A deep dive into why some people are able to walk into their sunset years still holding hands and some – despite their very best efforts – just couldn’t make their marriage last.
What should a young couple be prepared for when they decide to marry?
Indira: What I had been hearing before my marriage was all scary tales and for some time, I was afraid too. But in the end, it’s perception, nature and circumstances that differ with each individual. I being from the media field have to juggle meeting people, travel, and be extroverted. My spouse has to understand the needs of my work. I am blessed that he does. He is very supportive and understanding. We respect each other’s individuality and I think this aspect of coming together is enlightening.
Neeru: For newly married young folks, marriage is sweetness embracing excitement, exuberance and magical bonding. Gradually the magic of marriage is enhanced with understanding, trust, patience, involvement, etc. These virtues keep the candle of marriage burning brightly. Marriage must not be understood as ‘give and take’ but to be able to ‘give, give and give’ without any expectation.
Diwakar: Living in a separate house and living under the same roof after marriage are completely two different scenarios. Once you embark on marriage, you should be mentally prepared that it’s not about ‘me or you’, it’s all about ‘us’.
How you want to wake up and end your day totally depends on how you behave. It’s definitely not easy but not that difficult too. When you have love and dreams to make it happen, you work for it.
Lajja: The hope to lead a life with someone with promises, plans, and priorities to build a home can be exciting. When we use the term ‘love’, it has many meanings. Yes, the butterflies in the stomach and the beating heart are all ways in which one responds to the excitement of being in love. However, love also comes with responsibilities. When a couple embarks on a journey of marriage, they should do so with the understanding that love also means respecting each other, supporting, guiding, and allowing the person you love to grow within the marriage as well as outside, in their respective careers and other relationships which they hold dear. Being married to someone does not mean that you will try to change the person, to become the partner you dreamt of having. Love is acceptance. Marriage is the independence you give each other to thrive together just the way you are. It is important to understand that being married also means being united in every way, legally, economically, socially, and emotionally.
What does nurturing entail in a marriage?
Indira: When you put the tagline of ‘nurture’ in a relationship, it ultimately becomes an effort. Don’t put effort but rather be effortless. The balancing act in a marriage is crucial. Before marriage, we were so busy with our work that we hardly had enough time for each other. Comparatively our relationship is now more balanced. We spend quality time having breakfast together or sharing a sunset. Being effortless is what I sought in marriage.
Neeru: Marriage is sacred and one of the most beautiful and unique relationships that we human beings are blessed with. Like any other relationship, it too needs nurturing and nourishing which is only possible with a deep sense of involvement both in joyful moments or in times of misery. Simple things like helping each other, caring in difficult times, and being willing to listen make the bonding stable and strong.
Diwakar: When we talk about marriage, that’s two individual adults with different sets of minds living together. We have to learn how to keep on nurturing and pampering each other to bring that smile and feeling of love and belonging. We do crazy things when in love, and in marriage more of that will add to the joy, romance and bonding.
Lajja: Marriage like any other relationship needs nurturing. Nurturing meaning to take care, protect, grow and support each other. Marriage is a commitment to stay together, respect each other’s personal space, build a home and possibly grow old together. To embark on a journey such as this would mean that time, effort and consistency are requirements to sustain it. Like any other relationship, marriage and the people in it cannot be taken for granted. The excitement of the initial days of marriage could very well fizzle out with the realities of life. Responsibilities, work commitments, and social pressures could take a toll on a marriage. That is why one must take care of the other, it is like handling a sapling that needs constant care and nurturing to grow into a full-fledged plant.
What does it take to make a marriage last a lifetime?
Indira: I really can’t give a definite answer but three months into marriage gave me some glimpses of this new phase. There’s no doubt about the ups and downs in any relationship. But when your gut instinct screams “this is it”, at that moment you’ll get the clarity of a bond that you want to last a lifetime. And you are going to make sure that you’ll make it work despite the circumstances and know he’s the one worth fighting for.
Neeru: When there is a mindset of sharing and giving, without any expectation from the spouse, the marriage works perfectly. However, if it’s used for extraction then it’s a big problem. Therefore, a married relationship works best if the spouses don’t have any high expectations from each other. Both the partners need to consciously nurture the relationship by accepting each other’s weaknesses as well as strengths and making it blossom with love, care and involvement. It’s constant work.
