So you had a chance to see what people at different points in their lives think. The list is not exhaustive by any means, nor are these opinions necessarily representative of our culture. But it is enough to have an understanding of the current mindset when it comes to this controversial institution. I say controversial because there are so many out there who will never get married, by pure choice, and be subject to scrutiny by others. I can see the appeal of a bachelor life – not having to compromise your lifestyle, worry about in-laws and family traditions, not being stuck to one person for the rest of your life, not having to share your assets, and so on.
My take though? Marriage is essential, at least for me. It is my belief that having that strong source of support (especially as our parents get old and let’s face it, reach the end of their life) is crucial for our well-being. Finding yourself all alone with no spouse to provide that pillar of strength can be very daunting. Our parents/guardians are older than us, and while they can provide that pillar for a period of time, we will most likely outlive them. Having that husband/wife to support you and cheer you on through your toughest periods in life is absolutely critical! Even when it comes to having kids – it is extremely difficult to be a single parent, and in situations where you can avoid that, it is my opinion that you should. Not because I care about what society thinks. No, that kid deserves the benefits that come with having two parents. Benefits such as a higher family income, better supervision, more than one perspective in every situation, and so much more. I’m not saying being a single mom or dad is a bad thing. I’m just saying that avoiding that setup if possible is my opinion so the child can get the most out of it.
It’s not a fairytale though. I’ve stopped believing Disney movie endings (“..and they lived happily ever after!” – i.e. they got married and life automatically became perfect!) and locked away my fantasies of being stupidly happy once I found “the one” and got married. I don’t mean that in a cynical way. I just mean that these movies put a lot of pressure on men, expecting them to make grand gestures and orchestrate perfect proposals while we, the women, sit around and wait for the magic of happily ever after to happen. Marriage will be work. Definitely. It’ll probably be the hardest I’ve ever worked on a relationship in my entire life. But that’s just it. All that work will help build that trust, companionship and love we so desire and expect to automatically happen upon being wed.
My maternal grandmother and grandfather had a love marriage. In that day and age, especially in India, I cannot imagine the trials they must have faced to get this to happen. They met while fighting for Indian Independence from the British. She was carrying a huge board and yelling out something about freedom and non-violence. He was part of another group of protestors. She spent one night in jail upon being caught, and he spent 6 months. They fell in love and got married despite my grandfather’s family having objections to him marrying a simple girl with no mother (her mother died when she was very young). My grandmother went through a lot after the wedding. She was a gentle soul and therefore got walked over a lot. She also had a lot to learn about being a housewife, since her lack of a mother meant no one had taught her all those things. But they worked through all of this together, as a team. I’ve always thought of them as the most successful marriage I’ve seen. Even though they’d bicker from time to time, they loved each other dearly, and you could plainly see that this love and respect for each other had steadily developed from a young, passionate romance in their teens/twenties to a deep, unconditional love throughout their lives.
About 7 years ago, my grandma started to get really fragile. She’d lose her balance easily and fell and broke her hip several times. Throughout it all, my grandfather took care of her without a single complaint. You could see that his day wouldn’t feel complete unless he had made her tea in the morning, helped her bathe, eaten lunch with her while watching TV, and taken care of all of her needs. A few years later she started to get dementia. She’d forget people and events sporadically, and I could tell it was very hard on him. But his care for her did not falter in the slightest. Even when she’d fight with him for forgetting to give her tea that morning (which was not true – her dementia made her forget that she had in fact had tea and breakfast already), he’d take it like a champ. He’d fight back and joke around with her that she’d forget him too one day!
About 5 years ago, my grandfather got sick and was taken to the hospital. In that week that he was away, even though she wouldn’t remember that he was in the hospital, my grandma would get very upset because she knew something was missing, and her other half was not well. Even though she couldn’t remember, she could feel it in her heart. He wasn’t around to make her tea and breakfast anymore, he wasn’t around to bicker with her anymore, and she was miserable. Even though someone else was doing all of those things, she knew something wasn’t right. Within a month of his hospitalization, my grandma passed away. He came back home completely healed, but she couldn’t bear the separation and left us. Now, while my grandpa is still alive, he is so sad all the time because he really misses her. Although this story makes me sad, it really gives me hope for our generation. We need only to look at our parents or their parents and try to follow their example when it comes to making a happy life together with someone.
Don’t run away at the first sign of trouble, don’t take your partner for granted, don’t stop trying to keep passion in the relationship, work as a team, don’t stick to the old concept of “the woman’s always in the kitchen and takes care of the kids while the man brings home the bread”. Equally divide up the chores, don’t leave the cooking and cleaning just to one person, make decisions together, have adventures together, respect each other.. I hope that if I were to get sick like my grandma (touchwood, I hope not), that I would have someone like my grandfather to take care of me with that much love and affection, and vice versa.