Category Archives: Marriage

Is the second wife always the other woman?

Despite a post sometime back about all that I watch on TV, I actually watch very little of TV in a day. And there’s just one Hindi soap I follow. It’s a serial on child marriage and its repercussions, called “Balika Vadhu”. And I’m totally loving the realistic portrayal of what happens to couples who’re exposed to the modern world as it is, and have to deal with regressive traditions like child marriage.  If you follow the show – a lot of people do – you can totally skip the next paragraph. Otherwise, you might want to know what I’m talking about.

In brief, the story is currently revolving around this couple who got married as kids, grew up as friends and fell in love with each other as adolescents. But when the boy moves out of his village into the city to study Medicine, the ties of childhood begin to snap. He falls in love with a girl in the city, lies to her about his marital status, initially because he’s embarrassed to own up he’s had a child marriage, and later because he doesn’t want to lose her. He falls out of love with his wife, who is still besotted by him. Now, the boy’s family has cut off all ties with him after learning that he’s virtually living in with another girl in the city, who he wants to marry. His wife, predictably, is distraught.

But this isn’t about my favourite serial. It’s about the issues it brings up. At the very apparent level, it’s about child marriage and the debilitating effect it has on the lives of the people involved. The boy has fallen in love with another girl and thinks he’s done no wrong because he realises that child marriage is an outdated concept. The girl, on the other hand, is forced to respect the tradition because she has no option.

At another level, it’s about rural migration to urban India. The village boy who tries to fit into the city life, changes his name even, because he doesn’t want to sound like a rustic. He lies about his marital status because he knows his friends from the city will not understand how he’s actually survived a child marriage. But this isn’t the story of just this boy. It’s how many stories in India go. And just as the boy in the serial has fallen in love with a city girl, promised her marriage, and hidden his true identity from her, millions of Indian men end up doing that. This is not an opinion; it’s a fact that women’s organisations in cities will verify. Because often these men marry their love interest in the city, maintain two parallel families and wives – one in the city and the other in the village, and by the time one woman gets to know about the other, she’s reached a point of no return in the relationship.

Since bigamy is not recognised by the Indian Marriage Law, the second wife, usually the one who would appear to be smarter, more suave because she’s from the city, is at the receiving end of an unfair deal. At the end of the day, she has no legal standing, and if her husband chooses to abandon her, her marriage is only as good as a live-in relationship. Thankfully, the Supreme Court has begun to see that this is an injustice that no woman deserves. Also, the Domestic Violence Act accords live-in relationships legal status because the lawmakers understood that second wives couldn’t be left to deal with their problems without the backing of law. What happens to children produced as a result of such marriages? Why should they be treated as illegitimate? 

Imagine, to love and trust someone with your life, only to realise one day that you’re just ‘the other woman’. A lot of such women would continue to play the farce of the relationship, because exiting it would be more painful. But those who take a stand must also suffer the ignominy of accepting that they’re not really the woman to the man they live with, that they thought they were. And to the world, they also become the husband-stealer, the wicked woman who ensnares others husbands. But she isn’t always that, is she?

It all started because a man decided to migrate. I’m not saying there aren’t men in urban India who don’t fool women thus. But this is about the problems of migration that migrants even within the country bring with them.

And the question is – can this man be blamed? What of his right to happiness with another woman? What of practices and social pressures that make it impossible for you to cut yourself off from past relationships? Do you think this man is only a villain or a victim as well?

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>Physical vs Emotional Infidelity

>Picture this: You’re getting ready for work and your husband offers to help with packing lunch. He insists you stay in bed while he goes to the kitchen and instructs the maid what to cook and how to pack the food. And because it’s unusual for him to be so nice to you, you decide to check what’s really cooking in the kitchen. Turns out that the husband is fooling around with the maid, fondling and caressing her. And not the first time. He’s been physically infidel for a long time.

Now picture this: A recently-married boy is caught exchanging SMSes with his ex. They go out for coffees after work. He apparently still has feelings for his ex, as does she. And the wife intercepts their messages – they aren’t love messages, just messages friends would exchange. She accuses the husband of cheating on her. The ex thinks it is just friendship, but the wife doesn’t. She thinks it’s emotional infidelity.
(Both are real life incidents.)

