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Marriage-an overrated concept?

R’ mom’s post on women’s web about marriage being an overrated institution and Hip Hop Grandma’s comment to that has certainly touched a chord in many of us evoking strong responses. (Warning-long post ahead)

The basis of many age-old customs and practices has become questionable in the light of changing time; so is the case with marriage, which is fast losing the sacred status it had once assumed. Hence the question of it being overrated arises. I don’t know whether it is overrated or underrated. I only know that everyone wants to get married-whether to conform to the societal norms or otherwise. It is like the saying-“shaadi ka laddoo-khaye woh pachtaye, na khaye woh pachtaye”. Even the utterly feminist (read men-basher) does marry. I think it is got to do with the perception of marriage. It is seen as the biggest milestone, only second to parenthood, in one’s life-especially that of a woman. No one really prepares you for the dynamics of marriage. It is rarely the “happily ever after” story. Also, today is the age of extremes. It is either my way or the highway. There are no in-between solutions to a debate.

My colleague S got married to A, her boyfriend of two years. S is a bubbly and vivacious girl who speaks her mind and likes her freedom. A is more of an introvert. Initially, they lived as a couple separately from A’s parents who also happened to live in the same town. Due to some reasons, A decided that they should be staying with his parents (obviously S’s opinion was overridden). S was somehow never herself with her in-laws. As I understood from our conversations, it was not as though A’s parents mistreated her or made her uncomfortable. She simply could not “adjust” to live amicably with an older generation. Many times she suggested to A that they could live close to his parents yet live separately as a couple. A, however, for reasons I don’t know, never agreed to it. S and I later parted ways and I came to know of her divorce through another common friend.

P, another close friend of mine, separated from her husband of 10 years, after two kids. We had somehow grown apart from each other by the time this happened and hence I do not know the entire story. However, I can make an educated guess. Theirs was a love marriage and they lived separately as a couple. P was-is a social butterfly who thrives on meeting other people. She had, a couple of years ago, landed herself with the job of an event manager-a role that fit her personality to perfection. She became a social figure in no time, meeting great legends from the entertainment field. Her work demanded a lot of time from her but she wasn’t complaining. She was clearly having a blast. Her husband, six years older to her, was a businessman and perhaps a typical husband who although wanted his wife to work, also didn’t want her to be away for long periods of time from home. I think this was the bone of contention in their marriage leading to the inevitable, 10 long years of togetherness and young kids notwithstanding.

In both the cases, the women in question are the epitome of a modern day woman. Neither faced any serious abuse or ill-treatment at the hands of their in-laws. Yet, the marriages fell apart. These days, divorce is not a taboo-at least with urban middle class families. If things do not work out to one’s expectation, the couple-both or either of them- does not hesitate to call it a day. On one hand there are scenarios where the couple jumps the gun at the first issue and on the other there instances where the woman is urged to put up despite serious compatibility issues.

Any relationship calls for compromises if it has to be nurtured. It is only when it comes to marriage that these compromises or adjustments are blown out of proportion. Here the gender bias is confused with the type of compromises involved. We have been-and are to a large extent even today- a patriarchal society. It cannot be denied that, in India, a woman is married into the boy’s family but the vice-versa is not true. It is still “expected” of the woman to call her acquired parents as “amma” and “appa” but the man is “not expected” to do so. If they do (I do know of some men who address their parents-in-laws as amma and appa. Of course their number is far less than the ones who do not feel comfortable doing so.), they are “appreciated” while if they don’t, they are “understood”. Why isn’t the same discomfort that can be felt by the woman understood? If the husband does not feel like visiting his in-laws, it is OK but if the situation is the other way round, the wife is made to feel guilty for being selfish and is asked to come along nevertheless. These are considered minor issues and the mind is asked to be conditioned to “ignore” such things. Unfortunately, again, only the woman is expected to condition her mind and ignore.

I feel this is a period of transition where the women have risen in protest to the old ways of society. Till the time men continue to have the upper hand in terms of compromises and adjustments, there will be extremities. Eventually hope, faith and trust will be restored to this age-old institution called marriage. I do hope it happens.

P.S.- After reading the comments on my post above, I got the feeling that perhaps I have not come across I way I intended to. I was merely stating that there are instances where people jump the gun at the first instance of discomfort in a marriage and there are cases where women are made to go through hell in the name of adjustment and family honour. Both are uncalled for. Here, the debate was if marriage will lose its significance and its very existence in future. Hence my take is- in a relationship there is some amount of give and take and if we want to safe-guard this insitution, we (as a couple) need to work on the relationship while valuing each other's rights.


  1. A very small minority can do what these women did.

    I feel a majority of Indian women are under pressure to Get married and Stay married at 'appropriate' age into an appropriate family etc.

  2. IHM: I do agree that the pressure to get married is there but I also can recount three more such cases where the woman has called it quits. Also, the guys in our community are finding it "difficult" to find girls as now its the girls who are making the "demands"-not willing to quit her job and relocate to the place where the guy resides as Hip Hop Grandma pointed out in her post-being one of them.

