Sunday, October 14, 2007

For the monogamous ignoramus

Dear reader, you hold in your hands the anniversary issue of The Sunday Indian. It’s been a year of sharing commiserations over dying deadlines, celebrations over your letters to a demanding editor, and wiping blood, off editorial meeting tables with crumpled copies of rival magazines, shed to ensure that you get the very best. For your fidelity, you deserve more than mere thanks, and so here you have it - insights to keep happy and alive that most cherished anniversary of all – the wedding anniversary. Why, you ask, am I in a position to unravel such deep, dark truths? Well, for one, I happen to be one of those rare men who voluntarily walked under a wedding bower as soon as I legally could, against wishes and advice, without having any pressing need, if you catch my drift, other than love, to do so. More importantly, both my wife and I have managed to get by for about a decade now without having to call upon kitchen implements, in-laws, neighbours or lawyers to mediate. And anyway, if we as a civilisation, had no qualms about asking groups as diverse as celibate priests and promiscuous prostitutes about marital advice, why should yours truly be any less worthy?

Researchers claim that the phenomenon most damaging to a monogamous relationship is infidelity. These researchers, most of them Americans, insist that about 60% of all men and about 40% of all women are adulterous. If you look at the relationships around you, you’ll notice that though the figures, like most things American, might be slightly bloated, they aren’t too far off the mark. In fact, the venerable Desmond Morris has said that almost every adult male commits adultery with his eyes every day. (Don’t worry honey, I’m just the exception that proves this rule). Now, it is normal in such circumstances to go about clucking like self righteous hens and blame the partner that strayed, and since I’m without any personal experience in the matter (honest!), I’ll stop short of defending it. But here’s a thought – what keeps a loving relationship together is love, and just because one gets into a socio-legal contract called marriage, is it fair to expect and demand love and fidelity as if they were mere clauses in the contract. Love is a natural reaction to mutual emotional needs being satisfied, and if the ‘infidel’ is guilty of taking his unmet emotional needs beyond the pair bond, isn’t the other partner at least as guilty for not fulfilling those needs?

A related vice, possessive jealousy, is another silent relationship slayer. In the early days of our relationship, I used to be intensely possessive. While in college together, I would stick to the love of my life like a limpet, forever fearful that in my absence she might learn to love another. She only had to look at a fellow student and smile for me to fly into a rage, convinced, that in being politely attentive to the attentions of another, she had wronged and betrayed me. Looking back, I wonder why she chose to put up with my pathetic behaviour, but I’m glad she did. With time, I began to realise that possessive jealousy is not as much about the friendly classmate, or about the way the object of my affection might react to him but about ‘me’, and my own insecurities. I realised, somewhere deep down, I felt I wasn’t good enough for her and perhaps those she came in contact with were, in some respect or the other, better than me – more suitable suitors. My solution: I took an honest look at myself, figured out what about me was even remotely likeable and then committed myself to becoming better, nicer, the best I could be. Finally, I was secure in the knowledge that I was the best bargain that life could’ve offered her. If you are in the same boat, this is your oar. But let me warn you, the cliché, about getting to the top being easier than staying there, is an absolute axiom here. You and your relationships, dear reader, are always a ‘work-in-progress’; so awake, arise and stop not ever, for the goal shifts as soon as you’ve reached it.

My final anniversary advice dear reader is that you should never let yourself or your partner feel that you are married to each other. Do all that you have to because you want to, not because you have to. Stay together because of love, not marriage, and you’ll stay together forever. Gotta go now… it’s a Sunday and I have to clean the toilets… hate the job, but I love the boss....

The row over the. . vow

‘Marriage’ has been around for thousands of years. It is often regarded as the foundation of pre-historic man’s attempt to make himself social and civilised. Almost every culture known to man has marriage in one form or another woven into its fabric - a remarkably stable force in the evolution of the modern man. Now, however marriage is in trouble—in the West at least. There people have started questioning the inherent compromises and adjustments that one has to make for the marriage to be successful. As a result, the divorce rate in most of these countries has gone over 50%, with as many as six out of 10 marriages being plagued with extra-marital affairs.

As the population growth rates in some of these countries have declined sharply—some have even gone into negatives—experts have started believing that the common person is no longer willing to carry the ‘baggage’ that being married entails. Over here in India, however, marriage is still beyond reproach. The number of marriages taking place keeps increasing year after year, and in terms of weddings, bigger is better. So place your bets and hope for the best.


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