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A Woman Shouldn’t Carry On With A Marriage In Which She Is The Only One Adjusting

women adjust bad marriage, neena gupta on divorce

Adjustment in any relationship is a two-way street. You cannot expect one person to walk the entire distance for you, and stay put where you are. But if a person finds themselves in such a situation what should they do? Should they end the relationship and start afresh? What if this is a traditional Indian marriage that we are talking about? The kind in which the woman is expected to adjust, because that is what society expects?

A UN report titled ‘Progress of the World’s Women 2019-2020: Families in a Changing World’, says “Since the 1980s, the proportion of divorced or separated women aged 45-49 has increased steadily, from 3.3 percent circa 1980 to 4.7 percent circa 2010.” The report also claims that women are more likely to be divorced or separated than men, globally, which indicates that men are more likely to remarry, and that too to younger women. Also, while the number of divorcees has doubled over the past two decades in India, only 1.1 percent of women are divorced, with those in urban areas making up for a big proportion, says the report.

Also Read: Do What You Want After Marriage, Not Now: Can Parents Stop Saying This To Their Daughters?

The rise in the number of women seeking a divorce, especially in urban setups, is indicative of a changing mindset of women about the institute of matrimony among other things. More and more women do not walk into marriages today seeking a “happily ever after” or a “settled life”. They want what works for them today, as much as what works for their parents, partners and community. They want a supportive partner, who respects their agency and rejects gendered ideas of duties in a household. Women want husbands who don’t want them to discontinue work after marriage, who help out with household chores, instead of expecting their wives to run the house while working full time, and who will stand by them in their everyday choices. Women want husbands who are willing to adjust as much as they expect them to.

But do women get what they want? Hardly. The problem is that even for most progressive Indian men, the drive of equality runs as far as it isn’t inconvenient for them. So even today the burden of adjustment falls largely on women. For instance, a 2018 report by the International Labour Organization says that women in urban India devoted 312 minutes to unpaid work at home, while men spent only 29 minutes on household chores. The figures stood at 291 minutes for women and 32 minutes for men in rural areas.

While early findings from a new study have suggested that male participation in performing household chores has gone up during the lockdown, we are far from finding parity. Also, household duties are just the tip of the iceberg. From sexual agency, to parenting duties, to shifting bases for one partner’s career, the flexibility dynamics among a couple may be put to test on a day-to-day basis in a marriage, and there are many women who might find themselves adjusting a lot more than their partners do. Where does one draw the line with adjustments in a relationship as complicated and long-lasting as a marriage?

But with increasing awareness, education and employment opportunities, women are running out of patience and temperament to adjust. The benchmark is no longer “not an abusive husband” for men. They have to shoulder the burden of adjustment equally. The tolerance level among women for regressive behaviour and the male tendency to go back into the folds of patriarchy as per convenience has significantly gone down. Especially when a woman is financially independent, she may quickly run out of reason to stay in a marriage with a rigid partner. However, beliefs and conditioning aside, the same is applicable to men.

As much as women have the right to demand equality in a marriage, so do men. What equality in a marriage means is two parties finding an equal ground where neither of them feels that they have got the short end of the deal. If men feel they are the ones having to always adjust in a relationship, they have every right to call it quits as well.

Also Read: Unmarried Women Embracing Motherhood: Time To Be More Accepting

Why then are we emphasising more on the need for women to do so? Well, because the ordeal is much harder for women. Since an early age, girls are conditioned to develop the virtue of adjustment. Women in our society have to deal with immense social pressure to always make a marriage work, and put their duties towards their family over everything else. A woman isn’t seen as successful if she has a flourishing career or a notable achievement to her name, but not a marriage and family to boast of.

This is why women often hesitate and keeping toeing the line of adjustment in marriage. It is this hesitation that women are increasingly learning to overcome today. They are fed up of society putting its nose where it doesn’t belong. Of their success and desires being weighed against their duty to be a good wife. They have drawn a line and it is up to men now, whether they are willing to accept and abide by these new terms or not. Solely shoving the burden of adjustment towards women is simply off the table.

The views expressed are the author’s own.