On marriages and divorces

Disclaimer: This blog is a consequence of a series of mails I received the other day about an issue that’s as debated as any nuclear proliferation treaty. It may not affect nations but it does affect the individuals who make nations: Marriage. Cliched as it sounds, I have loads to write about this but I shall presently concentrate on situation of marriage as an institution in the current mindset of urban Indians…..

Love Marriage!!! What a sweet word!!! Divorce!!! What a horrible word!!! This was 1980s when the concept of Love Marriages was gaining ground (in India, of course with proper amount of glorification by Bollywood movies). Not that there’d been no love marriages before the said decade, but it was largely in this decade that ‘love marriage’ was beginning to get accepted. The parents ceased to disown their children if they married out of their caste and religion.

Movies portrayed love marriages as the “in” thing but the villainous parents/relatives still existed.

Now fast forward to this century! This millenium! Let’s say this year as well: 2007. Where do we stand? Love marriages? Common. Arranged marriages? Still existent. Divorces? Rising at an alarming rate. Live-ins? Happening………

Now, I come to what I really intended to write about. What is happening to marriages in India. A lot has been written and talked about in Media about the marriages falling apart like pack of cards. Why? Why? Why?

Now, being an urban Indian woman (despite my immediate family still staying in villages where women and men don’t even see each other before they marry) I can try to understand and dissect the mindset of an urban Indian woman.

We have the world at our feet, quite literally. We’re earning. No commitments (as family is generally well off and pretty much on their own). Our family dealings dwindle to a couple of calls here and there and a couple of visits home per year. Lots of friends, social life rocking, independence………….where does marriage fit in here. We, the current “independent” lot tend to look at marriages as BOGGING down, as restrictions, as commitments, as no time for oneself………..

In addition to all this, we all look for THAT one person who will change us as little as possible and will provide security as well! With a dearth of such men, women prefer to stay single till the family pressure builds up for marriage and we somehow find a guy and get married!!!!!

This was where women are commitment phobic. Now, there’s another lot. The family oriented kind (I guess I can count myself in this one)……the one who still believes in the marital bliss, in children, in in-laws, in love, in coming back to a loving family in the evening, in laughing with the in-laws, in whipping up fancy desserts on Sunday evenings and settling down to a comfortable chat with family……….BUT still have a life of their own. They pursue their dreams, are working…………….but HOW many fall in this category? And even if they do, do the families support it???

The third kind – the victim kind. I do see many of this kind too. The ones who have had an exposure to the ‘modern’ society a little later in life than the ones who’ve grown up in it. Although they’ve ‘adopted’ the modern society’s ways, things like “Respect your in-laws no matter how they are”, “don’t call your husband by name”, “give up your job after marriage” etc. have been grilled too well into their minds. These are the ones that often fall prey to anyone who promises them a marriage full of ‘freedom’ and later, succumb to pressures and adhere to demands. These are the ones that consider marriage as be all and end all. For them, marriage is an unbreakable bond, a bond that can’t be broken unto death……..

Now, there is this FOURTH kind that KNOWS the laws but twist it around their fingers to abuse the guys (particularly the rich ones). This probably is a small number in India still, but may go up with the ‘quick’ money involved here. The alimony almost always falls in favour of the fairer sex so this category may also go up, the one that wants to MONEY part of a marriage (or rather divorce)……..

I suppose, in present times, the numbers of the first type are increasing, the second type are increasing too (with the third type progressing to join the second type), the third type is dwindling too (to merge with the second) and the fourth type is on a rise (in all probability, it’ll achieve a plateau after the law decides it’s had enough of predating)……… I don’t know if this blog makes too much sense but I suppose I am a little disturbed by the current trends of divorces in India (amounting to about 11% as compared to 7.4% only 10 years ago). I don’t even want to talk about countries like USA where 52% marriages end up in divorce within three years of marriage. For someone who respects marriage tremendously, this sure in unsettling……..

(Maybe one of my male friends can give me an insight into the mindset of the male of India in today’s times)……….

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7 Comments

  1. Ananth said,

    September 14, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    Very very interesting and Insightful!! I guess males still just go for looks, and don’t think about all this! But ya there could be two kinds of males. The commitment phobic and the commitment phoric. But either of them, don’t get into complications of this sort, unless pushed into one.

    The blog is really well written and a little different kind from your usual ones.