What would irk you more – the emotional or the physical infidelity? Would you be able to sleep with a man who goes looking for easy physical gratification elsewhere? And would you be able to sleep with a man who seeks solace in someone else’s company? Which is worse – a spouse (it could be an unfaithful wife as well) who’s with you only physically or a spouse who’s with you only emotionally?

Technically speaking, it may seem easier to forgive a person for their physical transgressions than emotional ones. But when you catch your wife or husband in the act with another person, can you ever forget it? Can you overlook his carnal desires and be happy that he’s in it only for physical pleasure, nothing else? I, for one, wouldn’t be able to. If my man finds another woman so much more attractive that he cannot resist her, I would label him unfaithful and would never be able to love him the same way again. Because for me physical intimacy is also an act of love. It’s not something that exists outside the realm of feelings and emotions.

But it would be bad enough if I knew my man loves another woman, wants to be with her and is bound to me by only a superficial show of fidelity. If I cannot have his affection, I will not want any part of him. What makes emotional infidelity worse is that it is so much easier to hide. How do you draw the line between harmless flirting and repressed feelings? How easy it is for someone to say ‘We’re just friends’ but still harbour a love that can’t be categorised as mere friendship! And how difficult it is to sit and find categories for love!

But it could be different for you. I know so many women who overlook their husband’s physical rendezvous because they probably look at marriage as more elevated than any other kind of relationship. What would bother you more – emotional or physical infidelity?

>"But you don’t look married!"

You bet I don’t because when I got married, I didn’t also go for plastic surgery! I’m sure you didn’t either, then why are married women expected to look a certain way?

Why is it that the symbols of wedlock must only be displayed by women in the form of sindoor and mangalsutra, bangles and bichiya while no one even notices the wedding ring on the men? I find it amusing when sweet, plump, inquisitive aunties check you out head to toe to find that one sign that will give away your marital status, if the girth of your waist doesn’t.

Over the years, I have consistently forgotten to wear the sindoor and I have no mangalsutra to flaunt. I wear the bichiya when it suits me and for reasons that have more to do with fashion than anything else. I have put on some weight since I got married almost six years ago, but ever so gradually that most people haven’t noticed it! And therefore, I get that line often, “But you don’t look married!” Not that I’m trying to look single, but I don’t think I need to look married either. I mean, if you know me you would know I’m married and if you don’t, how does it matter?

I’ve often thought of carrying a placard with me stating I’m married since I don’t look it and since people so want to see all married women to look it! Of course, all the while I think that, I have my tongue in cheek, so you needn’t worry about me ever really doing that!

What’s more amusing is that no one will so much as give a second glance to a man to check out whether he’s married or not. The mister will always just be mister – single or otherwise. But even the telephone operator wants to know when you give your name whether you’re Miss or Mrs! Does it make a difference? Is there a thought process behind this inquisitiveness or is it just conditioning?

Could it also be that this is a culture-specific thing? I remember I knew even as a child that a woman who was in a pale-hued saree and not wearing a bindi must be a widow. So it works both ways: while married women are supposed to dress a certain way, widows are also expected to dress a certain way. And to what purpose, I wonder. Why does the society need markers to demarcate married women from single and widowed women? How does a woman’s marital status affect her social status? And how does that affect discrimination against her?

Answers, anyone?

>My Best Friend’s Wedding

>Have you ever lost a friend to a marriage, or to their spouse?

It’s the hardest kind of loss to face because it’s not a loss anyone has prepared you for. One moment you’re best friends with someone and the next you’ve sacrificed your friendship at the altar of your friend’s wedding!

In the last year or so, two of our (The Guy’s and mine) very good friends have taken their wedding vows, both of whom we used to hang out with almost every other day, both of whom sat and poured their hearts out to us discussing their confirmed bachelor status versus arranged marriage, both of whom broke the news of their engagement to us before anyone else, both of whom went shopping with us during the wedding preps, both of whom had us dancing like idiots in their baraats, both of whom disappeared pronto after their weddings! Now, if you ask me to understand that, you’re asking for a little too much!

