Thursday, October 04, 2007

What's with the pressure?

This is a very sensitive topic. To me. To many people I know. Heck, to most people I know! - Marriage. And what we expect out of it.

I've wondered for almost 2 weeks now if I can write about the topic with enough sensitivity and objectivity. If putting it up here is a huge violation of my own privacy in some way. If airing my views on the topic makes me vulnerable to unnecessary judgment by readers, known and unknown. And then I realized, despite everything I potray about how much I care about the opinions and feelings of other people, there still rests inside me a person who doesn't hesitate once in a rare while to emphatically state "I don't care!!". And apart from making me somewhat proud, it also lets me write the kind of things I'm about to. On my public blog.

Btw, why marriage?
Coz its that life stage. Coz its that age. Coz most people in that lifestage at that age are around me and talking about it. Coz their momentary discussions trigger off in my head a series of long arguments with the self on the issue, making it much more complex than when it started out.

And what about it?
I've come to wonder. Don't we place too much pressure on the concept? As a result of having evolved to where we are now, to the point where so many of us can claim to be 'discovering' ourselves, our passions and views, somewhere we've begun to expect that a marriage will bring the fulfilment that our multiple activities and relationships do. Is that fair?

To expect that a spouse will be as good a listener as your best friend?
To expect that they would be great at advice on work related issues as colleagues and bosses?
To expect that they can support you with maturity and grace like your parents did?
To expect that they can find time for you, like your friends lucky enough to not be I bankers?
To expect that they can hold your interest through endless conversations, much akin to those few friends you have great conversational chemistry with?
To expect that they'd be cool enough to take out and socialize with your current circle?
To expect that they'd chip in with their share of housework like your best flatmate?

To expect all that and a little more.

Is it fair? Is it normal? I'm sure most people find a way to love/ find happiness/ both with a person even without ticks on all of the above. I'm sure that even if its not easy, people don't walk out on marriages. They try. And they learn.

But the para before last IS the aspirational list right? How terribly impossible esp for people who have trouble reconciling their expectations with reality! And hence how unfair for a potential partner to have to live up to! How unfair an expectation to peg onto an institution.

Coz that's what marriage is at the end of the day right? An institution. After all, marriages aren't supposed to replace everything and everyone else in your life. They're supposed to enhance the value of most people and things that already exist. They're supposed to (look there I go again ... making a list of obligations for marriage to fulfill!) be a simple uncomplicated way to ensure we don't live our lives alone. They're just a way of ensuring that we have someone to count on as we grow old.

But with lives like ours, in times like today, it's tough to just be content with that much, innit? Think about it. When you have a fabulous life as a single person, unless marrying someone makes a phenomenal positive difference to your life, why would you? And why should you? When you find everything within yourself to give you your happiness, why should you have to 'settle' for something just to ensure you have someone to come home to?

I think the argument is that you might have all of this today, but as time goes by, and more people around you either 'find love' or 'settle' for something close to it, you'll no longer have friends and peers to enjoy that fab single life with. And as many many wise elders have tried to persuade us into believing, you'll be too old to 'find love' or even 'settle' for something close :-)

Which is why so many people my age are struggling to find the middle ground between perfection and reality. Coz none of us know the answer. And despite all our so called self discovery, we don't really know ourselves well enough to know what we really want to make of our lives. OR marriage.

Its my most confusing, unstructured post so far. Simply because I'm unable to find a way to logically figure out this issue in my own head. A tiny voice says that with the right person, all of the above, all the random ranting and questioning goes out the window. But the booming voice (the one that rules for now anyway) says analyse, analyse!!! And so I do.

If u feel tempted to rip apart the style (which admittedly sucks) then pls don't give in to it. I'm not looking for comments on how badly written this is. I know already. If you have clear rational answers to my questions, now THAT's something I'd appreciate :)


Quirky Quill said...

