I met Raj when I was 16 years old, Yes, I was in love with him, but I had realised during my courting years that we really had very little in common, but as we know ‘unlike poles attract’ and I believe that is really what happened to us. The one significant thing that we had in common is respect and love for each other and true love for God.
All of what I learnt about marriage in my childhood came from what I saw my parents make of it, and what I learnt as guiding principles for a successful marriage, which I learnt from the messages I heard in church. Of course there were other examples too of great marriages and a whole lot of examples around me of failed marriages, broken marriages and marriages in which husbands and wives just lived under the same roof with no or very minimum interactions and absolutely no love or respect for one another. There were learnings from all of these.
I saw my mother and father really enjoying each other’s company, even though they were two different personalities with different interests, they took time to understand and appreciate the differences in each other. They never argued in public, yes, they had differences of opinion, which they talked about, but they never let that difference get into an argument. One person always backed out when they felt that it was getting into more than just a disagreement. I don’t really remember who backed out more often, so I do believe they both did it in such a way that we as kids felt that it was a fair outcome. They have always been very endearing to each other, in fact even today after 59 years of marriage they still hold hands and call each other endearing names.
With all of this learning, I was ready to embark into this new phase of my life with a person I loved for seven long years. The very first challenge that I encountered was that Raj is a perfectionist, very organised, meticulous in whatever he did and extremely particular that everything had a place and should be kept in its place, so that it could be retrieved easily. Well, for me these things were incidental, good to have, but I was not obsessive about any of it. People and comfort was of first priority. This really worried me, because I realised that expectations were very high and I was not able to meet it. The saving grace was that he was happy to do it himself and expected me to just ensure that I did my part of keeping my things properly and in its assigned place. I wanted to rebel and call him compulsive and obsessive and even go to the extent of saying that he should live in a museum and not a home because truly that is how I felt. In fact once or twice I even felt that I would go mad if I were to live with him all my life. I then realised that this feeling was not helping in any way. It only took me more away from him.
I decided to do a bit of introspection in terms of asking myself, is this truly a big issue? I decided that it was important to look at all the good things about him, and list them down and truly it was a really long list. I then asked myself was it worth making a big issue of something that really worked to my benefit. My home was always beautiful, well kept, I could have guests unexpectedly, I would never be trying to tidy up and run around keeping things in its place because everything was orderly at home. In fact a lot of people who came home would complement us on the beautiful home we kept. Of course I had to give Raj all the credit, because it is because of his insistence that I ensured everything was in order. Today I am particular that things should be kept in order and I love coming back home to a clean and tidy home. Small things can become really big issues if we allow them to become so.
If I were to describe the last 32 years in one word I would say it has been wonderful. Wonderful, not because it was perfect but because it was shared with someone I love and together we laughed and cried and fought and made up and spent a lot of time supporting and lifting each other. Yes, there have been a lot of differences and a lot of adjustments by both of us, but you overlook the differences and focus on the good in each other and you find a lot to be thankful for.
Our Friday night dates have been the highlight of these 32 years. We ensure that we take time off our work, kids, home and go out and spend the entire evening together, we then go for dinner and return feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Setting aside time for each other is critical to a happy married life. This is the time when we talk about our joys, sorrows, fears, and hopes.
One big learning that I have had is the understanding that none of us are perfect and you can make a choice to focus on all the little things about your spouse that you don’t like and make a big thing about it, feel miserable yourself, make your spouse miserable and kill the peace in your home or, understand and appreciate that he/she is different and choose to focus on the good things and begin to thank God and your spouse for all that you love about him/her. This comes from the principle that I am not perfect and there are a lot of things about me that Raj doesn’t like, the question is would I like him to always focus on the things he doesn’t like about me and nag me about it or appreciate me for the good that he sees in me. In my marriage I have made a choice to focus on the good and work around the things I don’t like or appreciate.
A happy or an unhappy marriage is the result of choices made by two individuals who have been united together in marriage. It is the result of the extent to which we are willing to nurture, grow and invest into the relationship. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the institution of marriage in itself, the problem is with the choices we make in the relationship. I made the choice to do what it takes to nurture and invest into the relationship and I am reaping the benefits of it. I feel truly blessed to have someone I love, to share my life with, someone who loves me for who I am, someone who respects me and trusts me and finds any excuse to celebrate life with me.
The institution of marriage has taken a lot of battering from the younger generation today, more so, because of the examples they see of broken marriages around them, the failed marriages of celebrities that they follow with earnestness, the infidelity that they see on the screen and the books they read. While yes we have examples of broken marriages, unhappy marriages, failed marriages all around, the question is, can we blame it on marriage as an institution? If that is the yardstick, then there are so many examples of betrayed friendships, does that mean that we can’t trust the relationship between friends and does that make us stop making new friends and building on our old friendships.
I believe marriage as an institution was instituted by God and He intended it to be a sacred relationship of love and companionship. In His word, the Bible, He has also given us all the principles and guidelines on how we could make it what it was intended to be.
Contributed by Bina Shekar