A welcome note for new husbands and wives
Sooner or later, marriage will make you feel incompetent and unskilled. After some wallowing, you are ready for the next step
Do not be in a hurry to become one of these—a husband or a wife. Take your time. Change your mind many times. Be suspicious of prefabricated labels and roles. Be prepared to be inventive.
Even when you do get married, do not go running towards the quicksand. Slow down, amble around, check out the new terrain at your own pace. Participate in the costume drama that Indian marriages are, but see yourself as an intern. Be a part-timer in the beginning, if you need to. Hold on to all your other commitments and loves.
Marriage has a sense of entitlement, it demands a lot of space, time and energy. It wants to be centre of stage all the time. Do not grant permission. Treat it politely as if it were a stranger. Take some time for the ice to break.
Some marriages are aloof. Some are absent even when the curtains have lifted and the stage has been set. Collect the clues as they present themselves.
Many of us have spent too much time imagining what our marriage will be like. We have a template ready. Templates have limited use. They become obsolete and must be discarded.
All of us are surrounded by others who believe that they know better than us how we must conduct ourselves as husbands and wives. It is easier to be invested in other people’s lives. It is more entertaining too. Look at them with the blank expression of someone who speaks a different language. Say something inappropriate or awkward once in a while to distract them.
Men, fall in love with smart women if that rocks your boat. Fall in love with someone who is self-contained. Marry her. Don’t accuse her of being too smart afterwards.
Women, fall in love with tender men. Marry one of them. Don’t abandon his vulnerability when he becomes your husband. Don’t be embarrassed by it.
Indifference is an important part of love. True love hurts. It gnashes, bites, tramples and sits on you. It is mean. It transfers all its baggage on to you and accuses you of being the baggage. You will learn to shield yourself. You cannot let the hurt reach you each time it is unleashed. You will create pockets of indifference, so that you can remain you.
It’s a shock when we manage to do this for the first time. You expect that your love will surround you and keep you perpetually covered in its drizzle. Or its downpour. You will step away. You will want to get away. You must.
Love tires. It needs rest. It hibernates.
Marriage is a series of disagreements. First you will learn how to stand up to each other. You will discover how to really get to each other. Then you will learn to back off from arguments sooner. You will teach yourself to let go of the temptation to fire clever one-liners when there is no time or energy to collect and clean up the debris created by the targeted drones that are your words.
Sooner or later, marriage will make you feel incompetent and unskilled. You will be disappointed with this development. After some wallowing, you are ready for the next step. It’s not your spouse, it’s you.
She is not making you feel small. You are making yourself feel small. He is not pushing you into a corner. You can walk out of there. She is not ignoring you and he is not being callous—you can ask for help, you can give instructions, you can get the attention you need.
Be prepared for the unexpected. You will expect to hate the other’s absence. You might even be clingy. Then you will cross a threshold and find that you crave the dreamy, lavender-scented solitude you can surround yourself with when your spouse is away.
You might become jealous of your own child because the other parent is tender and relaxed with the infant but disgruntled and exhausted with you. Don’t try to be more like the baby, it won’t yield the results you expect.
Most marriages are a collection of dissimilitudes of mind and etiquette. You will celebrate and mourn differently, you will feel and express love, gratitude, pain, hunger, lust, anger, and humour differently. Sometimes marriage is home, sometimes it will strand you on a planet of aliens.
Dear new husbands and wives, marriage is what begins to work when you begin to give up on it. Lower your expectations, as the great elders have always said. Just smile and wave, especially when you are planning your great comeback. Be sure you are always planning something.
Natasha Badhwar is a film-maker, media trainer and author of the forthcoming book My Daughters’ Mum.
She tweets at @natashabadhwar