I think of all your posts, I've really enjoyed reading through this one. You write because you want to convey a few thoughts and it did that.And this one was simple & complicated enough for me to comment!
Its a sticky issue-simply coz its hajaar easy for anyone to turn around & say "you dont know what I'm going through!". But the crux is, you will never find the one person who will become a substitue for parents,friends, family, bosses, dog, neighbour etc-simply coz that would be one schizo person.
And I really do think it gets boiled down to "marriage" as its an acceptable form of companionship in the world we live in. But call it by any other name-a strong committed relationship is based on understanding, respect,trust and affection (cliched but true). You can never love someone just because they have the potential to act as an old age insurance. Simple stuff-you get along well enough with that one person to laugh,cry, talk & share embarassing stuff with & to get economies of scale, u weave a life together.
The pressure is often self inflicted. If you dont feel it, no body can make you feel it.
(yikes,is there a word limit for comments?)

unpredictable said...

Thanks for the kind words, and the thought provoking ones and the thought through ones. Totally buy all that you say. I think its when we need to find if its really all worth it despite the imperfections, that we start to falter ... and then hope to get back upright :)

There's never a limit on words here .. ever :)

Anonymous said...

They exist.

Penguin said...

I've been thinking about your aspirational list. I agree a lot of it would probably be mine as well. But then, having found that twice, I am sure there is no stopping me finding it another time. I am NOT saying that both times were the same, but in both those relationships, I could see myself being very happily married to the guys. So.. point being to expect that the guy is THE best at each and every one of those things is unfair. Even you or I are not going to be that. But as long as he meets reasonable expectations on that, then it's fine no? I mean, who expects John Abraham looks, Richard Branson money, Govinda funny, Vikram Seth poetry and that kind of jazz in the same person? Reasonable expectations are the key to any marriage working.. in fact to any relationship working - even a friendship. Don't kill the whole thing with pressure. Whattay long comment. I should've written a blog post only.

Vish said...

I feel that if a relationship works out on its own, I mean without we making conscious efforts things fall in place and we are ready to give & take on expectations.

Its only when we consciously try to work on a relationship that we keep having high expectations and we start evaluating ruthlessly.

dushyanth said...

firstly, i-banker friends do make time (hear hear sohit)
secondly and lastly, if there's someone who's company u can enjoy for 5 hours a day, doesn't gross you out, great in bed and makes the world a better place to live in, it's all good :-)
alright, that's a lil simplistic but you get the picture. make a list of absolute non-negotiables and work from there.
for reference, mine are:
1. female (the jokes abt me swingin the other way are just that ...)
2. intelligent (the more, the better)
3. not bad looking
4. same city :-)
5. sense of humour (either have one or appreciate my sad one)
6. sense of personal hygiene
7. should like to dance
8. should like music of some sort
after u make this list, u meet someone who doesn't satisfy most of these conditions but you're happier than you've ever been :-)
in simple words - don't rationalize. que sera sera

unpredictable said...

Anon: Eh? What? Even if ur not leaving a name, a legible comment wudve been nice. This is full code level comment :) sorry im not smart enough!

unpredictable said...

Penguin: Yass .. i know .. reasonable expectations and all tht .. prob is they work in some situations ..esp free flowing uncontrolled sitns ... and not in some others .. arranged contrived sitns for eg ... bweh u know what i mean ..

unpredictable said...

Vish, dush: Same same comment as Penguin. And u guys know what i mean too.

Nutan said...

Good post sudha... I like that this topic showed up on this blog:).... This takes coming in terms with... clap clap....

may be the killer is: the distance between what we started out thinking we want as our life at 26 and what it IS now

the contradictions involved in liking the way it IS and longing at the same time to realise the dreams we had at the age 16.....

blah blah and blah ....

also dushyant, good list..which city are u in..?

unpredictable said...

Nuts: Thanks! I so agree with that .. the gap between what we thought would be .. and what is ... lou the way u put it ..

To Dush's point, I know what he means, everything goes flying out the window regardless of how many ticks there are to that list ..

And oh - he's in Cal right now .. :)

Anonymous said...

Mogambo has thousand splendid suns type takkar thought about this. It will land in your yinbaax. ktxbai.

@ said...

