Friday, November 21, 2014

7 things I have learnt in as many years of marriage

7 wonderful years of togetherness!!
In my last post, which was actually supposed to be this one, I rambled on with my musings on marriage. I am sure there are reams written on marriage. If you looking for practical stuff that I have learnt in my life, this post is for you. 

I am no marriage guru and have just hit the 7 year mark in a relationship that is supposed to last a lifetime, apparently. And 7 years isn’t much from that perspective. But yes, I have learnt a few things in these years that will stay with me forever. Stuff that hit at the rosy picture that marriage is made out to be. You might read some of them and say - what nonsense! This doesn't happen anymore! But let me assure you that it does! 

1. Compatibility is a myth. Compromise is the key. I knew my husband for just over a year when I got married to him. The person I knew was this suave and successful guy who swept me off my feet with his charm! But living under the same roof turned out to be a totally different ball game. We were no longer meeting in cafes once in few weeks and did not put our best foot forward! 

The task of having to live with another person from a different brought up, background, preferences, idiosyncrasies, moods, experiences and worldview is no laughing matter. It takes all the patience that you can muster every single day to keep it going. Thats the only way you will make it work. And it doesn’t matter whether you had a love marriage or an arranged one. 

On our first anniversary
2. Marriage is not romantic. Romance is just a tool for mechanical maintenance of the relationship. I know that sounds quite drab! I just mean that the spark that ignites a new relationship is easily put out with time. What sustains the relationship is true love for each other, which may not essentially be romantic. We were so lovey-dovey in the initial months. But very soon real life, work, stress and the business of running life took over. The fact that his work involved insane amount of travel didn’t make things any easier. And then started the maintenance bit. We need to make time and schedule time together. And I mean squeeze whatever time that you can lay your hands on. Social commitments, relatives, bills, laundry - all can wait. It’s very easy to get carried away with mundane things at the cost of quality time. Listen to each other’s favourite tracks. Watch a show in a theatre. Or just stay in your room and catch up with some old fashioned chit chat! (remember to put your phones away and switch the door bell off)

3. You are not one mind, body and soul. My husband loves his gadgets and I love my cosmetics. He listens to a lot of English music and I love my desi Bollywood fare. And these differences are actually interesting. The bedrock of a strong marriage is this freedom to be able to pursue our interests on our own. Spending quality time with each other to reconnect is vital to the survival of the marriage. But that doesn’t always have to be an act of self-effacement. Being on your own at times and pursuing your independent identity is equally important.

4. Find a balance. Where and what needs to be balanced is unique to the couple. Two different individuals are bound to have different views about how things should be done. But since you jointly run the household, it is important to find a balance. Since the woman generally moves into her husband’s house, make efforts to get her comfortable. She may be used to things in a certain way. Give reasons, discuss and ensure each partner has his/her way one time or the other. The way we find balance is to take care of areas we are strong at. For instance, I know about the bills and he makes better travel schedules. 
At NH7 weekender last year

5. Mutual respect and equality shore up the relationship. I have been exceptionally lucky that I am always treated with the utmost respect. We all have rough times. But my better half understands my ups and downs. And more often than not just the process of venting out makes me feel a million times better! Support for each other’s work, hobbies, dreams and aspirations is also pretty critical. I have been blessed to have complete support from my spouse to go out there and do what I dream of! And I have ensured that he could go out and achieve his career goals without having to worry about home. 

In the Indian context, the husband generally has the upper hand and the woman is just expected to fall in line. But with changing times, it is a great thing to see the mindset change. 

6. Don’t compare yourself to others. While we do have frames of reference from our parents’ marriage or from elsewhere, the trajectory of every marriage is unique. The only perfect scenario is what works for the couple. For years, people kept commenting on our erratic schedule. We did not have the conventional routine everyone else had with regular sleep and meal times. We still pretty much suit ourselves! It was tough for me too after having led a regimented life for close to 3 decades of my life. And my mind rebelled at this haphazardness. My attempts at taming our unruly routines just did not work. And gradually I realised - to each his own! Couples with full time jobs have to have a very planned life. But for a work-from-home couple like us, that wasn’t priority. Our life was different with my husband mostly between business travel and me holding the other things in place. 

