On marriages – love or otherwise

Yesterday, I watched a programme on television. It was a talk show discussing love marriages. Before we go on, tell me something. Aren’t marriages in general supposed to be about love? But anyway, to come to the point, one set of people was vehemently opposing love marriages on the grounds that they broke relationships.

One elderly couple, married for 37 years were among those who opposed love marriages. The point to note here is that the couple had themselves married for love.The man repeatedly called his wife, someone affected by infantile paralysis and unable to walk properly, as handicapped. At one point, he said he married her because he wanted to do social service by marrying a handicapped girl. As he put it in Tamil, “Evvalavo paeru kalyanam pannikuraanga. Naan oru handicapped ponnukku vaazhkkai kodukka virumbinen.” Translated, it means “Many people get married. But, I wanted to give life to a handicapped girl.” My first reaction to this statement was one of shock. The first word that came out of my mouth was, WTF?

Correct me if I am wrong, but a man who feels he has sacrificed his life to marry his wife of 37 years doesn’t really know the meaning of love. He married her out of pity. He is living with her out of a sense of sacrifice. Frankly, I can never love someone who doesn’t love me unconditionally. Love is accepting someone for who he is. Warts and all. Love is wanting to spend the rest of your life with that someone because you know that’s what you want. You can’t marry someone out of pity. If you do, then there is no love in the equation.

The second question is that of parents and family. Most people who spoke against “love marriages” said that love marriages break up families. In practically all these cases, the parents had stuck to their positions for reasons ranging from caste and religion to plain ego, and had refused to accept the marriage. The blame for that invariably falls on the couple. The couple is blamed for falling in love, for wanting to act outside of accepted societal norms, for daring to take a decision on a life that’s rightfully theirs, and accused of being selfish for not thinking of their parents feelings. I mean, what the hell? Why should I be apologetic about falling in love, about choosing the person I am going to live with for the next 40 years, about just wanting to live my life? I don’t get it at all.

Next, the question of the parents’ aspirations for their child. Parents bring their children up with utmost care. They choose the best school, the best college, the best clothes and the best food. Great! I am happy to have parents like that. But, what about what I want? Parents who allowed their children a choice in clothes, education, food and career refuse to allow them the same choice in life. Why? Why is it that I am old enough to vote, mature enough to choose my career, good enough to travel the world alone, but not fit to choose the man I want to live with? Are parents’ dreams of a grand wedding for their child more important that the child’s dream of spending the rest of their life with a person of their choice? Are society’s expectations more important than a person’s free will? And just who is this society to judge every one of our actions?

Finally, people need to get one thing right. We don’t fall in love because we want to have sex. Love affairs are not equal to pre-marital sex. Certainly, sex is a part of the equation, like it will be in any romantic relationship. It’s foolish to expect it not to. But, do we seriously believe that arranged marriages are better because there is no sex possible between the couple before it? If we do, then we are fooling ourselves. We do not choose to fall in love. It just happens. Not all love marriages succeed. Just as some arranged marriages may fail too. But, why beat us because we have fallen in love? Why lecture us about how important it is to let the family choose our partner?

To be honest, it would have been easy for me to walk out and get married. But, I don’t want to. Because I, just like him, want to keep my relationship with my family intact. The fact that a couple in love thinks about family and relationships while taking the plunge is proof that love does not always break a family. It can actually help build it. Stop beating us up about the choices we make. Stop asking us to explain, justify and describe our relationship. Anyone can fall in love. It’s human, it’s natural. Stop criticising “love marriages” in support of a system that was created to keep property within the community, and society divided into thousands of castes.

5 thoughts on “On marriages – love or otherwise

  1. Nita says:

    I think that Indians are terribly conservative still. They simply do not want to let their child make any decision as they feel it threatens them. Marrying a spouse of the parents’ choice makes them feel more secure. They don’t even realise they are being selfish. But they are being just that. I think in India “elders” are given a lot of importance and younger people are not respected.

    Nita, I agree completely. But, I will probably be called selfish in turn if I were to say this. Elders expect things to go wrong because they think we are not capable of deciding.

  2. Selvan says:

    This ‘love’ has caused so much pain,anguish and led to many tragedies.The so called love marriages fail because of f lot of expectations and lack of understanding of one another.Others also play some role in the failure of love marriages.The elders in the family are always on the look out for some crack in the relationship so that they can break it. Caste,standing in society and status based on wealth and descent also play a great role in creating problems between the couple.Mostly the problem is because of what they call ‘infantile infatuation’ which is mistaken for love.Having to live together brings its own problems.
    Elders are against love marriages because they lose their power over their children.Also as Marx and Engels have put it the is based on the exploitation of children by the parents.Marriages are a means to making new alliances to widen one’s circle, align with powerful people and build on the existing possessions.When such hopes are dashed because of this ‘Love Marriage’ its only natural that they are upset and try all means to break the relationship.

    The very fact that you seek to justify opposition to what should rightfully be a natural thing, is sign that parents are unwilling to accept that their child may have a CHOICE. Love is not always infantile infatuation as you out it. It could be a well-considered decision to spend the rest of your life with someone who means a lot to you.

  3. Suki says:

    I feel that it’s very hard to get go of long-standing traditions, especially when the basis for them – the joint family – is still intact(in our country at least). When society relied on the strength of “community”, then marriages were more a diplomatic alliance between two families/communities than a decision taken based on an individual’s feelings for another. Marriage, as an institution, involved(involves?) more than just the bride and groom – in fact, I’ll go so far as to say that the bride and groom could often have been mere pawns in the equation.
    Such a communal institution, when shifted into our individualistic space, is bound to have a rocky transition or death – I feel that’s what we are going through now. It’s hard for people who have grown up only knowing knowing marriage as “the match of a docile comely female to a macho well-earning male who will provide for her” to conceptualize it as the union of two people in love who agree to spend their lives together.

    Sorry for the rambling, I’m just trying to understand the other’s point of view – NOT that I believe it’s the best thing for young couples, heh. I feel that people marry for different reasons – pity, practical/social considerations, convenience… whatever. As long as the couple are at peace with the decision, it’s all good.

    (There, reposted :). No worries!)

  4. Shail says:

    Regarding what people say about love marriages breaking families, my simple question is this. ‘Why should the families ‘let themselves’ break over it??’ All they had to do was agree to their child’s choice with maturity. Now if they don’t do it and resort to all the drama, can we really say it is love marriages breaking families when in reality it is immaturity of parents and their stubborness doing it??!! Just my thought.
    I find it ridiculous that the same parents who decide it is time for their child to marry and start a family (and soon become parent too, which is a much bigger responsibility than anything else) doesn’t consider the child capable to make a decision about his/her life partner!!

    Exactly. But, nobody wants to see the problem for what it is. People who fall in love are labelled selfish, when in fact, it’s the parents who are being selfish and unreasonable.

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