Love is all we seek and we seek it sometimes in marriages. Whether the marriage is technically a ‘love’ one or an ‘arranged’ one, these are only broad categorisations. A person choosing his own partner, and thereby initiating what is called a Love Marriage may just be making a practical choice and a girl-seeing ceremony in an Arranged Marriage may see one of the parties fall headlong and irrevocably for the other. Ideally, of course, those who are highly rational about intimacy should come together in matrimony and those who are emotionally high-maintenance must make a nest together. But, life being what it is, matches are not made in heaven.
So instead of soul mates, we have mismatched couples, baffled and furious with each other, their expectations lying around their ankles like pants that don’t fit. At par with issues like money, kids and in-laws, the word ‘love’ is the most important deciding factor in the sudden inequalities that spring up after the wedding reception guests leave. One party loves more, one party loves less; one party loves too much, one party loves not at all; one party loves and loves, the other party loves someone else; one party can do nothing but love, the other party cannot love…. The permutations are endless, the possibilities unlimited. ‘Do you love me at all?’ is the war cry of one half of all couples.
What happens when this basic but inexplicable quantification strikes a couple? Fights ensue, ugly, untidy rows over quantity and quality of emotions. Since marriage is a long meandering road, and no one can see the other end from where they stand, conversations and sulks centre around how much one gives and how much the other takes. The mathematics of give and take in any relationship is subjective, more so in wedded bliss.
So what does one do when one makes this monumental discovery about oneself – how much he/she does or does not love the spouse?
Talking about the different languages of love people speak, it is obvious that homemade meals go hand in hand with caring for some, while being taken out for a meal constitutes romance for some. Then there is the gender imbalance one grew up watching between own parents, shaping what endearments one wants whispered into one’s ears. A husband’s ‘I did the dishes’ could do it for one woman whose domestic help is on leave, just as a wife chatting up his deaf grandmom could do it for a husband.
Real declarations of love in a marriage of some vintage will come down to everyday daily humdrum happenings as faint praise or glowing tributes on anniversaries. But if one spouse is yearning to hear the three bald words – I love you – now and then, he or she will be totaling up a bill in his or her head, of how many times you could have said it and did NOT.
All said and done, it is tragic when one loves better half and better half is madly in love with self, someone else or no one.
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. Read Shinie Antony's columns