When you share the same roof, when you harbour love for each other, and when you have made a commitment to be with one another for the rest of your lives, must you share the same priorities too? It is often assumed that once you get married, a wife and a husband act as a unit that runs a household successfully. Their goals are often the same; care for ageing parents, secure the future of children, and plan for retirement. But must partners always have similar sets of priorities in a long-term relationship? Especially the one that is socially binding – like marriage? Can a wife have different priorities in her life from her husband or vice versa? Moreover, must a woman feel guilty for not having similar priorities to her husband?
- It is assumed that once you are married, your priorities are in sync with that of your partner’s.
- Women often end up, adjusting their own priorities, adapting those of their partner.
- Does a married woman have no right to have contrasting individual priorities in a marriage?
- Should she feel guilty and ashamed of not being on the same page as her husband?
While men have been conditioned to believe that these are the only life-goals that they are allowed to have, women have been brought up for centuries to believe that it is their duty to become their husband’s support system.
As individuals, we all have a claim over how we want to spend our lives and what we want to do with the time, energy and skills that we have at our disposal. However, marriage changes these dynamics. While usually, people chose a partner for themselves with whom they can connect on some level, once you are married, you are expected to keep aside all your differences and work together to build a life. Every married couple is provided with a set of goals by society; have children, buy a car and a house, care for ageing parents. And while men have been conditioned to believe that these are the only life-goals that they are allowed to have, women have been brought up for centuries to believe that it is their duty to become their husband’s support system.
His aspirations are your aspirations. His priorities are yours too. But then what do you do about your individual priorities? What if ten years down the road, your world view changes and you suddenly want different things from your life? It could be little things and big. What if his priority for every Saturday afternoon is hosting an elaborate home-made lunch for his extended family so that your child gets to bond with their cousins? What if you want to spend your Saturdays cleaning the house and ordering in food for just the three of you? What if you want to move cities because you cannot find better opportunities, but he doesn’t want to change bases and leave his friend circle behind?
Can a wife have different priorities in her life from her husband or vice versa? Moreover, must a woman feel guilty for not having priorities similar to that of her husband?
We do not live in a society that approves of women’s individual aspirations and often labels those who chase personal goals as selfish. We are expected to “adjust” and sync our priorities with that of our partners. “Live your life the way he wants”, women are advised, mostly by other women who are close to them. So should women feel guilty for wanting different things from life and their marriage? No. But our conditioning gets the better of us, and often women do not even share it with their partners that they have different priorities. They choose to play along with their cheerleading role because a difference of opinion will lead to conflicts and policing.
Let me clarify here that there are many fabulous men in the world who know that it is okay for two people to want different things from life, even when they are married. They have no issues with their respective partners having different sets of priorities. They are secure enough to give their partner enough space, so that each one of them can lead their separate lives, despite being together. But even in such cases, women face policing and criticism from those around. How can you prioritise your career, when your husband is clearly keen on starting a family? How can you refuse to attend a family function with him and go to meet your friends instead? Such criticism leads women to second guess their priorities and battle guilt, despite having supportive partners.
But women need to understand that no one else has the agency to set their priorities, but themselves. It is we who have the right to decide how we want to live or spend our time. Even in a marriage, the key is not constantly adjusting as per the will of your partner (and that holds true for both the genders) but to keep the conversation channels open and ensure that the onus of adjustments isn’t falling wholly on one person.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.