Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Are you a spouse...or are you a person...

She said it was a difficult decision...work or husband, 'cause work would mean her going back to their old place, and staying here with her husband will mean that she be without work, or work which she does not like. Also, she said, she did not like the new place at all, so what struck me was, it was more like - location or husband, rather than work. But then,she was already a bit sad about her decision to relocate for work, leaving her husband behind, so it would have been crude to correct her then.
I probed a little delicately - "What about your husband? Does he plan to continue working here, or is he thinking about going back to your old place and getting a job there? After all, it was not so difficult...."
"Well, no, he likes it a lot here...he just says for some years he wants to be here...and I can't force him..."

It really touched me, this modern dilemna of working spouses, when both are good and committed to their professional lives, and relocating is no longer an issue, life suddenly becomes so much more complicated. Both spouses cannot or do not force each other, because they genuinely respect each other's decisions and also, at the back of their mind, they really don't want to hear one day - 'You were responsible for my sagging career...had you not stopped me then...I would have been more successful than you are (or what I am now)!'. Let's face it, this scare of a future guilt influences us as much as the sense of duty when we decide to step back and not 'interfere' in a decision.

So I asked her what was swimming in my mind, something which often comes to my mind, during such situations of decisions which I would have loved to avoid:
"Don't you sometimes just wish that he would force you and not make you go through this misery? That you could just disclaim any responsibility for the decision and just brush off other's objection as 'he forced me', or 'what can I do, it was his decision?'"

She seemed shocked, and definitely thought that I was a doormat. And then followed all the disclaimers:
"I dont think that way...it will be disatrous if either of us do it.."

I stammered uncertainly, "I was just talking of a supremely emotional moment, when logic takes backseat, when we just want to be together."

She was vehement now:"We cannot do that...we are pretty much like friends till now ..we havent got that husband wife thing ...may be we cant be that way"

So I asked her what she meant by the 'husband wife thing', and she said:
"i think i see my friends ..they have set themselves that i am a wife mode. But I still carry the fire in me ..and so he cannot really behave like a husband with me, any spark ..and we can have a major fight. Then i feel ..why am i like this? why am I not like other females ..they are just content ..and I keep my husband always worried ..with my next desire."
Fire? Friendship? Wife mode?
I am sure she must have meant something else, but her assumtions had started to sting me, because somewhere I had started being a 'wife' in my life, but I had never thought that I was losing my identity. I protested, albeit mildly:
"I don't think anyone is content just because they are in that 'I am a wife mode', if so,they must be simmering inside...and use up their bedtime cribbing to their husbands. People become content when they make peace with turn of events, either because of a decision or otherwise, and it is like they look upon life and say - I don't regret. Otherwise, it will be a sad compromise."

We bantered some more, and I told her that one must be happy with oneself in order to keep the other one happy and all other such stuff which I strongly belive in.

But her analysis stuck with me - this difference between friends and spouse, and how being one seemed to be more fiesty than being the other.
It brought back to mind, what I had once heard from someone dear to me, who had been married for more than 30 years and who would give any 'modern' woman a run for 'fiestiness' - 'I wish he would at least sometimes look into my wardrobe and choose a saree for me when we go out, I would have felt noticed.'

