A good question to begin with – is it a union of two souls? Is it an institution which provides security and comfort? Does it help to build respectful boundaries? Is it an emotional or physical outlet? Is it a save haven to bring up children? Is it companionship that marriage offers?
I’m sure there are many more answers that can help define marriage – but I believe the crucial point is ‘what is one’s expectation from marriage?’ That helps to define how one approaches the concept of being married to another person.
While I sat with my would be husband attending the 2-day course on Marital Preparation by the church, I grew apprehensive. There were 5 other Christian couples with us on the same course and their expectation from marriage were diversely different from ours. Their views on physical intimacy and sex, financial responsibilities, family honour, careers, children, roles and responsibilities of a husband and wife were so different.
Initially I was taken aback and then I wondered if the problem was with us or them. Perhaps their views were more common than I was willing or wanted to accept. As we voiced our opinion, we stood out as sore thumbs. They viewed us as a different breed and slowly we realised that we couldn’t make inroads into creating the slightest dent in their thinking. The tutors or priests didn’t help either. By the end of the first day, we decided that we would simply attend the session as a prerequisite for a church wedding but simultaneously realised the need to develop a course that would really help couples to approach this institution with a clear and open mind.
Marriage is a responsibility. Marriages are not perfect and there are no set rules. Each couple creates their own rules from their experiences. Love is equally important but in the fast paced life we lead today one has to work continuously to make a marriage work. It no longer matters if it is an arranged or love marriage as that is only one of the building blocks of a successful marriage. In India especially, one marries into a family – one that is different in every way possible. Even with the increasing incidence of nuclear families, the wider family continues to play a role.
My mother’s advice to me when I married was that I was on my own – I had to make this marriage work especially as our backgrounds, upbringing and religious beliefs were different. If it didn’t then I couldn’t blame them. Not that she was shying away from her responsibility of being a support to me if things didn’t work out. But thinking about the advice objectively, it made me realise that she had a point. The only one who could make this marriage work was me – I had to invest ‘myself’ wholeheartedly as it was something I wanted.
Even after knowing my would be husband and loving him for 8 years before marriage, I realised that my expectations from the marriage, our relationship and him as the man and husband greatly differed from his expectations from me. It didn’t matter what we knew about each other before hand. What mattered was what we came to know of each other after marriage.