Marriage, Divorce And Just Being Single.

My blog friend Jody wrote a robust post in her blog which coincided with two other separate articles about the change that is taking place in relationships. One from the USA and the other from India. The institution of marriage is certainly undergoing change and I am musing about it in this post.

I was married to the same wife for a little over forty years. We knew each other for eight years before our marriage. Our marriage, by any yardstick was a highly successful and rewarding one. It had its ups and downs like all marriages do, but bar one occasion when Urmeela decided to go away to her Mother’s place, the marriage worked and stayed afloat.

With that background, when I discuss the current trends of divorces, messy separations and people having relationships without the formality of marriage, I find it extremely difficult to understand the break down of the institution itself as an important aspect of human relationships. The older friends agree with me, and the younger ones call me an anachronism.

My son and daughter in law, after being married for five years decided three years ago, that they would rather be friends and got divorced by mutual consent. Both of them are in different relationships with other partners. Neither is planning on marriage again. They continue to meet each other regularly, and out daughter in law is very much part of our household with regular visits to me. I have got accustomed to this relationship but I have not understood it.

Delayed marriages, live in relationships, just being single etc are all part of the modern world and so apparently is the institution of marriage counseling. In our times, we sorted out our grief ourselves, or at best someone from within the family knocked some sense into our heads. Marriage counseling has become a good business and I am seriously considering going professional after a recent burst of young people seeking my counsel. I shall be writing about two of them shortly from a different angle, but shall leave my readers with the following story to lighten up the post.

After 25 years of marriage, a husband and wife came for counseling.

When asked what the problem was, the wife went into a passionate, painful tirade listing every problem they had ever had in the years they had been married.

On and on and on: neglect, lack of intimacy, emptiness, loneliness, feeling unloved and unlovable, an entire laundry list of unmet needs she had endured.

Finally, after allowing this for a sufficient length of time, the therapist got up, walked around the desk and after asking the wife to stand, embraced and kissed her passionately as her husband watched with a raised eyebrow. The woman shut up and quietly sat down as though in a daze.

The therapist turned to the husband and said, ‘This is what your wife needs at least 3 times a week. Can you do this?’

The husband thought for a moment and replied, ‘Well, I can drop her off here on Mondays and Wednesdays, but on Fridays…, I go fishing.’

Marriage Violence and Divorce.

The last few posts have some how coincided with my reading of a book “Marriage and Violence” by Frances E. Dolan. Dolan takes a very scholarly look at the historical background to the institution of marriage and the equations between the two persons involved in the relationship. Somehow, at the end of the experience I just could not understand the various observations made by her on the very institution.

My own take on the institution by now must be quite apparent to my readers. I strongly believe in the institution and believe that one does not have to work at it to make it successful. One simply has to accept that it is a relationship entered into with open eyes and sanctified either by a religious rite or a civil contract. Once this fact is accepted, the question of who is the controlling factor in the relationship, about which Dolan elaborates in detail, becomes a meaningless exercise as, it would be obvious that both are equal and that when both are willing to treat the other as such, the relationship simply gets reinforced.

I had posted a photograph of the Tuckloo Club earlier today on the request of Tikno. Huseina and Abbas have been married for 54 years, Vimlu and Chandru celebrated their 50th anniversary, just two months ago. Urmeela and I celebrated our 40th anniversary earlier this month.

It is not as though we have not had our share of ups and downs. All three couples have had as many as is par for any married couple. We have survived. And successfully. We have not had any violence in our lives.

I also notice from most of the readers that visit this blog that there are many marriages among them that have lasted long periods of time, some going through the early stages of building successful families and so on and so forth. I do not see any violence anywhere here too.

I am unable to understand why marriages fail. Two years ago, our son and his wife of five years decided that they would rather be friends than husband and wife and have been divorced. I could not understand it then, though I accepted their decision, I do not understand it now and I do not think that I will ever be able to. I also observe that the incidence of divorce has been growing exponently in the last two decades in India, and I understand else where in the world too.

Is it that civilization has decided to redefine the institution of marriage? Am I just lucky? Is it just serendipity that my blog also gets people who perhaps do not understand marriage violence in marriage and divorce?

A Sales Representative’s Dilemma. – Conclusion.