It also brought back to mind jokes on marriage, mostly about men losing their 'freedom' and the like. And I thought about how we confuse emotional involvement with weakness, selfishness with strength, adjustment with compromise.
Because emotions are as important as logic, and not being able to say 'Don't do this, it hurts me' to your spouse, because that might make him/her feel suffocated, is as restrictive and suffocating as someone telling you all the time, 'You have to abide by my decision.'
On a less extreme level, wouldn't you like it if you have someone in your life who says, 'Please stay back, for me, cause I'll miss you'?
If you will not, then I suppose it is not a very comfortable idea to get married, or even allow someone to be emotional about you.
Marriage is a strange instituion - ridiculed, misunderstood, mis-interpreted and exploited. Yet, what most of us eventually forget is that it is about togetherness. People marry for different reasons - because they are told to, because they need a kid to continue the legacy, because they don't want to lose a person, because they think that they are getting too old, or even because of personal security. Yet, there is almost always one constant result - that of togetherness. Of waking up every morning to find a familiar face beside you (except if you and your spouse work in different shifts), of your things mixing with your spouse's, of two different sets of clothes, of two different towels and toothbrushes, of the constant presence of another person other than your own.
Somewhere down the way, 'You' and 'I' disappear in some areas like financial decisions, like cooked meals, like holiday decisions, and becomes 'We'. In some cases, one 'I' disappears more than the other, and also in more areas than in other cases, but it always happens.
That definitely does not mean that you are compromising your individuality, except if you are really keeping yourself bottled up, and allowing yourself to be bulldozed over when it comes to all decisions.
It is more like adding spices to a curry, everything blends in for a unique taste, so unique that you cannot recall what ingredients you added.
So, are you compromising your individuality if you are a spouse? Definitely no, except at your company's official party or on your birthday or any function where you are a person in your own right. And you would better be a spouse when you go meet your in-laws, 'cause no parents will take it kindly if you say - "No, am not your son/daugher's spouse, we are still friends and we are individual persons!"
All right, that was an exaggeration, but you get the drift...I don't want to make my hint as obvious as a Bollywood pelvic thrust.


P.S.: Don't flame me, am NOT against anyone pursuing their career, or taking decisions on working at different places, thought it ultimately takes two loving hearts far from each other. I am also NOT against women asserting their rights, or free speech and choices in marriage or any relationship.

20 Comments:

Anonymous t-hype said...

Great post. I agree with you.

I think that's one of the reasons marriage is on the decline in America because people really cannot comprehend changing parts of their lives at the request of others.

Tue Oct 17, 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Chilla-Bong said...

Thanks for the insight...one more reason to sing "Happy will be a batchelor boy...until his dying days". It's a complicated world on the married side, too many factors, too many equations.I must say requires more attention that the jet-fighter pilot who at the most looks at 10-12 different dials while manuvouring the aircraft ;)

Tue Oct 17, 11:34:00 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Veeeery interesting. I think I'll need to read it again to fully undestand!

"I was just talking of a supremely emotional moment, when logic takes backseat, when we just want to be together."
is brilliant. I find myself dealing with the effects of such a moment these days, and usually what I end up thinking, or the thought I usually hold on to, is "We couldn't not try it, illogical and problematic as it is. We needed to see what being was." It's hard, though.

(And no, I'm not married, and quite frankly I have a really hard time imagining ever being so. But there's somebody I care about a lot, and I find myself confused about how to deal with that.)

Tue Oct 17, 07:49:00 PM  
Blogger Aparna said...

@t-hype:
Yes, with more choices and more terms to describe these choices come more complications. And it is now catching up in India too.

@Chilla:
must say requires more attention that the jet-fighter pilot who at the most looks at 10-12 different dials while manuvouring the aircraft
Yeah, but the aircraft is not going to wait for the pilot when he comes home, or be there when he is sick...right?

@Beth: There is always a long life ahead ...that's my philosophy...and so, everything can be tried...being together...parting...so as to not to regret later not trying :).
Confusion just adds a glow to the dull everyday life...specially in matters of the heart.

Tue Oct 17, 10:18:00 PM  
Blogger Monika said...

brilliant post... i think this one of ur best posts i have read till now and one of the reasons that i feel is that this one came directly from the heart... loved it...

"I was just talking of a supremely emotional moment, when logic takes backseat, when we just want to be together"
this happens to all of us so much and so often and denying this is most inhuman i think all humans need such emotional attachment at some point of their lives...

i am also a strong feminist who beleives in equal rights, equal oppurtunities etc but at the same time i think denying togetherness if u have got it into a relationship is certainly not worth. the problem these days is that most of the feminist and the career oriented females go to the extremes and basics of living...