Aging together! 
7. Marriage is work in progress, always! Yes, there is no happily-ever-after in real life. You just learn to get more at home with each other. But not without constant effort to keep it up. It never just takes care of itself. And if you are really committed to make things work, you will be up to the toil it takes to pull through good and bad times.

Are there more things that you can think of? Feel free to add them in the comments. My marriage is work in progress and I’d love to learn from your views. 

Is getting married even worth it?

Our younger selves in the first year!
“I don’t believe in soul mates either. I don’t think that you and I were destined to end up together. I think we fell in love and we work hard at our relationship. 

Some days we work really hard” 

I find myself nodding my approval at Monica Geller’s words in F.R.I.E.N.D.S. They ring so true today as I reach the 7 year mark in my marriage. Don’t all of us dream that we will get married to our soul mates and live happily ever after? No matter what others go through, we believe we will certainly have a great partner, never have a fight, always keep the romance alive and just have the perfect marriage!! 

And these humongous expectations from the institution are what lead to our undoing. At least, it did lead to mine! I remember being so heart broken after our first fight a few days into our marriage. To my naive understanding, perfect couples don’t fight, ever! And we weren’t the perfect couple anymore because we broke that rule..and so soon! I can’t help but have a hearty laugh at that now. 

So if you start with huge expectations, you need a reality check. Or you are in for a rude shock. Let me tell you that marriage is a difficult, complicated and convoluted relationship rife with sexual and gender politics. It’s not easy to live with someone who throws wet towels on the bed (usually men) while the other wants to keep it clean (mostly women). And it’s a bloody tough task to keep up with someone who’s demanding in a relationship (mostly women) while all the other partner wants to do is watch soccer and unwind with a chilled beer (mostly men). Sometimes, I feel the worst invention of all times is this concept of putting together 2 individuals under the same roof for rest of their lives! I mean, we were living life on our own terms for a few decades and have to accommodate this other person in all aspects of your life now!

Photo credit
Why, then, do we even need to get married? Aren’t we, as humans, intelligent enough to comprehend how impractical this is? My answer to this is that the love, companionship, togetherness, freedom, peace and the sense of security that marriage brings is worth every bit of dirty work. We are social, emotional beings. We need to be with people and are insufficient, incomplete on our own. A constant companion is the anchor that keeps the ship of our life from floating rudderless. You have someone to come back home to. This concept might seem a bit outdated with our busy schedules. But I still feel the relationship makes sure that no matter how far the birds fly (pun intended!), they are going to come back to the comfort of the nest they put together!. 

I feel sad to see things not working out for some people. I wonder how big are the differences that people begin to hate each other and drift apart. Very unpleasantly, at times.  I know about celebrities separating after a good decade of being with their partner. I am sure there are plenty of common people like you and me who go through the same plight. But even as successful stars, it must be equally traumatic. I sometimes feel there is no reason that justifies giving up on each other. But I guess to each his own and don’t want to be judgmental. If people can’t find companionship and happiness with each other, it’s better for them to find it elsewhere. 

Then there are also exceptionally lucky people who have cupid striking them more than once! Those are the people on the other end of the spectrum. While we ordinary mortals scrape out all our patience and courage to keep up with one partner, they move on with gay abandon and explore greener pastures. That’s the more colourful side of matrimony for you. 

What do you think about marriage? Married or single, you are bound to have a view. Or experiences to share. Feel free to leave your comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Do you have the right to end your life?

Birth - we can't choose to be born. Death - we don't know when we will die. 

Or do we?

Some people presume that they can decide when and how they will die. And this presumption is called committing suicide. Some prove it right. Some fail to. Either ways, I think the episode is traumatic and scarring.

