Sanesh and Diya were five years into their married life and it was not going as smooth as what it was expected to be. They got married after five long years of intense love and had promised to keep each other happy. Few years into marriage, they could understand that the rhythm was getting lost somewhere. Diya used to ask Sanesh “You have changed so much, You are not that person I loved once. Why are you doing this to me?”. Sanesh too felt the lack of that magical touch which used to work between both of them, but not able to pin point how and where things went wrong. Whenever they saw their honeymoon pics popping up in Facebook memories – it felt that they are no longer those lovebirds that they once used to be.
Probably these are questions that might have hit you and your partner many times in your life. Two Malayalam movies that I watched recently, ‘Munthirivallikal Thalirkkumbol’ and ‘Anuraga Karikkin Vellam‘, made me think about the intricacies of married life and the specific characteristics of our minds that makes it go through the up’s and down’s of our marital lives. My thoughts wandered from the time we start looking for a partner to few years into the married life – yeah its a big journey and its interesting how our mindset changes across this journey.
This is the Part 1 – ‘Expectations & Big M’ of the blog. Please read Part 2 – ‘Revival Magic’ (Blog under Progress) to get the full picture.
It all starts with the hunt for the perfect partner. But before we get into the journey of finding the ideal partner – its very important for us to understand a character within us – a very subtle but sensitive, loving and caring character – which I call the ‘Sensitive Peacock‘ within all of us.
The ‘Sensitive Peacock’ is a very sensitive being that it doesn’t reveal itself unless the most ideal conditions exist. In reality peacock dances at its fullest energy during rains. Similarly, the sensitive peacock also loves to dance with its feathers spread all over – but doesn’t do so unless we are in the right mindset – full of happiness, with love raining all over and a state of hormonal rush within us – yeah the time when we are filled with at most happiness.
Now let’s get into the journey and understand what happens in reality.
Pre Wedding Phase
Most married people testify that this phase is more exciting than the later and it’s for a reason.
The Hunt Begins
Your bachelor life was going on in full swing, your friends are getting married one after the other, cousins are also getting hitched – all of a sudden wisdom hits you – its time to start hunting. Even if you don’t feel, your family and relatives will push it on you. So the HUNT starts – to find your ideal partner. This is the time when uncles, aunties and friends around us starts teasing us about what the future life holds.
This is the time when the Sensitive Peacock starts getting to a dancing mood slowly, as it realizes that you are set to find the right partner – the Layla for Majnun, the Juliet for Romeo and the Mumtaz for Shah Jahan.
We have seen exceptional cases where guys or girls do not want to get married at all – who mostly fall into our story later in life, or live the chronic bachelor/spinster lives and goes on with the calling of their lives.
The most important factor that affects you through the hunting season is how you manage your expectations. Expectations that you start with, that you build as you go through the journey and that you manage when you face unexpected setbacks is crucial. If we put together an expectations curve for most typical cases – it would look like this.
You might be able to relate to most of the curves represented above – either yours or one of your friends or relatives. Most of the cases, we start with a set of expectations and criteria for the partner – which will settle down to what we deserve or what fate has reserved for us. In the ‘happy hunt’ scenarios, you end up getting a partner who is above the initial expectations you had and the peacock will be dancing with all feathers on. There are cases where even if you liked one choice, you go ahead and give couple of more tries with the hope of finding someone better. But most cases we identify this fallacy in our thoughts little late in the game. So our Sensitive Peacock starts dancing as our expectations vary and the imaginations for the future partner gets realistic as we move forward.
A Big Commitment
As the hunt proceeds and depending on how our expectations traverse – we decide to commit once we get a choice matching our expectations. Mostly the perception about the chosen partner is based on whatever background checks you have done, whatever you have seen of them via social media and so on. Nowadays you might get multiple chances to talk or meet the potential partner before taking a decision. So we decide to make that ‘Big Commitment’ for our future life.
The excitement, hormonal rush and the mind set once you are committed is one of the most ideal time for our Sensitive Peacock to start dancing full swing. It weaves your future routines that you both perform together, your partner sharing your passions, you both making love, together bringing up kids and whatever whatever the Peacock can imagine off. This is a magical state and the happiness in your mind starts reflecting on your face (Yeah, I know there are exceptions who look like WWF champions even now. But even they’ll have their Sensitive Peacocks dancing full swing).
All the imaginations weaved by both the partners during the hunting phase, now merges via phone calls, chats and even IMO depending on convenience. They’ll re-imagine the future life together. All the happy things they can do together, all the tasks where partner will help them. Small small disagreements won’t be seen big as this is the getting to know phase and you have much more to explore about each other and very little time to disagree. This is the first few weeks post commitment and you really enter the virtual reality world of your future life.
There are also cases where some of us will doubt the choice we made some time after the commitment and then might have an urge to go back and check our options again. I had a friend who did this recheck after talking to the girl for two months – crazy idiot ! But understand that all these are part and parcel of this phase – after all you might want to try the latest One Plus even when you have the latest iPhone handy (no offense to those companies).
The Couple Reality
This is the phase during which you get to know each other as a couple. How far reality strikes you depends on how deeply you are able to interact with each other and the time you both get in this phase.
The time you get during this phase is a factor of various things such as your age, job, family situation and so on. There are cases where you get too much time post commitment and before marriage like several months. While this a good time to get to know each other, post the excitement starts the ‘Couple Reality’. Once you are few days or weeks into talking to each other, texting and sharing what you like and not – slowly a reality starts sinking in. This mainly includes discovering new facets of the partner which you are not aware about, some of the likes of the partner which are your dislikes, some practices in their family which you do not follow at all or have a serious discontent for.
