I had been in a (purely long distance) relationship with a (poor) guy for about six months when one fine Durga Pooja, we decided to get married.

Actually I had decided to get married long back. It was convincing him which took so long.

Gotta say, being in love & being married – entirely different ball games. Didn’t see that elephant romping in the middle of the room back then. A bit dumb, I know.

being marriedPhoto by jcoterhals

Some of you have been in a relationship for a long time. If you think (like I did) that you know your partner and marriage will have nothing new to offer – think again.

My husband and I (and the two billion couples of the world) made mistakes. Hundreds of them. These mistakes taught us about the six pillars of change which separate relationship & marriage. I thought I’ll share our learnings with you in a two-part post starting today. Keep in mind that by “relationship”, I mean only non-live-in pre-marital relationships here.

Discovering them up close

When you’re in an aeroplane, the meadows and fields below seem all so green. If you walk on the same meadows though, you might find patches of rough hard soil among the grassy stretches.

being marriedPhoto by jakebouma

Transitioning into a marriage from a relationship is a bit like getting out of that aeroplane and into the meadows – you’re bound to discover habits, beliefs, opinions, tastes, attitudes, dreams & philosophies of your partner which you won’t like and which you had no idea about. It matters little how long you’ve been in a relationship – sharing your home (including a bathroom) & your 24 hours with someone is very different from spending a limited amount of time every day/week with them outside your home. Differences in opinions on everyday basics like whether to have rice or roti for dinner, and whether to keep the windows open or closed at night – can become sources of uneasiness & irritation to either of you. In case of most couples, it’s these apparently inconsequential differences which accumulate over time, are brought to the fore during fights, & lead to straining of relationships.

Unbelievable I know.

And there’s no way of discovering these tiny bits unless you’ve lived under the same roof. It’s difficult to avoid surprises altogether , but the more conscious you are of this aspect of marriage before you decide “It’s time!” – the more mentally prepared you will be when it comes to discovering and making your peace with previously unknown aspects of your partner.

Loss of freedom (at least some of it)

A spouse is called a life partner for a reason. Sharing your life with someone means sharing your everything – your time, space, resources, family, likes & dislikes, dreams & decisions. And that is asking quite a bit. Unfortunately most people don’t realize exactly how much it means until they’re already into the melting pot of married life. Let’s start off small…

Are you up to cooking dinner tonight or you’d just have a takeaway pizza?

Should you go for a movie this weekend or to a picnic away from the city?

Are you open to move cities/countries for suitable career opportunities or you’re geographically immobile?

These are just some of the small and no-so-small decisions of your life which are suddenly not yours alone anymore.
Of course you can figure out answers to some of these before marriage, if you’ve been in a relationship for long enough. But the constant obligation of taking someone else into account (and believe me, it’s an obligation, and has got nothing to do with how much you love them – the more you love them the more seriously you take this obligation) in all your decisions – big and small – can be something quite daunting.
The big things – like life goals, children (whether, when, how many etc.) career, mobility – can, and should be discussed clearly before marriage. Don’t be like the couple who divorced within a week of their marriage after discovering that one of them really wanted children whereas the other really didn’t.

Here comes the great big Indian FAMILY!

Once you’re married to your partner, you’re part of their family. In the Indian context, you’re also part of their extended family.
These people were never in your life before (at least not so obviously & assertively) up till now. Suddenly there are too many people entering the equation between you and your partner.

being marriedPhoto by jcoterhals

Your partner has expectations from you regarding how you treat their family (parents).

You have expectations from your partner regarding how he/she treats your family (parents).

Your family have expectations from your relationship with them in the new context. (Usually they’re disappointed with the decreased amount of attention
& time you’re giving them. Fortunately at least some of them are not vocal about it.)

Your family have expectations from your partner…

I’ll stop before you get terrified and leave this page. But that’s just the beginning of the complex network of expectations which suddenly come into play when a relationship between two souls suddenly multiplies itself into an equation among four parties!

Think about it. ;)

The best way to keep things under control is to set these multitudes of expectations right before marriage. If you’re going to live together, or spend significant amount of time with your partner’s extended family (read parents ;) ) after marriage, make sure you start meeting and spending time with them regularly well ahead of marriage. Use this period not only to get familiar with each other, but also to set each other’s expectations right. Nothing can be worse than you agreeing to certain norms, (say, to live together with them, permanently or temporarily) only to discover that it’s just not working, to the utter shock of you, your partner, and his or her family.

Now wait.

Those were only three of the six pillars of change I talked about – which happen between being in a relationship & being married.

Stay tuned for more causes of concern coming your way in the next few days. ;)
[Update: Read the 2nd part of the series here - Why Marriages and Relationships are like Apples and Oranges (Part 2) ]

In the meantime feel free to disagree strongly using the comments section. ;)