Born in the ‘80s, we were at the forefront of the changes that transformed Indian society to the one that we see today. We grew up with the lady of the house taking care of the family at home and the man working outside earning the bread and butter. As the late ‘90s approached, women’s liberation happened. We took pride in the equality of the sexes, leading to the growth and development of the entire society. But this wasn’t the case with the septuagenarians. They had a preconceived notion of the woman as a homemaker, polite to her elders and obedient to her husband and all the other stereotypes.
Related reading: Living with criticism from the in-laws
This was supposed be my divorce story; why a lecture on women’s lib? Mine was a typical arranged marriage. My parents had expectations from my wife, but she belonged to a business family with different values. I knew before the marriage that I would have to bridge the gap between both sides. In order to do that, I started to play the role of mediator.
To ensure no direct confrontation, two months after our marriage in January 2013, I took a transfer to Delhi. I commuted two hours each way to office, because I rented a flat near the institute where my wife was studying direction and cinematography, so that she didn’t have to travel much.
But in due course of time, our expectations started colliding. I would come home late in the evening to find dinner wasn’t ready. Also, since I left for work early and my wife was a late riser, I made breakfast for both as well. That was fine, I love cooking. But since I was very tired after work, I asked if she could at least cut the veggies and keep stuff ready for me to cook. She did not seem to like this, though the very next day she did what I asked. I came home and saw a grumpy face: She’d had a chat with her grandmother and discussed what I had told her, and I got a call from her granny. I was a bit taken aback that she should discuss our life. I got berated, “You men are all the same. What you need is a cook, a maid. You are no different from your parents.”
Related reading: How couple-dynamics have changed across generations, for the better
I moved out of the flat to give her time to cool down. Such tiffs became a part of living together, with constant intervention by my in-laws on how to lead a happy and ideal life. This began to hamper my work. By July 2013 I was asked to quit my job, as I was usually late to office, having to maintain the home front as well.
Meanwhile, my wife’s course had finished and she was a certified Director and Cinematographer. She said she wanted to make a movie and needed finance. I had just left my job and had all my Provident Fund money. I gave her a go-ahead and it brought us closer, as we spent time together in producing the movie. We made a couple of documentaries and wanted to showcase them at the Goa Film Festival in November 2013. When we got there, we discovered we needed more money but I had run out of resources. After coming back to Delhi and staying for another one month, I decided to head back to my hometown, since I was still unemployed and could not survive in a metro.
This is when my real ordeal of balancing started. For a couple of months, I managed, with minimal disagreements. But then came Holi, and we were invited to my in-laws place in the same city, Guwahati. We went and ended up staying the night. The next day when we returned, my father goaded me, “You have turned into a henpecked husband….” I was hurt and needed to share it with someone, so I shared it with my wife; the result was that she wanted to move out of my parents’ house and created a ruckus. The very next day she went to her mom’s place. I discussed it with my parents and my father, who was supporting me financially, told me to go ahead with his support.
We moved to a rented house. I made it a point to visit my parents every day, as my mother isn’t well. My wife didn’t approve of my visits: “If you miss your mother so much, why don’t you live there?” In addition, since my finances were limited, I could not give her the standard of living she expected. After a series of such feuds, I gave up and left to return to my parents’ place.
I thought she would rethink things and come back to me, but ten months later she sent me a divorce notice. I tried several times to bring her back after I got a job again, but she had one condition, that I cannot live with my parents.
My thinking is however, that if you cannot respect my past,
you will never respect my future.
So I stopped trying and agreed to set myself free. The decree came through in May this year, and now I am divorced.
Team Bonobology spoke to the expert Prachi S Vaish.
When it comes to a marriage, the first thing all couples need to imbibe is that they need to establish their own rule book – and this must apply strictly and equally to both husband and wife. Often in my practice, when couples reflect, they admit that if they hadn’t allowed external opinions to come into the marriage, things could have been different – and this includes parental interference.
In the case above, the lady allowed her family opinion to guide her role as a “wife” while overlooking the love that was visible in her husband’s actions. At the same time, in an effort to “avoid confrontation” right from the beginning, the husband chose placating gestures rather than proactive measures throughout the marriage, towards the wife, her parents, his parents – thereby losing his place in the relationship.
My first question to all couples in trouble is this – if today you could make your own rules for your relationship, would they be any different and would they work? The answers are almost always surprising!
Prachi S Vaish is a licenced Clinical Psychologist and marital therapist, specialising in couples issues and recovery from trauma. She holds an M Phil in Clinical Psychology, heads India’s first online psychological services portal and regularly contributes articles as an expert consultant to many publications.