A new age version of the couple reality includes social media affinity. Partners often complain about care, romance and love not being expressed via Facebook or Whatsapp. Some of you might have had experiences of Whatsapp status termed non-romantic and not enough Facebook posts showing affection. Yeah that has become part of our DNA and and hence these issues. Some extreme cases have resulted in partner shocks which result in breakups (worst case).
This is the D-Day, after the thrilling ride of finding your partner and managing to stick together so far. You are the Prince and Princess for the day in the most perfect attire. It could be either the Big-Fat-Indian wedding, the simplified-not-so-luxurious wedding, minimalistic registration-only wedding and so on. Mostly it depends on how grand the family wants to showcase it, but to me wedding is just symbolic – but what follows is most important.
Post Wedding Phase
Real fun starts in this phase. You are gonna start living together and how does it change the equation?
This includes and extends from the honeymoon that couples go to resorts or foreign destinations – to the honey moon mindset that both the partners are in after their marriage. This extends for few weeks or months after wedding and will be the settling time as partners. This is the discovery phase of finding more minute and finer details about each other.
Before we delve into the realities of the post honey moon phase, let’s meet the next character within us – I call it the ‘Big M‘, the Big Mammoth. Our Big Mammoth is driven by its Strong Belief System, Strong Stand, Powerful Influence on decision making, Large Memory and Ready reference to History. Unlike the Sensitive Peacock, Big M is not subtle or sensitive – but very dominating and powerful. It won’t compromise on its stand and influences our decision making strongly. Like elephants – it has a large and powerful memory which can be reckoned readily.
So now let’s see how the Big M and Peacock manages things as we live together as a couple.
Imagine reading a news about terrorist attacks – chances of you feeling real empathy to the victims is less. Imagine seeing a live video coverage – now you are more empathetic. Imagine you being in that situation – then nothing like it, you understand the situation yourself as its before your eyes. Same way “What was not an issue before marriage, becomes an issue when its before your eyes.” It might be the least important thing, but its more than enough to start the friction. Issues range from keeping the bathroom commode open, where you press in the toothpaste tube, what time you switch off the mobile phone and so on. I know some couples who try to fix this by living separately as couples or in adjacent apartments to avoid proximity issues.
Has anything really changed after marriage? Not really, but when its before our eyes it becomes a problem. These issues get Big M angry, it saves all these frictions in its memory and keeps accumulating all these memories. As Big M takes stage, our sensitive peacock starts moving to the side.
Managing new Relationships
Marriage brings two families or societies together. Along with the partner comes the relatives, family friends and neighbors who have certain expectations about the new member, even though it doesn’t have any direct impact on the couple. This is a by product of the closely knot societies that we live in. Managing these new stakeholders without letting them raise their eyebrows is a real challenge for the newly married couple. Depending on whether you marry in a patriarchal or matriarchal society there are obvious relaxations in the expectations for either of the partners.
You are really lucky if you have a parents and immediate in laws who are liberal and understanding in nature. Else part of your energy will be spend in explaining rationale for your actions to them. This is also a spoiler in the married life, as our partner will expect us to keep up to the expectations of their side. With the advent of nuclear families and newly married couples living separately for work – relationship management has essentially become a skill of effective telephonic conversations. In most of the cases I have seen, Boys are bad at relationship management while girls manage the show effectively most of the time.
Mismatch in Beliefs & Practices
Each family is defined by its beliefs and practices. It includes some core beliefs and some non core. But what if the incoming member doesn’t feel the same priority? What is they want to take a backstage for some of the practices followed in the partner’s family? Its a direct fight then.
“Man is part DNA, part unknown and part what he sees and goes through as a child” – this precisely defines why conflicts in beliefs and practices results in our elephants fighting straight head on. That’s what you have grown up with and you can’t easily let anyone violate those one fine day. Like I said before, if your family is a liberal and understanding one – they might tolerate some level of deviations. But beyond a limit your partner and family won’t be able to take it. Like its visible in the picture above, poor sensitive peacock has taken a more corner stand as the elephants are fighting head on.
Hit on Romantic Front
All the above sequence of events results in an ultimate hit in the romantic front. For romance to thrive you need to get the right ambience for the Sensitive Peacock to dance in happiness. But before a howling and aggressive Big M, our sensitive guy almost disappears. Its there but is completely tired and down with the way life has turned out in spite of all the imaginations it weaved during the pre-wedding phase.
Even though our sensitive peacock gets some space once in a while to make up love with its partner, most of the time these fights create ever lasting wounds that create ripple effects. Large memory of Big M ensures that we can’t or won’t forget those wounds and it will be a subject of discussion in all subsequent frictions.So due to these issues, the excitement dies down slowly for the partners. Life gets boring, Seeing the same person, with the same faults everyday. Fights become a norm and your marital spirit dies down. Some couples reach a stage of nirvana – carrying on to manage societal status.
Is there any possibility of a comeback to the good old, romantic, vibrant days for this couple? Many such life partners are at the verge of breaking up and ready to give it up – Is that the right thing to do? What the future life holds for them? Even if you find a new partner – will it work out with them?
Continue reading the next part of this blog Part 2 – ‘Revival Magic’ (Blogging in Progress – Watch out – Coming soon) to understand how & when the real marital wisdom strikes you and how to get the Peacock dancing yet again.