Sudha, you cant have all the nice things in one person! Imagine if someone had the qualities of your best friend, yoru parents, pet, work-spouse and ALL of that - u definitely are going to have a boring life with just one person for everything - diversity is good and appreciate it! If you dont meet someone who is perfect in one particular role, you can fill that gap by adding another nice person to your list of 'my close circles' - after all, who says that spouse is EVERYTHING and makes your life complete????

unpredictable said...

M'bo: Will wait for ur super duper mail :)

Archie: Aiyo!! No sweetie, im not saying I'm looking for all this. I'm saying this is the universe set of things we possibly expect from someone to share a life with, some in higher measures than others ... and i realize and state that when you meet someone you 'feel' a certain way about, all of those "ticks" go out the window and u don't care anymore about them :)

And not just coz it would be boring, but coz its kinda imposs to expect one person to be blessed with all of those abilities ... God isn't THAT kind to anyone :)

S said...


Devaki said...

This is my first time on your blog but the first post was so uncannily similar to my own thoughts that I HAD TO comment.
I am married for the past two years, and have been struggling to come to terms with these same questions for quite a while. The only difference being I thought of them after marriage while you are doing it well before, which is surely a good thing, right?
I don't claim to have all the answers yet, but have a few clues by now.
1) You said it right yourself - 'Marriages aren't supposed to replace...'. What a partner would add is something much beyond all that. It's the ultimate emotional bond, I guess. A big mistake is to expect him to be like other people in your life. He is a different person, so appreciate him for the person he is.
2) Somebody rightly pointed you in the direction of a list of non-negotiables. I second that and will just add this - once the two or three basics are met, marriage should translate into unconditional acceptance.
3) The cliche of 'having someone to go home to or grow old with' is more than just a cliche. It can be a lot of fun to share your life with somebody who 'connects' with you in that special way. On the other hand, if you don't feel that special something, living a farce just to 'settle down' might be very miserable.
On a lighter note, if you do find someone with all the qualities you wish for, what would you guys fight over? ;-)
This turned out to be too long. Sorry!

unpredictable said...

S: Yes will take up this one! I'm about to spend the day thinking of words that start with my initials! Penguin will hate the zoned out look on my face!

Devika: Hey thanks for dropping by! As i said before there's no word limit on comments! :) Your views hold much credence coz they come from ur experience in a marriage, unlike my own, which are more a mish mash of observations over time .. :) I hope u continue to visit!

anonymous coward said...

am i allowed to make irrelevant but funny comments on this post?

unpredictable said...

Anon: Thanks for asking, but no thanks.

Kunal said...

Personally, I dont think that spouses are meant to be the 'swiss army knives' of relationships - expectations like that can be too much for either person to bear...
Instead I would go with what Dush said: that they should be people we 'click' with because they are funny, sensitive or just about anything else that works for us!

Tudee said...

Dear Unpredictable,
Why use logic at all?
I am yet to find anything logical in my marriage...but, I am happy..:)
Marriage for me stands for all the things that you mentioned and many many more...some good, and some not so good..most of which I discovered AFTER I got married..:D
The only thing I wanted when I got married was to be with my husband eveyday that we were married, and now when I think back I realise that after 5 yrs of marriage I have celebrated only one wedding anniversary together ...but I am still happy...and no, I am not deluding myself ..for I truly am..
and..when I think back, I feel that..I learnt to accept things the way they are because I love my husband...and (believe me) not because I had to...and the entire circle of loving and accepting is always two ways...always...else, it will remain an understanding, a commitment and never a marriage..but like in any successful relationship, it needs your time and commitment.
Don't get bogged down by all this is there if you think it is..:)...sit back and enjoy yourself with the flow...I am sure you have aa wonderful life in store..haven't you heard.."Acche logon ke saath accha hi hota hai"..:)

Ariel said...