In the last one year of my life, I have been an unwilling participant in 2 such incidents. One successful, the other, a failure. Forced into it but I guess shit happens in life and one has got to face it. And sometime in the quiet moments after the storm has seemingly passed, the mind stops to think and ponder. Ponder over a lot of things. So, I guess that's what I am doing right now.

First of all, it is very shocking to come across something like this. (I say this because I have seen people nonchalantly brush it off) Yes, a lot of people commit suicide every single day. Nonetheless it is shocking when it happens to someone around you. I can't imagine the agony of family members when something like this hits them. Fortunately, my experiences did not involve family.

And it is shocking - even if there were signs of the impending doom, however imperceptible! I don't believe anyone would just wake up one morning and hurl themselves off a building or slash their wrists just for the heck of it. Except in the book - The Illicit Happiness of Manu Joseph - where my patience with the author till the end wasn't awarded with a plausible answer.

In my limited experience (which feels like enough to me), the 'contemplating' bit of committing suicide is generally a considerable time. Even months, in some cases. And the hallmark of someone determined to succeed is secrecy. I had read somewhere that people who kept coming back to their therapist/psychologist to complain that they couldn't endure life anymore and wanted to really kill themselves were the ones less likely to actually do it. People who want to really succeed ensure no one can pre-empt and stop them. Depending on how intelligent they are and what resources they have, there is research of some kind involved to explore multiple options and to figure out logistics. Yes, logistics! You wouldn't want to hastily hang yourself from the fan without being sure it'll take your weight. Or not consider the implications of slashing your wrists.

And it is this critical period of contemplation that is also the best for prevention, if anyone is interested. This is the time when the symptoms of what's coming should become discernible to the perceptive. But most of the times, we may have an inkling but we can't think of a lot of things to do. We are all busy with our lives and obviously can't shadow someone day in and day out unless the person is permanently shifted into a crowded family. And not many want to be saddled with the burden.

People who succeed, congratulations! But they leave behind a mammoth wave grief, guilt and emotional devastation for the survivors. But God bless your soul.

And people who fail - congratulations to you too! Welcome to your own guilt trip! You've just added to the list of failures which led you on to something like this in the first place. I don't know if you prepared for this eventuality. I don't know if you thought of the horror your own people would go through when they discover you half dead gasping for breath. But congratulations! You managed to give your loved ones an experience they will never forget in a lifetime!

You will now get the attention you did not ask for before you took the step. Everyone who knows you will now take turns and sit with you to ensure you don't jump out of the window. They will all ensure that they bear the additional responsibility of rehabilitation since no one likes to see their loved ones have a bad life.

I have always wondered what goes on in the mind of someone who decides to harm himself/herself to the extent that it ends their life. Is it utter hopelessness that they feel doing this to themselves is the ONLY thing possible to do? Or a moment of unreasonable passion that they don't realise what they are doing? I will confess that a lot of times, especially in the last one year, I felt so frustrated that I just wanted to end my life. Angry times when I thought I could have just hurled myself from a building. But then, I realise that it's just a thought. I never really looked down a building to gauge the height. I guess all of us have bad times when we just want to give up. But where do people find the courage to go the whole hog. Or is it weakness?

I find it highly disturbing when I come across such people. I don't think anyone has the right to end their life - NO MATTER WHAT!! Life is not perfect. All of us have troubles. All of us go through tough times. Sometimes hopeless times. But if we all resort to something like this, we wouldn't need disease and wars. We would be a community of losers and Earth would be a sad place to be born in.

Anyone feeling hopeless should remind themselves that bad times pass. Every problem has a solution. The triumph of overcoming challenges in life will be much more satisfying than the ignominy of having failed to end your life. If you are unable to take charge, reach out. And you'll be surprised at how responsive people are with help.

We can do something with a little faith, nothing without it - goes a saying. So have a little faith. The tide is about to turn.