Below is a heart-rending life story from one of our readers, Deepika. I thank her on behalf of all of you for sharing it with us.
I had an arranged marriage five years ago. We had a nine-month long period of courtship.
Falling in love
It bears mentioning here that through most of my twenties, I’d been in a relationship with my best friend from college.
The relationship was great in every other respect, except that my “boyfriend” and I could not agree on issues of children and our careers.
He expected me to put my career on hold and become the standard IT spouse. I wanted children, he didn’t. No room for negotiations.
Long story short, we broke up months before our wedding. I was heart-broken. I had never considered a future without him. He’d been an integral part of my life since college.
I felt as I was missing a limb after we broke up. Did I mention that we belonged to different communities and castes?
It had taken us three years to get my parents’ approval. Yet, here we were, unable to get past the issue of children.
“What kind of man doesn’t want children?” My parents exclaimed in utter bewilderment.
Anyway, we broke up and I moved back to live with my parents. I couldn’t bear living alone; I was completely devastated. I had lost my best friend and not just a boyfriend.
Long story short, I took two years to recover emotionally, and at 29, I was past my shelf life. I created profiles on the matrimonial websites, hoping to meet someone I’d begin to like.
I met men in their 30s who were either looking for a quick fling or men who just wanted to get married. Anyone would do.
After a couple of years of countless dead-ends, I was getting desperate. My clock was ticking loudly and I had always wanted kids.
An arranged marriage?
At the age of 32, I was looking squarely at a childless future. My parents suggested the arranged marriage route.
I had always been against arranged marriages. I have two aunts who had terrible, abusive arranged marriages. I didn’t want to end up like them. Yet I wanted children, and there wasn’t enough time to build a slow, gradual relationship.
It was out of my desperation that I agreed to meet a prospect. He was extremely well-educated, with a PhD in engineering from a top British university. He was very successful professionally and came from a similar socio-economic background.
After checking for “hygiene” factors, we decided to get married. While I wasn’t attracted to him sexually, I hoped to develop some kind of affection for him over time.
The arranged marriages around me lacked passion. But they seemed to have a time-tested, easy bond of familiarity around them. Much like you and your favourite, worn-out cotton pajamas.
Before marriage, I’d once asked him why he was always on edge, tightly wound up and fiercely on his guard. He’d told me he suffered from social anxiety, that it took him some time to let his guard down. He was shy, he told me. “Give me time,” he said.
Is that what it looks like?
Reality struck the day after our wedding day. The measured, soft-spoken man I had married morphed into a critical, severely controlling, chronically suspicious, angry and hostile stranger.
Nothing I did pleased him. Every action, gesture or word was criticised harshly.
I also discovered that his closeness to his mother and sister bordered on the abnormal.
Our marriage didn’t have two people in it, it had four people. “You’re not married only to me,” he said, “You’re married to my family”. I asked him, “Does it mean that all of us should have sex with each other?” The absurdity of it made no sense.
Every intimate detail of our marriage, including our failure to consummate the marriage, was discussed with his mother and sister.
A bit of friendly motherhood advice
My mother-in-law called my mother and said to her, “Your daughter won’t sleep with my son. Haven’t you taught her the duties of a wife?”
In that family, sex between husband and wife was reduced to an entitlement, a privilege, a right.
Sex was something you did, in darkness, silently, quickly, without affection, without regard for each other, without emotion. Prostitution in the name of marriage.
That was my marriage. An impersonal transaction based on power and privilege. No warmth. No empathy.
A joyless, loveless, humourless meeting of bodies, but not of hearts or minds.
Oh no, all arranged marriages are not like that.
Long story short (OK, not so short). My only advice to young women is: DO NOT marry a man for his education, bank balance or family background. You will wake up every day next to this person.
For two years, I’d wake up next to my ex-husband and want to weep.
I’d married a PhD, a man who made a tidy sum, but who had no empathy, no capacity to feel joy or love. I’d married an emotional void. A repressed man who could feel no emotion but anger.
Compatibility is elusive, but critical to the success of a marriage. That shared laugh, that quick squeeze of the hand, that familiarity, trust and understanding is extremely important.
Be careful who you marry.
It’s the biggest decision of your life.