- Gender and Relationships
Marriage and Divorce
OK now that you are married and feel that you have finally done it, it is time to start slowly adjusting to the new world.
What sort of world? Frankly, it is difficult to generalize. For, if you’ve married your childhood sweetheart after a long romance, it could be a heady euphoric dream world of romantic possibilities laced with fulfillment highs. If it’s an arranged marriage of the kind seen in traditional societies, there could be plenty of suspense as a slow discovery process peels away layer after layer to reveal what one is into. There can be all sorts of permutations and combinations and especially because no two individuals are alike, it is hazardous to venture into any description of the immediate world that a couple may find themselves in.
Fast-forward a couple of years and the terrain looks simpler to describe, as life settles down into familiar patterns. The suspense has largely lifted away, to reveal idiosyncrasies and foibles and help form the initial impressions that will usually last a lifetime. The flavor of the experience – whether enjoyable, repulsive or mixed - is still impossible to define as there are large variations of the theme and it really doesn’t serve any purpose. For there are as many marriages as individuals and marriages are also paradoxical in some ways. There are couples who have dated for years and known each other well enough, divorcing within weeks of marriage. There are also arranged marriages where strangers wedded by the elders adjusted so well that the understanding, mutual respect and unalloyed joy in their lives casts an infectious spell and charm on others around them.
Marriage and Divorce
There are two broad paths now -
- investing in the relationship, adjusting to the partner and enjoying the experience and keeping the marriage going in spite of the bumpy ride that it may seem at times, or
- deciding that the dissolution of the marriage may be the best option for all parties concerned.
It is true that divorce may sometimes be a better alternative than suffering and causing incalculable harm to each other, but it is also true that there is a cost and although seemingly an easy alternative, should be resorted to only after we give marriage a chance to succeed.Therefore the first step would be to try and make the marriage work.
It may be necessary to realise that it would take take some active effort to keep a marriage going. Both partners would have to contribute for mutual benefit. If after all these efforts, the personality differences and adjustment problems seem too serious to be bridged, divorce could be a last resort solution to the problems.
The formula to make it work
The formula is that there is no formula. But there are some pointers that can be kept in mind.
1. Strive to be the right mate . Selecting a right mate is taken very seriously, but after the marriage, it comes down to finding the flaws in the spouse and figuring out the gap vis-à-vis expectations. “I always thought my husband will help me with the cooking – this man dreads going to the kitchen – he can’t even make a cup of tea.” “I always imagined my wife will join me in hiking trips – this one hates the outdoors!” “I don’t like his serious brooding nature – who can live with a man like this?” “I hate people who are always frivolous. Being light-hearted on occasions is OK, but 24 x 7 – it’s just crazy!” Could all be true, but the point is, it won’t serve the marriage any good, if one doesn’t try to be the right mate by looking at what one is bringing to the table and improving on the record. As rabbi Barnett R. Brickner said “Success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right mate, but through being the right mate.” So if we spend some time considering what we are contributing to make the marriage work, rather than what the other person is doing to spoil it, the experience could turn out to be better for both.
2. Give as well as claim space. One of the big issues is to sort out how much individuality of mine is allowed a free play and how much the other person’s assertion is making me feel suffocated. Quite often partners take up aggressive postures to have their individual space resulting in conflicts, breakdown of communication or even separation. If we remember that no marriage can provide scope for total unfettered individuality, things will be much better. As Anne Taylor Fleming said “a long marriage is two people trying to dance a duet and two solos at the same time.”
3. Learn to reinvent. Living with the same person and getting to intimately observe the quirks, eccentricities and repulsive elements can be very tiring as the years go by. Whatever is good in the other person is either taken for granted or stinks because it lacks freshness. It’s very necessary to deal with and banish the stale odor of monotony and familiarity by reinventing oneself and elements of the relationship so that the long journey does not become too tiring because of the monotony. Mignon McLaughlin, the journalist and author wrote in The Second Neurotic's Notebook , 1966 that “a successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.”
There can be no exhaustive list and these are only a few pointers to underscore the fact that a long successful marriage requires of both partners to actively invest in making it work as a continuous process.