When you are single, you are your own person. You choose how you want to spend your day, who you interact with, what you do, etc. Does this change when you get married?
There is no easy answer to this question. However, chances are that your answer will largely determine how happy your marriage will be, and even how long it will last.
In marriage, the general idea is that the couple is to be thought of as a singular entity. Of course, we all know that marriage doesn’t really bind us together in eternal wedlock – we are still physically and mentally, separate beings, with different personalities, whims and desires. While this is the case, the very fact that you and your spouse chose to be wedded to each other – that is tantamount to both of you committing to be considered as one, or one flesh, as certain religions like to put it.
What exactly does this entail? Contrary to how you were as a single, it is no longer feasible to think of yourself as being your own person, but rather as part of a larger body which comprises of you and your spouse. Sometimes, this might mean compromising on things you yourself desire, if it adversely affects your spouse, and vice versa – he or she is bound by a similar responsibility to you.
On the face of it, this seems pretty restrictive. All of a sudden, you can’t do this and you shouldn’t do that. Or on the flip side, now you need to do this, and you have to do that. And I agree – it IS restrictive – if you marry the wrong partner.
I have always been a strong proponent of the idea that one must choose his or her spouse very carefully. More often than not, this will be the most important decision one ever makes in his or her life. Linking this back to the above point of restriction – I have this to say – married life will become a burden and full of unwanted responsibilities if either of the following two scenarios are in play:
- Your spouse is not the right one for you.
- You are not the right one for your spouse.
Let’s deal with the first point with an example – let’s say you love travelling, but your spouse hates it. You and your spouse quarrel frequently over your trips, and eventually you give up on travelling because it has become a sore and taboo subject for the two of you whenever it is brought up. Or you really value a clean house, but your spouse doesn’t care much for hygiene, and you end up having to do the bulk of the household chores. Over time, this broods resentment, and eventually the marriage will start to feel like a choke-hold on your neck as you feel frustrated with your helplessness.
The second scenario is the exact opposite. You would like to spend quiet nights at home alone with your spouse, but he or she prefers to hit the clubs and pubs once working hours are over with friends. After too many episodes of you staying up late into the night, only to see your partner come home drunk in a taxi, you realize that perhaps you have made a horrible mistake.
So, who is right and who is wrong in these scenarios? Is the spouse to be blamed for being selfish? Or were you too pliable and soft, letting your spouse take advantage?
The answer is: No one. No one in these scenarios is right, and no one in these scenarios is wrong. The only certainty is: the people in these scenarios have made a poor choice in their partners.
There is nothing wrong with travelling or not travelling, cleaning or not cleaning, partying or staying home. The key is synchronicity – being in tune with your partner.
I am not saying that you and your partner need to be clones of each other. Your partner does not need to share the love you travel you have – BUT he or she should not restrict you from your travelling. You should not expect your partner to be as diligent or meticulous in cleaning the house as you are – BUT you should expect your partner to respect that you value it, and to contribute towards the marriage in other ways that you can appreciate, if not through the household chores.
What matters is that you and your partner should not have values or beliefs that adversely impose on each other – but what constitutes such an adverse value or belief depends entirely on you two (and no one else, I might add). Any such mismatches which are not resolved in a way that both parties can accept satisfactorily will lead to resentment and a breakdown of trust. And to me, that signifies the end of the marriage, even if legally it is still in existence. You may live in the same house. You may still have your marriage certificate. But you’re living in a dead marriage and you know it. What’s the point?
That said, there is one value about marriage which I feel should be constant across all marriages. Feel free to disagree if you wish, but I feel that the choice to get married to someone means you are committing to love your spouse as you would love yourself. And that means presenting a united front to the world, even to the families who raised you. When you become married, you and your spouse become one flesh. Does an animal’s front leg kick its back leg? Or does a leaf on a plant growing towards sunlight deliberately cover other leaves from the same plant? No. But when you keep secrets from your spouse, or when you talk negatively about your spouse to the outside world – even your parents, or your children – you are doing exactly that.
I can even tie this analogy back to my earlier point on restriction. Does a tree that grows many branches deliberately entangle itself? No, it doesn’t. And if your insecurities or rigid beliefs are manipulating and controlling your partner’s behavior – congratulations – you are doing exactly that. Real trees don’t do this – they spread their branches far and wide, each branch reaching new heights. Similarly, a real marriage is one where spouses don’t attack or restrict each other, but one where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It is one where each spouse encourages the other to play to his or her unique strengths, and achieve things they could not have done alone.
It goes without saying that trust is absolutely essential for a marriage to work. You must have your partner’s back, and he or she must have yours. Because like it or not, the only person you can trust is yourself. And when you are married, you are no longer just you yourself, but you and your partner together. So if the right arm does not trust the left leg, or the brain not trust the stomach, how is the body of marriage going to function effectively as a whole? And if you find you can’t trust your partner – then I say this: You are better off not marrying.
So choose your spouse carefully. If you take away nothing else from reading this article, then just know that these two criteria have to be fulfilled before you can be sure of marrying someone:
- Interests and passions don’t matter. What matters is whether you and your spouse share the same values and principles. Anything else goes.
- You must have complete (I really mean complete) trust in your partner. If you cannot find it in yourself to trust your partner, don’t marry him or her. This may not necessarily be the partner’s fault – it may be yours. In any case, no trust = no marriage.
Be a tree. Spread your branches. And have a happy marriage.