  2. girish said,

    September 14, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    Nice post. Quite thoughtful, and i completely agree with the views here. I see with a lot of my friends who have got married recently, that marriage for them seems largely to be a sort of technicality, an event. Many stay in different cities, because of work, or many work different shifts, so the concept of family, or living life together as husband and wife, is really non-existent.
    I suppose, our society is only slowly trying to balance the new-found freedom that women now have, the old ideas about marriage, family, et al. and the tremendously increasing pressure at work, most often for both partners. Certainly all of us, guys and girls, need to look at this institution in light of the new socio-economic ethos prevalent now, and adapt appropriately. Balancing freedom and responsibility is certainly very difficult!!

  3. September 14, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    I guess, the westerners go the experimental way. For them, it’s perhaps no more such a heartbreaking thing to break a marriage. ‘Try each other out. Part ways if it doesn’t work out.’ May be that’s their policy. Being an Indian, it’s difficult for us to visualise how they could be so matter of factly about this. But, I can assume that they are cultured in a different manner. To us, a whopping 52% may appear to indicate some kind of social decadence in the west. To them, they might just have ‘matured’ up to accept it as a fair cost to finally find a suitable life-partner.

    To give a hint on how it might actually be possible for them, I would like to cite an example closer home. These days, it’s quite acceptable among people in our circle to ‘check out’ a prospective partner. They go on dates, spend time together and proceed further if things are smooth. Even a love-affair doesn’t entail huge commitments these days. They just breakup if they don’t like each other after some time. Simple! If you count the number of love affairs that break up and add it to our national divorce rates, I think we won’t be left far behind the 52% figure. 🙂

    Very crudely speaking, in the Indian context, generally it holds:
    marriage = love affair + sex.

    And even now, sex, for most Indians, is inextricably bound to marriage and commitment. We have modernised enough to check out people’s appearance, their money, attitude, nature and other things. But we really are prudes when it comes to examining how good the person is in bed. I feel, the westerners aren’t stigmatised on this issue. They have just dropped the idea of treating marriage as a sacrosanct institution as we do (mind you, I am not saying that they are right or wrong doing so). Marriage for them is a way to check out deeper (not just sexual) aspects of the person which can happen only when you really live with the person. Similarly, they have decoupled ‘sex’ from ‘commitment.’ Marriage is one way; living in is another.

    We are different. For us, there’s a strong coupling between the concepts of marriage, sex, and commitment. It may be practically more sensible, as in it reduces lots of stress arising from the freedom that arises from decoupling these three things. We must realise that the decision on how much tight coupling is acceptable between these three things is a matter of practical social trade-off, and not an ethical one.

    Whether we will exactly become like them a century from now (very unlikely), or will come out with our novel social methodology of selecting a life partner is matter to be seen. We are a generation caught in a tumultuous time where all options are bare in front of us, but we need some time to make our choice.

    The anxiety that’s so rampant in our generation about love, sex and marriage is a result of that mismatch between the overchoice we face, and the lack of maturity in us to handle them. The storm will take a few more generations to die. That’s what I think.

  4. girish said,

    September 14, 2007 at 12:47 pm

    And yes, i suppose with the guys, there comes a time when one wants to settle down to a comfortable family life, one gets a little tired of bachelorhood. Certainly bachelorhood offers a vast freedom that is largely lost after marriage, but being single also has a “loneliness component” to it. After a time, the priority shifts from being free, and irresponsible, to finding a soulmate, to get rid of the loneliness. ( I write a lot of this from my own feelings and experiences!!)
    Also a lot of guys are often confused, between wanting a “modern” wife, working, earning and all, but also want a wife who takes care of him and the house like mom did. That creates a lot of tension in marriages, as its tremendously difficult to manage the two together. Again, i guess, thats part of the adjustment process that society has to go through.

  5. Vinod Kumar B G said,

    September 14, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    Arre Pritesh, Tu bol rahi hai ki except the 3rd one all other kind of relations are increasing 😦
    Matlab, abhi jyada log shaadi kar rahein hain aur brahmachari logon ki sankya
    kam ho rahein hain…. right?

  6. Mohan said,

    September 14, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    Thoughtful words from someone at the throes of stepping in to a institution called marriage.

    Let me tell you something out of experience. The relationship between a man and wife is something that cannot be pre-analysed and it is something spontaneous. It either works or does not work. It is not subject to categorisation and can complete alter people and their veiwpoints. Keep your fingers crossed and we for sure will know which way you are headed if you keep posting ( It could be a BIG IF, for all i know 😉 )

  7. Tata said,

    September 14, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    “Marriage” is one of compactness – in thought, word and deed. If the compactness is absent – or cannot be achieved early in married life – the the word “Marriage” looses its value.


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