You see, I’ve been there – I’ve gotten married and been newly-married. And I’ve not lost track of my friends because of that. Nor has The Guy. And we haven’t asked each other to get rid of any friends because either one of us didn’t get along with them. How do I make sense of any of this then?

I can quite understand when you’re newly-married and the new relationship is taking all of your time and energy, but I do not understand how it’s impossible to get out for a coffee break once in eight months! Explain this, if you can. Just because your wife doesn’t like me will you give up on our friendship? And how will you explain this when you know that there’s plenty of time to socialise with other people?

As a couple, do you give up your individuality? Does marriage mean leaving behind things you did as a single person, leaving behind friends as well?

I take a long time to make friends but once I do, I give to them all that I have to give. Once I have given of me like that, how should I understand why you’re holding back now? I feel cheated. I feel like I was used because when there was no one, I was there. And now that there’s someone else, you dispose me off (?)

I know how the advisory on the ‘How To Handle a Newly-wed Friend’s Spouse’ manual goes. And I have done everything in the book: taken the initiative, tried establishing a relationship with the spouse, tried to understand what isn’t even apparent, tried giving space, even time and got zilch in return. So let me tell you that none of it works if the better-half of your best friend is bitter about your friendship with him.

I have finally given up on these friends and friendships. But I hold a grudge. And a fear – of my other best friend’s wedding!

>Planning for our 25th Wedding Anniversary

>We must be growing old. Yesterday The Guy had a meeting with a life insurance agent and came back home to tell me about the different schemes that made most sense for where we were in life right now.

Now, my contribution to most discussions on financial planning is minimal – the max I can do is understand what’s being told to me. I think the side of my brain that deals with money management must’ve been paralysed at birth, because numbers and figures make no sense to me at all.

Anyway, I digress. So The Guy was explaining different insurance plans to me, highlighting their pros and cons for the numerically-challenged wife. We both agreed on one of the insurance policies which would mature after 20 years and make us quite rich if we paid our premium on time. I was trying to think like a grown up, like how that money could be used to take care of our child’s education or medical expenses and other such stuff twenty years hence when The Guy reminded me how we’ll be celebrating our 25th anniversary the year we get this handsome amount of money! I thought he was pointing out the coincidence or some such thing but that’s not what he had in mind. “So we can use the money to go for a world tour to celebrate our anniversary!” he clarified.

I couldn’t stop laughing. You see, people go in for life insurance for various reasons: to save tax, to save up for a later time in life, for an emergency perhaps, but we’re different! We save up for an extravagant holiday! I still can’t stop smiling.

Maybe, we won’t use that money for a holiday after all. But just the thought is exhilarating to be planning not for the necessities of life but the luxuries. On normal days, we’re struggling so hard to be there that we have no time to indulge in the little fantasies of our mind. And then comes across a thought like this and you feel like you’ve been set free!

The world trip will happen in good time, but for now, we’re settling for a four-day break in the hills with friends.

Be good and be back 🙂

>Is enough ever enough to say "enough"?

>In a marriage, that is.

It’s a coincidence perhaps that three of the six-member team I have at office are women who are separated from their spouses. Girl 1 was married for a year to a boy who made her work like a slave in the office, treated her like a maid at home and raped her at night before she walked out of the arranged match. Girl 2 was married for three years, has a two-year-old baby and has just come back to live with her parents because she was scared her parents-in-law would torture her to death. Girl 3 was married for two years to a boy she chose for herself but who she did not know was an obsessive, jealous lover.

Perhaps this is more than a coincidence; it’s an indicator of how young, independent women can think of happiness out of the box called marriage if the box gets stifling to stay within. And while I don’t condone divorces, I don’t condone the idea of living in an unhappy marriage just for the sake of putting up a sham before society. If you don’t get anything out of a relationship, not even the satisfaction of giving some part of yourself to it, what good can come out of it? And what reason is big enough to hold you back from ending such a relationship?

Which brings me to the vital question that I always ask myself when I see women stick on for no apparent reason in an unhappy marriage: do we marry for social security or do we marry for happiness?

People argue how marriages these days don’t last like they used to in the times of our parents because Generation Now isn’t ready to “adjust” and they say it like adjusting to an unhappy life is a good thing when it clearly isn’t. Why should anyone stay with an incompatible partner, a disloyal spouse, a foolhardy husband or wife? What purpose does such a marriage serve?

