Obedience is a virtue most Indian girls are imbibed with since childhood. We are all brought up to be good girls, who listen to their parents. Eventually we are expected to carry over this obedience into our marriages. Not just our in-laws, but even our peers expect us to ‘listen’ to our husbands. That is the key to a happy marriage according to many. Let your relationship unfold as your husband wishes and put your opinion and needs on the backburner. From sex to household chores, it is husbands who get to decide the dynamics in every relationship. But today, a lot women are asking themselves is this obedience the cost worth paying for a happy marriage? Besides, is it even a ‘happy’ marriage, when you have no say in it.
- Women are expected to be obedient wives and 'listen' to their husbands.
- In marriages, the cost of happiness is prioritising your husband's opinions and wishes over your own.
- But then can you even call such marriages happy?
- Equality in a relationship is nobody's to give, it should be the base on which every relationship develops.
Not just our in-laws, but even our peers expect us to ‘listen’ to our husbands. That is the key to a happy marriage according to many. Listen to your husband and put your agency on the backburner.
I honestly don’t blame Indian men for being authoritative husbands, because that is what the society conditions them to be. They are imbibed with this idea of manhood since a young age, just as women are imbibed with the idea of womanhood. A real man is decisive. He is always the decision maker and leader in a relationship. Insecurities related to masculinity lead men to be aggressive and domineering in all walks of life, especially in marriages.
So the cost of a happy marriage for women is to be submissive and adjust accordingly. Their freedom is an allowance they receive depending on how liberal their partner is. For some, this freedom is restricted to being able to wear a maxi-dress during night-time exclusively in their bedroom. Or stepping out to work, unless they manage to do all the household chores impeccably. Of course, there are a large number of exceptions, as many women are blessed with partners who indeed think of their wives as their equals. Who think of freedom and equal rights as something their partner already has, and thus it is not theirs to give. Generations of conditioning does present challenges to such men, but that doesn’t deter them.
But alas, that isn’t the story of most Indian couples. Even in most modern of households, wives are expected to be the obedient partners, be it in intimate matters like sex and romance, or something as more socially visible as covering their heads or not wearing certain kind of clothes.
Another reason why women struggle to find their agency in a marriage, apart from conditioning and patriarchal set-up or our society, is that we associate the success of a marriage with its longevity. Divorce and separation remain a big taboo, and we disapprove of married couples being at loggerheads in general. We see fractured marriages as a threat to the fabric of our society. And while we have begun to raise strong independent daughters, are we raising our sons with virtues of gender equality? Are we conditioning them to not give into the social pressure of adapting masculine behaviour? Aren’t we still telling well-educated, financially independent to adjust as per their husband’s wishes after marriage?
The change that we want won’t come instantly, but it also won’t come to our society if we just continue to improvise at one end of the problem (raising feminist daughters). Let us condition our boys to understand that equality and rights in a relationship aren’t theirs to give. These are virtues which should form the base of a marriage.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.