gamble taken by two people who don’t know yet who they are or who the other might be, binding themselves to a future they cannot conceive of and have carefully avoided investigating.Earlier, people married for risk aversion: both belonged to the same caste, similarity in beliefs, families known to same set of people, of similar status, etc. And, from such riskless marriages, there flowed loneliness, infidelity, abuse, and what not. That is why recently the marriage of feeling replaced the same.
What matters in the marriage of feeling is that two people are drawn to each other by an overwhelming instinct and know in their hearts that it is right. We marry to make a nice feeling timeless. We imagine that marriage will help us to bottle the joy we felt when the thought of proposing first came to us: Perhaps we were strolling in Marine Drive, with the evening sun throwing glitter across the Arabian sea, clasping each other’s hands, with the prospect of dinner at Not Just Jazz by the Bay couple of hours later.But, failed to see that there was no solid connection between these feelings and the institution of marriage. Marriage shifts us onto another, very different and more administrative realm, which often unfolds in a two-room 700 sq ft apartment, with a long commute and numbingly routine chores.
The good news is that it doesn’t matter if we find we have married the wrong person. We mustn’t abandon him or her, only the founding Romantic idea upon which the much touted understanding of marriage has been based: that a “perfect one” exists who can meet all our needs and satisfy our every yearning.It is perhaps better to swap the Romantic view for a Tragic awareness that every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden and disappoint us — and we will (without any malice) do the same to them. This philosophy of pessimism offers a solution to a lot of distress and agitation around marriage. It might sound odd, but pessimism relieves the excessive imaginative pressure that our romantic culture places upon marriage.
The person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently and harmonically — the person who is good at disagreement. Learning to accommodate ourselves to “differences,” striving always to adopt a more forgiving, humorous and kind perspective on its multiple examples in ourselves and in our partners helps keeping the “bond” called marriage strong.