PS: sorry for eating up so much of ur space :)

Tue Oct 17, 11:09:00 PM  
Blogger Aparna said...

@monika:
Thanks for 'eating' up my space.
And yeah...the extremes are disturbing and lines need to be drawn. This is also one of the reasons why 'feminism' is getting a ridiculed by others.

Tue Oct 17, 11:38:00 PM  
Blogger Chilla-Bong said...

@Aparna: Sorry for using the masculine gender.I guess if it's 15 meters that the guy has to look out for, for the lady it's an equation with n number of variables where n could be anything starting from 25 and can go up depending on the complications of the marriage. So at the end the girl rocks in balancing equations.And silly folks say women are not good at maths.

Wed Oct 18, 02:15:00 AM  
Blogger Aparna said...

@Chilla - Chill....people mean complications, that doe snot stop people from socializing or turning up in red sarees for puja (that was said with a straight face)....

Wed Oct 18, 03:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Kloudiia said...

Hi Aparna

I stumbled upon your blog and I really love this post, possibly cos it's very closely related to what I do for a living - on dating and relationships.

The part on emotional involvement is just so true. People are worried that they will be seen as weak and needy if they were to ask their spouse to stay back for their sake.

You have hit the nail on the head about the true meaning of marriage and relationship - it's the togetherness.

Thanks for this wonderful artilce. Oops, sorry for my so long comment ya.

Wed Oct 18, 07:33:00 AM  
Blogger Aparna said...

@Kloudiia: Thanks a lot for stopping by...nad please, continue putting in long comments.

Wed Oct 18, 11:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hmm....so many "yes" people....but i bravely would ask them if they ever had such conversations or situations with their better halves. Remember feminism ...oops i would not call it that coz for every adjective there needs to be an opposite one..so do we say maleism !!!
Anyways back to the story...agree with what you say...but remember folks who suffer these symptoms need to delve deeply into themselves to understand why it is so..plausible explanation could be security...just like we do not berate our bosses in public for fear of job security people do not do it in their personal life. And that to me is the sad part. When one says i love my wife a lot, does it mean that one should not hurt (take it positively) their beloved.
All of us have our own individualities and we need our personal space whether we are in the married world or not. Respect each other, but not to an extent where you land up being in an unhappy state.
Hell i could go on and on after 7 years of living in together...but bottomline, dont sacrifice your individuality

Thu Oct 19, 02:09:00 AM  
Anonymous spiralarchitect said...

its me who wrote the above one !

Thu Oct 19, 02:10:00 AM  
Blogger Aparna said...

@SA:
All of us have our own individualities and we need our personal space whether we are in the married world or not.
Yeah right, I agree, else that would be suffocating.
But the space should not extend so much that you need to shout to be heard!

Individuality is no doubt important,because it highlights what drew you to your partner at the first instance, and so the sparks remain. But it should not be forcibly thrust at you everytime you want that two of you should do something together, and your spouse says ,'Yeah jsut because you like it, we have to do it or what?'

Thu Oct 19, 02:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is actually a very sensitive part in the married life. Depends more on how the husband looks at this. I being married tries my best not to interfere too much and give total freedom to my spouse. Some female still think sacrificing their individuality is one of the best things they can do to their marriage. I am shocked to know that even highly literate girl thin in a similar way.

Overall, a well written post with lots of emotions attached.

Thu Oct 19, 02:51:00 AM  
Blogger Tanushree said...

Feminism, unfortunately is like secularism in our country. A lot of feminists, like secularists, try to overcompensate for all the real and percieved wrongs that have been (and are still being) perpetrated against women throughout history. It is true that women are being gangraped in the village square for marrying outside their caste and female foeticide is reaching alarming numbers, but that doesn't mean that I should take it all out on the one man who is my spouse!

