Don't just listen to your heart -- your head deserves to be heard out too! Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh
Marriages are made in heaven, they say. But they're also the biggest commitment and one of the most important decisions you ever make.
Whether you've fallen in love or it's an arranged match, marriage ushers a new phase into one's life. To make a wise decision, though, you need to weigh all its implications carefully. So before you jump in headlong, here are some important things to consider that will ensure your happily ever after!
Compatibility and respect
First and foremost, consider how compatible you and your partner are. Do you like spending time together, or does time seem to crawl by? As one grows older, it is a companion who is most cherished. Passion and looks fade with time, but can you imagine sitting together on a porch in your old age and having a conversation? If so, you've found your match.
And of course, respect is a key factor in every relationship. Does your partner respect you, your wishes and your decisions? Sometimes you make relationship decisions based on love and allow the other person to disrespect and take you for granted, in the hope that your sacrifice will be compensated for with love.
Divya Seth, a 36-year-old copywriter, agrees. "Trust me, don't go down that unfulfilling road. I stuck on in an emotionally abusive relationship for two years hoping that it was just a phase. If someone can't respect you, it's not worth investing in the relationship for even a day," she says.
Marriage is not just a bond between two people, it is a bond between two families. If relatives of both partners are very different, it can sometimes lead to adjustment problems. At the same time, everyone's outlook is different. It is important to find out whether family members are on the same wavelength and like interacting with each other. This helps one's partner get accepted faster.
Chirag Shah and Sonali Raikar met at college in Mumbai and decided to get married two years later. Little did Mumbai-bred Sonali realise what an uphill task it would be to adjust to Chirag's family living in the small town of Bhuj. The new in-laws were not comfortable with things that were alright in her family. "Going out with friends, wearing Western clothes, talking back to my husband or even holding his hand in front of them did not go down well at all," she says. A lot of effort on Sonali's part and mediation by Chirag helped them all see eye-to-eye eventually.
Although the decision to marry is yours, take a second opinion from someone you trust. It could be your sibling, your best friend or even your parents. In love, one may overlook a lot of small things that others can see clearly. Discuss openly what they think of your partner and your compatibility with him/her.
"However much I tried, my best friend Ami just couldn't warm up to the prospective husband my parents had chosen for me," explains Aditi Tyagi, a 27-year-old food and beverage manager with a reputed hotel in Bangalore. "I tried to tell her that he was different when we were alone, but eventually realised I was covering up for him. What I couldn't see, Ami saw clearly -- that he just never made an effort for me and expected me to bend backwards all the time. It took awhile for me to realise this and refuse the proposal. Thank God for the third eye of close friends!"
Love can't thrive on fresh air alone. It is important for both partners to be transparent about their financial situations. One must know if there is any large loan outstanding, how much the partner earns and whether it is enough to sustain a family. This may seem like a materialistic approach to a relationship, but at the end of the day if this is not sorted out, it can be the biggest cause of friction.
"Alhough I am working, I like to keep my account separate from my husband's," insists Rohini Kilji, a 37-year-old consultant. "The household expenses are taken care of from his account, while our personal expenses are covered from our individual accounts. Managing finances is an important part of marriage and it took a lot of discussions for us to agree to this arrangement."
Although ideally culture should never be a factor when it comes to rejecting a marriage proposal, it is important to gain awareness of customary differences. This will enable the couple to proactively work toward adjusting and understanding the other's culture and ensure a smooth marriage.
Jasmine Kaur, 26, a Sardarni from Ludhiana got married to Amit Tewari, a Brahmin from MP. Both the families were extremely adjusting and this interreligious marriage was solemnised both in a gurudwara as well as by Hindu rites. In their home, one would found images of all religions and it was the perfect example of harmony. When they recently had a child, however, there were disagreements among their extended family members about the importance of the Hindu custom of mundan, which is against the basic tenets of Sikhism. But understanding between the couple led to the mutual agreement of going ahead with the ceremony, albeit in a small and solemn way. The child, they agreed, would be taught the best of both religions and when he grew up, could choose whichever path he wished to follow.
Children are an important factor to consider in a marriage. Both partners have to be on the same page when it comes to whether they want children and if so, how they are going to raise them. If one feels differently, it can be a cause of friction that leads to problems later.
"Although both of us wanted kids, I was more keen to adopt, while my husband insisted that we have our own. Many disagreements later, I eventually gave in and now we have two wonderful boys. I still wish in my heart, though, that I had stuck to my guns and we had adopted a little girl," says investment banker Nina Pandey, 43.
Stereotypes of both a husband's and wife's role in the marriage
In today's day and age, it is important to understand how both partners feel about each other's role in the household. Will it be frowned upon if the wife pursues her career? Or is she expected to work and will it be held against her if she directs her energies towards raising a family? Is the husband expected to help out with the household chores?
"I had a friend at work," says marketing professional Akshay Tiku, 30. "She hated her job and every single day was like torture for her. She had always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, pursuing her interests like painting, at her own pace. Unfortunately her husband couldn't understand this turmoil and insisted that she work like him in the corporate world to help them both earn money and climb the social ladder. I could see what he couldn't -- with every passing year, the shine in her eyes was dimming and she slowly lost interest in her marriage and her life, as it were."
Are you ready for it?
There is a stage in everyone's life when they feel that they are ready for marriage and to settle down. If you get married before that, you may always feel like you lost out on your youth. This calling should come from within a person. Maturity is also important, because with it comes a dose of selflessness and willingness to give a relationship100 percent so as to commit completely to a person.
Suruchi Ghosh, 32, from Hyderabad, was in a great relationship with Ratan, except that he wanted to get married soon. However much she tried, she just couldn't see herself settling down just then. She went on to pursue higher studies and Ratan stood patiently by her side for four years, until she herself proposed to him. They have now been happily married for five years.
Decide where you want to set up base
Does your partner want to move cities or abroad, while you'd rather stay put in your hometown? This topic should be discussed openly between both partners so that they can come to a mutual decision.
A complete Delhi girl, Hanu, 28, was willing to give in for love and agreed to move to Mumbai to be with her to-be husband Ron. Used to the huge houses and wide roads of Delhi, she knew it was a move that would take a lot of adjustment. "To my complete surprise," she says, "Two weeks before our wedding, Ron calls me and tells me that he put his foot down with his boss and would be moving to Delhi instead, just like I wanted. It was the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me!"
Go with your gut instinct
At the end of the day, marriage is the solemnising of a bond between two people. One may look for a million logical reasons to wed or not to wed, but the heart knows best. Listen to your head and follow your heart...together, they will lead you to eternal happiness.