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I Do! But…

Updated: May 18, 2019

What makes a happy Marriage/Relationship? Do we go back to the loveless, tepid, opportunistic marriages where Love was kind of manufactured as opposed to evolve.

Marriage! There has never been a time when two individuals coming together and saying their I Do’s to spend rest of their lives together, come what may be; has become so convoluted than NOW. Traditionally/historically, Marriages were never a romantic arrangement but rather an economic arrangement or a social arrangement but it was never about LOVE. People married either because it was just time to do so, to increase their economic/social stature or simply to extend their families.

The ideas was to turn strangers into relatives for various reasons other than LOVE. Marriage was based on economic expediency, its purpose being political and financial maintenance or gain. So Marriage was way too important of a decision to leave it to an individual’s choice, whim and fancy of disillusionment or something so irrational as the feeling of Love. Another big challenge for the institution of Marriage was, if it was based on Love, then how do you get the right people to marry or even more challenging is to prevent the wrong people from marrying. And if Marriage is about Love, mutual respect and equality then how do you stop someone from getting divorced, if one or any of these factors no longer exists.

Love was considered the death of a Marriage for precisely these reasons. Ironically, the de-stabilizing notion for marrying out of love were held in check by the social stigma attached if you were to leave your spouse or the economic ramifications one had to deal with such a decision, especially if that someone was the Woman. The most important factor to hold a marriage together was the Gender Roles, which made it difficult for a woman to exist without a Man for economic reasons and for a man to exist without a woman to take care of the house, family etc etc. So in a weird way this co-dependency held the relationship together.

However this made these traditional marriages, devoid of love and happiness. Couples often craved for some semblance of attachment, a sense of belonging and longing for an emotional connect, more fulfillment, more passion and intimacy. Paradoxically yearning for and demanding all of these have also made Marriage as an institution, less stable and more volatile. This can be attributed to the shift in the stereotypical gender roles, which once seemed more rewarding and gave the relationship some stability, have forced marriages to be built out of love and mutual respect as opposed to all of the archaic reasons thus far mentioned when given the chance and a choice.

Marriages/Relationships that seemed to have worked fine or bearable a few decades ago are suddenly less bearable or intolerable. Ironically the new shame is to stay when you can leave as opposed to leave when you can stay. People finding reasons to leave rather than finding reasons to stay. The hedonistic model of marriage where it’s all about getting the most out of the marriage. Our expectations of our partner are so high that we seek a best friend, a passionate lover and a trusted companion; expect them to help us economically and socially, be a mother/father to our child, give us a sense of security & stability and the list goes on. No wonder most relationships are doomed given this relentless need to suck most out of one person, where traditionally an entire family used to provide. Add to this list our need for autonomy, space, and freedom but also intimacy, love, comfort and provide us with a sense of adventure, novelty, intrigue to go with it. All of these contrasting, contradicting expectations and needs are putting an insurmountable pressure on our modern day relationships.

So what makes a happy Marriage/Relationship? Do we go back to the loveless, tepid, opportunistic, marriages where Love was kind of manufactured as opposed to evolve. Marriages that might last the time but devoid of pretty much everything else or the new age hedonistic relationships where its all about getting the maximum amount of pleasure, so be it material, emotional, sexual, social, economical etc. A relationship, where longevity be dammed! Stay in as long as both parties are having a good time and run for the woods at the first sign of trouble.

As you can see in this kind of a relationship, there is no margin for error and no room for growth. Both parties are supposed to be enjoying themselves to the fullest from day one. So we are pretty much putting marriage on a pedestal, which sadly is destroying families. So what makes for a stable, successful, happy marriage/relationship? Well it’s not about traditional vs modern marriages as both have their pros and cons but rather re-defining what a healthy, happy relationship entails. It’s not the ease that makes a marriage happier; it’s working through the difficult ones. We learn marriage just like we learn a language. Its just some languages are easier to learn and some we need to be willing to persevere.

As Sociologist Mark Regenerus puts it, "The age at which a person marries never actually causes a divorce. Rather, a young age at marriage can be an indicator of an underlying immaturity and impatience with marital challenges of the kind that many of us eventually figure out how to avoid or to solve without parting. Unfortunately, well-educated people resist this, convinced that there actually is a recipe for guaranteed marital success that goes something like this: Add a postgraduate education to a college degree, toss in a visible amount of career success and a healthy helping of wealth, let simmer in a pan of sexual variety for several years, allow to cool and settle, then serve. Presto: a marriage with math on its side."

So gone are the days of a cornerstone style of marriage, where two individuals are meant to start and build a life together. If both the parties are happy with their respective partner or not was besides the point. They were just meant to make do, accept and carry on. But in this capstone style of marriage, where you have already embarked on your journey, made a life for yourself, where we spend the first decade to decade and a half of our adult life on education, career, clubbing, traveling the world, trying our hand at multiple relationships, co-habitating and eventually when one believes they have figured it all out and ready to settle with 'the' one; who isn't there to help him/her become somebody but rather preserve/complement what they have already become.

I strongly believe, that the finest of relationships usually start/happen unexpectedly when you are not really looking for one. We don’t meet people by coincidence, they are meant to cross our paths to enrich our life experiences. I strongly believe that experiences and situations develop personalities and every experience adds to the core wisdom. We come across people in life saying the right things at the right time. But what matters are the actions and not just the words. Its not where you are in life its who u have by your side that matters the most. To share, your joys and sorrows. A relationship lasts longer not because it is ordained to, but because 2 people make a choice to keep at it and work for it by making a strong decision to love, forgive and not just grow but grow old together. Appreciating the similarities and respecting the differences, pushing each other to be a better version of themselves both professionally and personally and falling in love many a times but always with the same person…

P.S: A lot of this is inspired by talks of Esther Perel and Stephanie Coontz

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