Friday, January 08, 2016

The trap of adjustments in a marriage

My Mom has changed in past few years. She is known in the family as a very level-headed, patient, and calm person. I have never met anyone in the family or friends who have a different opinion. Yet, in past few years she has become very reactive when it comes to my dad. Not that she does not take care of him or gives him any less attention. All that service is intact. But she answers him back, out of compulsion. Even my dad complains that after 35 years of their marriage, Mom has changed.

I once asked Mom why she does that. When she has spent all these years by calmly accepting everything about him what makes her talk back to him now. She helplessly responded, "poori umar beet gai sunate sunate, kitna sune, hume bhi toh bura lagta hain". (The entire life has passed listening to him, how long should I do this; I too feel bad).

This one sentence captures her decades of pain. After all, I have been a silent witness to what she has been through. An aggressive and dominant husband, a caustic mouthed mother-in-law, financially week parents, no financial independence, and limited education.

Isn't our world surrounded by such women? Aren't our mothers more or less have similar characterizations? And haven't our mothers suffered a bit too much.

We feel a sense of pride in saying that my mother is my role-model. She is a very patient, calm human being, who has not harmed anyone and has always been there in living up to every expectation ever kept to her.

But, should she be our role model? Is this behaviour worth emulating? And the people who have been through this ordeal, do they find it worth it? In the name of calmness and patience, aren't we overlooking submission and lack of self-worth?

My parents have lived a very satisfactory married life by all worldly standards. So is the case with my several aunts and mothers of my various friends. But then when I really sit down and listen to their stories, they have unimaginable pains sitting heavily in their hearts, which they never really forget.

They might have forgiven their husbands or in-laws for those pains or have moved on, but the scars still ache when touched. Remarks about parents, taunts for finances, depending on your husband for every penny, critical attitude on in-laws, etc etc. The truth is no woman forgets that. She might not hold grudges, but these incidents definitely reduce a bit of respect for her man in her heart and that respect then hardly ever comes back.

Then why are we selling this flawed formula of successful-marriages to generations after generations. Why are we not raised with clear definitions of our roles, responsibilities, and expectations in a marriage. And why no one makes an attempt to help us understand the hairline difference between adjustments and compromises.

You like home-cooked food and I like eating out every second night. Together, we eat out just twice a month - That's adjustment

Earlier I would spend my entire money on shopping or doing whatever I want. Now, I watch my expenditures  as per our family goals - That's adjustment
Earlier, my parents were everything to me. Now, I enjoy spending holidays with your parents too - That's adjustment

You ridicule or mock my ideas, way of working, thoughts, sentiments and I keep ignoring that - That's not adjustment 

You criticize, judge, question, or scrutinize me, my actions, my family and I keep taking it - That's not adjustment
You show disrespect to me, you ignore me, you take me for granted and I accept it thinking that's how men operate - That's not adjustment 

You question my ability to raise a child, when I put myself through all the pressure and you watch from outside and I agree that raising kids is the Mom's job - That's not adjustment, either.

All these things are not adjustments. They are attacks on our soul and esteem. And if we try to adjust with them, we kill a part of ourselves. The longer we adjust with this negativity, the deeper the wound goes.

It's not entirely wrong to say that if you apply patience with negative people, it helps them improve. As it generally happens, many men realize the importance of their wives after many years of their marriage, mostly at old age, but what is the cost of this realization and who pays it.

By the time Indian husbands wake up to the value of their spouse, the damage has already happened. The wives have already lost their confidence and will to have a mid of their own. They have already become the mental slaves, where the husbands can bully them whenever they want and then appease with a cheap act of love. 

Can the acknowledgement that 'you have been there with me always' in old age compensate for all the hell a young wife and mother goes through for this one gentleman?

I don't know. May be I am turning a feminist. May be I am becoming a bit cynical by questioning the age old wisdom of Indian household. But these are the questions my heart screams out. It wants to know why a man and a woman must live together in the same house when they are happier outside.  When we see a happy couple together, do we see through the scars of a suppressed partner and tears of his or her dying self-esteem?

And who should be blamed for the death of million desires and wishes that get slayed by the infamous male-ego every moment? Is this that secret of strong marriage, which we Indians claim to have nailed down? 

I don't know. Again.