Now here’s something I can talk about from a place of wisdom and experience. If, that is, you agree that this experience made me wise. I’ve been married for two decades, so I have no use for this particular wisdom, and I’m passing it along for someone who might need it. I could give a lot of advice on this subject. But, at this moment, with the limited attention span of most of you out there, with the flurries of distractions to distract you, with– okay, okay, here’s my advice on marriage: Don’t.
Now before you get all hot and bothered, try read the next bit: Not immediately.
So if I still have your attention, here’s what I am getting at. I am not going to talk here about my anti marriage-as-an-institution stance, as I hear the indignant cries of, ‘You’ve been married so long, what gives you the right… ‘ etc. (I’d answer that being married so long gives me the insight, but not now.)And I am not going to talk about sex and related flora and fauna. ‘What?’ I hear, ‘Where’s the fun in that then?’ Yes, no fun. But bear with me. What I am proposing is, that when two of you find each other, when you are sure you want to spend the rest of your blissful days together staring into each others’ eyes and doing the laundry together and, and, and, consider this: Maybe, just maybe, if you stayed in that ‘you and I against the world’ cocoon for a bit longer, by delaying the marriage aspect of the relationship, it may last a bit longer. Why? Because, once you tie the knot, or exchange the ring, or take the vows, or circle the fire, or walk between the pews, or spit three times at the ghost, or, as I did, sign on three copies of the perforated government paper in front of three witnesses and a crow, then your relationship is fair game for the world.Friends. From both sides, dreaded parents-in-law, most distant of cousins several times removed, old aunts, great, grand, great-grand, and all manner of aunts and uncles. Neighbours. Grocery store clerks. Banks. The state. The church, temple, or mosque, and the deity or entity who rules it, and the mediums who convey their messages and rules to the newlyweds. Everyone, and I mean everyone, owns the relationship.
Seriously, I just think, if couples held on to their couplehood for a bit, if they gave their relationship time to grow and expand, if they kept everyone– the mothers and fathers and sisters, the government and god– out of it, I think they give themselves a better chance at succeeding in the long run. I think couples should marry after their first child is in kindergarten. I mean, imagine all the heartache and frustration which could be saved if the two of you didn’t have to listen to advice and instructions and follow random rules and be party to atrocious restrictions and if you were free to just be a couple. Imagine how much more confident and stronger and capable of saying ‘No!’ you would be as individuals and as a couple to meddlesome and well-meaning outsiders.
A Pack of Lies
I think a lot of the problems and resentments in a marriage come from external pressure in the early days. I think these resentments grow and grow like slow tumours. I think they are responsible for many many unhappynesses. I think delaying the legitimising and sanctifying of the relationship may just help.
I also know, from personal experience, that nobody learns from the mistakes of others. And although I say all this, I have very little doubt that societal, parental and religious pressures are far greater than common sense and instinct. Still, worth a try, what do you say?
Anyone there? Hmm. Guess you’re all off to buy rings and call wedding planners and such. Ever thought about having a big party at your twentieth anniversary instead? I’ll save that for another post…
(Urmilla Deshpande is the writer of Slither: Carnal Prose, A Pack of Lies, Kashmir Blues and co-editor of Madhouse: True Stories of the Inmates of Hostel 4 (IIT-B))