My two cents:). First about the wishlist. As ppl before me have pointed out its about the negotiables and non negotiables. The secret is in knowing what you really really want. And maybe keep it short:) and yeah experience really helps in conjuring up the ahem..list.Mine had nuthing of the
list you ve mentioned above .And this when at one time I had 'should be able to discuss books' as one of the non negotiables:D. yeah I grew up and found dozens of forums to do tht:D
Abt the age thing well ofcourse theres the subtle undercurrents of time running out that ppl try throwing out at you. I had decided an age by which I wanted to get
married/have a serous relationship. Regressive? I dont think so. It had nuthing to do with the biological clock/growing
old together blah. Atleast for a commitment phobic me it made sense so that I could stop running away. Many interesting men out there no:D. And I did find some one 3 yrs before my self appointed deadline so no u dont have to settle for something nor be on the look out for someone but if someone makes u happy to be u then thats a good start.Then comes the question as to why the need for a relationship:). Generally with the working us and living out of a suitcase us we have a more than fabulous single life with fantastic friends .And maintaing a relationship did nuthing but in my experience add to the stress factor in life. But theres some charm in knowing the person you put before anyone else does the same for you. And that it is your choice all the way. And last- Marriage as an institution.Personally I dont subscribe to the thought. But if it made ppl I care about (read parents only) more comfortable about my relationship if it was covered by the supposed insurance that marriage offers I d do it.Rather did it:). Also for the wedding gifts but thts an altogether different matter :D

unpredictable said...

Kunal, Tudee and Ariel: Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment :) Yes yes i understand tht u can't get logical about marriage, but thats how the mind functions in a set up where one is asked to make logical choices on being married. I wish it was as spontaneous for me as much as it has been for any of you :) That would indeed be easier and wonderful!

Gowri said...

I am a newbie on your blog...
I think in the final assessment, wat matters is whether it 'works' and you have a great time together... Over time, I have com to realise that it doesn't matter whether u marry at all, whether u marry hazaar times, whether the one you marry is also Indian, Iyer, Tam bram(I am one that's why), whether he's Indian settled abroad or a foreigner settled here or whatever crap..
I mean, in the final assessment, it's you and your life... How you choose to spend itis entirely upto you! As it stands now, I plan to be single for the rest of my life.. Does anyone have a prob, I don't know(maye my Mom) and I don't care..
As human beings, we constantly strive to realise things we want.. adn we also know ways to make mends to things that have gone wrong.. So even if somebody cribs and cribs somemore about how life has turned out to be, innately they know that they have made the choices and they believed it worked well for them...
Anyway, gone are the times when as a woman, you had to marry only one guy and live with him for the rest of your life.. Goddamn.. I for one don't care abt it.. But the key and the cardinal rule is 'Dump him before he dumps you' so that you don't keep languishing! (No, I haven't been in many/any rel'ships at all).. but I have to cme to ealise this over time...
Never settle fo someone who will cast you in the shade and never settle for someone who doesn't have time for you! These are somethings that have case in stone fr myself..I mean such people are just not worth it...

unpredictable said...

Gowri: Thanks for the comment. Its a courageous decision, the one you talk about. :) Im sure eventually for a lot of people in my lifestage it will boil down to making that choice for the self. And ur right, no matter how much we lament a current set of choices, we can only expect that they make us less sad than the other choices we could've picked :)

Gowri said...

Pardon the typos and spelling errors.. But i hope the msg is clear

ashish dantu said...

nice post :)

few quotes : "Success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right mate, but through being the right mate." - so marriage also demands us to be more than just 'yourself' but also be a right mate! is this whats - 'new life' ?? you live life in a new way, with a new soul to adapt to !

and "when you love a person love him or her the way he or she is and not the way you want him or her to be"... so i second that!

"marriage is regarded not only as a union of two individuals, but also as the union of two families, making them almost like blood relatives." ... this is also one of the important factors a person has to deal with. Think of it like you are an actress.. with different roles in a new ecosystem ! I would say this element gives and takes a look at flavors of one's personality as a wife, bhabhi, bahu and so on.

lastly, i'd second that, ur partner is ur or rather shud be just a spouse ! not a best friend or like a parent or like a pet (yes, i said pet, few people think that way..) or you someone else; he/she has to be just ur 'partner'!

so, its a give and take situation with a new person in your life, till the end, with a squash of love , in a balanced way. => a 'two-way' wild ride of your life !!