My readers will recall my earlier post about my young friend and the marital problems that he was facing. To refresh your memory, you may wish to visit the post again.
The advise that I had given to him followed a detailed discussion with him from which I gathered that he had not informed his wife about discussing the matter with him. My first advice therefore to him was to inform her about our discussion and then to suggest that they both meet me together.
This meeting duly took place when I suggested to both of them that since I was not a qualified Marriage Counselor, they visit one to resolve their issues. They agreed, and in consultation with my GP, I suggested a name to them. Both of them promised to visit the Counselor soon and left.
The following day, I received a phone call from the wife’s father who wanted to visit with me and discuss this matter. I had met him only during the wedding and did not know him too well. I however agreed to the meeting and that too took place. The sum and substance of the discussion was that the father felt that his daughter had made a mistake and being the only child, he and wife had agreed to the wedding but now felt that we must seriously advise both to agree for a divorce. He was confident that he would be able to persuade his daughter to agree and requested me to do persuade MYF. With reluctance, but with a sense of foreboding, I agreed to talk to the lad and we parted amicably.
The couple did not visit the Counselor. The wife met her father on the day following her meeting with me and decided to stay put with her parents and face whatever came her way. MYF rang me up to tell me this and to inform me that since she has already moved to her parents’ place and had informed him of her decision, there was nothing left to do but to agree to a divorce by mutual consent and close the chapter.
Let me give you some more background so that you will understand what happened.
The couple met when they were both in college. It was a typical college romance with a number of similar couples meeting together, doing things together and being known as a couple. No sooner they graduated and MYF got himself a job, they got married.
MYF comes from a typical Indian middle class background. They are comfortable, but not wealthy by any standards. The girl on the other hand, comes from a very wealthy background. The father is a highly respected businessman who had built his business from scratch and could be considered as nouveau-rich. The daughter is an only child.
Need I say more?

Divorce Customs, Ancient and Not-So-Ancient; Delanceyplace

I subscribe to a daily email service from delanceyplace that sends interesting extracts from books and publications. For those who are interested in such excerpts, I strongly recommend that they visit the site and register themselves to receive the same.

Just to give you a taste for some of the things that you can expect, here is what I received today, which is quite amusing and interesting at the same time.

In today’s excerpt–divorce customs, ancient and not-so-ancient:

“For nearly a thousand years, an Englishman sick of his wife could slip a halter around her neck, lead her to market–the cattle market–and sell her to the highest bidder, often with her willing participation. This informal route to divorce for the lower classes lasted, amazingly, until at least 1887. … [As reported by non-fiction authors Lawrence Stone in The Family, Sex, and Marriage and Samuel Menefee in Wives for Sale], a drunken husband sells his wife in the opening chapter of Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), much to the astonishment of contemporary critics. Oblivious to the informal, unlawful marriage and divorce customs of the less literate brethren (‘wife-sale’ dates back to c. 1073), they could not imagine such a thing happening on British soil in the nineteenth century, even though popular broadsides depicting the practice (one of which illustrates the cover of Menefee’s book) were still being produced and widely circulated during that same century. …

“[In the Old Testament, the law allowed for divorce because of infertility, and] Israelite men could divorce their wives for reasons far more vague than infertility. (Wives couldn’t divorce their husbands for any reason.) If, for instance, ‘she fails to please him because he finds something obnoxious about her,’ there’s no need to hire a pricey lawyer. He simply ‘writes her a bill of divorcement, hands it to her, and sends her away from his house.’ He’d better be sure this is what he wants, because he can’t have her back again. …

“The Bible, leaving nothing to chance, provides soldiers with a lesson on the fine art of taking enemy women to wife after the enemy has been vanquished. … You don’t just throw her to the ground and have your way with her then and there. You don’t throw her on the ground at all. And you don’t have your way with her for an entire month. No, ‘you shall bring her into your house, and she shall trim her hair, pare her nails, and discard her captive’s garb. She shall spend a month’s time in your house lamenting her father and mother; after that you may come to her and possess her, and she shall be your wife.’ The lesson includes instruction on how to get rid of her, too. No bill of divorcement is required, but restrictions do apply: ‘Then, should you no longer want her, you must release her outright. You must not sell er for money; since you had your will of her, you must not enslave her.’ ”

Susan Squire, I Don’t: A Contrarian History of
Marriage, Bloomsbury, Copyright 2008 by Susan
Squire, pp. 36-44, 227.