And the relationship should be between two people, not between a man and woman, an engineer and a housewife, a provider and a nurturer or anything of that sort. Also, it is important for the individuals to retain their identities, while at the same time, forming a new joint identity, that of a family unit, of a couple. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, to use a cliched phrase.

Fri Oct 20, 02:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I could not agree with you more..I have been on both sides of it…being a career woman and stayed away from my spouse and have also been in the “wife-mode” or whatever that is called.
I missed the togetherness – “of being one even when you are separate individuals” when I stayed away.. so I quit to be together and I don’t have any regrets for that. I can very well empathise with you when you say that you would like someone to say 'Please stay back, for me, cause I'll miss you'? The enjoyment that is there in being wanted and loved takes a precedence on all material things in life
You are very right in saying that after marriage “I” turns into “we”. Marriage is about being together in joy and sorrow..through thick and thin. Compromise does not mean that you are losing your identity.Without a certain level of compromise no marriage would work – I guess. A simple instance- you wear something because your spouse likes it….because (s)he thinks you look good that way, you eat at a certain place because you love it, you go out to see certain places because your other-half wants to… This is what marriage is all about- sharing and caring – the more the merrier…isn’t it

Mon Oct 23, 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger Aparna said...

@Anon (Mitadi) I agree, yes, that's what I meant...and it all depends on how confident you are about yourself and your individuality...togetherness doesn't take any individuality or vice versa, it jsut enhances it further.

Tue Oct 24, 11:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was a very nicely written and interesting post.

I agree that we all have to find our own way, and the important thing is to each be comfortable and happy with our choices. I also believe that while one should never give up the essence of themselves for their spouse (as many people - mostly women, do); give-and-take is just part of the equation.

Sometimes it's just not possible for both people in a close relationship like marriage to be completely happy with a certain choice. But hopefully BOTH parties learn to give as well as to take (there is a lot of joy in giving, and I think we often forget that), and although it may never 'balance out' perfectly (50-50 is good, 70-30 is definitely bad, but 47-53 just might be ok, hai na?), both parties hopefully sort of hit their groove.

I can speak about my parents' marriage becasue I closely observed it. Many times, my mother got her way when it came to decision-making - I would say proportionately she definitely got her way more. This was not because of any manipulations on her part or 'doormat-ness' on my father's (in fact he was a strong character) - it was because he trusted her enough to know that she was not making important decisions out of sheer selfishness (that she was thinking of him - and the kids - as well as herself), and I think he also got his kicks out of seeing her happy.

He never compromised his individuality, and she respected him enough to always consider his views, especially when he felt strongly about certain things. He also told me (at a very vulnerable stage in his life) that he had no regrets because things balanced out - not perfectly (no such thing) but well enough for two of them to be happy in their marriage. There was a lot love and understanding there (and believe me, it was sorely tested before my eyes). At the end of the day, when you're suffering with a painful disease (as my father eventually did) or another difficult circumstance which life will definitely bring your way, that's what counts. The togetherness, as you've so perfectly put it.

Like you, I think 'confusing', 'complex', 'difficult' and 'frustrating' is not something to shy away from, but something to be embraced, because that's what makes you grow and find out who you really are (at least, that's been my experience).
Sorry about this extra-loooong comment!

Wed Oct 25, 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger Aparna said...

@Anon: Thanks for the long comment.
What you said is true, and very emotional...and I agree with it all.

Wed Oct 25, 11:13:00 PM  
Anonymous spiralarchitect said...

@ Aparna.....individuality should be exposed at times considered pertinent....but no one i am sure including me would have learnt the art of looking at things that are gray...for most of us we do not know which side to jump when and that is the whole point.
Experiences count and the more you practice the better you are....without your individuality being shown, we would end up being blasse...the aftermath of an individualistic decision lays the foundation of future interactions
to use some cliched examples, chocolate can be sweet, but does satiate you when consumed in excess...now now tanu...dont pick a bone here...
cheers

Thu Oct 26, 12:54:00 AM  

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