In the progress of personality, first comes the declaration of independence. Then comes the realization of interdependence.
I have been pondering on the independence-interdependence equation for quite some time now, especially in the context of Indian marriages.
I look at my colleague whose life revolves around social networking and fashion- the only highs in her life at this point in time. She has been married for 8 years now and when I look at her life now, it is hard to imagine that love must have been a component of her marriage at some point in time. But it was, and she recollects the initial years of her marriage as very happy and fulfilling for they revolved around companionship.
She remembers the endless conversations about everything and nothing…she remembers all the sharing and caring…she remembers the energy and enthusiasm the relationship instilled in her. But she does not recollect when the magic faded away. She only remembers how the challenges grew as life unfolded, for there were pressures- sometimes from both families, sometimes at work, and these only multiplied as children came into the picture. Housekeeping itself seemed a mammoth task.
Listening to her, I couldn’t help thinking how she regarded each of these as her individual problems. I guess that is ingrained in the mindset of a traditional Indian woman that the problems are hers alone, and it is up to her to strike a balance. Meanwhile, her husband started to focus more on his work, and his preoccupation stole away the qualitative time they had spent in the initial part of their relationship. As the environment at home became more charged with responsibility, her husband responded to the stress by finding outlets to unwind and relax. He loved his job for it gave him a sense of productivity and achievement. He socialized with people at work and outside of work. He lead an active life on all fronts- career, social circles and recreation.
For her, it was the other way round. Work reduced to just being a source of income and a distraction from the responsibilities. She no longer had the energy to define or chase her career dreams. Fighting the variables dominated the equation of her life. Frustration gradually crept in, for most of her energy went into the mundane things that she did not enjoy doing. Her husband distanced further for he did not look forward to spending time with a woman who radiated negative vibes most of the time.
I couldn’t help thinking how this was the story of almost every Indian woman today. On the Indian landscape, there are women who have never explored their potential, for they just move in from the protected environment of their parents’ home to the protected environment of their husband’s home. They are women who have never defined independence- the very first step in the progress of personality. These women will continue to limit themselves to a small world for the rest of their lives and may never explore their potential.
Then there are the more fortunate women – fortunate to have been raised in a more liberal environment. These are women who are given the freedom to dream. For these women, marriage can be a sophisticated affair. When challenges enter the marriage scenario, these women often feel the currents for they find themselves robbed of their dreams. Some will rebel and opt for separation. Others will hang on a trifle longer for the sake of children, banking on temporary outlets such as social networking and extramarital affairs. Yet others will rediscover individuality and liberate themselves within the framework of the relationship. The tragedy is that in each of these cases, the relationship has been emotionally severed, irrespective of whether it is legalized or not…
Once companionship absents itself in a marriage, the marriage has lost its essence.
The interesting fact is that this attitude is more prevalent in Indian men, especially of this generation- this escapist response to stress. It is often not the case with men from other races or even with Indian men raised abroad. For them, a problem is something that binds both people involved in a relationship. A man’s role or a woman’s role are not charted in black and white. In fact, a man feels responsible for the woman, for she is emotionally vulnerable and fragile.
Who doesn’t wish for long lasting companionship in a relationship? It is the one dream that brings two people together into a relationship. And if one sheds off all the social conditioning, one would realize that expression of one’s personality to its fullest potential would be the ultimate motivation of every individual, man or woman. A relationship can only provide a source of strength and energy in this process. And so, independence rests on interdependence.
In a world where every external element tries to extinguish the flame that characterizes the richness of one’s spirit, the purpose of a relationship must be to provide a cover that shields one from these external elements and helps maintain the flame, nurturing it, amplifying its brightness and warmth.