Sadia Saeed Raval is the founder and chief psychologist at Inner Space Counselling Centre in Mumbai. She works with children and adults and specialises in Integrated Mindfulness Program for individuals looking for self-enhancement and personal growth and development. We talked to her about the pros and cons of marrying young versus marrying at a later stage.
A lot of people these days marry young. What is your take on it versus marrying when you have settled with yourself and the career you have chosen?
There are two ways to look at it. Maturity can help aligning better with your relationship goal and knowing your relationship goals better. When you’re around 30, you have lived away from home for a while, you have worked and you have a little more understanding of what you’re looking for in a relationship versus when you’re around 22.
But on the other hand, when you get married early, your goals, your careers right at the start begin aligning with each other. So there’s less conflict in terms of what kind of career you choose, and whether it will work for your marriage. For example, people around 30 don’t find it a good idea if one is working abroad and the other has an established career here. They might have to have a long distance relationship, as both of them have established careers and no one would be willing to give up anything. When you marry young, you can align your career goals with the partnership. If one person wants to move, then the other can also think on those lines right from the beginning.
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On the flip side, I do feel that people aren’t sure of what they want from their relationship and that can lead to a lot of misunderstanding. They aren’t independent enough so a lot of expectations can be from the partner which can lead to a more difficult relationship.
But one is extremely unrealistic about relationships when young and marriage is much more than just travelling together. Isn’t it?
Definitely age matters and age helps you clean up the dreaminess one has about marriage. But honestly, it still doesn’t completely help you wipe it clean. The inertia is such that one tends to think that even if everyone else’s relationship is falling apart, mine will not. Mine will be special or better, which sometimes leads to disillusion. The more mature you are, the more you see other people going through their relationships, the more awareness you have… it helps.
What helps is by the time you are 30, you have gone through a couple of serious relationships and have got a lot of learning, which helps in future relationships.
As you evolve, you come across many things that throw into doubt the choices you made at a very early stage of your life. Do you think that is the reason why divorce rates are increasing rapidly?
There is a lot more hope for satisfaction, a lot more promise in the system that even if this marriage is not satisfying you, something else may. A lot more entertainment, even influx of stimulation. So marriage as an institution isn’t being able to live up to this high demand for stimulation. People start demanding that even marriage has to be stimulating, because everything else is; as in most cases we have a problem of plenty.
The stimulation and the stress of work is so high that the demands on a marriage are extremely high now. Marriage hasn’t evolved enough to keep up with these demands, because the upbringing and the inertia of society is still there. The idea that “People should live a certain way, have only this kind of a relationship… etc.” is still there. That is why it isn’t fulfilling the criteria people are now setting for it.
It could also be that as a 20 something year old, you haven’t seen enough and feel shortchanged. You think to yourself, “I got married but I could have done so much more with my life.” You have a sense of lost opportunity and lost chances. Then the marriage has to take the brunt of everything. You haven’t been there, done that and then got married. You got married way before you have done most things.
As a 20-year-old you’ve just started the struggle to make your career but when you’re at a later stage in your life work life is stable. Do you agree?
It’s a high-pressure situation. Let’s look at it this way. When you’re older, you have an established career, which means that you’re in a senior position, which requires you to be on your toes all the time. So even late marriage has its own pressure, as people are far busier in their work. People who are younger and have just joined the system don’t have as many responsibilities. Once they come home, they can forget about work. But people who are higher in the hierarchy can’t forget about work even when they’re on vacation. On the other hand, when you marry young, financial struggle is added to the pressure.
Related reading: Why my work spouses make my marriage better
The idea of what could have been destroys more things, right?
It’s a combination of many things. Things like not doing enough, missing out on life, versus investing in something but still being upset and jealous. Not knowing how relationships really work. Not having enough opportunities to be in different relationships for learning. A combination of these things will make life difficult for someone who married young. Especially with this urban high-degree stimulation.
What would you want to tell people who are set to marry young?
They should really think about whether they’ve done enough for themselves. If they’ve lived life on their own terms for a while at least. To know what they want or like independent of a relationship. Most times, the reason why relationships go bad whether you’re younger or older, is that people invest a lot and there is a lot of expectation from the other person to fulfil what you’ve missed out. You believe, “I’m not happy with myself so I’ll put all my energy into this relationship and become happy in it.” Now that is a recipe for disaster, no matter how old you are. For anyone getting married, I’d want to tell them to think if they can individually function as a human being. A relationship and the affection that comes with it is a bonus, not a need.