Apparently, there’s good news waiting towards the end of married life – couples bicker lesser and laugh more, it seems, in their sunset years. Thus, goes some new, fancy research.
Let’s take this bit of information put out by some American psychologists at face value, let’s accept that husbands and wives get along suddenly and famously just before their funerals. But isn’t that too late?
Too many counter-theories exist. Stockholm syndrome, a ‘what the hell’ attitude, general exhaustion, amnesia, lack of options and the much simpler ‘where else to go?’
Marriage is, was and always will be a potential battlefield, an unnatural state of being, exclusively constructed to maintain social order. A cunning fait accompli handed down by familial pre-conditioning; our parents tell us to become parents. With more and more people opting to live in or have multiple partners, to divorce or not marry at all, it would seem white picket fences are under threat. Which would explain why long-term monogamous relationships, especially marriages, are getting a new lick of paint.
Published in a journal called Emotion, this new research ties in with what the older generation wants for the younger one. The sour grapes of having endured – for us – a tiresome and fearsome length of time with the same person somehow gives birth to this unreasonable optimism when it comes to the next set of people on the planet. They did it, so must we.
Yes, marriages can give you a companion for life, chained to you by an ankle or wrist, whom you alternately love and hate, but on the whole, learn to live with. Terms like ‘soul mate’ and ‘love of my life’ blur as you learn the practical art of making the impossible work. Romance novels and rom-coms are to blame a bit, as we grow up thinking of The One, holding our breath waiting for Heathcliffe and other mythical one-woman men.
A by-the-way PS from the whole MeToo movement is the touching faith of our men in their own attractiveness. Opportunities and a general access to the opposite sex bring out their innate openness to dalliances. That these same men quietly return to their marriages or stay in it while sexting up a storm to some irritated woman out there doesn’t bear thinking about.
Marriage is still touted as a female crutch, an insurance against dying alone, recommended by women for women. Someone did say: ‘Man’s love is of man’s life a thing apart, ‘tis woman’s whole existence.’ So that women work hard to make the marriage work while men sleepwalk through it.
What is wrong with being alone? Especially when marriages can be the loneliest of places.
It is to be hoped that scientists will come up with a strong iron-clad anti-marriage reasoning. That somehow traditional thinking will soon deem matrimony illegal, unhealthy and fatal. Instead of gays being allowed to marry, someone please ban heterosexuals from marrying.
Yes, we are busy reading about Priyanka-Nick and Deepika-Ranveer nuptials, but inside we are betting on how long they will last. Who among us hasn’t attended a wedding reception and looked on with kind pity at the flowering couple on the dais, thinking, ‘another one bites the dust’?
Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2003, she is co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival.