At my workplace, I have people of various relationship status… defacto, single mums, dating, divorced and dating, and one going through an unaffordable and messy divorce. Generally, I am the listener of all their woes… marital problems, partner problems, divorce issues, kids… not venturing an advise but just lending a shoulder to cry on. Because… frankly… I have been there and done that! If not myself, I have had people close to me with the same problems. Last Friday we had drinkies and the spotlight was on me! “So Dee, are you married?”, they asked. “Do you have kids?”, piped another. I smiled and said “Yes to both! I have been married 30 years and have two kids one of whom has comfortably flown the nest and the other packing his bags as we speak!” The rest of evening was spent telling these young Aussies what a marriage meant to an Indian. What are arranged marriages all about and above all what it meant to have, ‘one partner’!
My marriage was “ARRANGED” I told my shocked audience! Our lives were carefully planned for us. I was a young and bashful bride described by family and friends as a “good girl” and he was quiet, strong & well established “gem of a boy”. To all those who attended the wedding we made the ideal couple, married at what was deemed the “right age” for marriage. Both of us in our early twenties, we would go on to start a family young and reach the zenith of our lives and careers by fifty when our children would then be settled in jobs and married (via arrangement) just like we had been.
“Did it go as planned” piped one. “So you have been only ever been with one guy? Did you have a boyfriend before him?” “Have you never found any other man attractive?” “Has he, your husband, never had an affair?” “Did you guys date?” “Does that mean you slept with a complete stranger?” So many questions my interested audience had! And then the most important one of them all… “Do you think there is merit in arranged marriages over love marriages!
Honestly, I don’t think marriages are about how they come about as much as they are about how they grow. In a love marriage there is an adrenaline rush, an excitement to start with. It’s a physical attraction that overrides every other emotion and you tie the knot. Its only after you start living together that you find out the real person. Now this can be be exciting and partners are definitely physically compatible! Their likes and dislikes are similar. On the face of it, so are their futures. Most times they both want the same thing! No one can disagree that this is a great start to a marriage.
But though it is a great start, there is so much more to a marriage that just physical and mental compatibility of the two people involved. There’s the background, the upbringing, the families, language, food, mentalities, education, value systems! Each one of these is an important factor when considering marriage! In a love marriage, one starts to realise this after the initial gush of excitement. The path of discovery of each partner by the other, as it is, can be rocky and can get even more tedious if each tries to fight against it rather than fight for a relationship. And that’s when maturity and commitment come into play which may not always be the case given the age! Because as we know the physical attraction comes in the early twenties and maturity much much…. much later!
Now… in an arranged marriage (as in India) the elders of the family look into all those aspects and tick them before they get the boy and girl to meet! After all you don’t marry a person, you marry the family. So a suitable boy or girl with a similar background is what they look for. A suitor with similar value systems, financial situation, and to the more conservative, the caste is similar. In an arranged marriage, the elders take care of all that! The boy and the girl meet after every other box is ticked as compatible. In our case both Tamil, Iyengars brought up in Delhi, we both communicated in multiple languages, our families were both middle class, our parents and siblings were around the same age! The families had common friends and similar values. Now the only thing left to find out was the physical compatibility of the pair. So we met. In our case there was nothing to not like – I was pretty and he was pretty handsome 🙂 I was naive and he was a man of the world. He would easily take me under his wing and the fairy tale wedding would last forever and ever!
But having said that… we had our own little adjustments to make! As a data person, the bigger picture is all good, but what about the finer details? My husband and I are like chalk and cheese! We see eye to eye on absolutely nothing! As two individuals we are exact opposites. I am happy, noisy, ebullient, bouncy dreamy kinda girl and he is the serious, contemplative, trustworthy down-to-earth kinda macho alpha male! So what is it that keeps us together? What keeps the marriage rocking instead of the marital boat rocking?
It is the COMMITMENT and ADJUSTMENT that goes into a marriage. Its not about an Arranged Marriage being more successful than a Love Marriage, I told my interested audience. A ‘Marriage’ takes adjustment, not compromise (as many people choose to phrase it), and it means doing all that you need to do to commit to your relationship. If there is anything that makes you feel like it’s a compromise, then it means there’s a discord in one. But why bunch marriage with compromise? Life, in general, asks for adjustments and we are happy to make them. Like water—we find our fit. We have a goal and a plan to get there but have to change the route all the time. Then why do we find the necessity to blame the other person in a relationship for the adjustments we have to make? Marriage is not a noun it’s a verb. It isn’t something you get, it’s something you do. We have, even without knowing it, made those little adjustments that have made the marriage work! Instead of thinking we are opposites we have found way to complement each other. We have come to realise that in our differences lie our strengths and together we have made our differences our strengths! He is the placid passive ocean and I am the twenty thousand leagues under it. I am the uncontainable rivulet that flows incessantly and he has become the banks I crash against and fall back, never attempting to cross over! He rock solid and mentoring, guiding, allowing me to forge ahead while keeping those rigid boundaries.
There is no room for pride, arrogance and haughtiness in a marriage. If you want your marriage to succeed, release pride, by letting go of your need to be in control and accepting that you are fallible and not always on point. Begin putting peace, unity, and joy in marriage ahead of personal ego. After all, things will work much better when you fight for, not against your marriage. Its unarguable that one person must take the first step. Sometimes many steps before the other comes to the party. But trust me it happens. It is so easy to break up and move on because of differences of opinion and so hard to accept each other’s point of view as just that… not as an attack on your sensibilities or values. The idea is not to think alike, but to think together!
Today, he is my home. I have lived with him more than I have in my parents’ home. We read each other’s thoughts. We still have our differences, but we gracefully agree to disagree. He is my anchor. The only stable friend, lover and guide I have had. I am his muse, his distraction and his best friend. We each have our own lives and yet we merge seamlessly. Our relationship is one of mutual respect, with a healthy dose of admiration, and a never-ending portion of love and grace. Like a Venn Diagram – we each have our lives but merge in the centre to have togetherness, family and children. Trust in each other and respect for each other are integral in our relationship. Neither of us is perfect, but we see the imperfect people we are, perfectly. Being in a long marriage is a little bit like that nice cup of coffee every morning – I might have it every day, but I still enjoy it.
I am loathe to advising but that night I had six converted people! Cheers to long marriages!