I know people who’ve been unhappily married for decades and if you ask them why, it’s probably because they’ve never thought of ending their misery. I know a woman whose husband, after 15 years of marriage, is having an affair with a woman he says he is intent on marrying. He abuses here – verbally and I suspect physically too. They have two adolescent children who witness their father cheating openly on their mother and hate him for it. And though the woman isn’t even financially dependent on her husband, she is keen on preserving that which is already rotten. She is emotionally tormented and knows there’s no going back to where it all started. Yet, she will not walk out. Oh yes, give it another chance, like people say, but know when to say ‘Enough is enough.’

The children for whose sake couples often live in loveless marriages don’t benefit from seeing two estranged parents live under the same roof. I come from a happy home and I know how much it means to see my parents together. Yet, happiness is not about seeing your parents constantly sparring with each other or seeing your father flirt with his mistress on the phone while your mother waits in the wings. What kind of a home can such parents give their children? Unhappiness isn’t easy to live with and if you are dissatisfied in a relationship as important as that of a husband and wife, would you have the energy to bring up your child well? If you were so busy dealing with your own emotions, would you have the time to focus on your child’s?

To me, no reason seems good enough for a man and a woman to waste lives – theirs and their children’s – on a hopeless existence. But I’m open to understanding if you can explain otherwise. Can you?

>Valentine’s Day (apart from the Pink Chaddis)

>How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day with a person whom you’ve spent the last 11 years with, like The Guy and I have?

We’ve shared friendship cards on Valentine’s Day when we hadn’t confessed our love for each other (perhaps, when we didn’t know we were in love).

When we definitely were in love and couldn’t hide it from each other, we went all out to make it a special day for ourselves and for each other. We did what seems like silly stuff now: waited in a long queue to have a heart-shaped pizza and get an instant picture clicked of it. Somewhere, that picture still lies with us. I would rack my brains much in advance to think what I would wear on Val Day when I met my boyfriend so that he’d think I was the most beautiful girl in the world. He would fabricate lies at home to come and meet me in Delhi. We bought each other plenty of chocolates, plenty more roses and still plenty more of cards for each other saying in verse what we couldn’t then in words. We wrapped our gifts in paper covered with a zillion red hearts. We said ‘I love you’ more times than we could count. And I don’t regret any of it – even the stuff that appears juvenile and cheap and immature now.

On our first Valentine’s after we married, I lit up our bedroom with as many candles as I could and waited for The Guy to discover me in my lacy pink things. We’d been married for two months then and I felt excited at last to be spending not just Valentine’s Day but also the night with the man I loved. He bought me a cute stuffed toy for the third time in our lives, and for the third time over I thought it was cute.

After some time we graduated to buying each other gifts that weren’t just pretty things but could actually be used. We graduated to more sophisticated eating places than a pizza joint, places where there would be candlelight and dinner and wine and just the two of us. I still took pains to dress up, not just for the dinner but also for after-dinner.

And then we grew up a little more and planned dinners together with close friends so that instead of just the two of us there would be just the four of us. Some time later, it became just the six or eight or ten of us – the more, the merrier. I hate this kind of growing up but I went with the game plan because I knew The Guy liked it like that. I knew he liked us to have fun with friends and I went along with it. Love had become a different thing for him. It wasn’t something he needed to talk of over candlelight dinners. He didn’t need to seek me out alone to express his love to me. He didn’t need to say it with gifts. He didn’t need the lace, the music, the romance on Valentine’s Day. His love had changed while I was still holding on to my old-fashioned ideas of red roses, slow dances and soft lights.

I will be celebrating this Valentine’s Day with a bunch of friends – all of whom I love a lot and have lots of fun with. But even so many years after we celebrated our first Valentine’s Day, I want to be alone with the man I love because the years haven’t changed my love. I’m still the foolish romantic who hopes her knight will come not once but always in shining armour and whisk her away to someplace beautiful. I still want him to look at me like he used to when we were younger and more visibly in love. I still want him to think that I am all he wants even though he has me.

I still think this day would be more special if it were more romantic than fun.
Did Archies Cards do this to me?