Why Do We Measure Success Of A Marriage By Its Longevity?
I often come along people who boast about how Indians have a knack to ‘make’ successful marriages, as compared to their western counterparts. The measure of this success, however, isn’t love and affection that a couple feels for each other, it is longevity. The longer a marriage lasts, the more successful it is, we assume. Why else would a couple stay with each other, if not because they share a healthy relationship? However, the truth of many long-lasting marriages is rooted in mute acceptance of a partners infidel ways, or just honouring the social contract for the sake of one’s public standing and that or the family, or for kids. Or worse, because, you have nowhere to go. Which is why one needs to ask, is longevity an accurate parameter to measure a marriage’s success? Do years spent together, in a relationship lacking love, affection, dedication, mutual admiration, count as a successful one, just because it lasted till death them part?
- Is longevity the correct parameter to measure success of a marriage?
- Many people stay in unhappy marriages, simply because walking away has consequences for them.
- But then should we judge people who choose to do so? Isn’t love much more complicated than that?
- Before demanding that people leave bad marriages, we as a society need to create an exit for them which doesn’t bring them social shame.
Do years spent together, in a relationship lacking love, affection, dedication, mutual admiration, count as a successful one, just because it lasted till death them part?
I remember reading a post some years ago, a personal account of a woman who justified staying with her cheating husband, despite the fact that he slept with her best friend because he had finally stopped cheating after decades of infidelity. “The children doted on their dad and I didn’t want them to have a broken home or lose out financially if Matt had to run two homes. I still loved him and refused to let any other woman win over me,” reads the woman’s article for The Guardian. This account sounds so much familiar to many untold stories of fractured but long-lasting marriages, where women and men stay put, giving reasons on similar grounds. It is only worse in India, where divorce and separation still remains a taboo. Remaining in an unhappy marriage seems easier than facing social shaming and relentless pressure from relatives, to make amends.
So the reason why divorce rates are relatively lower in our country is because a lot of people feel that they have no way out. However, there is another aspect to loveless marriages. That of the stigma around longevity, which makes people see issues like infidelity as mere challenges they need to work through, to keep their relationship going. It is not about happiness or love, it is just about piling years upon years on your broken relationship, because people think that is what a successful marriage is, years spent together.
Marriage is all about compromises. Who’s to say that the compromises made by one person are better or more relevant than that of other?
Are the people who stay in such marriage wrong though? Should we pity them or loathe them for the choices they make, as it only sets a bad precedent for others? But before we demand people to readjust their gaze at marriages, we need to create an exit door for them, the one which doesn’t leave them feeling like a failure, or scrambling for financial stability, or incur social shaming. Nobody likes to be in a loveless relationship. Even if you are a financially independent, or efficient enough to raise your kids on your own and can care less about what people have to say about your marital status, it is still difficult to leave a marriage. The cord of love doesn’t snap always, even when you know that you are not loved or valued. One feels that there is hope to mend the relationship, that what you share is worth giving second, third, fourth or as many chances as it takes. Maybe one is prepared to wait for decades or swallow humiliation and resentment just based on the probability that you’ll have your happy ending.
Marriage is all about compromises. Who’s to say that the compromises made by one person are better or more relevant than that of others? Who gets to be the judge here, and on what grounds? This is why it is easier to feel sorry or enraged at this woman, as I did initially. Having said that, we as a society need to change our parameters, when it comes to deeming a marriage successful. If we normalise the fact that it is okay to walk away from unhappy relationships, more and more people would find the courage to do so, instead of seething and suffering in silence, perhaps for a lifetime, in search of that elusive happy ending which may or may not come their way.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.