I have seen many loveless relationships throughout my life. Marriages ending up on the wrong side, either because the couple never loved each other or because their love had faded over years of living together.
In India, it was common to box men and women into gender roles (It still is, even though times are slowly changing). Women took care of the household and were active in raising their children while the husband “provided” for the family.
Throughout my childhood, I only remember couples who had become housemates after living together for so many years. There were also some relationships where the husband always took his wife for granted because he was the “bread winner.” Neither giving her the respect she deserved nor the rightful place in the family.
It is upsetting to see that these couples still function the same way today.
I guess I was a by-product of a generation stuck between the old and new times.
The wife was “allowed” to work because the family needed her earnings. But she was still considered the “primary caregiver” for her children and the “manager” of the house.
I saw many women who had to take all the responsibilities in their stead and excel in each of those tasks. The most they could do was hire a maid but never expect their husbands to take part in household chores or raise “their” children.
Every day, I saw them getting stuck between their independence and societal norms.
Because of the above experiences, somewhere along the line, I had started to see marriages as a place where the woman always had to compromise. Forced to give up her dreams and wishes for her family, she would never be considered an individual but always a mother or a wife.
And I hated the institution for these reasons, for a long, long time.
I was afraid. Afraid of, “What if I get into the same situation?”, “What if my identity ends up being someone’s wife or mother?” or “What if I have to depend on someone else throughout my life for everything?”.
All these what-ifs gave me nightmares, especially when my parents started searching for an “appropriate” groom for me. Yes, my marriage was an arranged one.
I was so afraid of the concept that I had raised high walls around myself. Gender equality seemed unheard of in the relationships around me. Every task was gender-differentiated, and society had put impossible burdens on women because of their sexist perspectives of roles.
The first meeting with my husband surprised me. For him, every marriage had to be gender-equal, and that was how it was supposed to be. He was a guy who was “okay” with dividing the household tasks or me earning more than him—someone who was “okay” with letting the woman decide the pace of the relationship.
The situation seemed too good to be true! Will he change after the wedding? What if he is like all those men in my life? Will he take equal responsibility for our future children? These questions plagued me even months after our engagement, although everything was perfect. Now I realize that it was my overthinking self that was doing the damage. And I’m glad that I accepted the proposal now because I would have missed a golden opportunity otherwise.
My wedding terrified me since it seemed as though all my worst fears were coming true (again, kudos to my overthinking brain). For months after my wedding, I remember walking on eggshells, waiting for my husband to change. Or even show a slight behavior change. But it never happened. I am guilty of doubting him now, but I had the perfect reason and experience not to trust any man completely.
As a couple, we shared every chore and enjoyed cooking together. The concept of gender-based roles never existed in our household. Over time, I realized that our relationship was a partnership and not something where someone was better than the other.
Whenever I mentioned our arrangement to my friends and family, the instant response would be, “Oh, you are so lucky!” or “Your husband cooks for you?” or “Nowadays we have to adjust isn’t it?” (To my husband).
I knew that I was lucky to find such a partner in my society, but their comments made me think, “Isn’t this how it’s supposed to be?”
I often had to explain to people that this was normal in a marriage, especially in a gender-equal society, so much that it became frustrating after a point.
After getting married, I learned what an ideal relationship should be like, because of my husband. That there is give AND take. That there should be mutual respect and understanding between a couple. And also an unbreakable trust that we know we would be there for each other whatever happens.
I should accept that I’m okay with marriage now after 2.5 years since my wedding:). But because I have experienced an equal marriage now, I understand what relationships should look like. And that would not be possible if not for my better half.
Previously Published on medium
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