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Why are marriages today not working?

By Sarai Battiwala
Last updated on: November 20, 2012 18:52 IST
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Sarai Battiwala weighs in on why today's couples are less successful at making their unions last, as compared to previous generations.

Infidelity. Bullying. Abuse. Violence.

These are some of the major reasons why marriages don't work out. No contest.

But have you heard of a couple getting divorced because he doesn't spend enough 'quality time' with her?

Or because she wanted him to buy a house in a specific neighbourhood and it couldn't be managed in two years' time?

Chances are, you have. Because this is the new India, where women no longer address their husbands as 'aap' and men know that their marriages have a better chance of working if they live separately from their parents.

You hear of couples getting divorced because of a phenomenon unheard of up until maybe 50 years ago -- it's called 'incompatibility'.

Two good people, liked by their friends, adored by their families, with no hidden Mr Hyde lurking in the shadows, just can't go the distance.

'I love her, but I'm not in love with her anymore, you know what I'm saying?'

'He's just a male chauvinist pig -- I think he's jealous because I make more money than him.'

'It's not working out.'

And pop goes the marriage license.

Ironically, these aren't just statements made by those who've married for love (I refuse to use the term 'love marriage', it makes me throw up in my mouth a little each time I hear it). They are also made by youngsters who initially thrill their traditional parents by opting for arranged matches and then break their hearts by filing for divorce.

Finances cause friction. In-laws cause friction. Beliefs and values cause friction -- mainly because nobody in this farce of a democracy actually knows how to respect somebody else's point of view if it's contrary to their own, least of all when they're married to each other.

A lot of armchair philosophers will blame the emancipation of women for this breakdown in the institution of marriage. I agree wholeheartedly -- that is the reason. But I don't think for one minute it's a bad thing.

I'm no bra-burning feminist and with the life I lead, I don't have to be. I have a sound education, a career, a loving husband I've spent 13 years of my life with, thoughts and opinions I can express freely...I live on my terms and so, to put it simply, my gender doesn't play on my mind too much.

And when it does, that's unfortunately because not many Indian women are sailing in the same boat as me. In this country, the male population has a hard time understanding that they're not God's gift to this planet and continues to try and assert their authority over women, who are now having none of it. And that is precisely where marriage is compromised.

You have moralistic morons across India trying to show the fairer sex their place, storming into pubs and accusing them of prostitution, alleging that their 'shameless' clothing invites rape, blaming ladies who drink and smoke of importing low values from the depraved West. Holding hands with your husband on an evening stroll can get you arrested, never mind that the furtive exchange of kisses on the beach at sunset is akin to copulating in public.

What's even worse is that some stupid (there's no politer way to describe them) women agree with this bullshit. 'Aisi ladkiyan Bharatiya nari ki beizzati karte hain.' When their husbands get home drunk each night and beat them to a pulp, that's not a lowering of their respect; when a woman wearing pants lights up a cigarette in public, it is. Who would want to marry a woman of such character? I have the answer -- my father and my father-in-law and my husband, that's who, and other men out there who are secure enough not to be threatened by women who consider themselves their equals!

Of course, there are women out there who've gone off the deep end with feminism -- one small request to do the dishes and they'll be in court filing for divorce. The commonest question asked is 'Why should I? Just because I'm a woman?' No, not because you're a woman, fool -- because the occasional sacrifice or compromise in a relationship won't kill you or shame your gender.

I have friends like that and unfortunately, their marriages have ended. I've seen the hapless husbands begging them to stay, promising whatever they wish for; apologising for imagined slights, doing whatever it takes. And it's just not enough. Why? 'We're two very different people, it's not working.' And just like that, it's over.

So the dishes are not your department, but taking you shopping on the one day he has off in a week is his duty, is it?


In a nutshell, here's why many of today's marriages aren't working. The women are becoming aggressive, independent, strong-willed and refuse to be intimidated. And the men, who hitherto thought they own the copyright to those traits, simply don't know what hit them.

For the Indian male, the mental image of his mother running to and from the kitchen with hot rotis for his father is juxtaposed against one of his own wife ordering him to the kitchen after a long day at work. And it's enough to give him a nervous breakdown.

What can you do about it? Nothing really. Well, maybe two things.

One, keep pace with changing times and circumstances, because it's not difficult.

Men, your mother may have been a housewife, but your wife may be working like you, putting in the same number of hours and helping to pay off the EMIs. So she's not going to be standing at the threshold with a pot of steaming chai when you get home from the office each day.

And ladies, if your grandfather was a tyrant and your grandmother was unhappy for most of her life, it doesn't mean that you put your own husband on a leash half a century later.

Two -- and this is golden advice from my father-in-law, who's been happily married 36 years -- marriage means freedom. It's just an arrangement between two people who love each other to live under the same roof and grow old together.

The chauvinists and the feminists need to take their minds off the genitalia that differentiate them and learn to think with their minds instead. Like I think maybe my father did.

A few months ago, I overheard a conversation he was having with a friend on the telephone. Now before I was born, he had always hoped for a son -- and no, it's got nothing to do with the typical beta chahiye mentality. The thing is, Dad has always been a man's man -- plenty of horseplay, the life of the party, an avid gambler and a former all-India rally driving champion to boot. And he would have liked to share his colourful life and skills with a younger version of himself.

So what I heard that day was particularly amusing. He was proudly narrating how I'd swept the table at a poker session the previous night, and how he has full faith in my driving skills when it comes to going off on road trips with friends, sometimes even in the middle of the night.

"When I look at my daughter today," he concluded, breaking into guffaws of laughter, "I now realise I didn't really need a son -- I have one already!"

And that's why I married a man just like my father -- someone who takes pride in the person that I am, not the woman or the wife that I am.

Photograph: Nina from Australia on Flickr/Wikimedia Commons


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Sarai Battiwala