August 18, 2009

What is a successful marriage?

Long ago, in a school debate, I had spoken out for arranged marriages. That was before I had ever seriously thought about what marriage would entail, at a time when I was just out of my teens and believed that some prince was waiting somewhere to whisk me off, with my parents blessings of course. But its been almost a decade since then and I have seen quite a few make ups and break ups in my friends' lives to understand what a relationship constitutes in today's world. It is simply not the same age old era where people put up with each other because they feel that is their destiny. In fact, destiny is an out dated word. Choice is the reality of today. No one needs to stay on in a marriage now and that is what has challenged all our known notions of marriage.

In our society we are still big on tradition, which is why the child maybe outgoing and outspoken in every other way, but when it comes to marriage, she/he is still expected to toe the family line. She/he is expected to settle with someone who the family selects. If you do that, you will forever be called the grateful child. A colleague had once put this into sharp focus when she talked about her and her brother. Her brother was always the obedient types while she had been the rebel. But while the brother married someone of his choice, she after having her fill of testing waters, settled for an arranged marriage. She jokes about how that one decision washed off all her past flaws in her parents' eyes.

We are told parents know best and when both sets of parents are in agreement, there will always be someone to salvage your marriage if there are some problems. That is a debatable thing. But the argument that I hear the most is that arranged marriages last, whereas love marriages generally end up in divorce. There are statistics to prove this too, I agree. But is longevity the only measure of a successful marriage?

I know of many couples who are married to each other just because they feel they have no other option. Life is a cycle of forced responsibilities and civilities and oh yes, the most important word of all - compromise. They say that is the most important thing in a marriage. Excuse me, have we confused adjustment and acceptance with compromise here? For according to me marriage is supposed to be a union of equal, mature individuals who share a life, without losing their individuality. But that is not the case I am told. Compromise is the word that ensures that marriages don't break up. But after a long day at work in a competitive world, does anyone have the time and energy for a compromise?

I know of couples who have been married for ages, but rarely talk with each other now. But for the society's purpose, theirs is a successful marriage. They haven't broken up and divided their children's life. A friend's grandparents chose to separate after all their children were settled. No they didn't divorce, they just started staying with different children. No divorce, so successful isn't it? There are some who don't talk to each other and their children act as go-betweens. There are others who lose their own identity (both female and male) to keep the marriage going. After all, if it lasts, its successful. Also families do bind these relationships, there is pressure to listen to them and stay together, so what if its killing you? Its gotta last.

I am not building a case here for love marriages or for divorce at the slightest provocation. What I am trying to say is that our idea of a marriage itself is skewed. Marriages are not made in heaven, you need to work them out here on this earth, no doubt about that. But what is a marriage really? Is it just something you get into because you are expected to? Is it something bound by the correct background, kundli alignment and surname? Is it a way to get sex with societal approval? Or is it something you get into because you want to share your life with someone? Because you found someone with whom you can relate to on an intellectual and emotional level? Is it about understanding and accepting a person unconditionally so as to be able to be a soul mate? Because if marriage is about meeting the match of your soul, it could happen anytime, in any way, with anyone. You don't need to go through countless profiles of ready for marriage 'fun loving, caring, blend of traditional and modern values' type of people on marriage websites to find the one. They just might happen to you.

But if they happen to you, families will probably tell you that it is an emotional/hormonal reaction. Umr ka takaaza hai. These things don't last and if they don't last they can't be successful can they? Well they might last if the couples don't always have it in the back of their mind that they have done something they shouldn't have and that they would have been better off had they listened to their relatives (sometimes this emotional blackmail continues even after the so called acceptance).

Longevity is a virtue in any relationship. But it can't be the sole factor to determine its success is what I feel. What is needed whether the match be arranged or love, is a mental connect. If you can relate to the person, if you feel that you can talk to that person any time of the day, if you think that you can handle waking up to this same face everyday, then I guess you have a shot at a successful relationship even if your mom thinks that he/she is not the dream catch. Call me a romantic if you will. But no point in getting married to please someone else, because those people will be long gone or far away, while you might have to remain 'stuck' with either a 'dutiful' bond or a failed relationship. The choice is always ours and a decision once made needs to be followed through, whatever be the ramifications, isn't it?


  1. i agree whole heartedly and completely

  2. You know its so heart breaking to actually read this and realise how fucked up our thoughts on marriage, or should i say our ancestors, were..
    What i believe makes a marriage work is the companionship you both share and how u connect on a mental level ( like you mentioned in your article). And that rarely happens here as parents are so driven to get their children married to the same 'caste' and all that.
    with this comes a huge gender bias as well. but i wont get into that now..

    and till then i only pray: 'If marriages are made in heaven probably, they will work out fine only in the heavens..then what about those on the earth..?'

    anybody cares to answer..? I think not..

  3. I think it's doesn't matter whether it's love marriage or arranged..If there's enough committment and patience everything works out..Some people want it the love way some want it arranged..Simple as that..Taking out a statistics by some people of which is the best form of marriage is itself idiotic..If everybody understands this there won't be any problem..
    Good work bro..I hope people who make a big issue outta all this read all this..

  4. @rush_me..I'm sure people who are driven by the caste thing and gender bias system won't even dare to answer what you've asked cuz they won't have any answer..Cuz deep inside they know they're wrong..But they're afraid breaking out from their system..They just want to be a part of system all their lives..Sad but true..

  5. Amar you are right its fear basically...we have been taught that we are supposed to be social animals and so need to follow certain 'norms' of the society however messed up they may be...also the whole point of the article was that individual freedom of choice should be given more importance than what is supposedly the 'correct' method...but rush me its not just our ancestors you know many people still think the same way...infact if I have observed the world in the last few years, it has just got more regressive and intolerant

  6. most of the ppl just dont wanna believe anything against the system, cos its the way they've been raised up...
    There are a few who know our marriage system is screwed up but they lack the guts to act against it when confronted by their family...

    There are a very few ppl who actually act according to their will... against the system... but boy...with the amount of guilt pushed into them by their parents n relatives... by the society... the guilt makes them finally break down... end up in divorce..
    Only a handful of ppl survive the guilt n live happily in their life against the system... they r sooo meagre... that they just become exceptions for the rule...

    the ppl who end up in divorce get highlighted... become the example for a failed life against the system...

    But with the present education n awareness... I think in the coming years... with more westernization principles being followed... the system wont survive... in both arranged n love marriages... ppl will be together as long as they want to be and not because the society wants them to be...


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