The first year of marriage

Runa Mukherjee
Newlywed couple under strain

Recently, a friend who completed three years of marriage remarked how the journey of being married has gone from a roller coaster ride to a more manageably sane one. I immediately understood what she meant but asked her to elaborate anyway. She told me that in the initial months, her husband, a sweet guy in every sense, would do things that she wouldn’t be able to fathom. He would leave the room dirty and not clean up after himself, citing getting late to work. He would pay the house bills on the last day and that would make my friend really anxious. He would make travel plans with no consideration of where she would like to go.

She was dealing with a guy who was her life partner and yet, she was completely incapable of understanding what worked and what didn’t around him. She would have liked to tell her parents about the confusion she felt but decided not to. And this way, the first year was full of anger, madness, tears and stress from expecting more uncertainty in the future.

Related reading: The mountains brought love into their arranged marriage

Listening to her, I remembered the first year of my marriage. I had moved to a different city and entered an entirely new lifestyle. It was in such contrast to my life of two decades, that anybody who heard reserved their comments on me and my decision. And the going got really tough, with absolute zero knowledge about the institution of marriage, much less the new culture I had entered into. There were days I would want nothing better than the comfort of being with my parents, but just like my friend, I chose not to worry them before I could ascertain my own feelings about the situation.

married life

The truth is that the first year of marriage is nothing like our Bollywood movies would have us believe. It isn’t all hunky dory with the man carrying the woman in his arms into the ‘chaukhat’ or even eating burnt rotis because they were made with love. On the contrary, it is hard work.

Couples get married because they envision a future together, but rarely are they aware of the practical side. The wedding and the celebration take up most of our fancies and we are not prepared for what happens next – the daily grind.

Two people, whether in a love or an arranged marriage, have no idea about how to live under the same roof. They may have dated, gone on long drives, even stayed nights over, but they never really live together for a long period of time (unless they are living in, which is a different ballgame altogether). There is no way of knowing one’s quirks, that is, if one likes to bathe at night or floss thrice a day, if one likes to watch TV late into the night or insists on sleeping by 10 pm, if one enjoys cooking or insists you cook them a large meal. One gets to this part only after marriage, and chances are, like any two roommates, their views will differ on most things.

It also doesn’t help that neither is ready to give the other some leeway. My friend was angry that her husband was paying the bills at the last minute but she never stopped to wonder if she was too much of an ‘in control’ person. “If it wasn’t to my liking, I would sulk. And the more things I sulked about, the more resentful I became of things. It never occurred to me that he might also be feeling the stress of a new person cohabiting with him in the same space,” she said.

Unlike living with parents, the newly married husband or wife doesn’t let things slide easily. It takes a whole year or more to understand one’s patterns, accept the fact that both partners have quirks. It has taken a while to understand that my husband is not okay with a few books always lying around the house. He doesn’t grudge literature, as I had thought initially; it’s just that he has a different sense of what clutter is. I have also figured he can’t watch a movie in two breaks, as I enjoy doing. Or that he likes his food warm irrespective of who is toiling in the kitchen. These aren’t things we can blame the other for; they are just tendencies we have come to understand over time. And we dance around it beautifully now.

Related reading: The first year of marriage

While it isn’t rocket science, the first year of marriage is difficult and eye opening. Just like a new term in school takes patience, understanding and a certain degree of letting things slide, so does the first year of marriage. And by the end of it, chances are you will ace it.

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