Diwakar: Marriage is a beautiful institution that can last a lifetime with beautiful memories. To make it last, every person has their own class to take. Apart from love, respect, trust, keep doing those small little things that bring smiles to the face creating priceless moments that can make a relationship last a lifetime.
Lajja: It is pretty simple actually. In my profession where I have come across couples who have been married for decades, certain rules seem to hold very true. I call it the three Cs: Communication, Conflict Management, and Conversation. What needs to be understood is that the people in a marriage can be very different from each other. They may be opposites. Therefore, it is normal to have varied perspectives and ideas about any situation. Conflict arises when there is a disagreement. Anger and frustration arise when a solution is not found. That is why it is first important to accept the other person for who they are, then communicate the feelings that could be creating conflict. When we fight, our voices are raised, which is just noise. No solution can be found when it is noisy. That is why communication via conversation ensures that we are making an effort to understand each other and also working towards calmly finding a common ground. This makes any relationship stronger.
What are some of the challenges of being married?
Indira: They say that the first seven years are the golden years. Everything is so new and fresh so I can’t really summarise the challenges as yet. I have been working since the age of 18, grew up with five siblings, and started from scratch. And I find myself doing okay with the responsibilities ahead and support and guidance from my in-laws. They have been there for me since day one.
Neeru: Initially, I used to have an image of a “perfect husband” who would oblige and agree a hundred percent to my opinions, read my mind and act accordingly and help me with household chores. Since these things never manifested, I learnt to accept him as he is and gradually appreciated his qualities which many would envy.
Diwakar: Imagine a life without hiccups. That’s so boring. Being in love and living together as a married couple are two different ball games. There are many challenges that one has to face from happy memories to bad experiences but those are the things one will face anyways, it married or not. In marriage all one has to do is tackle them wisely by understanding and respecting each other.
Lajja: The challenges are of course many. Acceptance of reality is important. The acceptance of where the spouse comes from, their past, and what they are working towards is important. The fact that one has chosen a partner to spend their life with means that ups and downs are expected in life. The biggest challenge is to sustain the relationship when life does not exactly go as per the plan. As a therapist, I have seen the impact a bad marriage can have on a person. The challenge is to stop a relationship from going ‘bad’. If we are to look at the basics, respect plays a huge part in a smooth run. Respect towards the spouse, of their personal space, of their life which includes their own set of friends and family, towards their particular line of work, hobbies, and interests, and finally respecting them for the past they come from. Dominance can be the toxic element that challenges many marriages. When one person pressurises another to do certain things, forces them to lead a life they are not willing to, and uses malicious ways to have things go their way, are certainly going to create conflict in a marriage.
Is women initiating divorce still stigmatiSed?
Indira: Women of the 21st century have paved the way to financial independence, they are able to support themselves and their families now. One of the most important benefits of financial freedom is being able to have control over your life. Some marriages can be toxic and separation is encouraged to lead a healthy life for oneself. But my concern here is for women who lack such opportunities and do not have enough resources to take the initiative. Despite the toxicity, some have to endure it due to circumstances that abide by societal, economic, and parental pressure. However, the stigma is diminishing.
Neeru: When a relationship becomes intolerable, painful, and traumatic there is no point in dragging it any further. Everyone has the right to live a happy and joyous life. If the need comes for a couple to be separated, one has the choice to file a divorce and live life happily. Although so much progress has been achieved for women’s rights, there’s still a big issue for women initiating a divorce. Our society still looks at such women with doubts, allegations, and negativity.
Diwakar: There will be lots of challenges to face that can lead to a love and hate relationship. You have to let your relationship grow and mature gradually. But sometimes no matter how hard one tries things can still go wrong. Our society is changing and divorce has normalised in our society. We have to respect a person’s decisions to initiate divorce. Life is short and should be lived happily.
Lajja: A marriage may not work out due to many reasons. Two people who cannot see eye to eye, do not agree on their way of life, or realise that leading separate lives may ensure their well-being are allowed to divorce. I don’t think there needs to be a stigma attached to it especially when divorce is initiated by a woman. In a society that is still very much patriarchal in many ways, the fact that a woman assembles the strength of mind to ask for a divorce could mean that she has gone through dire circumstances which simply could not be resolved. I can tell you that a lot of my younger clients, children, who see a conflict between their parents at home, talk about how they wish their parents lived separately but were happier. They understand that having parents in that circumstance is better than living under one roof with constant fights. I do not see why a divorcee in this day and age needs to be embarrassed by their choice to leave a toxic marriage or a life where they feel suffocated for lack of respect or in some cases extreme circumstances. One toxic relationship can ruin many lives.
