A compromise isn’t always the best solution. But it’s the best solution you can come up with for a woman. Usually.
An independent, educated, much married mother of two, breadwinner of the family must understand that when her unemployed-for-years, wasteful husband and his parents want to blow up all her hard-earned money, she must compromise. And she does that – for 20 years of her married life she compromises, accommodates her high strung in-laws, she compromises on spending time with her children because she has to be out earning a livelihood for her family, she compromises on her happiness and peace of mind. And when she finally decides to say “Enough,” she must realise all over again that she needs to compromise. Frantic calls are made by her parents as well as his to explain to her why. But can anyone explain why she should try so hard to make this marriage survive? Or why she should care that her selfish in-laws go telling the world their daughter-in-law wants to turn them out of the house or that her husband has gone to live with her sister? Can anyone explain why she needs to let her children live a farcical life, knowing that beneath the calm surface nothing is alright?
Nobody has answers to that. They only know that she must compromise. For whom? For a man who lives with her because he doesn’t know better how to sustain himself? Or for the parents-in-law who need her money to feed their vanity? What of this woman who gets nothing in return? She doesn’t even get a life of her own!
As relatives of the woman-in-question, my in-laws were asked to chip in – with advice for her to compromise. That request came from no less than her parents! The mother can see her daughter’s plight but cannot see that there is a way out for her, that she does not need to compromise, that if she supports her daughter’s decision she’ll save her daughter’s life.
You would think a woman like that – she’s financially secure, fairly influential and at a senior position in the government – would know better than to stick on in such a situation. She would be able to take her own decisions, to get up and walk away from all this mess. But what is it about our conditioning that we continue to live in loveless marriages, just so that we can tell the world we’re still married? Why do we want to bury our troubles when we know they will rise up like a phoenix?
She could easily walk out with her children and live a more normal life than this appearance of normalcy affords her. But she has stayed on all these years in hope of a better tomorrow. But nothing has changed and when she finally decides to stop her harassment, they say she should compromise. Why?
Do the children (two daughters: one older than her years, the other younger than her age) need a father who is a liability? Is there any security in having a man in the house who will splurge on his whims, make unwise investments with his wife’s money and needs more looking-after than the children themselves?
It’s quite alright for this society to accept a woman in the untraditional role of a breadwinner of the family. It does not mind that she goes out of the house to ensure her children can study in good schools and her husband can wear nice clothes as long as she comes back home and does not talk about her achievements. But it makes such a hullabaloo if she wants to live by herself. These moral guardians of our society don’t raise an objection when the husband sits at home doing nothing at all, not even helping with the rearing of the children, but it raises its judgemental eyebrows in disapproval if the woman wants to speak for herself and stop this exploitation. Why is it okay for her to break one stereotype because it suits everybody but not okay for her to break another?
If I could, I’d tell this woman I’ll get her all the legal support she needs to back up her decision. I’d give her my emotional and moral support too. But my support does not count. The people who count think she should compromise.