Most Indian weddings go beyond the affordable financial means of the ones spending on them. In almost all cases, the purpose of this lavishness is to establish or retain better social images of the people involved. The sentiment behind this could also be that marriages are made in heaven, so why make the event of wedding any less heavenly on earth? While the wedding events in India keep becoming fatter, the irony is that there had been significant growth in the number of divorces, separations and near-divorce situations among young couples in the past few years.
This reality is yet to open the eyes of many of the marrying couples, their parents, siblings and close relatives and also of the matchmakers including marriage brokers, astrologers, and matchmaking websites. For a large number of them, marriage seems to be just an event to be organized with all possible (and at times even impossible) pomp and show. What happens to the couple during the process of settling down in marriage does not seem to be of much consequence to them. As an intern, I had some opportunities to deal with people involved in the divorces of young couples. A lot of them stemmed out of the badly handled initial days of matrimony. Even though I do not believe those reasons leading to divorces, separations, and near-divorce situations are the same in all cases, I do believe that there have been a lot of similarities in their stories, some of which are as under:
- Romantic pre-wedding fantasies blind the couple from picking up clear signs of incompatibility between them in which obvious behavioral issues in either or both of them are overlooked or ignored. The signs include lack of empathy,deficiencies in emotional intelligence, absence of mutual respect, communication issues, paranoia, jealousy, lying, manipulative-ness, boastfulness, getting easily hurt, two-timing, seeking too much personal information while keeping opacity about self, miserliness, selfishness, suspicious-ness, temper tantrums, sobbing sessions, alcoholism, substance abuse, the lack of social etiquette and manners and even signs of mental sickness and personality disorders.
- In a typical Indian marriage, the girl walks into the boy’s parental home. Under normal circumstances, she has a lot of reasons to feel insecure, lonely, homesick and transplanted despite her sweetheart husband being around. In a number of cases, the groom’s parents and close relatives present at home do not have the empathy to feel the plight of the new entrant young lady. While there may not be any dearth of superficial care and attention towards her, the much-needed expressions of genuine bonding, transparency, belongingness, affection, etc. from the original inmates of the home may be missing. There may also be arguments, sarcasm or quarrels among close relatives which get vented out in the house with scant concern for the feeling of insecurity in her. These initial negativities picked up by her with a mind already struggling to cope with the changes, may lay the foundation for building up of further negativities, suspicion, insecurity, and paranoia.
- The first night and honeymoon, probably the most fantasized part of the marriage of any young couple, tend to play up as a major marriage spoiler in a host of marriages. Sigmund Freud, the father of modern Psychology, has explained unfulfilled sexual urge as a motivator in the cases of almost all animals including humans. Once the first night/honeymoon dreams are lived, they are no longer ‘unfulfilled’ and hence no longer ‘motivating’ to build regular romantic fantasies. With the lack of awareness of the fineries of human sexuality (which Indian society hardly ever imparts to prospective couples), the sudden fall in the quantum of unfulfilled urges leads the couple to disillusionment. The prince or the princess in the pre-wedding fantasies is replaced by ordinary human beings in their raw forms. Those with a better understanding of life’s nuances and the dynamics of marital companionship survive these situations with ease especially when the boy’s family is considerate and communicative. But those who built their perceptions of married life around fantasies alone fail to handle and manage the situation, leading them to their unhappiness about the marriage.
- Many parents of the grooms, especially the mothers, find it difficult to let go of the close belongingness and related control over their sons. On the other hand, the girl legitimately expects better and free access to her husband, physically and emotionally. In cases in which this situation is not handled well, the classic rift between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law surfaces. Most of the Indian households are traditional and the problem gets multiplied especially if the girl grew up in a reasonably liberal environment and enjoyed legitimate freedom prior to the marriage.
- A number of parents of the girls may be retired and wondering how to spend their leisure. In such cases they have a lot of time at hand to extend the care they gave to their daughters even into their marital homes. With the availability of superior communication technology, matters can be communicated between them instantly through voice, images, and videos. In the name of parental love and affection, they end up helping the girl in misperceiving the magnitude of her problems in the marital home and providing free ‘anti-in laws’ consultancy on how to handle them, thereby spoiling the situation further.
- Unchecked personal ego, a false sense of family honor, highlighting of financial and social disparities between the families of the couple, etc. also play out as spoilsports in delicate marital relationship situations.
There can be many other reasons contributing to the divorces of young couples in India. Whatever the reasons may be the fact remains that generating necessary awareness on all significant aspects of marriage and married life in the minds of the couples, their parents and family members can go a long way in curbing the growth in the number of divorces of the young in India. Such an awareness-generation can be through premarital counseling of the girl and the boy and family counseling for their close family members by qualified, trained and experienced counseling psychologists. These will help in marital stability, especially pertaining to the newly married young couples.
Alas, it is unlikely that a society which prefers to spend a lot on big fat weddings, predictions by famous astrologers and special blessings to the couple from well-marketed god-men, will seek guidance from mind-care professionals, because to them, marriages are made in heaven and anything going right or wrong with them is because of fate, fait accompli!