What are some life lessons that marriage taught you?
Indira: Being a newlywed comes with lots of speculation, thankfully I have a guiding angel, my mother-in-law. She is a very spiritual person and often pays a visit here in Kathmandu. Meanwhile, she shares with me her teachings and lessons that I can apply in my life. The wisdom of gratitude towards everything that we have received and endured, to tune into our energy, be thankful for good and bad and be happy from within. I have learnt so much from her and these lessons have helped me to be grounded, and maintain peace.
Neeru: My life lesson regarding marriage is that it’s a conscious choice that everyone makes for physical, social, emotional, financial, and psychological needs. Therefore, marriage is more like an institution where two people live together cooperating, coordinating and communicating. And thus, these elements contribute to making married life harmonious, peaceful and rewarding.
Diwakar: Life is a journey full of experiences and marriage is a beautiful journey where you vow to take care of each other. We all have our ups and down but the real lesson is to stick together through thick and thin and try to live together happily till death do us apart.
Lajja: I have different perceptions of the term marriage. The marriages within my family, the marriage of my clients, and the marriage I experienced have given me both personal and professional insights. Marriages of the earlier generation which happened at a very early age, in fact at childhood, seem to have sustained themselves for decades. The primary reason perhaps being the husband and wife grow up together, there is a companionship which could very well start as a friendship. There may not have been the love factor initially but it seems to have developed over the years. With my clients, I have seen marriages that have lasted for a lifetime as well as marriages that are on the brink of fall after a few months. The latter is due to miscommunication, dominance, time management, and social pressures.
I can say that a sustainable marriage is that where both partners are comfortable with each other. Elements of friendship, where you can laugh together, share problems without judgement, respect each other and within the boundaries of personal space play a huge part in leading a good life. Another kind is the marriages that are forced. A lot of young clients in their early twenties come to me because of the pressure from their families to get married. In some cases, it takes a major toll on their mental health, where they develop symptoms of anxiety. Some fight it, others give in to it. Any marriage that is forced in any given circumstance is not going to be happy or even last for that matter. Life lessons are, to make sure there is a good friendship, with that comes honesty, loyalty, respect, responsibility, acceptance, and mindfulness. There is no room for toxicity that is the biggest red flag.
Marriage is an exclusive relationship between two people and it has no place for a third. Sometimes the third can be extended family, parents, sibling or a friend. Your thoughts.
Indira: Our perception of marriage is widely infused by society’s opinion. In a marriage, you and your spouse are the foundation, while the extended families are pillars of that connection. I am building my own bond with my extended family. I feel blessed to have my new relationships blooming.
Neeru: In Nepal’s context, the third party’s intervention and involvement in the two people’s married life has a great impact both negatively and positively. It’s mostly the extended family, your parents and very close friends who knowingly and unknowingly influence a marriage. It needs great wisdom, understanding and trust of the two married people to safeguard their relationship from such situations.
Diwakar: Marriage is a heavenly bond of two individual people made by our religion, culture and society. Meaning that there will be many third parties we have to deal with. Disagreeing and fighting over others or with their opinions is not good for any relationship. Be mature enough to know what’s wrong and what’s right, and what you prioritise the most in your married life. Do not let any third party influence or play with your emotions and relationship in a negative mode. Stay far away from toxic people. You can’t kill them but you sure can avoid them.
Lajja: Clearly, marriage is a committed, legalised relationship between two adults. Due to the nuclear family model, couples are spending a lot of time with themselves than with extended family. That is a great way to develop closeness, there is ample time to understand each other, inconveniences can be discussed in a private space and there is an element of ‘home’ that a couple eventually creates for themselves. However, as I said earlier, ‘the third wheel is the life one has had before marriage; the family members, and even friendships. We live in a society and it is important to have a life where we thrive in every way. Once married, other relationships that of a son/daughter, siblings, cousins, etc cannot take a backseat. The beauty of life is to be able to share and enjoy time with people who matter, those we look up to, we respect and love. A ‘perfect’ marriage is that where an individual is respected for who they are and accept that they also have other people in their lives who matter. A partner can be understood better by taking the time and effort to know the other people in their lives who have shaped them to become who they are.