    May be such cases are still in minority. As I said, we are witnessing extreme cases here. Some like I mentioned, others where the women is still asked to put up with all sorts of abuse for sake of "family".

  3. Men have always had a say in the way a woman has to conduct herself while he is free to do as he pleases. This is the trend in a patriarchial society like ours. Even in matrilineal communities of Kerala, I doubt if a woman can go against the wishes of her husband. I do not know much about the arrangement but I haven't heard of women being granted freedom to decide on important matters. May be it is marginally better than in other parts of India.I think it is this hypocrisy that is felt and understood by women and causing a rejection of marriage itself. I for one feel that if rules set by society was followed by both men and women the situation may be different.

  4. HHG: very true..i dont know if i am being overtly optimistic in saying that since tides are changing-however small it may be right now-there is a good chance that there will be a time when the rules are equally followed and this institution will be restored to its past glory.

  5. "the guys in our community are finding it "difficult" to find girls as now its the girls who are making the "demands"-not willing to quit her job and relocate to the place where the guy resides"

    It's a sign that women are getting to have a say in where they live, who they marry, whether or not they work etc. A good indication.

  6. "Even the utterly feminist does marry"
    And why shouldn't they??

    A feminist is just someone who believes in the equality of the sexes, someone who subscribes to the different but equal status. That is not to say they are against marriage.

  7. "Till the time men continue to have the upper hand in terms of compromises and adjustments, there will be extremities." And how will it go away??
    It is not going to go away on its own. It is only when people question the old systems can a better situation come. Even we, who sit here and use the internet do so because this freedom for us was won by some pioneer women who raised their voice against inequality. Not because someone felt sorry for us being oppressed and said 'chalo let the women too enjoy some extra freedom'

    And I am really curious to know WHY you think it is necessary that women should give up their job and relocate??

  8. Shail: I am not against the feminist marrying at all. And you have got me wrong by thinking that I favour women who HAVE to relocate. I was just putting matters as of fact that the time is turning in favour of women where they are asserting their views.
    I dont know if I have come across as someone who supports the women palying second fiddle to men in relationhsip. This was not my intention.
    "Till the time men continue to have the upper hand in terms of compromises and adjustments, there will be extremities."- again i am stating the obvious and not making it sound as though I feel bad for the change. I am just saying that when change comes, there will be extreme and strong views regarding time-old systems and there will be a time when a balance will be restored. So I am trying to be positive in the final outcome.

  9. I think I tried for 5 yrs to find a middle path in my marriage.. but alas even though I have many positive to count the negatives keep pushing me to call it quits.. sooner or later it may be the case...I can't get over with my husband's folly... I have bend backwards to accomodate I can't anymore!

  10. Anon: I am sorry for your situation. It needs both the partners to work towards finding the middle path. A lone crusader will only end up feeling bitter. My heartfelt best wishes to you...

  11. hi Uma,
    Long overdue at your blog, really liked reading what you've written here. In my case, I've been lucky in actually wanting to give up my job when I had my first child, and not being forced or expected to :). And I've known others who've continued working, with the full support of family including parents-in-law. Hope such cases become a majority soon :).

  12. Aparna: hey welcome and thanks for the encouraging means a lot to me..
    Yes, I really hope, we women get our due without having to resort to dramatic or extreme steps. It is time to give up feeling guilty being ourselves in the quest to please everyone around.

  13. There have been two failed marriages in my close family circle. Both were arranged. I always thought that because they were arranged marriages, maybe the bride and groom didn't get enough time/chance to know each other well. But then, even love marriages fail so often these days(even the examples stated by you are of failed love marriages). And therefore i don't understand how can two people know whether they are right life partners for each other before getting married..

    1. sorry to hear about the failed marriages. There are no right life partners maybe. Unless it is the case of absolutely wrong people who happen to end up together, it is up to both the partners to make their marriage a right one. Again, what is the threshold to decide that your spouse is incompatible with you is increasing differing..

  14. Why do so called educated modern women of today is only interested about 'her' independence, 'her' interests, 'her' career, and all 'hers'. Why not think from 'we' perspective, from family perspective? After all managing home, family and all things after marriage is a big responsibility. Even though it needs to be shared by both, someone has to take prime responsibility. It's only when women understands the need of marriage, then they would make it a success. Otherwise those women who marry thinking that marriage is over-rated ends up in being a bad spouse naturally.

    1. Marriage needs involvement, commitment and work from both partners. The responsibility needs to be a shared one, even if the percentage of the share keeps varying. Any one partner doing the lion's share all the time will at some point feel the burden of the relationship. Since women have been at the receiving end for a very long time, it is natural to feel the need to assert their boundaries. Why can't the modern men think from the "we" perspective then? If they are ready to break some conventions, women will be equally ready to meet them half-way down. No one enters matrimony thinking negatively about it. It is only when one partner (maybe it is the women in most cases) feels like they have got a raw deal, does marriage feels like an over-rated concept.


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